Tips for Vacationing on a Budget

Italy-traveling-on-a-budgetFor many of us, taking at least one vacation per year is a necessary reprieve.  The time to rest from our work and literally “vacate” our usual occupations is essential for our mental health and state of being!  While it can be easy to spend thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation, booking a refreshing trip to relax and enjoy God’s creation doesn’t have to break the bank.  It’s pointless to stress your personal finances to take a trip that’s supposed to be relaxing, especially when doing so will only create more stress later on.  There are a number of ways to go on an awesome vacation with a minimal amount of cash; here are a few strategies that have worked for me and my wife:

Go on a “staycation.” Plane tickets, car rentals, or gas can add a lot of expense to a vacation.  Save money by going on a vacation that’s nearby. Stay in your local area (within few hours driving distance) and explore places you haven’t been before.  I often talk to people who have never visited the great sites in their own back yards.  Chances are there are people who travel to your state for vacation; find out what they’re looking at.  You might be surprised by what you discover!

Find hotel alternatives.  Hotel prices seems like they are going up and up these days, especially in highly traveled areas.  The good news is that there are a number of new “people to people” websites that make affordable vacation rentals easy to find.  Instead of paying exorbitant amounts for well known hotels in prime locations, give a vacation rental a try.  Many privately owned vacations rentals offer special amenities and are located in scenic areas that can’t be matched by large hotels (and at a fraction of the price).  Here are the sites to check out: airbnb and VRBO

Make your own food! Eating out for most of your meals can add up really quick, so find a vacation rental or hotel with a kitchen or kitchenette   Stock up with all the food you need for your trip at the beginning of the week, and you’ll be set!  Buying groceries and making your own meals will save you a lot of cheese, even if you buy a few gourmet groceries to help you really get in the vacation mode.  To get more of the local experience, shop at a farmers market and meet a few of the natives.  You might even get a few insider tips about what to do in the area.

What’s included? When considering the price of where you’re staying, carefully examine all the amenities.  For example, if a hotel you’re looking at includes a gourmet breakfast, that could be anywhere from a $10 to $30 value per person.  As previously mentioned, it might also be worth spending a little extra on a place that has a kitchenette, since you’ll ultimately save money on food costs.

Go with friends! Traveling with friends is probably one of the best ways to save money, especially if you’re traveling overseas.  You can potentially split the cost of a place to stay, groceries, and a rental car.  You might even be able to get group discounts on admissions tickets and passes.  Plus traveling with friends is just a lot of fun and provides a great bonding experience!

Plan and book ahead. Planning is a big money saver and can make your trip far more enjoyable.  If you set a budget for your trip and schedule what you want to do and how many times you plan on eating out, then you can enjoy your itinerary without worrying about spending too much money.  Also, by booking ahead (about three months) you can save money on flights and rental cars.

Travel in the off-season. Peak season is almost always more expensive for traveling, so try and vacation when everyone else is staying home.  Summer is often the most expensive time to travel, but the weather is usually still beautiful near the end of spring or at the beginning of fall.  In addition to saving money, you’ll also beat the crowds!

Travel light. By taking as few bags as possible, not only will you save money on baggage fees, you’ll also be able to rent a more affordable car, since you won’t need a ton of space to store your stuff.

Sign up for a frequent flyer miles credit card. This tip has really paid off for us.  Choose a frequently flyer mile card that will earn you miles for an airline that flys where you most often like to go on vacation, then use your card for as many expenses that you can!  Just be sure to pay it off every month; you won’t be saving any money if you have to pay interest on payments you didn’t have cash for!  If you own your own business or work for an employer that reimburses you for expenses, then you mileage points will add up even faster.

These tips have helped us save a ton of money during or travels and allowed us to go on more vacations than we would’ve been able to otherwise.  If you have any tips for vacationing on a budget that I missed, please share them in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Andy Langeland

Originally posted 2013-06-08 17:54:38.

DIY After-Sun Antioxidant Spray

After reading about the benefits of applying green tea and antioxidant vitamins to the skin after exposure to UV rays, I decided to devise my own aftersun (or anytime) antioxidant spray. I’ve been using my custom green tea/vitamin c/vitamin e blend for several months now and it works great!  Even though I rarely get burned, every once in a while I overdo it a bit and get pink.  When this happens, I always spray on liberal amounts of my antioxidant solution, and it provides quick recovery from my burn!  Of course, I spray it on whether I get sunburned or not, because I want to give my skin all the nutrition I can.

The reason I chose to use green tea and vitamins e and c in my solution is that they all provide researched benefits. Several studies, looking at both rat and human skin, found that after exposure to the sun or artificial UV rays, topically applied green tea reduces inflammation and can even reduce the incidence of skin cancer.  Green tea contains powerful polyphenols that protect green tea plants from UV damage and provide a number of benefits to humans as well.

Other plants use vitamin C and Vitamin E to protect their cells from UV damage.  One study using a vitamin C and Vitamin E solution found that when applied to the skin daily, it provided progressive protection from sunburn and UV damage.

With all these benefits, it’s surprising that there aren’t many antioxidant sprays out there.  Thankfully, it’s easy to make an antioxidant solution at home.

Here’s what you’ll need: an 8 oz spray bottle, vitamin C powder, green tea, water, and liquid vitamin E.

Directions:

  • blendinggreenteaFirst brew an extra potent cup of green tea (with about 7 oz of water).  Use 4 tea bags of green tea or 8 grams of loose green tea. Steep in hot water for about four minutes, then drain.  You can also grind the green tea extremely finely with a coffee grinder, shake it with 7 oz of warm water and then filter the water with a french press.
  • Pour the green tea solution into your spray bottle.
  • Grind 4 grams of vitamin C into very fine powder using a coffee grinder (i’ve used both tablets and powder – powder works best), then add to the spray bottle.
  • Add a teaspoon of Liquid vitamin E to your spray bottle.
  • After all the ingredients are added, shake the spray bottle vigorously to mix
  • Use liberally every day, especially after exposure to the sunshine!

Recommended products:

Sources: Vitamin C and Vitamin E Solution, Topical Application of Green Tea

Originally posted 2013-06-02 02:57:29.

Join the push lawn mower revolution!

advantages, pros, cons, reasons to own a push reel lawn mower, reviews, great states

Spring is here and summer is on the way. With all the sun the grass is growing faster, so it’s time to bust out the lawn mower more often.  The old school thought is that “more power” is better, which is what made the gas-powered lawn mower so popular.  But in my opinion, the next best thing to owning a goat is owning a push-lawnmower!

When I was a young boy, I remember mowing my great-grandmother’s lawn with what seemed like an antique (and it probably was) mowing device.  Even as a kid I thought it was fun to use – afterall, I was the one powering those fast spinning blades, and there was some reward in that.  I wondered, “Why doesn’t my dad have one of these?”  Well, it seems that these days a lot of people are going back to the simplicity and practical advantages of using a push lawn mower.

Here are a few of the advantages:

More exercise: Pushing a push-reel lawn mower engages the legs and core muscles a little more than pushing a gas-powered mower, so it strengthens the muscles and burns a few more calories.  Score!

Quiet to use: There’s no obnoxious motor, so all you hear is the smooth sound of grass being clipped.  This means that you can mow the lawn at any time!  Get outside when it’s too hot, and you won’t have to worry about waking or bothering your neighbors.

Fewer allergens: Since push reel lawn mowers aren’t high powered and don’t have a blade that spins like a helicopter rotor,  they don’t kick up nearly as much dust or allergen particles as a gas-powered mower. This is great news for all allergy sufferers.

Economical: Push law mowers are more affordable than gas-powered mowers, and they’re a lot cheaper to work on.  The blades can be adjusted and sharpened at home, and there’s very little that can go wrong with them.  You’ll also save money by not having to buy gas or oil. An added bonus is that push mowers save space and  are easier to store.

Better for you and the environment: Push reel lawn mowers are powered by clean energy – you!  The more we can minimized our petroleum use, the better.  With a push lawn mower, you won’t have to worry about breathing in gas fumes or spilling any petroleum products in your yard.  Not to mention, you won’t have to make any annoying trips to the gas station to refill your gas can!

A push reel lawn mower is truly a great investment; it’s cheaper than a gas mower, and you’ll reap a number of priceless benefits. Be part of re-making the American experience: take your shirt off, enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise while mowing your lawn, and save a little money in the process!

Recommended Products:

Originally posted 2013-06-02 00:59:35.

Natural Relief from Nasal Allergies – Researched and Rumored

natural remedies for allergiesAbout 20% of us suffer from hay fever or nasal allergies (rhinitis) this time of year.  Why is it that our bodies respond so vehemently to seemingly harmless pollen, dust, or mold particles?  Genetics, diet, and environment work together to cause our bodies to think that certain inhaled particles are intruders that should be eliminated.  When this happens, the mast cells (immune response cells) in the nasal passage release histamines.  Histamines are organic nitrogen molecules that act on nerve endings to initiate inflammatory responses like sneezing, itching, and mucous release. Herbs and nutrients used for natural allergy relief work by stopping one of these three mechanisms.  They either prevent the mast cells from responding to inhaled particles as dangerous intruders, block histamine from activating nerve endings, or lessen the body’s inflammatory response.

I, for one, have had fairly bad symptoms of hay fever every spring for most of my life, and I don’t wish it on anybody!  If you’ve had allergies so bad that you can barely function, you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve tried nearly every over-the-counter allergy medicine out there, but hardly any of them work for me (most of these are anti-histamines).  When I find one that does work, I usually have to take twice the recommended dose, and I don’t like doing that to my liver!  In my search for natural relief, I’ve discovered a few things that work for me, such as high doses of quercetin, but everyone is different.  Based on research and word of mouth, I’ve compiled a list of the most successful supplements for natural relief that are out there.  You might have to try a few different ones to discover what works best for you.

Stinging Nettle: The phytochemicals in stinging nettle act on the mast cells to prevent the release of histamine.  Stinging nettle also contains phytochemicals that block the histamine receptors on nerve endings.  One double blind, controlled studied found that 58% of people who took two 300 mg capsules of freeze dried stinging nettle during the day found it effective at relieving allergy symptoms, and 48% found it equal to or more effective than their previous allergy medicine.

Quercetin: This flavanol is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, onions, and berries.  It’s usually attached to a sugar molecule (called a glycoside), which also gives it a higher rate of absorption. Quercetin works as both a mast cell inhibitor and an anti-inflammatory.  One study found that quercetin was more effective at inhibiting mast cells than chromolyn, a common asthma treatment.   Quercetin in supplemental form has a relatively low rate of absorption, so common doses range from 250-600 mg, three times daily.

Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in providing allergy relief is often debated, but one Japanese study found that supplemental Vitamin C, compared with other anti-oxidants, was associated with fewer allergy symptoms. Another study found that a vitamin C solution sprayed into the nose three times daily greatly reduced nasal secretion.  Vitamin C probably provides relief by acting as an anti-inflammatory.

Bromelain: This powerful enzyme is found in pineapples and stimulates the production of plasmin.  Plasmin is an enzyme that helps provide allergy relief by opening up clogged nasal passages.

Local Honey: The research on the efficacy of local honey is limited, but it’s probably one of the more popular folk remedies out there.  It seems like nearly everyone I mention anything about allergies to suggests trying local honey.  I’ve tried eating local honey and it seems to work for me.  There’s also at least  one randomized, controlled study that indicates local honey may have scientific validity.  In Japan, researchers gave birch honey to patients suffering from birch pollen allergies, and the patients who ate the honey had significantly fewer allergy symptoms than those using traditional anti-histamines.  Hey, it’s honey we’re talking about here — it’s worth a try!

Do you know of any folk remedies or research on natural allergy relief that we missed?  What works best for you?  We’d love to read your comments below.

References: Birch Pollen Study, Quercetin Study, Vitamin C and Rhinitis Symptoms, Alternative Allergy Relief, Stinging Nettle Research

Originally posted 2013-04-30 22:03:31.

Edible Flowers for Fitness!

Gentlemen, flowers aren’t just for the ladies anymore — beyond their aesthetic value, there are many flowers that have tremendous health benefits!  The medical information on flowers is limited, but the research is growing.  Check out some of the many flowers with nutritive and medicinal properties:

  • Apple and Orange Blossoms – both are edible but should probably be consumed in small quantities, as their nutritional properties are still being explored. 
  • Baby’s Breath – are edible and may be anti-carcinogenic, as well as protect against alcohol induced hepatic fibrosis.
  • Chamomile – long used as a tea for their calming effects, chamomile flowers are also edible in raw form.  Research indicates that chamomile flowers have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and wound healing properties.
  • Chrysanthemum – are traditionally used to brew a type of tea in China.  They’re high in anti-oxidants and minerals, and they may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.  
  • Dianthus – can make a colorful and nutritious toping on salads.  They’re high in minerals (including potassium) and anti-oxidants.
  • Echinacea – is primarily used as a tea for its anti-viral and anti-allergenic effects.  Echinacea can also be applied topically as a poultice to promote wound healing, and the petals can be added to soups or salads as a beautiful garnish.
  • Elderflower – a tasty herb that’s used in popular drinks.  Very little research has been done on the flower (there’s more interest in the berry), but it may help improve metabolism.
  • Fuchsia – the beautiful blossoms can be eaten raw and are high in anthocyanins.  
  • Hibiscus – these flowers aren’t only beautiful on a salad or as a tea, they have numerous researched health benefits.  Hibiscus contains anthocyanins and antioxidants, and may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) – is a fragrant and flavorful flower, traditionally blended with green tea.  It can also be added to other recipes (like salads).  It may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-viral properties. 
  • Lavender – this wonderfully smelling flower can be used topically and as a food.  It is anti-septic and may help alleviate dandruff when applied topically.  There are a variety of recipes that use lavender, even a lavender ice cream.  I’m thinking a lavender frozen yogurt would be tasty.  
  • Marigolds – can be used in tea and and applied to the skin as a poultice.  They’ve shown efficacy in wound healing when applied topically.  Nutritionally, marigolds are high in the pigment lutein and may have anti-tumor action.
  • Nasturtium – the leaves and flowers are edible and make a great addition to an edible garden.  The buds can be pickled and used like capers.  The flowers appear to have anti-oxidant properties.
  • Pansies – these edible flowers are high in potassium and other minerals.
  • Peony – may have anti-depressant and cardio-protective properties.
  • Rose Hips – are a good source of vitamin C and may provide relief from arthritis through their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Violet (viola species) – the violet’s flowers and leaves are edible.  They are high in minerals, anti-oxidants, and potassium.

While not everything should be judged by its utility, as you can see, flowers are extremely useful!  In addition to their nutritive and health promoting qualities, they attract important pollinators to your garden and can keep away pests.  And last but not least, flowers have an unrivaled ability to brighten our mood and help us express love to those closest to us! 

Note: Be sure to properly identify the flower and its edibility before consuming, and be sure that they’re free of pesticides and other chemicals.  Also, those who are allergic to pollen may be allergic to certain flowers.

References:
Baby’s Breath and Alcohol-induced Hepatic Fibrosis
Chamomile Anti-inflammatory Properties
Chamomile Anti-proliferative Effects
Chrysanthemum Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Edible Flowers as Important Mineral Sources
Elderflowers and Insulin Sensitivity
Hibiscus for Blood Pressure and Lipidemia 
Anti-viral properties of Jasmine
Marigolds’ Anti-tumor Action
Nasturtium’s Anti-Oxidant Potential
Peony’s Anti-depressant Effects

Originally posted 2013-02-19 23:58:00.

Wilderness Time for Whole Health

“…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” – Luke 3:2
“…Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness..” Luke 4:1

Without reading too much into or over-spiritualizing the matter, I believe there’s a lot of truth and evidence to substantiate the idea that time in the wilderness is important for whole health (spirit, soul, and body).  In modern and ancient times, the wilderness has been both an alluring and frightening place for civilized people.  Lack of human presence and technological manipulation make the wilderness simultaneously a place of freedom and unpredictability, of rich abundance and lack.  In the Bible, trust in God typically goes hand-in-hand with less trust in civilization (the works of man) and more trust in the generosity of God as evidenced in his creation.  Today more people than ever in the history of the world are living in cities (with 81% of its citizens living in cities or suburbs, the U.S. has one of the largest urban populations in the world) which makes spending time in the wilderness more important than ever.  

The Mental and Spiritual Benefits of Time in the Wilderness: Adam, Enoch, Elijah, Elisha, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus – all spent time in the wilderness to clearly hear the voice of God.  God reveals his truth to us through his spoken word.  In order to receive his living word we have to listen, but the constant sights and sounds of civilization make that difficult to do.  Unless we very intentionally make space and set boundaries, we are almost constantly bombarded by television, internet, radio, billboards, magazines, imposing architecture, pictures/paintings, i-phones and more.  These sights and sounds are incredibly intrusive and almost inescapable, making it difficult to listen for or hear the still small voice of God.  Even when we go to church on Sunday, there’s often loud music, flashy powerpoint slides, and monologue-style sermons that don’t give us the chance to dialogue and reflect on the truth.  Making the time to get away from it all, with a day-trip to the woods or even to a quiet park, can help provide the space needed to hear from God (you might want to leave your smart phone at home or in the car). Time in the wilderness can also provide the opportunity to meditate, listen to your heart, and gather your own thoughts.  Meditation (thoughtful and peaceful reflection) is scientifically shown to help reduce stress levels and can help to more fully and thoughtfully engage the world.

The Physical Health Benefits of Time in the Wilderness:  Time spent outdoors, away from the city, is less toxic, less busy, and provides the opportunity to re-connect to life.  The evidence that spending time in the wilderness (or outdoors in general) is good for health is growing:  

  • Sunshine causes the skin to produce tons of vitamin D which helps protect against cancer and ensures proper cell function.  With over 81% of us living in cities, working indoors, it’s not surprising that about 50% of Americans are vitamin D deficient and that cancer rates are on the rise.  More time in the sun is also connected with lower rates of depression.
  • Fresh air is good for the lungs and cellular health, but breathing forest air is even healthier.  Several recent studies found that participants who spent several days in densely forested wilderness areas had an enhanced immune system and lower stress levels.  These benefits lasted for about a month. 
  • Connecting to the earth’s surface on sand, grass, or dirt may lower stress levels, thin the blood, and provide a unique source of anti-oxidants.  When we’re indoors and in civilization, however, we’re rarely grounded.
  • The wilderness or outdoors also provide the best places to get exercise.  Running and performing other exercises on varying terrain activates more muscles than what’s activated by monotonous exercise machines. The changing scenery experienced outside also helps take one’s mind off the pain of exercise and makes exercise more like play.

If you want better health, start by getting out where the wild things are (the word wilderness comes from the Old English words wild (animal) and ness (place).  In the beginning God said that it was all good!  We were made to depend on the good gifts in God’s creation.  We shouldn’t be surprised that our health is slipping when we’ve increasingly cut ourselves off from what is living.  Most importantly, how can we have true life when we don’t provide ourselves opportunities to hear the voice of God? “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Originally posted 2013-01-15 04:34:00.

Git Fit Faster with HIIT!

Why HIIT?

You don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill or run miles and miles at the break of dawn before work to loose weight and get healthy.  In fact, it’s possible to get fit with less time and less overall work than previously thought.  The answer is H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training).

It used to be believed that high intensity training  wasn’t effective at promoting weight loss because it caused the body to use carbohydrates, instead of stored fat, for energy.  Yet, it turns out that while high intensity training does burn the body’s carbohydrates at first, it promotes fat loss, muscle growth, and cardiovascular health more effectively than traditional aerobic exercise in the long run.

High Intensity Interval Training stimulates the production of fat burning hormones and enzymes that keep working even when the body’s at rest.  Also, since High Intensity Interval Training takes less overall energy per workout than an aerobic exercise of comparable duration, it causes less of an increase in appetite.  A smaller appetite means fewer calories consumed, and fewer calories consumed typically means a healthier body.

So what exactly is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training exercises are comprised of short, intense intervals of work (approximately 90% max heart rate), alternated with brief periods of rest or low work (approximately 70% max heart rate).  For success, it’s important that the exercises are undertaken at max effort, for anywhere between 20 sec to 2 minutes, followed by 1-4 minutes periods of rest.  A typical HIIT session lasts from 10 to 20 minutes and is usually performed 3 to 5 days per week for best results.

HIIT can be performed doing almost any type of exercise, whether outside or on machines.  Rowing machines, elliptical trainers, stair steppers, stationary bikes, sprinting, cycling, cross country skiing – all can be adapted according to HIIT protocols.  The type of exercise dictates how long you can perform your maximum effort and how long you need to rest. Here are a few sample exercises:

Rowing machine:  10 intervals of 2 minutes max effort, followed by 1 minute of rest/light rowing.
Sprinting: 8 intervals of 20-30 sec max effort sprints, followed by 2 minutes of rest/light jogging.
Cycling: 8 intervals of 45 sec max effort sprints, followed by 1.5 minutes of rest/slow peddling.

Just remember, if you aren’t able to give your max effort, you are beginning to lose the benefits of high intensity interval training.  Try adjusting your workout by doing shorter intervals that will allow you to give your max effort.  HIIT is a great way to improve your health with a limited amount of time.  If you can, do High Intensity Interval Training outside where you can enjoy fresh air and sunshine at the same time!

Advisement: If you’ve never done high intensity exercises or it’s been awhile, ease into your HIIT program over time! Your body needs time to strengthen the ligaments, bones, and muscles that support high intensity exercise. Also, before beginning any new exercise protocol, or if you have health problems, consult your doctor first!

References:Evidence-based Exercise, Six Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training, High Intensity Interval Training in Overweight Young Women

Originally posted 2013-01-04 21:13:00.

Connect to the Earth for Healing Energy…?!

If you opened this blog out of pure curiosity or skepticism about the title, that’s understandable. Connecting to the earth for “healing energy” sounds more like a belief from a New Age religion, than something that belongs to the realm of scientific discovery or that glorifies God as creator. When I first heard about the earth’s healing energy,  I too was skeptical, but it turns out that there’s a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that the earth’s electrical charge is important for the normal functioning of the human body (check out the references below).  As a result of society’s “advancements,” however, we’ve almost completely disconnected ourselves from this energy source and possibly damaged our health as a result.

Here’s how it’s thought to work: the earth’s surface is a vast source of free electrons, which have a negative electric charge. When we come into direct contact with the earth, such as by walking barefoot, those free electrons transfer to our bodies.  Once in our bodies, the electrons serve as anti-oxidants and blood thinners.  They serve as anti-oxidants by neutralizing excess positively charged Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that cause inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation is responsible or contributes to a number of health problems, including slow recovery time, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and aging.  The discovery of the role of inflammation and free radicals in the aging process is what prompted the recent anti-oxidant craze, and it turns out that simply being connected to the earth might be one of the best and more affordable sources of anti-oxidants.

Connecting to the earth, or what’s been called “grounding” or “earthing,” also attenuates the viscosity of the blood, or thins it.  It does so by decreasing the coagulation of red blood cells (RBC) through electric charge.  Pilot studies have found that when the body is grounded, the Zeta potential of red blood cells increases.  In other words, the number of negative charges on each RBC is increased, which causes the RBCs to separate from one another and flow in the blood stream individually and more freely.

Based on a growing number of studies, the other benefits of grounding may include: improved sleep, stress reduction, improved heart rate variability (an important status for cardiovascular health), reduction of symptoms of arthritis, and improved glucose regulation.

While I think it’s important to avoid targeting any one environmental factor as the primary cause of our society’s health problems, it seems that not connecting to the earth is one more way that we’ve cut ourselves off from the life-giving properties of God’s creation.  Thanks to rubber soles, modern construction practices, and the automobile, we almost entirely cut ourselves off from the earth’s supply of free electrons.  Have you ever walked barefoot in the grass or on the beach and obtained an amazing sense of relaxation and peaceful energy?  Perhaps those feelings have to do with the positive physiological effects of being grounded to the earth.  At this point in the research it isn’t known how much grounding is needed to obtain the benefits listed above, but it’s thought that even half an hour can help (but the more the better).  On your next walk, consider taking your rubber-soled shoes off and walking barefooted, or look into getting some shoes with leather soles (which nearly all soles used be made of 100 years ago) – they won’t block the flow of electricity like rubber soles will.

It turns out that God’s creation is beautifully complex, and we’re part of it.  We’ve tried to control it and manipulate it for our own purposes but doing so usually only results in more problems.  Like other creatures, we depend on light, air, food, sleep, movement, and electricity for health.  Our bodies contain a vast electrical system, from our brain and nervous system to the electrical charges on our Red Blood Cells.  If we want to have optimum health we have to discover how we’ve cut ourselves off from the gifts in God’s creation, whether it be from healthy food, sunlight, or the earth’s free electrons, and RECONNECT!

References: Earthing: The Health Implications of Reconnection the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface ElectronsEarthing, The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

Originally posted 2012-11-07 20:16:00.

Cardboard bicycle – a world changer?

While it might be difficult to believe that someone created a functional bicycle entirely out of cardboard, that’s exactly what Israeli engineer, Izhar Gafni was able to accomplish.  Gafni, an avid cyclist, inventor, and engineer, first came up with the idea after hearing about a man who built a cardboard canoe.  Gafni’s wheels started turning and he brought the idea of building a bicycle out of cardboard to three of his friends, all engineers, but none of them thought it was possible.  Their disbelief, however, only fueled Gafni’s creative drive.  With his wife’s encouragement, he set to work in his makeshift shop, experimenting with cardboard and building a number of prototypes before he finally arrived at a functional, sleek, and strong cardboard bicycle.  An adult and children’s model of the bicycle is set to hit mass production in approximately six months.  

The beauty of the cardboard bicycle is that its production costs are so minimal that it can be profitably manufactured nearly anywhere.  Cheap labor would only result in very marginal, if any, real savings, so whether it’s manufactured in America or China will make little difference.  Cardboard can also be an environmentally friendly material, as it is both renewable and recyclable.  Gafni’s bicycle also utilizes tubeless and airless tires, made out of reclaimed rubber, which will require little maintenance (no tubes to be replaced) and also minimize waste.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this invention.  When I envision a better world, I picture people riding their bikes instead of driving cars.  An affordable bicycle will make it possible for more people in developing countries to own bikes, and perhaps the intriguing and affordable design will inspire people in developed countries to ride bikes instead of drive cars to work.  Cycling is both the most energy efficient form of transportation known to man and a healthy way to travel.  A cheap cardboard bike is also less likely to be targeted for theft, a common problem in big cities.  I’m keeping my eye open for this one and plan on getting a cardboard bike for commuting.  Movement is one of the keys to vitality, and this playful invention epitomizes the spirit of Creation-based play!  But if you have a bike already, don’t wait for the cardboard bike to come out, commuting by bike is the best way to get to work or school!

Originally posted 2012-10-24 15:55:00.

Sun Exposure and Healthy Skin

Sunscreen-SPF-What-it-means-protectionWe absolutely depend on sunshine for health! When exposed to the sun, our skin produces a plentiful amount of a potent form of Vitamin D, which has hundreds of different roles in the body (including protecting against skin cancer). The dilemma: sun exposure can also damage the skin and eventually lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, when we live in God’s creation the way he intended us to, our skin is healthy enough to endure plentiful amounts of sunshine. Compared to unhealthy skin, healthy skin can absorb more sun rays without incurring damage, and skin is healthy when we eat a Creation-based diet and get enough sunshine! Nearly all fruits and vegetables provide some type of photoprotection for the skin. Regular consumption of healthy foods especially berries, tea, and dark chocolate infuse the body’s cells with polyphenols, flavanols, anthocyanins, and antioxidants that protect the skin against UV rays. Regular consumption is key!

It takes months of maintaining healthy eating habits to improve the skin’s health.The carotenoid family is especially effective at absorbing UV rays and providing anti-oxidant benefits. This includes pigments like beta-carotene, Lycopene, and astaxanthin. Of the carotenoids, Astaxanthin, which is found in salmon and krill (responsible for their red/pink color) is the most powerful. If you don’t eat much salmon or krill oil, astaxanthin can also be found in supplement form. Studies have found that those who regularly consume astaxanthin can stay in the sun longer without getting sun burned. Astaxanthin also has other benefits, such as increased athletic endurance and reduction of inflammation.

Having enough healthy fats in the diet, especially saturated fats and omega-3s, is also important for the skin. Fats are one of the primary building blocks of skin-cell membranes. Be sure to consume fatty fish like salmon or take krill/fish oil pills to meet your daily omega-3 requirement. Good sources of saturated fats include organic butter, organic whole milk, and coconut oil.

A note on topical before/after sun care:

Suncreen can be beneficial, but it has to be the right kind and has to be reapplied regularly. Sunscreen can provide a false sense of security, resulting in burns or excessive sun, so use wisely. Here are the things to know: There is no such thing as a water-proof sunscreen. All sunscreens wear off as as a result of water and toweling, and must be reapplied regularly. Also, many sunscreens use harmful chemicals to absorb the sun’s rays. If you use sunscreen, be sure to only use sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as the sole active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a natural mineral that blocks all types of UV rays. Finally, there is little benefit in using a sunscreen beyond an SPF rating of 30. Anything beyond 30 SPF is primarily a marketing scheme. The sun protection beyond SPF 20-30 drops of exponentially.

Perhaps more important than sunscreen is applying the antioxdiants and phytochemicals listed above, topically. Studies on animals have found that when applied topically after UV exposure, green tea and astaxanthin reduce skin damage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E also have positive effects on the skin. It is easy to make your own before/after sun ointment at home – simply make a 50/50 mix of almond oil and water and add green tea powder (green tea leaves ground in a coffee grinder), astaxanthin (cut open several astaxanthin capsules and insert contents in your oil/water mix), vitamin E, and Vitamin C then shake well before use! Word of caution, the astaxanthin does have a slight pigment to it, so let the ointment absorb into your skin before wearing clothing or touching anything you dont’ want died pink (you can also not add the astaxanthin, but it’s so potent for the skin that I would recommend adding it).

The bottom line is, don’t get burned. You can get more sun without getting burned by improving the health of your skin through proper nutrition and skin care.

Pubmed Sources:

Chocolate study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735513
Carotenoid study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18803658
Polyphenol study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070679
Green tea study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094124

Originally posted 2012-07-19 20:03:00.