Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Should You Do a Cleanse?

The New Year is often a great time to undertake a good cleansing program - especially after all the rich and sugary foods of the holiday season. With so many cleansing diets and supplements out there, it is easy to wonder what all the fuss is about.  Does the body really need cleansing, and if so, why?  To clear up some of the confusion, here are a few FAQs about cleansing and detoxing to help you decide if it's right for you:

1. What does a detox cleanse do?
Organs of the digestive system
Organs of the digestive system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Cleansing generally refers to the digestive tract, but the ultimate intention of a cleanse is to bring health to the whole body.
  • The digestive organs are responsible for filtering toxins and other harmful substances out of the bloodstream.  Giving these organs a rest helps them to heal and do their job more effectively.
  • By ceasing to take in chemicals or other toxins, the body has a chance to rid itself of them, and will do a better job of filtering once the cleanse is completed.
2. Which organs are involved in a detoxification, and why do they need it?
  • The primary organs involved in everyday body detoxification are the colon, liver, and kidneys, but many other organs, such as the skin, lungs, and more are also involved.  
  • In our modern age, these organs are faced with a daily onslaught of chemicals, from pesticides on food and clothing to industrial pollution and food additives (such as preservatives, colors, or artificial flavors).
  • Unfortunately, such foreign substances are often stored, usually in fatty tissue or in the liver, as the body does not know what to do with them.  A continual replenishment of the toxins from our daily exposure means that these organs never get any "down" time.
  • Some health experts believe that the toxins build up in the system, causing a wide range of unpleasant but vague symptoms.  Still others note the "mucoid plaque" build-up in the intestines, claiming its presence as a cause for all sorts of disease.
Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe
Healthy foods can help the body detox. (Photo credit: epSos.de)
3. How does a detox diet or cleanse work?
  • A cleanse gives the body a chance to release these toxins. It frees up the colon, liver and kidneys from the daily assault of toxins ingested with foods and alcohol.  Cleanses usually result in some weight loss, so the toxins stored in the fatty tissue are flushed from the body.
  • Fasting is a usually component of all cleansing, whether it is targeted toward the kidneys, colon, or liver.
4. Are supplements used when doing a cleanse?
  • Sometimes, supplements are used to augment the cleanse.  Psyllium husks and bentonite clay are popular detoxification supplements that act as bulk laxatives, and are said to bind to poisons in the body as they move along the digestive tract.  
  • Some people take probiotics while undergoing a cleanse, in order to re-populate the colon with friendly, helpful bacteria that may be lacking due to toxic build-up, or previous use of antibiotics.
  •  Supplements aren't always necessary during a cleanse, but can often be helpful.
In summary, doing a cleanse can be one way to detoxify your body of accumulated toxins.  Those who undergo cleanses claim they have renewed energy and focus, and feel healthier, so it may be something that you want to try this year.

Our favorite cleanse program doesn't involve any supplements or weird juice diets - it focuses on feeding your body whole, natural, clean foods that give it the tools to detoxify gently and safely. Check out The Total Wellness Cleanse for more information.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Five Eco-Crafts For the Kids

Christmas may be over (already!), but Christmas break is not. If the cold winter is keeping you all cooped up inside, why not occupy busy little minds and hands with a few fun crafts projects? Savvy parents know you can turn just about anything into a craft project.  With a little paint, paper towel tubes can become swords or caterpillars.  Shoeboxes can become dollhouses or a little red fire engine.  Why not use everyday throwaway items and turn rainy or snowy afternoons into crafty afternoons?  Here are five eco-crafts the kids can have some fun with during the winter break:  

#1.  Jazzed up origami.  Origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, teaches children to have patience and follow directions, and they can make some pretty amazing projects.  A collection of old magazines or used Christmas wrapping paper can become a star mobile or a lantern or mobile they can hang in their bedroom. You can find lots of fun books full of origami projects online or at your local library. This was one of my favorite hobbies as a kid!

Milk carton
Milk carton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#2.  A milk carton birdhouse.  You’ll need a clean and dry cardboard milk carton, white glue, tempera or other non-toxic paint, twine, and scissors. 

Glue the top of the carton shut.  Paint carton with paint and let dry.  Cut a 2-inch hole about 4 inches up from the bottom of the container.  This is the bird’s entryway. 

Poke a hole through the top of the feeder, string a piece of twine through the hole and hang your feeder on a tree. Place a bit of birdseed inside container to attract birds.

#3.  Use old socks to make neck warmers.  Fill a ski sock or other large sock with buckwheat and dried lavender.  Sew up the end of the sock and you have a neck warmer.  Pop it in the microwave to heat the buckwheat to soothe sore neck muscles and enjoy the aromatherapy.  Pop the sock into the freezer and place on your neck to use during warm days or to place on injuries to reduce swelling.

#4.  Collect small metal items - cans, bottle caps, bobby pins, buttons, and square spice or other food containers and have your children make their own robots!  You can also use mismatched silverware for their arms.  Plastic lids work well for heads.  You’ll need a good craft glue that can bind metal to metal and plastic to metal.  Old screws, bolts, electrical wire and nuts will add to your child’s imagination.

A glue gun. Picture by Luke Surl I hearby rele...
A glue gun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#5.  Old jeans also make a variety of fun projects including a book bag or a notebook cover.  Adults can do the large sewing jobs or for smaller projects, children can sew by hand.  A notebook cover needs to be measured for size, making sure to leave enough overlap that the cover can be closed, cut and hemmed on all sides.  A button fastener can be attached to keep the cover closed. 

Book bags can be made by cutting the seat of the jeans off mid-thigh, cutting through the place where the legs join and then sewing front and back together.  A handle can be created to carry the bag or a zipper can be sewn in the waistband. 

There are literally a thousand craft options to make good use of things you  have lying around the house, or were planning to throw away.  These are just a few ideas to get you started.  Get creative, and have some fun with it!

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Finding Eco-Friendly Christmas Decoration Ideas

Decorations can cause a lot of waste during the holiday season every year. Although many of us have decorations that we re-use every year, many stores are now stocking cheap, plastic decorations that wear out quickly and don't do anything to help the environment. Why not think about what kind of eco-friendly decorations you could use instead?

Natural Christmas Wreath
Natural Christmas Wreath (Photo credit: **Mary**)
Decorate With Nature

If you're in the market for new eco-friendly decorations then one of the best places to find them is outdoors. There are plenty natural items that you can use to decorate your home. And once Christmas is over, you can leave them to biodegrade naturally.

1. Pinecones: You'll often find these on the ground during the winter, so gather some for free - and without harming any trees in the process - and glue them to wreaths or other Christmas decorations.

2. Leaves: What better way to make your home look like Christmas than by using a variety of winter leaves? Ivy is just perfect for decorations: combine it with twigs and holly and you can create the perfect, homemade wreath.

3. Berries and Nuts: We all associate nuts and berries with Christmas, and thankfully nature provides them for free. If you can, gather some acorns and holly berries to add to your decorations this year.

One of the best things about using natural, eco friendly decorations is that it encourages you to get outside and experience the real beauty of winter. Not only this, but you can turn it into a project for the whole family to enjoy together.

Recycled Paper

If you and your kids like to make your own Christmas decorations, then using recycled paper can be a great way to go about it. Paper chains are a simple way to decorate the home, or you can use old paper scraps or even old cards or gift wrap to create snowflakes and more!

Christmas Tree & Lights

Christmas decoration at the Christmas Market i...
Christmas decoration at the Christmas Market in Aachen, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Choosing trees that can be planted outside after Christmas is the most eco-friendly choice, and LED lights are the most energy saving way to light them. For ornaments, try making your own from recycled materials (old CDs, cardboard, fabrics and more), or even pretty food items like brightly colored dried peppers, popcorn, or cranberries, and add some organic, fair trade candy, too!

The key to using eco friendly Christmas decorations is to use natural, biodegradable materials wherever possible. When you do buy decorations, make sure that they are good quality and will be reused for years to come. And, if you have old decorations you no longer want, try donating them to ensure they still get some use instead of going into a landfill.

Have a wonderful, healthy, happy, and green Christmas!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Green Christmas Presents Also Mean Green Gift Wrapping & Cards

Green Christmas presents aren't just about what you choose to give as a gift - it's also important to think about wrapping paper and even the greetings cards you're sending out. Christmas cards are a fantastic way to get in touch with people who you may not have spoken to for a while, and are perfect for sending good wishes to family and friends. However, the numbers quickly add up, and most of us will end up using huge amounts of card for these yearly greetings. There are ways in which you can minimize the environmental impact of the cards you send, and the gifts you wrap.

Make Your Own Cards

If you're really feeling creative then why not try making your own cards from recycled materials? You can use parts of old greetings cards, or scraps of card, to put together cards that are personal and fun. This is an especially good idea if you've got kids who enjoy arts and crafts!

You can also go digital and design your own cards on the computer. This can be another fun project for you or the kids and is an easy way to send out cards without wasting any paper at all! Save the paper cards for only your closest friends and family and you'll be helping to save a lot of trees this Christmas.

Wrapping Gifts

Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth,furoshiki,...
Traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A lot of gift wrap is difficult to recycle, especially since it gets torn up and thrown out with other trash! Try not to add to this waste by using recycled materials to wrap your green Christmas presents, such as old newspapers, magazines, old brown paper bags, pretty reusable cloth, or wrapping that you've saved from previous years. Most people won't mind you wrapping in this way - in fact, you can usually make it look unique and creative with a little effort! If you still want to buy wrapping paper, many stores now sell recycled wrapping options.

After Christmas

Once Christmas is over you'll likely be left with a huge number of Christmas cards that no longer have any use. It's important that you recycle cards as much as possible - whether this means re-using them for your kids' craft projects, or dropping them off at local stores who include a Christmas card recycling point.

Although these are easier to recycle, you should also try to save as many envelopes as you can when receiving cards. When it comes time to send cards again, you can reuse the better quality envelopes by using special “reuse labels” to cover up old details. This is a habit you can continue throughout the year, too!

You can also recycle or reuse holiday gift wrap. When unwrapping gifts, try to do it carefully rather than tearing it open and you can save it and use it again. This is the perfect way to turn the presents you receive into more green Christmas presents next year!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Green Gift Ideas for Everyone This Christmas

Gifts are a huge part of Christmas and, as such, coming up with green gift ideas can have a huge impact on your carbon emissions every year. You really aren't limited in this area: there are literally hundreds of possible eco-friendly gifts you could choose for family and friends this year.

Here are a few quick green gift ideas to get you started:

Fair Trade
Fair Trade (Photo credit: flydown)
* When you buy wooden gifts, ensure that the wood is taken from a sustainable source,
* Gifts made from recycled waste materials (such as recycled metals or plastic) are a good choice,
* When buying beauty products, opt for organic products wherever you can,
* Buy gifts that encourage people to grow food, such as a starter kit for kitchen herbs,
* Instead of cut flowers, choose potted flowers and plants.

Fair Trade Gifts

Buying fair trade is an ethical choice for Christmas gifts, and any other products you may usually buy. The fair trade system ensures that the producers of the products, all around the world, are treated fairly in their prices and business practices. Although fair trade gifts are not the same as eco-friendly gifts, they are a great way to ensure you're doing something good with your money. Make sure you look for the fair trade logo when buying your presents.

Baked Gifts

If you're short on cash or ideas, then why not bake some gifts for Christmas this year? If you choose organic, local ingredients then your cooking will not only be more eco-friendly, it'll also be healthier for anyone who eats it. What's more, this is a fantastic personalized Christmas gift choice!

English: Burger Trailer The East of England Sh...
Shopping locally helps the environment and the community. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Local Gifts

Whether you're buying food or other products, buying items that were produced locally can help to reduce their environmental impact. Not only this, but you'll be doing your part to help out businesses and individuals in your community.

The Gift Of Time

Not all the gifts you can give have to be physical products. Why not give someone your time? Perhaps you know someone who needs help redecorating their home, or clearing out the weeds in their garden this winter?

You can also buy loved ones activities such as a day out, pampering in a day spa, a meal in a restaurant and much more. These green gift ideas don't need wrapping, but they provide a fun experience the recipient will never forget!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Video: Making Stress Your Friend

Here is another awesome TED talk (I could watch these things all day!) - this one is about an important topic for most Americans - one that can seriously impact our health and well-being. This time of year, with holiday shopping, travel, and other preparations looming, stress often takes center stage in our lives.

But this doesn't have to be as bad as it sounds. As this video explains, the way we view stress actually is what makes it so unhealthy!

Check it out to learn how and why, and what you can do to make those inevitable moments of stress much less costly to your health and your peace of mind:

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why Some Stress Is Good for You

It seems like we hear the phrase “stressed out” more and more every day.  With all the new technologies we have, we are constantly bombarded with stressors that basically overload our systems.  And around the holidays is often the worst in terms of stress! With not enough relaxation, this kind of lifestyle can lead to high blood pressure and a whole slew of other health problems. 

Space-filling model of the cortisol molecule, ...
Space-filling model of the cortisol molecule, a steroid hormone that controls the body's response to stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It may seem difficult to believe when we're completely bombarded with stressors, but the stress reaction originally came about as a beneficial response.  Early man developed what we call the “flight or fight” instinct in response to stressors.  If a person is faced with a stressor, they produce a hormone called adrenaline which helps them either run away from danger or fight back against an attack.  For longer term stressors, our body produces a hormone called cortisol, which acts the same but lasts much longer. 

You've probably hear a lot about how bad stress is for your health, but even in today's busy world, stress is still a beneficial and sometimes vital part of our lives.  Imagine you’re walking down the street and a car comes barreling towards you.  Immediately your body triggers a stress response, releases adrenaline, and leaves you pumped and ready to jump out of the way of the car.  If not for stress, our reactions would remain slow and we sometimes wouldn’t be able to get out of dangerous situations fast enough.

While too much stress can keep you from accomplishing your goals, small amounts of stress help us accomplish what we need to.  Just take the example of the average college student.  They may have all semester to get a paper done, but they’re often just finishing up the night before. Then the stress response takes over at the last minute.  At this point the body produces cortisol, which helps the student handle the stressful situation and get the paper done.  If not for this kind of stress, we might not get much done.  Let’s face it, stress is one of the greatest motivators there is. 

Spc. Kay Izumihara, an Occupational therapist ...
Spc. Kay Izumihara, an Occupational therapist with the JTF-GTMO combat stress team. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The real difference between good stress, also called eustress, and "bad" stress, is what we do with the stressors we face.  If you’re stressed about a looming deadline, try to put a positive spin on it.  Think “this is making me energized to get my work done well” rather than worrying that it’s just too soon and you just can’t get it done.  Let stress motivate you, not worry you - it is much healthier to think of it this way.

Because of our busy, hectic lives, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll eventually let the stress get to us.  While cortisol release is good in the short term, in the long term, it causes serious health problems.  When you feel you’re starting to stress out, it’s important to take steps to relive the stress instead of just stewing.  By relaxing ourselves, we stop releasing cortisol and produce calming hormones.  Try Yoga, meditation, or aerobic exercise.  This will help you relieve the stress instead of letting it worry you.

While you can’t stop all the stress, you can live a better life by dealing with stress in a healthy manner. For more on this, be sure to check back Thursday for a fascinating video on how the way you view stress impacts your health!

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

How Aromatherapy Can Improve Concentration & Mental Clarity

By now, most of us have probably heard about the benefits of aromatherapy for relaxation.  It seems like there are hundreds of scents you can choose from if you want to unwind at the end of a long day.  Aromatherapy works quickly and effectively because, unlike other senses, scent is connected directly to your brain.  Since you already know aromatherapy works great to relax, why not try it when you need to concentrate?  Aromatherapy can be used to turn your brain back on, perk you up, and sharpen your thought process.  Imagine the work you can get done with that extra invigorating boost!

When it comes to concentration, there are many scents to choose from.  There are minty, fruity, and fresh smells that can help.  This means that you’ll be sure to find one you actually think smells good.  Here are just some of the options available:

* Lemon
* Mango- this can also help to improve concentration by easing symptoms of depression.
* Pine- this helps to increase energy levels as well as concentration.
* Apple- this can also give you an extra energy boost.
* Rosemary-this scent promotes relaxation and alertness at the same time.
* Peppermint- this has always been recommended to improve alertness for long study sessions
* Eucalyptus- this is similar to peppermint, and can be used to provide a slightly different scent.

If you want to use aromatherapy to help you concentrate, there are several options for helping the scent reach your nose.

Aromatic candle
Aromatic candle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Aromatherapy candles.  These are an easy and simple way to help spread your favorite invigorating scents throughout the house.  They are slightly less concentrated, but they still get the job done.  Just buy the scents you want and light them whenever you’re studying or just need a mental boost.  Just remember that candle smoke pollutes your indoor air so make sure you have a filter in your vents, and use candles with natural ingredients such as soy and essential oils instead of paraffin wax and synthetic fragrances if possible. 

* Humidifier.  Simply find the oil form of the fragrance you want, put a few drops in your room humidifier and let it work.  As the water gets put into the air, the oil gets taken with.  When the droplets evaporate, the room is filled with your favorite refreshing sent.  They also make devices now that use water to disperse scent and clean your air at the same time.

* Rub on oil.  Instead of using the oil in your humidifier, just rub it onto your chest or under your nose.  It works like VapoRub by sending invigorating vapors right up to your nose.  Just be careful, many essential oils are quite strong and may irritate the skin, so you’ll want to mix a few drops with a mild, gentle carrier oil such as light sesame or almond oil.

If you want to study, concentrate more on work, or just feel energized and alert at the end of a long day, try one of these fantastic aromatherapy scents, and see how much more focused you feel!
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

5 Healthy Uses for Peppermint Oil

One happy side effect of the high cost of today's medical system is that it’s becoming more common for people to skip potentially dangerous prescription and over the counter drugs for natural alternatives that work with your body to help it heal.  The great thing about many of these natural products is that they can be beneficial for more than one problem.  A great example is peppermint oil.  It has been used to help with many different health issues. Plus, nothing says holidays like the scent of peppermint - bringing back memories of candy canes, minty hot cocoa, and more! Get in the spirit of the holiday season, and stay healthy this winter, with these 5 helpful tips for using peppermint oil.  (Remember, as with any essential oil, if you’re applying the oil directly, it’s best to dilute it in a neutral carrier oil before you apply.)* 

Mentha x piperita: Flowers and leaves.
Mentha x piperita: Flowers and leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Digestive aid
The most common use of peppermint oil is aiding in digestion.  It helps promote the production of digestive juices, so you can use it on a regular basis to help your body - and it can especially be useful during the holiday season of overeating!  It also can be used to offer relief from digestive problems such as heartburn, nausea, gas, cramps, and even a spastic colon.  You can use peppermint oil when you experience symptoms, but it can also be used to prevent symptoms if you have a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome. 

2. Cold and flu 
Peppermint oil has several properties that can help with your cold and flu symptoms, along with other illnesses.  Peppermint oil is an expectorant, helping break up chest congestion. Rub some on your chest before bedtime to help relieve coughs, instead of over-the-counter creams containing harsh chemical ingredients. It has also been used to reduce fever, soothe scratchy throats and, get rid of headaches.  It’s a great natural alternative to over-the-counter medications that may contain alcohol or other unwanted ingredients.

3. Mental capabilities
Rubbing a dab of peppermint oil on your temples can help wake you up and improve your concentration and memory.  This is great when studying for or taking tests, or any other time you need to be alert and mentally clear.  It’s a great way to give brain a little boost without having to rely on coffee.  This can also be beneficial to help you feel better when you feel faint or dizzy.

4. Asthma
Peppermint oil contains menthol.  This is the substance used in many conventional medications that can help clear up any breathing difficulties.  The vapors produced from peppermint oil can clear out a stuffy nose, help with coughing, and even help stop an asthma attack (although you shouldn’t stop conventional treatment). Dab some under your nose to help with nasal congestion, or add a drop or two to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam. 

Peppermint tea
Fresh peppermint tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Heart Problems
Peppermint oil has been used to help reduce heart palpitations.  It is also used to make the heart beat better and improve circulation throughout the body.  This can help ease several problems related with circulation difficulties.  Peppermint oil keeps your blood pumping strong. 

In addition to peppermint oil, you may also find some benefit from peppermint tea.  You can even put a few drops of peppermint oil in water for a different, but effective peppermint drink.  If you’re applying the oil directly, it’s best to dilute it in a carrier oil, such as almond oil, before you apply. 

Peppermint oil and tea are wonderful natural cure-alls that are great to have around the house.*

* Information provided is for informational/educational purposes only, and should not be acted upon without first consulting a qualified health professional.

Buy Peppermint Oil: 
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