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Archive for Alternative Treatments
August 20th, 2013
The quest for fresh breath has been around for ages. We flock to mints, mouthwash, gum and toothpaste all for temporary fresh breath. Take a stroll down the aisles at your local pharmacy and you’ll likely find an entire section of products dedicated to the promise of fresh breath.
Bad breath is big business.
Contrary to popular belief, your alcohol-laden mouthwash may actually be making your bad breath worse. Most mouthwash contains alcohol which can mask your bad breath disappear for a while, but the alcohol actually dries your mouth out. Gum and mints can contain nasty ingredients that are only a temporary fix. The sugar in some breath mints and gum can actually causes bacteria in the mouth to reproduce, which will keep the bad breath coming on strong.
If bad breath is a recurring problem you might want to rule out any serious health conditions. Once this is ruled out there are a few natural lines of defense for fresh breath.
- Good Oral Hygiene. The best defense for bad breath is to brush twice a day and floss. Also, head to the dentist for regular cleanings.
- Parsley. Parsley is commonly used as a garnish, but can also help to freshen your breath. Parsley contains chlorophyll which has anti-bacterial properties and when chewed neutralizes bad breath. Chew on parsley leaves anytime you need a quick breath freshening boost. Large amounts of parsley shouldn’t be consumed by pregnant women or anyone with liver disease.
- Lemon Rinse. Lemons and other citrus have a high acidic content and help to prevent the growth of bacteria on the tongue and gums. Gargle with a cup of lemon juice when needed or suck on a lemon wedge.
- Salt Rinse. Using a salt water rinse to freshen breath has been around for a long-time. Mix together salt and water in a glass and gargle for 15 seconds then spit it out. The salt kills bacteria in your mouth. You might want to add a drop of peppermint oil to make the breath smell minty.
- Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic method for detox and rejuvenation. To oil pull, simply swish your choice of unrefined, high quality oil in your mouth for 5-20 minutes each day. Most people I know who do this use coconut oil because it has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and enzymatic properties which will have the added benefit of killing unwanted bacteria.
- Cardamom, Fennel and Coriander Mixture. Make your own breath freshener mixture by mixing together fennel, coriander and cardamom seeds. Keep the mixture in a glass, airtight jar and chew on a small pinch when your breath needs a boost.
A healthy, balanced diet and drinking a lot of water also help to combat bad breath.
I recently went to an Erba Vita event in Boston and had a chance to check out some of their herbal and dietary supplements. Breath is a natural dietary supplement that supports fresher smelling breath. It contains many ingredients that combat bad breath including chlorophyll, licorice, cardamom and fennel. There are a few ingredients such as Maltodextrin (a processed food additive), gum arabic and natural flavor (a term that can be a catch all and is unregulated) that aren’t ideal, but overall this product seemed to work well as a breath freshener.
What’s your favorite natural remedy for fresh breath?
*If bad breath is a recurring problem you might want to rule out any serious health conditions.
Disclosure: I did receive a sample of Erba Vitta Breath Supplement to try. All opinions are my very own. Promise.
June 28th, 2013
I always get hiccups. They usually hit when I eat certain foods-especially carrots and pretzels. Strange, I know. Once the hiccups come they generally decide to stick around for a while. Not great for conference calls or anything work related when talking or communicating is needed.
In hiccup desperation I turned to my active Facebook community and asked their advice for getting rid of hiccups. They came up with some interesting suggestions, some that were familiar and others that were way out there. At this point I’m willing to give anything a shot to keep the hiccups away. Here are a few hiccup remedies (some I’ve tried and some I have yet to experiment with).
- Swallow a teaspoon of sugar followed by a glass of water. (Thanks Anna and a few others for this one!)
- Stick your tongue out as far as you can and pinch your tongue (one finger on top and one on the bottom) as close to the connecting part you can for 30-60 seconds. It is an acupressure tool that works for a huge percentage of people. Repeat if it does not work on the first try making sure your tongue is sticking out far and you are pinching hard enough. FYI chronic hiccupping can be caused by acid reflux and may need an antacid therapy for a few days. Thanks to Leigh for this interesting technique that I have yet to try.
- Drink a glass of water, upside down. Take a glass, half-full & tip your head forward, towards your chest. Put the rim of the glass on your top teeth and tilt glass forward. Take a small dip and swallow while still leaning forward. Voila!
- This is one of my favorites: Take the hand of the person afflicted and squeeze hard on the surface of the fingernail of the pinky finger for ten seconds. This guys swears it works he was told it works because there are acupressure points in the pinky that control and relax the throat. Pretty cool.
- Relax and wait for them to be over. It’s a muscle spasm, so stretches or a warm tub/drink sometimes helps.
- Take a deep belly breath in and push the air as far down into your lungs as you can to help stretch out your diaphragm. Hold it in for a few seconds. Works like clockwork!
- Eat a teaspoon of peanut butter.
- Light a match and extinguish it by dropping it in a glass of water. Do this with about 6 to 8 matches. Then drink the water. Works every time! This is a new one for me. Would be interested to know if it really works.
How to you get rid of hiccups?
photo credit: Caro Wallis via photopin cc
September 11th, 2012
There’s a cabinet above the fruit bowl in our kitchen that’s overflowing with vitamin supplements. When I was pregnant I was very diligent and took my prenatal vitamin like clockwork. But ever since my pregnancies I’ve completely fallen off the wagon and all those supplements are sitting in the cabinet untouched. I focus on eating well and hope that everything I need comes from my diet. Not always the case.
Adding vitamin supplements back into my diet has been on my mind for quite sometime. I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf now that the school year has begun. I’m going to take a probiotic for starters and the rest of my family is going to join in on the fun.
What is a probiotic?
When someone mentions “probiotics” I automatically think of yogurt. The word “probiotic” is a compound of two Greek words: “pro,” to signify promotion of and “biotic,” which means life.
Probiotics are bacteria that help keep everything balanced in your intestines. The human digestive system is designed to have “good” and “bad” bacteria. Trying to maintain a balance between the two keeps us healthy. Many times we are able to do this through a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle, but there are times when your body needs a little extra help. Taking medications, a change in diet, diseases, and the environment can upset our bodies natural balance. Adding a probiotic to your diet can help.
Health benefits of taking a probiotic
The list of potential health benefits of probiotics continues to grow. While research is on going, the Mayo Clinic suggests that taking a probiotic could help:
- Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Prevent and treat yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome
- Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent and treat eczema (and potentially allergies) in children
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
- Strengthen the immune system
- Help with obesity
Which probiotic supplement should I take?
All probiotics aren’t created equal. ‘Probiotic’ has been a buzz word in the supplement industry for a few years and many vitamin manufacturers are eagerly entering the retail space. There’s an over abundance of probiotic choices. Here are a few tips to help find a probiotic that’s right for you:
- Use a reputable brand. Be picky.
- Look for a high dose-over 8 billion live cultures per capsule.
- Ask questions. I always accost the people at our local Whole Foods with questions.
Here’s what I am using:
For the kids: Jarrow Yum-Yum Dophilus 120 Chewable Tablets
For the adults: Renew Life Ultimate Flora Adult Formula
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to probiotics so use your best judgment and chose a brand that you trust.
Top probiotic foods
There are plenty of foods out there that contain probiotics. Try adding any of these to your diet.
Before taking any supplements please check with your doctor to make sure they are right for you.
Do you take a probiotic supplement? What do you recommend?
Yogurt | Stock Photo © Simone Voigt #5030990
July 26th, 2012
Leaves of three let them be
Did you know that seven out of ten people are allergic to poison ivy? We just returned from a family vacation with one child covered from head to toe with poison ivy. Poison ivy symptoms are pretty straight forward:
- Skin is extremely red and itchy.
- There are red streaks or general redness where the plant brushed against the skin.
- Small bumps or larger raised areas are found in random spots where the plant oil touched your skin.
- Skin blisters and fluid may leak out.
Preventing poison ivy
The saying goes “leaves of three let them be”. Learning how to identify poison ivy and then avoiding it is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction. It’s true that poison ivy always comes in “leaves of three”, but so do many other plants.
- Learn to identify poison ivy if you’re allergic.
- Teach children not to touch unidentified plants.
- Remove clothing and wash all exposed skin carefully after a hike.
- Be aware: dogs and cats often don’t get poison ivy buy they can carry the oil on their fur.
Natural Treatments for Poison Ivy
We started off applying over-the-counter itch relief medicine, but that didn’t work. The rash was too wide-spread. I decided to reach out to some of my trusted green resources to see what suggestions they had for keeping poison ivy in check.
Amity, the Editor of Green Child Magazine, had interesting advice: Pour rubbing alcohol on the affected area and then wash it immediately with cool water and soap to remove as much of the plant sap as possible. Dry the skin and apply the meat side of a banana peel on the skin to help dry out the rash.
Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter, Danika the Beauty Editor from Greenwala and Anna from Green Talk all suggested trying jewelweed. Jewelweed is a plant that’s been used for centuries to treat poison ivy. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to whip up this remedy, but maybe I’ll whip up a batch just in case there’s a next time. Click HERE for the recipe.
SOAP AND WATER
Tamara, the Executive Director of Lead Safe America has used this remedy several times and swears by it: 1. get in the bath. 2. get out of the bath, 3. do not dry off, 4. while wet lather up completely (on affected areas) with IVORY soap. 5. do not rinse. 6. let soap residue dry on body – it will sap all of the oils out of the poison ivy.
BAKING SODA AND TURMERIC
A paste made of baking soda and water works well for itchy bug bites and the same is true for poison ivy. A Turmeric paste is also helpful. Turmeric contains a nutrient called curcumin and it’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The problem with these remedies is they can get very messy and are difficult to apply when the rash covers large portions of the body.
OATMEAL OR EPSOM SALT BATH
Andrea from Frugally Sustainable shares two bath “recipes” to help sooth poison ivy.
Oatmeal bath. In a blender, blend 2 cups of oatmeal until powder in form. Then add to a bath filled with warm water. Soak in the tub for upto 20 minutes. Repeat as needed for itch relief.
Epsom Salts bath. Add 2 cups of Epsom Salt to a bath of warm water and soak in the tub for 15-20 minutes.
Elise Marshall Jones of MommyBites says when her husband had poison ivy he swore by “burning” them with the hottest setting on the hair dryer. Every time he itched he would go get that blow dryer and crank it up.
I’m not sure this would work with a young child, but for adults it sounds like it would at least ease the itch.
Have you tried any of these natural poison ivy remedies? What works? What doesn’t?
[Photo used under Creative Commons from John /Flickr]
July 9th, 2012
After the birth of my third child I suffered from insomnia that lasted well beyond the newborn phase. For those of you who haven’t experienced insomnia it’s pretty awful. During that year (yes, 12 months) of sleepless nights there were times when I was able to fall right asleep, but would then wake up and stare at the ceiling for hours unable to fall back asleep. There were other times when I was unable to fall asleep from the get-go and would lie awake for hours listening to my husbands sleeping breath, feeling envious of his uncanny ability to fall asleep the minute his head hits the pillow. I was desperate to find a way out of this horrible, sleep-deprived state.
- More than 30% of the population suffers from insomnia.
- Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia.
- Women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.
- Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids.
I turned to a combination of natural, non-toxic remedies for insomnia that ultimately did the trick-it took time and it wasn’t easy. I’ve happily joined the ranks of “those” people whose eyes close the minute their head hits the pillow.
Acupuncture has been a part of my life for many years. I have used it for everything from plantar fasciitis to the flu. I knew from past experience that acupuncture really worked, so it was worth a shot for insomnia.
Through the insertion of needles into pressure points around the body, acupuncture helps to activate the body’s qi (our bodies natural energy or life-force) throughout the body. Insomnia was letting me know that my body was out of balance.
A healthy diet can pave the way for a good night’s sleep.
- Caffeine in moderation is OK, but there is such a thing as too much caffeine and it messes with your sleep.
- Avoid processed sugar and processed foods-especially before bedtime.
- Consume foods that are rich in magnesium: leafy green vegetables, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds, salmon and halibut contain high levels of magnesium.
- Drink chamomile tea which contains tryptophan (also found in turkey), an amino acid known for its tranquilizing effects. When taken as a tea infusion, these properties act as a relaxant in our bodies and help to promote sleep.
During my stint with insomnia I turned immediately towards my yoga practice. Kripalu style yoga was a perfect fit at the time-a combination of relaxation, meditation and postures. There are so many different types of yoga so it’s important to find a practice that meets your needs. I also went regularly to my massage therapist.
When I’m desperate for relief I often find myself buying out the entire Whole Body section at Whole Foods. I’m not big on taking anything, but I decided to try out a few natural sleep aides to see if anything would help. I was most interested in finding something that wasn’t addictive or would cause grogginess in the morning. Most of the products I purchased contained valarian. Valarian is a flowering plant that is native to both Europe and Asia and is now also grown in North America, has long been used medicinally particularly for sleep.
The combination of all of these things helped me put an end to sleepless nights. The trick is to find a combination of remedies that work for you.
Have you ever had insomnia? What do you do to get a good night’s sleep?
© Dan Race – Fotolia.com
Linked up with Farmer’s Daughter and Natural Mothers Network.
*I’m not a physician. If insomnia persists please seek medical attention.
May 8th, 2012
7 Spices for Healthy Cooking
My husband and I both like to cook and when time permits we try to whip up new and exciting dishes filled with all sorts of spices. Over the years we have gradually increased the amount of seasoning we use as the taste buds of our three boys continue to mature. Both of us are fans of spicy food and our kids are joining the ranks. Not only do the spices taste good, but it turns out they are good for us too. Here are seven spices that end up in many of our dishes.
This gorgeous yellow/orange spice is at the top of my healthy spice list for good reason. Turmeric is generally found in Indian curries and other ethnic foods. It has been used as both a medicine and a spice for many centuries.
Tumeric contains a nutrient called curcumin and it’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The spice is thought to fight a long list of diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Other studies have shown promise for treating Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Cinnamon ends up in our pancakes, French toast and eggs. Not only does it taste delicious, but studies have shown it has several health benefits: Reduces LDL cholesterol levels, reduces pain associated with arthritis, regulates blood sugar, and helps with cancer, menstrual pain and infertility.
Another one of my favorites-I add garlic to almost everything from pizza to roasted vegetables and broccoli. Garlic adds flavor to so many dishes and it also is known for being anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. It is known to be a natural antibiotic and can help manage high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Oregano on pasta, pizza and salads tastes divine. In addition to the yummy flavors oregano holds some healthy benefits with those who indulge. Oregano also has antioxidants in its oil and leaves. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people rub the oil on inflamed joints and muscles. Others take oregano oil when the first symptoms of a cold or sore throat appear.
I make chili all the time and it wouldn’t be the same without the addition of cumin (and lots of it!). It also great mixed into a stir fry or on top of roasted veggies. Cumin is also used throughout the world as a medicinal herb. Cumin is known to help treat high blood sugar levels, insomnia, a cold, respiratory issues and cancer.
Do you like ginger with your sushi? You’ll be getting more bang for your buck. This spice is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s also known to improve blood circulation and helps those tired, achy muscles after a good workout. Ginger tea is great for relieving menstrual cramps.
Thyme is delicious in soups, stews, baked or on sauteed vegetables. Thyme contains an essential oil that is rich in thymol, a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and a strong antioxidant. Recent studies show thyme can kill MRSA infections, which are resistant to other antibiotics.
What are your favorite spices to cook with? Do you and/or your kids like spicy foods?
Buy organic spices and herbs whenever you can.
Please check with a medical professional before self-administering any of these herbs.
Linked up with Green Backs Gal.
May 9th, 2011
Eight years ago, when my son was one, he was given his first peanut; a rice cake smothered in peanut butter. That moment defined the starting point of our foray into the overwhelming world of food and seasonal allergies. He became lethargic, covered in hives and his face swelled. It was later confirmed that he had had an allergic reaction to the peanut butter. Further testing indicated that he was allergic to all nuts and many environmental allergens; plants, trees, dust and mold.
The first few years after that diagnosis were challenging. We knew our lifestyle, filled with eating out and not reading food labels, needed an adjustment. Our first priority was to find a way to keep our little boy safe in a world filled with nuts.
Fast forward 8 years to a healthy, well-adjusted nine year old boy who has found a way to live his life without much interference from his allergies.
Over the past 8 years we have learned a lot about living with allergies, with more learning to come I’m sure. In hindsight there were things we could have done differently, but overall we are in a good place. There’s a world of options out there and sometimes it’s challenging to navigate through. We have explored different routes and remedies and have resorted to natural allergy relief and prevention as much as possible.
Natural allergy relief and prevention
Breast feed. Breast-feed exclusively — give your baby only breast milk for the first 6 months of life using hypoallergenic formulas to supplement breastfeeding if necessary.
Take a daily dose of acidophilus. Acidophilus is a probiotic has been touted for having many health benefits. It comes in a pill and powder form. There have been suggestions that probiotics help prevent the development of allergies. Yogurt is probably the most well known food containing acidophilus.
Cut back on dairy. Dairy products contain casein, a mucus-forming agent. It has a glue-like texture and histamine-creating properties, both of which cause increased mucus production and nasal congestion. Seasonal allergies cause runny noses and watery eyes. The last thing we need is another source for adding more mucus.
Reduce chemical exposure.
- Cleaning products. Make the switch to safe cleaning products. Many conventional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine bleach, ammonia, petrochemicals, and VOC’s. Breathing in the fumes from these products is toxic and can complicate allergic reactions.
- Personal care products. Check out all of your personal care products on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. The world’s largest resource on personal care product safety just got a makeover and it will help you figure out which of your personal care products are toxic and which are safe.
- Lawn care. Chemical weed killers, pesticides, and other lawn care products are not only killing our weeds, they’re and making us sick and killing the earth. Many of the symptoms we attribute to seasonal allergies and asthma could be from a chemical sensitivity to the chemicals lurking in our yards. These toxins are then tracked into our homes and absorbed into our foods. Our yard is now chemical free. I can say with certainty that our yard isn’t the most beautiful yard in the hood, but I love being able to let my kids and dog run around outside knowing our yard is a safe haven for them to play.
It takes a village and without these resources I would have been ( and would be) lost.
Healthy Child Healthy World-inspiring millions of people to take action and create cleaner, greener, safer environments where children and families can flourish.
FAAN-the most trusted source of information, programs, and resources related to food allergy and anaphylaxis.
What do you do when seasonal allergies kick in?
Do you have food allergies? Any tips to share?
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[Top photo used under Creative Commons from SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget/Flickr]