Archive for Health
June 1st, 2015
I have to admit that I’m not very good about taking a multivitamin. I’ve tried on and off over the years, but I never seem to stick to it. Right now I’m taking a Vitamin D supplement and that’s it. As an aside, I found an amazing sugar-free Vitamin D gummy that I really like. Yes, it’s a gummy, but I rarely miss a day.
When it comes to multivitamins there are plenty to choose from. Just walk up and down the aisles of any supermarket or health food store. It can be overwhelming.
If you’re in the market for a multivitamin there are a few things to think about before investing in a particular brand.
1. Look for simple and few ingredients
When I’m buying any processed food, including a multivitamin, I look for a short ingredient list filled with ingredients I’m mostly familiar with and ingredient names I can pronounce.
2. Avoid Added Sweeteners
Read the ingredient list. Children’s vitamins are often the worst-all those gummy multivitamins are often loaded with sugar. Look for anything ending in -ose and steer clear. More often than not these are a form of sugar: sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, glucose solids, cellulose and sucrose, Also, sugar, Xylitol, high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin. There are plenty of multivitamins on the market without added sweeteners.
3. Watchout for GMOs
Genetically Modified Organisms (also called GM, GE or GMOs) refers to crop plants that are consumed by animals and/or humans that have been tweaked or modified in a lab to boost desired traits such as: the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide, disease resistance and improved nutritional value. We want to avoid these in our food (including multivitamins) whenever possible. Watch for multivitamins with added soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow).
4. Skip the Artificial Dyes
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest artificial food dyes are many times made from petroleum and possess a “rainbow of risks to children.” Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions.
In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the multivitamin you buy.
5. Natural Ingredients Not Synthetic
Finding a multivitamin with natural ingredients v. synthetic isn’t always easy to detect. Look for something on the label that says “whole food multivitamin or all ingredients derived from whole foods”. Also read the ingredient list to see where the ingredients come from-do they come from plants and other natural sources?
6. When Possible Look for Organic
There are a quite a few organic multivitamins on the market.
In a nutshell, products with an organic certification are made without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation.
USDA certified products cannot intentionally contain GMOs. The USDA does not require testing for GMOs, so accidental contamination may occur.
Do you take a multivitamin? What’s your favorite?
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Please be sure to contact your physician before taking any multivitamins
photo credit: Pills 3 via photopin (license)
April 28th, 2014
I’ve become completely obsessed with this longevity test.
Can you get off the floor from a seated position without using your hands, arms or knees to help you?
Try it! It’s not as simple as it sounds.
I somehow stumbled upon a longevity study that was done a few years back and now I’m hooked.
In the study over 2,000 men and women ranging in age from 51-80 were told: “Without worrying about the speed of movement, try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed.”
Here’s a video showing how the subjects were scored in the longevity study and how you can test yourself and others:
The study found that middle-aged and elderly adults who needed to use their hands and their knees to get up and down were almost seven times more likely to die within six years, compared with those who could get up and down without support.
I’m not old enough to participate in this study, yet I still feel compelled to make sure I can do this not-so-simple task.
The investigators in the longevity study said that a high score in the sitting-rising test might “reflect the capacity to successfully perform a wide range of activities of daily living, such as bending over to pick up a newspaper or a pair of glasses from under a table”.
I’ve been working out for years, but this study shows that longevity is based on more than just physical fitness.
“It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy.”
So now do you see why I’m obsessed?
I’m so fixated that I just got out of my chair to make sure I can still do this!
Bringing longevity back to reality
Placing my obsession aside, I know that one simple test isn’t a tried and true indicator of longevity. I think what’s so fascinating is our ability to have some control over this small measure of how long we live. It’s not new news that what we place in and on our bodies along with functional fitness can all help gauge our long-term health.
So it’s time to get on the floor and let me know if you can do this. Hopefully you won’t become as obsessed as I am!
photo credit: @superamit via photopin cc
February 10th, 2014
Last week I had my annual mammogram.
It’s not a fun day by any stretch of the imagination.
I know that many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Being in New England where the temps are pretty chilly, I was already cold when I arrived for my appointment. I was asked to change into once of those little cotton hospital tops that has about 15 hanging strings that somehow tie together. I didn’t have the patience or the energy so I just left the top wide open. There’s not a modest bone left in my body after birthing children.
When I was called into the exam room I was shivering. Nerves. Cold.
The lovely woman (she’s always so incredibly pleasant-right?) introduced herself. My chest became play dough as she spent time arranging it perfectly on the machine. She then let me know that I would hear a beep once the x-ray machine was where it needed to be. If I couldn’t stand the pressure on my chest she assured me that it would be OK to ask her to stop. But then she reminded me that if I made it to the beep the x-rays would probably turn out better. After hearing that, I knew that I had to suck it up and wait for the beep. I was willing to endure the pain if there was a lesser likelihood that I would have to come back for more x-rays.
When that beep finally came “STOP(or @#%^!)” was on the tip of my tongue. It was all I could stand. She asked me to hold my breath while she took the x-ray, but I already was.
She took two x-rays, one on each side, and then I managed to ask if most people make it to the beep. She laughed and said “No honey, they don’t. ” She then said “Personally, I’ve never made it to the beep.” I didn’t feel like Superwoman. I just wanted to get out of there.
Two more x-rays with the beep and I was sent on my way.
I’ve been to two different types of mammogram centers- those that give you the results that day and those that don’t. This was the latter.
Why I Get a Mammogram
Getting a mammogram is scary stuff. We all know someone who’s had breast cancer. Someone close.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2014 are:
- About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer
Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 1/3 since 1990 through early detection.
It has saved the lives of many women in my life and for that I’m truly grateful.
That’s why I get a mammogram and you should too.
Beyond the Mammogram
Breast cancer prevention begins with making educated decisions about what goes in or on our bodies. Our cosmetics, personal care products and food are all places where toxic chemicals can be hiding. Taking the time to read labels and ask questions is so important. The burden is on us to find safe products. Together we need to help shape public policy so that it focuses on prevention for all.
We assume that chemicals used to make ordinary products are tested for safety — but they are not. Our current laws are outdated and not doing their job. We need our government’s help. It’s time to get tough on toxic chemicals.
There’s a lot that needs to happen before women, men and children no longer have to worry about cancer and other diseases. We’ve seen the power of our collective voices. I have no doubt that together we can make this happen.
Do you have an annual mammogram? Tell me more……
photo credit: Eyesplash – feels like spring via photopin cc
September 3rd, 2013
When my friend Lindsay asked if I wanted to participate in a 30 Day Deep Breathing Challenge my first thought was I’m way too busy. Then I managed to take a step back only to realize the timing was perfect. This is a transitional time of year for many of us – school’s starting, the seasons are changing and life as we know it is being shaken up. I’m the first to admit that I don’t always handle change very well so a few deep breaths are much needed.
Over the years I’ve incorporated deep breathing or meditation into my life, but generally only on an as needed basis. Overall life seems to get so busy and my deep breathing gets shuffled to the end of the to-do list.
What is the 30 Day Deep Breathing Challenge?
There’s a simple theory out there which says deep breathing (meditation) is linked to a more relaxed and happy life. Hard to deny that and I’ve experienced it firsthand. Simply put- it works.
The challenge is easy: Every day for the next 30 days commit to doing deep breathing at some point throughout the day.
I’ll be deep breathing along with several other bloggers. You can follow the conversation on Twitter with the #BreatheDeep hashtag, and follow their blogs: Lindsay Dahl, EnviroBooty, Conscientious Confusion, Made in USA Challenge, Tea with Dee, Jen and Joey Go Green, Almost All the Truth , Green4u, and more!
Tips for Deep Breathing or Meditation
- Deep breathing can happen anywhere. Find what works for you.
- There is no right or wrong way to deep breathe.
- Smile. Try it. Smiling keeps you relaxed and focused.
- Find a time that works for you. Maybe it’s when you wake up or after the kids leave for school.
- Focus on your breath. Keep coming back to it as other thoughts try to push in.
- Practice makes perfect. Well not really- we’re not shooting for perfection, but practicing does help.
When I first began meditating the book Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield was very helpful.
So are you up for the challenge? I would love to have you join in!
photo credit: tamra hays via photopin cc>
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