Icing Hemorrhoids

There are number of home remedies for curing or relieving the symptoms of hemorrhoids, and icing hemorrhoids is one of them. Learn more about how to ice inflamed hemorrhoids and why it might help.

Why would icing hemorrhoids help relieve the symptoms associated with inflamed hemorrhoids? Piles or inflamed hemorrhoids occur when the tissue near that anus is stretched, which often occurs as a result of digestive problems. The body’s response to this injury is inflammation and flooding the area with blood. Inflammation can cause increased pain and swelling. Icing the hemorrhoids can help reduce swelling.

Properly Icing Hemorrhoidsas with icing any part of the body, do not apply ice directly to the surface of the skin, or you can risk damaging the soft tissue. It’s also important not to apply ice to the affected area for too long of a duration. For icing hemorrhoids, apply a cold compress to the area for 15 minutes, then remove the ice for at least 15 minutes in between. Do not apply the ice for more than five 15 minute increments per day.

Remember, icing hemorrhoids is not a cure. Many things can contribute to hemorrhoids, including digestive problems, lack of nutrients, and straining when using the restroom. Icing hemorrhoids merely relives some of the symptoms of inflammation. For more information on natural ways to heal or prevent hemorrhoids, read this article.

Source for “Icing Hemorrhoids:” WebMD

Originally posted 2013-11-20 12:30:42.

NPR — Reading Literary Fiction

If you haven’t read or listened to the NPR spot on reading literary fiction, it’s definitely worth your time! Maybe you want to justify all the hours you spend reading high works of fiction. Or perhaps you want to get into reading a few of the classics, but you’re not convinced doing so is a valuable use of your time. Well it turns out that beyond providing entertainment, reading works of literary fiction can help a person become more socially in tuned. For more information on the many benefits of reading literary fiction read the article we wrote and listen to the NPR story below:

Reference: “Want To Read Others’ Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction,” NPR.

Originally posted 2013-11-20 12:00:12.

What’s the Alternative to Health Insurance? Health Care for People of Christian Faith

  • Are you confused about all the changes in health care, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare?
  • Are you frustrated with rising health insurance costs, losing your insurance plan, losing the doctor you like, or new policy terms and conditions?
  • Are you frustrated by the complexities of choosing a health insurance plan that meets the criteria of Obamacare?
  • Are you concerned about sharing your private information and medical history on a government exchange website?
  • Are you afraid you will be denied for health insurance because you plan to travel long term internationally, or otherwise may not be considered a resident of the United States for any amount of time?

If you answer yes to even one of these questions and if you are a believer in the Christian faith then there is at least one alternative to health insurance for you that most people don’t know about, which complies with Obamacare. One of the few alternatives to health insurance is to join a “health care sharing ministry.” Since the 1980s health care sharing ministries have been emerging as an alternative to health insurance, and now more than ever before, memberships of health care sharing ministries are increasing. This approach is called a “religious exemption” and satisfies the individual mandate in the recent federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and is one of the only exceptions to the requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty tax. See 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d), (2), (B) and also see Sec. 1501 (b) of HR 3590 at pg. 327, 328).

Read on if you’d like to know more about health care sharing ministries and how this alternative to health insurance can save you money as compared to insurance, protect you from financial hardship, ease stress as it has for my family, and allow you to live in Biblical community, in addition to abiding by the new laws of the Affordable Care Act.



Health care sharing ministries is like health insurance in that your medical needs are covered; however, there are many notable differences between these two health care options. For instance, health care sharing with its lower monthly payments and deductibles is much more affordable than health insurance. To illustrate, my family is a member of Samaritan Ministries International, and our monthly payment is $315 with a $300 deductible per medical need. This is a sharp contrast to insurance policies with similar coverage which would cost us a $600 monthly payment and a $10,000 deductible. Health care sharing ministries, like Samaritan Ministries, are able to provide such low rates because they are non-profit organizations, whereas insurance companies charge high premiums and deductibles with the goal of making a profit.

Additionally, Obamacare does not require you to buy health insurance if doing so would violate your faith. Whether popular or not, Obamacare is now the law of the land, and unfortunately, health insurance consumers do not have a voice in how insurance companies use the monthly premiums they pay. Their monthly premiums pay for other peoples’ health care costs which may include abortions and treatments of conditions resulting from practices such as having sexual relations outside of marriage and alcohol and drug abuse, which many Christians would agree violates their faith. Instead, health care sharing ministries allows Christian consumers to live consistently with their beliefs by sharing medical needs directly with fellow believers through this non-insurance approach.

One of the best things about being a member of Samaritan Ministries International, or other similar health care sharing ministries, is the support from fellow members to all aspects of the medical need, including the emotional and spiritual dimensions. Members know who their money is going, how it will be used, and many send notes of encouragement and comfort. Member monthly payments go to individuals (other members) with medical needs to pay medical providers directly, not to insurance companies. This leads to another important difference between health insurance and health care sharing ministries. When an insurance company is not in the equation as the middle man between patient and provider, then doctors and patients are the only ones deciding what’s best for the patient’s health care—not an insurance underwriter, adjuster, or government bureaucrat, all whom are notorious for inefficiency, poor communication, and denying claims. And members of a health care sharing ministry will not have to fear that government intervention will cause rationing of their health care. Furthermore, choosing health care sharing that allows us to properly align our living and our spending with our values, in a responsible way that helps people in need and directly pays doctors, is rewarding. There are many benefits in choosing an alternative to health insurance 

As members of Samaritan Ministries International, my wife and I absolutely love trusting members with our health care costs. It was a step of faith for us in the beginning to trust in how this ministry works, but we began trusting our health care completely to the Lord Jesus through members of the Samaritan community, and it has worked for us as we had to use this for two major health care needs this year. 

Samaritan members have come through for us each time we had medical needs in our family. One medical need of my wife’s required an MRI and lumbar puncture procedure, as well as follow-up doctor visits. The bills totaled $9,566.00, but the medical providers gladly offered us discounts, simply because we asked kindly, eliminating $5,464.16 off our balance due. That left us a balance of only $4,101.84, which we were reimbursed in full via personal checks from other members through the Samaritan Ministries International’s very organized system for ensuring every medical need is covered (more about that later in this article). Along with their reimbursement checks, members sent us encouraging handwritten notes and prayers written to my wife. Additionally, our deductible (“Share”) was $0 for this medical need, because Samaritan reduces the Share when discounts are negotiated. Our monthly membership payment never exceeded our set amount, and our rate hasn’t increased due to having a medical need.

The second medical need my wife had was for ingrown toe nail surgery in two toes. This surgery would have cost us $675 if we had no health care coverage, but the final amount we’re out of pocket is $121, because like the previous medical need we asked for discounts from the doctor’s office and received reimbursement from members.

Samaritan member letters and checks

The only perceivable drawback to this health care alternative is that we had to pay a few bills with our credit card while we waited for reimbursement checks, but this wasn’t a problem for us because it allowed us to earn bonus points with our credit card issuer. Despite this, health care sharing has eliminated fears of expensive medical bills, and it’s proven an empowering experience for us as we feel we have much more control of the decisions and options we make regarding our health care.

With that said, being a member of Samaritan Ministries International or any health care sharing ministry can lead to better doctor-patient relationship. The reason for this is because Samaritan gives us the freedom to see any doctor we choose for medical care. There are no in-network or out-of-network doctors, no HMO or PPO to worry about (and visits to the ER can be covered as well). What I mean is that we have the freedom to shop around for the right doctor. We search the internet and read reviews to find the best care providers for whatever our needs are. Then we call and ask if that care provider will take “self-paying” patients. There is no shame in this, because most health care providers do take self-pay patients happily, while only a handful does not. In our times of medical need, the doctors, labs, imaging services, and hospital we dealt with were appreciative, even thrilled, to work with us. In fact, many offices told us what a headache it is for them to deal with insurance billing. Typically with cash paying customers though, the care provider knows they will get their money faster and with less hassle than when they deal with insurance companies.

In this way, health care sharing puts you in the driver seat of your health, and promotes honest medical billing and reduces overcharging. Because the hospital gives the bill directly to you and not an insurance company, you can see immediately how much they charged and for what. You can ask medical offices to explain anything on the bill you don’t understand, and you can point out any errors. You can also discuss payment plans and ask for discounts. We’ve found that health care providers are willing to discount 50 percent to 60 percent off of what they would have billed customers using regular insurance. It’s not scary; anyone can do this! Some medical offices have told us that if they were to bill the same work to an insurance company, they would have to settle on a smaller amount anyway, so they’re happy to give the same discount knowing it helps a cash pay customer! And because Samaritan Ministries International shares our medical bills with other members of like faith, we never have to worry about our bills being denied by an insurance company for various factors, including plan limits and out-of-network charges. For a list of all that Samaritan covers and exclusions, see the Samaritan Membership guidelines for complete rules available for download here.

I like receiving the bills and working things out with my doctors prior to me mailing copies of bills to Samaritan. Unlike insurance companies who routinely look for reasons to deny claims and leave you to foot some of the bills, if Samaritan determines your medical need can’t be “shared” under their guidelines, they may publish your medical need as a “Special Prayer Need,” asking for benevolent donations from members and prayers for God’s miraculous providence. So whereas you could get stuck paying thousands out of pocket for medical expenses that your insurer may refuse to pay, Samaritan can be your conduit for additional financial blessing without you having to worry or beg for help.

What I’ve described are some of the huge reasons why my family likes Samaritan more than traditional insurance. Samaritan Ministries International actually works as your advocate. We have felt ourselves being lifted up by all the prayers of Samaritan members when we were in need. And as a bonus, you can call your member advocate at Samaritan at any time and ask for prayer one-to-one and for them to share your medical needs with thousands of members for their prayer support. 

By now, if you’ve gotten this far in the article, you may be wondering exactly how Samaritan Ministries works and how members share health needs. Although it’s actually pretty straight forward, health care sharing can be difficult for people to understand, since we are so used to thinking in terms of insurance. Because there are currently about 24,000 member households participating, Samaritan Ministries is financially robust and scalable. If membership drops or increases there are always members available to help share your health care need.

Here’s how the need sharing process works in a nutshell: When a member has a health care “Need” he receives health care treatment from a provider of his choice, collects the bills, and sends those bills to Samaritan Ministries. Samaritan Ministries verifies that the Need meets their guidelines. Then, Samaritan Ministries mails every member/household the monthly health care newsletter with a personalized statement directing members to send their “Shares” (monthly membership payment, which is the same amount each month) to a member with a Need. They include the name, address, and brief description of a member in need who will receive your monthly share. The member with the need receives the shares to pay his health care bills. The entire process is also available online through their secure website. The member monthly share amount never exceeds $370 per month for a family of any size and is even less for singles, couples without children, and single-parent families.

Another equally important fact is that the limit per individual is $250,000, but that’s only per health care need. Thus, if you had two or more needs simultaneously, each need would cap off at $250,000. Likewise, mothers and babies’ needs are treated as separate and each person gets their own limit of $250,000 per need. On the other hand, if like us you participate in the “Save to Share” program for an extra $15 annually, plus a few dollars extra per month, you will be protected for medical expenses that exceed $250,000.

Also, you won’t be denied membership for having preexisting conditions. Health care sharing ministries, like Samaritan Ministries, will still share your medical expenses for any new needs you have while you’re a member. Samaritan Ministries is working on updating their guidelines to include provision for preexisting conditions, but for now the guidelines state if you’ve gone 12 months without treatment, medication, or symptoms of a need, they will treat the condition as a new condition. Similarly, if you’ve gone 3-7 years without treatment, medication, or symptoms of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, they will share your need. This does not include gestational diabetes, which is always a shared need. If you have a preexisting condition, you can ask Samaritan to publish your need as a Special Prayer Need, and many members have been surprised by God’s miraculous financial provision and healing in their lives.

What is the cost for membership with Samaritan Ministries?

One-time new member fee:

$200 (per household)

Monthly Share amount (the amount you’ll send to members for their medical needs):


One person $165

Two-person family $315

Three or more person family $370

Widowed or divorced with children $230

Young Adult: (head of household—either husband or wife—age 25 or younger)

One person $125

Two-person family $235

Three or more person family $320

Widowed or divorced with children $180

Costs and Savings

Routine check-ups are not shared, but if seeing the doctor leads to a medical need then that is shared. Medical needs over $300 can be shared. You’re only responsible for the first $300 of any need, similar to a deductible or co-pay. Any discounts your medical provider gives you will be applied first to your $300. Also in a twelve-month period the amount you pay will not exceed $900. For example, a family of three or more can get health care for $370 a month with a $900 annual share amount; a young single parent with a family of any size can get health care for $180 a month with a $900 annual share amount; and an adult couple with no kids can get health care for $315 a month with a $900 annual share amount. However, if you negotiate discounts, you will save the $900 annual share, but if you’re not able to ask for discounts, Samaritan can help you get discounts from your medical care providers.

Compare Samaritan Ministries to any health insurance plan and you’ll immediately realize savings of monthly payments and deductibles! 

In addition, as a member of a recognized health care sharing ministry, like Samaritan Ministries International, you are exempt from the individual mandate to buy health insurance. If you are or become a member of a health care sharing ministry, such as Samaritan Ministries or others like it, before the Obamacare individual mandate deadline, you will not have to buy insurance through one of the government exchanges, nor will you have to pay the individual mandate penalty. Although if you become a member after the individual mandate deadline you will have to pay a penalty for any month you went without being a member or without having health insurance coverage.

How to sign up for Samaritan Ministries and What to Expect

Signing up is easy. Simply download the application here, complete the form, and mail back to Samaritan Ministries. If you sign up please tell them you were referred by SMI Member #41061 (The Cheathams).

I really like the application process for Samaritan. First, with Samaritan, you don’t have to answer a ton of grueling questions about your health, as you do with other health care sharing ministries and health insurers. Second, they don’t ask for family medical history, height, weight, BMI, or Social Security Number. Third, membership is open to non-citizens residing in any country in the world. They are concerned only about ministering to your family, not your nationality or where you live. This makes it a great choice for anyone, and missionaries especially love Samaritan because they can submit doctor bills from anywhere in the world. This is great too if you have a medical need while traveling. Finally, and most importantly, with Samaritan there are no in-network or out-of-network doctors, and no HMO or PPO to worry about. You can choose any doctor you want. All of these factors make the application process as well as any future paperwork with Samaritan a breeze. They are so easy to work with!

My family has been a member of Samaritan Ministries International since before the implementation of Obamacare, and our rates did not increase and we’ve been able to keep the same doctors. Along with that, we have peace knowing that members around the world are benefiting directly from our monthly payments and that the same members will come to our aid when we are in need. And despite how great Samaritan is, we know that “Jesus Christ is the only adequate Provider for every need we have. He is the One Who created everything, and He is the only One Who has enough resources to meet every need. No human organization is large enough to do this—no company and no government. He gives some of His provision through human channels, but He is ultimately the only One we can trust” (Samaritan Ministries International). If all this sounds great to you head over to Samaritan’s website today.

For related reading visit:

Originally posted 2013-11-14 12:06:46.

A Health Lover's Guide to Holiday Travel

1970 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban and Holiday Travel Trailer

As the holidays sneak closer, many of you will find yourselves traveling in the weeks and months to come. You may choose a road trip, ferry, train ride, or as expensive as air fare is these days, you may opt for packing yourself in a box and having a loved one drop you off at your local UPS hub. In all seriousness, travel and vacations are ticking time bombs waiting to ruin your health and fitness program.


You may have heard, “Hey, it’s vacation. I never do this” or “Here come the holidays; I’m going to be afraid to weigh myself come New Year’s.” But just as I wrote about in “Taking Control of Your Mornings and Your Weekends,” you have the ability to take control of your vacation, holidays and travel too! Be empowered!

Thanksgiving Dinner Danger

I used to work with a female trainer who told me that she eats salmon and salad every year for Thanksgiving dinner; to which I replied, “huh?” Thanksgiving is, and always has been, my favorite holiday. It is a day in which there is no pressure; no gifts to buy, no cards to give, no flowers… just gratitude and food (or as I like to call it, “grati-food”). Two of my favorite things! I encourage all of you to indulge and eat whatever appeals to you on this magical day. Focus on how blessed you are in every area of your life. Laugh with your friends and family. Eat like there’s no tomorrow.


I will never say people should not indulge during special times of relaxation – especially when it involves grati-food. The magic ingredient is to contain these indulgences to special occasions. Friday is officially not Thanksgiving. That means stop eating like a starved polar bear. It is far too easy for Thanksgiving indulgence to turn into Thanksgiving, Black Friday, plus weekend indulgence. And at that point you indulged 400% more than you were planning on.

Applying this self-control with the following tips will turn you into a full-fledged Healthy Holiday Ninja (copyright for HHN pending):

  • Bring lumbar support. My derriere has never graced a car or plane seat with good lumbar support. The companies that manufacture these seats obviously employ many fancy designers and absolutely no biomechanists. My articles on low back pain can give you a more in depth view of why your spinal alignment is of the utmost importance. For now, just take my word and invest in a good lumbar support if you take a road trip or travel by plane.
  • Adjust your exercise program. A very common excuse people use to give up on their exercise programs while traveling is that they cannot find the right equipment. They say, “I can’t possibly workout here; they don’t have a glute-ham raise or a donkey calf machine!” If you know you are going to be traveling, ditch the machines and rely on bodyweight exercise and learn to get creative with dumbbells – every hotel gym will have at least a few sets.
  • Ship your supplements. This tip is the golden nugget of the article. If you are flying, every pound you pack can end up costing you. Instead of stuffing your suitcase with protein, vitamins, raspberry ketones, and creatine, plan ahead and mail them. Distribute your powers and pills into serving size bags and ship them to your destination with a Blender Bottle.  A flat rate box from the post office should arrive in two business days, and you can ship a lot of supplements for around $8. I applied this tip with great success this summer when I spent a lot of time in Montana. If you are staying in a hotel, be sure to contact them ahead of time and make sure they will accept a package on your behalf and hold it for you.
  • Work out first. If you can slip away from your crew, try to get a short, intense workout in before eating your giant meal. Many people believe they should exercise after eating to “burn it off,” but it’s much more effective to ramp up your metabolism before eating. Short, intense exercise – HIIT, Tabata, circuit training, etc. – will put your body into a state where you will best utilize all of the amazing nutrients you are about to shovel down your gullet!

Above all, be grateful and cherish all the blessings in your life. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

Originally posted 2013-11-11 15:26:17.

Is juicing healthy?


Until recently, fresh fruit or vegetable juice has had an untarnished reputation. After all, what could be unhealthy about drinking down all the nutrients contained in the healthiest foods known to man? But that’s just it, when we drink juice, we aren’t really getting all the nutrients those fruits and vegetables have to offer. And that’s where the opponents of juicing come in — juicing skeptics claim that since we’re missing a few of the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables, juicing isn’t a healthy option. So what’s the verdict? Should we completely give up fresh juice just because it doesn’t contain all the components contained in whole fruits and vegetables? Here’s how we weigh in:

Some juices aren’t as healthy as others: Opponents of juicing makes some good points, fruit and vegetables juices are missing a lot of fiber, and they can also be high in sugary calories. Fiber is a crucial part of the diet — it provides roughage to ensure proper digestion and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. The fiber contained in fruits and vegetables also acts as an anecdote to the high amount of sugar found in many fruits. Fiber actually prevents the absorption of fructose, while effectively carrying it out of the digestive tract. 

But here’s the thing, not all juices contain a ton of sugar, and just because you’re not getting all the fiber doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting a ton of other important nutrients.  It is, however, probably a good idea to avoid juicing fruits that are high in fructose, like oranges and apples. While these juices can still provide some wonderful nutrients, they supply a high amount of fructose. Too much fructose in one serving can cause fructose malabsorption and the growth of harmful bacteria. If you’re watching your body fat, fruit juices can also pack a significant amount of sugary, fat-depositing calories. 

Fruit and vegetable juices demonstrate a number of researched health benefits: The research backing up the health benefits provided by fruit and vegetable juices (especially vegetables juices) is impressive. Juicing provides a convenient way to consume an immense amount of vitamin, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrients are responsible for giving beet juice its cardiovascular, endurance, and anti-cancer benefits, carrot juice its anti-colon cancer and eye-health promoting properties, and leafy green juices their ability to improve sugar metabolism.  

We prefer to view vegetable and fruit juice as a supplement to a healthy diet: Since vegetable and fruits juices provide so many amazing nutrients and health benefits, it makes sense to include them in your diet. Imagine if you ate a healthy whole food diet, with plenty of fiber, plus you supplemented your daily diet with a glass of freshly juiced greens and carrot juice. You’d be giving your body a great big hug, providing it with the nutrients that can actually help optimize your DNA! Most of us are short on some vitamin and minerals — juicing is an easy way to boost nutrient and anti-oxidant intake with the complex forms found in nature.

Make juices healthier by using them with healthy fats or in smoothies: Some of the most important vitamins vegetables contain are various forms of fat-soluble carotenoids. Since juice doesn’t have any fat in it, your body won’t be able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins very well unless you eat a little fat at the same time. When you juice vegetables, be sure to drink the juice with a meal or eat a little healthy fat, like a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil or a few capsules of fish oil, at the same time. Also, since you’re missing out on most of the fiber, try adding your vegetable juice to a smoothie that contains a cup or two of whole fruits and vegetables like frozen berries, whole spinach, or romaine lettuce.  

A few other considerations when juicing: Some of the best fruits and vegetables for juicing also tend to be the ones that contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Be sure to only use leafy greens that are certified organic, and wash all root vegetables or fruits that have edible skins thoroughly before juicing. Finally, in order to prevent fructose malabsorption, limit the amount of fruits you juice, and try to emphasize leafy greens and other vegetables.

References: “Effects of carrot and tomato juice consumption on colon carcinogenesis in humans,” Journal of Nutrition; “Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation reduces blood pressure in adults,” Journal of Nutrition; “The effect of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods v. supplements on macular pigment levels,” Journal of Nutrition; “Mitigation of starch and glucose-induced postprandial glycemic excursion in rats by antioxidant-rich green-leafy vegetables’ juice,” Pharmacognosy Magazine.

Originally posted 2013-10-28 15:14:40.

Uses for Coconut Oil

uses for coconut oil

Consider the coconut. Crack open this fuzzy, hard-shelled tropical fruit and you get a nutrient-rich feast with a host of health benefits. Indeed, the coconut has long been acclaimed not just for its vitalizing water or its sweet kernel, but also for its edible and surprisingly versatile oil. Coconut oil, which is extracted from the fruit’s kernel, is a pretty hot topic these days. The proven benefits from coconut oil, in both food and medicinal applications, almost seem to make the news daily. Consider these uses for coconut oil the next time you’re cooking pastry, searching for a good repellent, moisturizing your skin and more!

Coconut oil increases “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein): Coconut oil is rich in fat. More than 50 percent of this fat comes from lauric acid, a type of fatty acid that can have a more positive effect on serum lipoprotein levels (comprised of the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood) than other oils. “Good” HDL can mean better cardiovascular health.            

Coconut oil for cooking: Coconut oil’s sweet flavor makes it a perfect medium for roasting, frying or sautéing a wide variety of meats and vegetables. It also provides a great flavor-and smell!-enhancing ingredient when added to cakes and other baked confections. Anyone with dietary restrictions (such as vegans) or with dairy-related allergies can substitute melted coconut oil for butter, or room temperature coconut oil for shortening.

Coconut oil as a stain remover: The next time you have a greasy stain, try combining 1 part coconut oil to 8 parts of cleaning solvent (dry) and then dry spotting the stain to help remove it.

Coconut oil for moisturizing skin: The botanical (plant-derived) ingredients in coconut oil helps to preserve your skin’s outer layer, and keep your skin moisturized and firm.

Coconut oil treats atopic dermatitis: One study suggests that applying virgin coconut oil topically can improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema), a chronic condition resulting in inflamed, itchy areas of skin.

Coconut oil for preterm baby health: One study suggests that a coconut oil massage can improve growth and help expedite weight gain in preterm babies.

Coconut oil promotes hair health: Coconut oil, when applied to the hair, helps to moisturize hair follicles and protect them from damage caused by combing.

Coconut oil as a mite repellent: Coconut oil, when combined with jojoba, has been shown to help repel scabies mites, or tiny insects that tunnel beneath the skin, breed and then hatch their eggs, which then results in scabies, or a highly contagious rash.

Coconut oil for soap: The high lauric acid content of coconut oil makes it an ideal ingredient for bar soap. Lauric acid contains antibacterial properties, increases soap lather and enhances the hardness of the soap bar.

The applications for coconut oil are many. Whether you use it in a cake, in your hair or to treat a bad case of eczema, you’re sure to benefit from this amazing, sweet smelling tropical oil.           


References: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2011/May/coconut-oilhttp://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/articles/Do_skin_creams_deliver.htmhttp://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=630167http://www.uvm.edu/~edstudio/Information/april10/products/soapmaking.pdf (lauric acid research), http://www.pjm.microbiology.pl/archive/vol5812009043.pdf (lauric acid research), http://www.human.cornell.edu/fsad/outreach/upload/removingstains.pdf  (stain removal)

Originally posted 2013-10-17 15:55:52.

The Health Research on Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle has enjoyed a long history (dating as far back as 2,000 years) of use by health practitioners to treat liver ailments, gall bladder disorders, peritonitis, allergies and other conditions. Milk thistle has even recently been suggested as a possible treatment for cancer. But is there real medicinal value to this old herbal remedy? Research confirms that milk thistle indeed has some health benefits due to the antioxidant compounds found in its ripe seeds. These compounds: silychristin, isosilybin, silybin, and silydianin, make up the flavanoid referred to as silymarin. According to current research, thanks to its silymarin content, milk thistle provide a number of bonified health benefits.

 Milk thistle protects your liver: Silymarin, due to its antioxidant properties, has been shown to inhibit oxidation in the liver. Oxidation can lead to damaged liver cells, which in turn can seriously impact your liver’s health function. Studies have also shown that silymarin has anti-inflammatory properties that help keep liver cells and tissue healthy. Research also suggests that silymarin can block toxins and/or remove toxins from liver cells, thereby helping to detoxify the liver.

 Milk Thistle may offer allergy relief: Some research suggests that combining extract of milk thistle with an antihistamine may offer greater symptom relief compared to taking antihistamine alone.

Milk Thistle may help protect against some types of cancer: Some preliminary lab studies suggest that milk thistle may help protect against skin cell damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolent radiation (from sunlight) and environmental carcinogens, both of which may contribute to skin cancer. Some clinical trials also suggest that the silymarin in milk thistle may directly inhibit the growth of other cancerous cells, such as breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells, colorectal cells and prostate cancer cells.

Milk thistle may improve the effectiveness of certain types of chemotherapy drugs: Some lab trials have demonstrated that administering silybin, a chemical compound in silymarin, during chemotherapy treatment may improve the treatment’s effectiveness in reducing the growth of breast cancer cells and ovarian cancer cells.

Research is still underway as to the full extent of milk thistle’s efficacy, but the results point to positive health benefits for the human body. Milk thistle may help fight certain cancers, improve the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy drugs and help relieve allergy symptoms. Plus, milk thistle’s antioxidant properties spell better health for your cells-and healthy cells mean a healthier you!

References: Cancer.govCancer.orgMedlinePlus 

Originally posted 2013-10-15 10:31:00.

The Social and Health Benefits of Reading Literary Fiction

Some people absolutely love reading fiction. Whether they enjoy popular page turners or works of literary fiction, you’ll rarely find such bookworms without a good book in hand. Yet, if you’re like me, a love for novels isn’t so natural or passionate. Personally, I’ve always preferred works of non-fiction: history, culture, sociology, theology, and the like. One of the reasons for my preference for non-fiction was that I didn’t see the value of literary fiction. I assumed reading fiction was just about entertainment and had little value beyond improving my vocabulary or language skills.  

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a plethora of benefits that can be derived from reading literary fiction. My first revelation came from reading a few books by Rene Girard, a literary critic and professor at Stanford University. His amazing insights about the truths that can be acquired from reading stories opened up a whole new world for me. Since then, I’ve discovered that reading literary fiction can provide numerous benefits, ranging from improved social skills to better mental health.

Before I get into the benefits that can be gained from reading fiction, I just need to distinguish popular fiction from literary fiction. While the differences are often subtle, they’re important. Works that qualify as literary fiction tend to revolve around the inner-working and thoughts of complex characters, rather than primarily around an exciting plot (as in popular fiction). The characters in popular fiction tend to be fairly simple and easy to predict. While popular fiction tends to be more entertaining and does provide some benefits, works of literary fiction more fully engage the imagination and critical thinking skills of the reader. The complex characters in literary fiction tend to force the reader to conjecture, imagine, and predict the thoughts and actions of the characters– skills that have application in real life.  To find good examples of literary fiction, explore the classics section at your local bookstore or look for National Book Award finalists.

Reading Literary Fiction Helps Improve Social Skills

A recent study by Professor of Psychology Emanuele Castano, from the The New School for Social Research in New York, found that when test subjects read literary fiction their social skills improved. Compared to people who didn’t read and people assigned to read a passage from a popular fiction novel, those assigned to read a passage from a work of literary fiction demonstrated an improved ability to “read people’s thoughts.” They were better able to interpret what people were thinking and expressing through body language and speech. Therefore, it’s believed that the practice provided by literary fiction in interpreting personalities and intents of characters carries over to the real world.  

The imagined world of “getting into characters heads” may also improve empathy, the ability to feel and relate with the emotions of others. Empathy is of key importance for building healthy relationships and forming cooperative partnerships. And, as discussed in the “Creation-Based Keys to Longevity,” healthy relationships ultimately reinforce good physical health.

Reading Literary Fiction Develops Creativity and Imagination 

Unlike television, reading activates the imagination. In other words, your mind has to create all of the images. This is an excellent exercise for the mind, that has consequence for health and daily life.  When the mind is active it is more likely to stay healthy into old age. Studies have shown that brain exercises like reading can help reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s.

Creativity is also a crucial part of coming up with new ideas, discoveries, and strategies for success in relationships and business. Popular fiction novels are definitely better than television in promoting creativity, but literary fiction can help you take your imagination skills to the next level. In great works of fiction, authors reveal their ability to create the illusion of great detail but often leave much to the mind for imagination. These gaps in detail force the mind to spontaneously create rich images and interpretations of the characters’ intents and future actions.

Literary Fiction can Reveal New Ideas and Truths

Probably my favorite benefit of fiction is that it can be a rich source of deep truths and new ideas. Good authors are usually good philosophers too, with significant insights into human nature, theology, or philosophy. Authors of literary fiction posses the unique ability to penetrate and reveal nuanced truths through the dialogues and thoughts of their characters. Take for example The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — in this classic novel Dostoyevsky reveals stunning insights into human nature and the ability of Christ’s sacrificial love to overcome selfish delusion.

The Take Away: Far from being a luxurious waste of time, reading great works of literary fiction can improve your social skills, develop your creativity, and improve your mental and physical health! So what are you waiting for? Pick up a great book and find a park bench or pull up a seat at your local coffee shop.

What are some of your favorite works of literary fiction and why? 

What are you reading now?

References and Recommended Reading: Want To Read Others’ Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction, NPR; Desire, Deceit, and the Novel by Rene Girard; The Humiliation of the Word by Jacques Ellul; The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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Originally posted 2013-10-09 15:25:16.

Tips for Healthier Baking

healthier baking tips6 Ways to Make Treats Healthier

I am an avid baker. I grew up helping my mom create her famous chocolate chip cookies and even had the recipe memorized at one point in time. Since then I’ve loved experimenting with different flavors and combinations of cookies, muffins and breads.

What’s really fun though is experimenting with healthier substitutions. Try to use one of the following in your next baking excursion.

1. Beans.

Yep, beans in your baked goods. Puree some beans to sneak in some extra fiber and protein into your treats. Black bean brownies go over quite well in my experience. You will want to make sure if you are using beans from a can that you drain and rinse them well in order to better disguise these legumes in your recipe.

2. Whole wheat flour.

Whole wheat is the less processed version of white flour. The general consensus is that the less processed foods are, the better they are for you since they retain much of the original nutrients. Try substituting half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. The flavor and consistency will change if you substitute all whole wheat because of the higher amount of gluten that forms. The higher the gluten that forms, the tougher the product will be so use caution when subbing whole wheat flour.

3. Bananas.

This potassium-packed fruit can be substituted for the butter in a recipe. About one pureed banana per stick of butter or ½ cup of oil. You can also use a little less sugar since bananas are naturally sweet. Just don’t omit the sugar completely since it has a scientific purpose in the recipe. The resulting baked good will have a fluffier consistency, so keep that in mind when substituting in a cookie recipe. I’ve made banana cookies before that were really more similar to muffin tops. I didn’t hear a single complaint though!

4. Applesauce.

Applesauce is very similar to bananas in substitution except for the flavor. It can be substituted for the fat and you can also reduce the sugar due to the natural sweetness of the apples.

5. Greek yogurt.

Adding Greek yogurt to your baking treats will add protein as well as calcium. I have directly substituted plain or vanilla Greek yogurt in cake and muffin recipes, but the texture was a little sticky. Luckily, Chobani sent me an infographic to show how to substitute Greek yogurt for the fats or oils in a dessert. For every cup of oil in the recipe, substitute ¾ cup of Greek yogurt. For every cup of butter, keep ½ cup of the butter and add ¼ cup Greek yogurt.

6. Chia seeds.

These nutrient-packed seeds can be substituted for the eggs in a recipe by creating a chia gel. Simply mix 1 TBS chia seeds with 2 TBS warm water per egg in a bowl and let set for a couple of minutes. The chia seeds will absorb the water and create a thick gel that will bind your ingredients together like the eggs would.  Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also a great a good choice for making vegan recipes.

So what do you say? Is it time to have some fun in the kitchen and make your desserts a little healthier? Try not telling people your treats are healthy and watching as they scarf down your creation. Then tell them how it’s actually semi-healthy and watch their amazement. Happy Baking!

Let’s discuss:

Do you substitute in your baking? What do you use?


How to Bake with Chobani Greek Yogurt + Infographic

Originally posted 2013-10-08 11:36:32.

It's getting colder, which means more snuggling and… better heart health!

Hugs, snuggle, heart health and oxytocinFall might mean more rain and less outdoor exercise, but it doesn’t have to mean poor health. For those of you who usually turn to running or other outdoor activities for stress relief, you might want to take up snuggling with your loved ones, or at least try getting in as many hugs from friends and family as you can. There’s a hormone called oxytocin that the body releases when it’s under stress, and it actually causes the body to crave physical touch and social interaction. Oxytocin is like God’s way of hardwiring us for community. When we’re under stress, our hormones automatically encourage us to seek out the presence of others.

The cool thing is that while stress causes an initial release of oxytocin, physical touch causes the release of even more, reinforcing feelings of love and well-being. But the benefits don’t stop there–oxytocin is also good for the heart. The heart is covered with oxytocin receptors, and when there’s oxytocin present, the heart rate goes down which is just what’s needed when experiencing threat-type stress.

You ever wonder why children intuitively seek to be held when they’re afraid or worried? It’s all beginning to make sense! Physical touch, specifically hugs, can also have a blood-pressure lowering effect. I doubt you needed another reason to hug a friend, snuggle with your spouse, or cozy up with your kids to read a book, but now you’ve got one!

References: “The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal at TEDGlobal 2013;”“More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women,” Biological Psychology; “Oxytocin exerts protective effects on in vitro myocardial injury induced by ischemia and reperfusion,” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
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Originally posted 2013-10-03 16:11:09.