Core Strengthening – It's About More Than Getting A Six-Pack

It seems most people these days do core exercises for one of two reasons: to eliminate excess stomach fat or to obtain the elusive “six-pack” abs look.  Unfortunately, the logic behind these two reasons for doing core exercises is somewhat misguided, and here’s why:

  • Core specific exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and planking don’t promote weight loss around the mid-section.  Excess fat is always burned in the reverse order from how it’s gained.  If a person stores excess fat around the abdomen first, then that fat will be the last to be burned.
  • The best ways to burn excess fat are: improving the quality of food consumed (no refined or processed foods), reducing total calories consumed, doing exercises that boost the metabolism like HIIT and strength training, and reducing unhealthy stress on the mind and body.  
  • While having a six-pack might look good by our culture’s standards, it doesn’t necessarily coincide with have a strong overall core.  The core muscles consist of far more than just the abdominal muscles, and all of the core muscles should be strengthened in a balanced fashion for optimum fitness.  
Although doing endless crunches or sit-ups to lose excess body fat or to get a six-pack isn’t the best fitness plan, there are a number of good reasons to strengthen your core, some of them include:
  • Improved posture and confidence
  • Less back ache from sitting and lifting
  • Better balance
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Improved comfort in the performance of daily house duties
The core is the crucial link between the upper and lower body, upon which all strength and balance hinge.  The best exercises for strengthening the core activate as many of the core muscles as possible (located in the abdomen, back, pelvis, sides, and buttocks), not just the abs.  I recommend integrating some of the exercises below into your daily workout schedule.  It will take some experimentation to figure out what routines work best for you.  Also, keep in mind, they should not cause excess pain or discomfort.
 
Planking engages all of the core muscles in the back and abdomen area.  Example routine – Plank for 45 secs, then do 12 oblique raises on each side, repeat two more sets of the same.
 
Squats and lunges require stabilizing muscles and target the core muscles in the pelvis and buttocks.  Beginners – perform with body weight only (try three sets of 15 with 45 secs of rest in between each set).  Intermediate and advance – perform with dumbbell, barbell, or kettle ball weight.  For advance and intermediate athletes, dead lifts are another very effective exercise that build strength in the core and the entire posterior chain.
 
Exercise Ball workouts require stabilization, promote improved balance, and activate all of the core muscles.  Some good core workouts include:
  • Leg tuck: Place your hands on the ground in a push-up position, and place the top of your shins on the exercise ball.  Use your legs to roll the ball towards your arms, then roll the ball back.  
  • Trunk twist: Place your feet flat on the ground and lean/sit against the ball with your lower back.  Clasp your hands together and extend your arms straight up, perpendicular with your body.  Then twist your arms from side to side, twisting as far to each side as possible.
  • Modified plank: Lay over the ball on your stomach with your hands and feet touching the ground on opposites sides and the bottom of your toes touching the ground.  Proceed to lift your upper body up off the exercise ball, with you arms straight out in a flying position.  Hold elevated position for several seconds, then return to the starting position. (For any of the above exercise ball workouts, start by trying to perform three sets of ten repetitions) 

Don’t have an exercise ball?  Get one here.

If you want to get a stronger core and washboard abs, don’t give up the sit-ups and crunches completely, just remember that by themselves they won’t fully strengthen the core or promote excess fat loss.  Functional fitness requires dynamic movements and full body engagement.  Also, if your goal is to burn excess fat, ab-specific exercises aren’t your best bet.  Focus on eating healthy, staying active, and exercising smarter, not necessarily harder!

Originally posted 2013-01-22 20:49:00.

Mineral Bath Detox: For Athletes and Beauty Queens!

Feeling achy? Tired? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Groggy? Have you ever wondered if toxins are weighing your body down? Every day our skin, the body’s largest organ, is exposed to toxins found in cosmetics, water, and the air. These toxins can build up, especially if one isn’t sweating on a regular basis. Sweating is one of the most effective ways to rid the pores and lymphatic system of pollutants.

A mineral bath detox can be a great way to gently eliminate the build-up of toxins in the skin that can leave a person feeling poorly. A detoxifying bath will open the pores, promote sweating, and help balance the body’s minerals and enzymes – leaving you feeling refreshed and energized! Here are some suggested ingredients to use in your bath, and why they work:

  • Epsom salt: contains high amounts of magnesium that is absorbed by the skin and helps flush lactic acid, eases headaches, reduces inflammation, and regulates the activity of hundreds of enzymes in the body
  • Sea salt: helps flush toxins, soothes and heals skin, and balances minerals in the body
  • Baking soda: is alkaline and helps balance acid in the system, removes chlorine from water, and softens the skin
  • Ginger: opens the pores and increases blood circulation

Directions:
1) In a small bowl, mix together:
1/3 C Epsom salts
1/3 C sea salts
1/3 C baking soda
2 Tbsp ginger powder (1/2 cup grated ginger, if using fresh)
Several drops of your favorite essential oil, if desired
2) Pour this into your tub under hot running water.
3) Step in, relax, and enjoy for 15-30 minutes! (Start with 10-20 minutes if this is your first detox bath.)

It’s important to remember to detoxify gently; detoxing too quickly can leave one feeling sick or overly dehydrated. So as you try this detox bath, make sure to care for yourself!

  • Try this bath in the evening, when you can go to bed right afterwards. It will likely leave you feeling quite tired.
  • Drink lots of water during and after your bath. This bath will make you sweat, and you need to replenish your body to keep from becoming harmfully dehydrated. Keep a glass of water by your bed at night in case you wake up feeling dehydrated, too!
  • Get up out of your bath slowly; you may feel a little lightheaded.
  • If you can, take your bath on an evening when you don’t have to work the next day. Depending on how many toxins your body has been coping with, you may feel a little sick the next day. Don’t worry, as your body recovers and you drink plenty of water, you will be feeling refreshed and energized!
  • Do not take hot or salt baths if you are dehydrated, sick, hypertensive, pregnant, diabetic, or if you have a history of heart disease. If you are unsure, ask your doctor first.

Originally posted 2013-01-22 03:57:00.

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.

The Gluten-Free Diet: A Not So Groundless Trend

“…Gliadin causes a release of zonulin, and zonulin signals the tight junctions to increase permeability, making an opening for a macronutrient invasion!” 

The gluten-free diet is undoubtedly a trend right now.  Gluten-free sections are sprouting up in supermarkets across America, and gluten-free options at restaurants are all the rage.  Yet, despite the popularity of going gluten free, it’s likely that gluten sensitivity is still under-diagnosed.  The estimates for the amount of people with gluten sensitivity range from 12-44% of the population.  Part of the reason gluten sensitivity is under-diagnosed is that it’s misunderstood — that its workings sound like a scene from a science fiction movie doesn’t help.  People are also skeptical that gluten can cause serious health problems.  Something as benign (and tasty) as bread can be responsible for or contribute to major intestinal problems, psychological disorders, arthritis, malnutrition, and a whole list of other problems — really?  Yes, really.

I too was reluctant to believe that gluten could be a serious threat to health.  Don’t get me wrong — I didn’t doubt that a few people were deathly allergic to gluten (in the case of celiac disease), but I was skeptical that those who didn’t suffer from celiac disease could benefit much by giving up a food as wholesome and delicious as sprouted, whole grain bread.  My posture towards gluten sensitivity wasn’t too different from that of the mainstream medical community.  If someone has a list of health problems and suspects gluten-intolerance, most doctors will usually test for celiac disease but discount the impact that gluten sensitivity can have.  After talking to friends, however, and hearing story after story about how eliminating gluten from their diet vastly improved their health, my perspective started to change.   I started doing my own research on why gluten sensitivity and celiac disease occur, and now I’m convinced that if someone has unexplainable health problems, especially related to their digestive system, gluten should be identified as a highly likely culprit.   

Understanding Celiac Disease:  Since celiac disease is essentially the extreme form of gluten sensitivity, an understanding of what causes it will help shed light on the causes of gluten sensitivity as well.  Celiac disease is caused by two factors: genetics and diet.  People with celiac disease have a genetic predisposition for extreme sensitivity to the gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats.  When this type of gluten enters the small intestines of someone who’s highly sensitive to it, several things happen that cause the body’s immune system to start attacking itself instead of an actual threat (an auto-immune disease).  If gluten continues to be consumed it will lead to major digestive issues and the serious health problems mentioned earlier.

Here’s how it happens (This is a bit technical.  If you’re more interest in the “what” than the “how,” then skip ahead a couple paragraphs.):  Gluten is composed of two different types of proteins called gliadins and glutenins.  Gliadin is the primary culprit in celiacs disease.  When gliadin enters the small intestine, it’s still in its complete form because the human digestive system can’t digest it.  In response, the cells in the intestinal wall treat gliadin as a threat, as if it was a bacteria or virus instead of food  The cells proceed to release a protein called zonulin that signals the adjacent cells to separate, creating openings in the tight junctions of the intestinal wall (the spaces between the cells that line the intestine wall, called the mucosal barrier).  Usually there are openings just large enough to absorb fully digested nutrients, but the cells make a larger opening for the gliadin in order to expose it to the immune system.  

The larger openings in the mucosal barrier allow the gliadin to get through, but bacteria, fungus, and other harmful substances can get through too, and that’s just the beginning of the problem. Once the gliadin passes through the mucosal barrier, the intestinal cells release an enzyme that is part of their structure called tissue transglutaminase.  The transglutaminase binds to the gliadin to help equip the immune system to eliminate gliadin from the body.  The big problem is that the immune system mistakes transglutaminase as part of the gliadin, when it’s actually part of healthy cells throughout the body.  As a result, the immune system release antibodies against the transglutaminase that proceed to destroy healthy human cells in the intestinal wall, thyroid, brain, and elsewhere.  

Gluten Sensitivity: In people with gluten sensitivity, much of the same process takes place, but for whatever reason, their bodies don’t attack the transglutaminase to the same extent.  They may still, however, have many of the symptoms of celiacs disease, such as digestive problems, lethargy, thyroid problems, and psychological imbalance.  Gluten sensitivity can also cause the body to burn through its vitamin D stores, which is alarming given vitamin D’s importance in immunity and proper cellular function.

It should also be noted that the gliadin in gluten causes permeability in the small intestine whether one is sensitive to gluten or not.  This permeability can allow harmful organisms and toxins to enter the blood stream and can contribute to inflammation, acne, diabetes, allergies, and asthma.  

The take away: If you have any of the symptoms mentioned throughout this article and can’t seem to figure out what’s causing it, you may want to try going without gluten for a month.  If the symptoms go away, it’s likely that you have a sensitivity to gluten.  You can also talk to a doctor who’s knowledgeable about gluten sensitivity about being tested.  

If it seems odd that God would create an edible plant that has negative consequences for such a large percentage of the population, keep in mind that modern wheat has been transformed by the technologies of civilization.  Wheat has undergone extensive hybridization and genetic modifications, not for its nutritive value, but for pest resistance and crop yield.  Also, wheat is being consumed in larger quantities than ever before due to advances in agricultural and processing technologies.

Ancient forms of wheat, “uncivilized wheat,” so to speak, seem to have contained forms of gluten that didn’t affect the immune system the way modern wheat glutens do.  An ancient wheat called “einkorn” is still available today and shows promise for those with gluten sensitivity, but studies are still under way.  In the meantime, if you want or need to go without gluten, there are a variety of grains that are gluten free, including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and rice.  And like I mentioned earlier, the gluten-free diet is a growing trend, so gluten-free options are on the rise.  In another positive light, less bread means more room for vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, and free-range meats, which are healthier for us anyway! 

 

References:Celiac Disease Symptoms, Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Ice Berg, Zonulin and It’s Roll in Intestinal Barrier Function

Originally posted 2013-01-18 03:48:00.

The Low-Down on No-Poo, Low-Poo, Co-Washing, and Dry Shampoo

Lately, as I’ve been reading various online articles and forums, I’ve come across several phrases I had not heard before: “no-poo,” “low-poo,” and “co-washing” amongst other savvy terms, I’m sure. What happened to shampoo? Suddenly, it seems, shampoo is the enemy. It’s as if in the last few years, anti-shampoo conspirators have been meeting in dark alleys behind hair salons to scheme against the product with which we wash our hair, or even if we should wash our hair at all. Personally, I’ve always been rather fond of the nicely marketed bottles of botanical goodness that fill an entire aisle in each local convenience store. What do these conspirators have against shampoo? I’ve done a little research to find out what these anti-shampoo trends are all about.

No-Poo
No-poo refers to not shampooing–at all, or at least not with shampoo. Shampoo as we know it now was first introduced in the 1930s, and shampooing daily became the American standard by the 70s and 80s. So, why do we need it now? Shampoo strips hair of natural oils, some of which we need. If left alone or minimally fussed with, a person’s scalp will naturally balance the oils. However, shampooing creates a vicious cycle: when hair is washed with shampoo, the hair is stripped of oil so the scalp secretes more oil to compensate. We then wash our hair again to get rid of excess oils, our scalp secrets more oils, and the cycle continues. Thus, the theory behind no-poo is to only wash one’s hair with water so that the oils naturally balance, which can take anywhere from two to six weeks. Some advocates of no-poo also suggest shampooing with natural products such as baking soda, honey, or coconut oil. In a six-week no shampoo challenge, 500 Australians went without shampoo, 86% of whom reported that their hair was “better or the same as when using shampoo.”* The results of not using shampoo? Easier on the budget, better (or the same) for your hair, and less waste for the environment!

Low-Poo
For those not willing to give up their colorful bottles with salon-quality promises, the low-poo method is here to save the day. To low-poo, all one has to do is give up shampooing a few days of the week. Low-poo is a commitment to washing your hair once every few days with a small amount of shampoo. Some choose to use their regular shampoo or there are, of course, certain shampoos marketed as “low-poo” shampoos which are usually natural and sulfate-free. Many people also use baking soda or “dry shampoo” to absorb excess oil in between shampoos, but the theory is that a person’s hair will naturally balance when washing with less commercial shampoo. Some report the balance can occur within a few weeks, although I’ve noticed personal improvement in the health of my hair even after months of practicing the low-poo method.

Co-Washing
Co-washing is a type of no-poo; it consists of washing one’s hair with only conditioner. Conditioners don’t have the same lathering chemicals as shampoo does, and therefore is easier on the hair and scalp and doesn’t strip oils away. This is trending especially with those who have curly, thick, or coarse hair that are looking to ease the frizz.

Dry Shampoo
As I mentioned earlier, dry shampoo is used to help absorb excess oils in between washes. It’s simply a spray or powder that is applied to hair on the days between washing. Dry shampoo usually consists of a type of starch (corn starch, rice starch, etc.) that absorbs oil like magic. As a fan of the low-poo method (I didn’t even realize I was becoming a part of a trend, I just stopped washing my hair so frequently) dry shampoo has worked wonders for me! Let’s face it, most of us don’t want to go to work or out to dinner with greasy hair even if it is just for three to six weeks. If I could hibernate inside my house or with some hippies until my hair naturally balanced it’s oils, I would, but most of us have to be seen in public. Dry shampoo applies easily and helps my hair look fresh and clean in between washes. Another upside is that the longer I have used dry shampoo and the less frequently I wash my hair, the less I need it–my oils have begun to naturally balance! As a commercial product, dry shampoo does have some downsides. First of all, most dry shampoos on the shelf are in an aerosol can–bad for the environment. Secondly, those in aerosol cans have some not-so-natural ingredients such as butane (an aerosol propellant) and perfumes. While the dry shampoo in aerosol cans sprays so nicely and conveniently, there are some homemade recipes in both powder and wet-spray form that work well, too.

Now that the scheme against shampoo is out in the open, maybe the anti-shampoo conspirators will move out of those dark alleyways and into the light. I can hear picketers outside the local salon now: “Save our scalps!” “Just say no to shampoo!”

*ABC Sydney, http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2007/04/30/1887681.htm

Originally posted 2013-01-15 22:13:00.

Natural Product Review: Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

Natural Product Review: Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo
As a person with thin, picky hair, I have struggled with finding just the right shampoo and conditioner. Having stayed with a typical shelf brand for literally years, I was hesitant when it came to trying something new in an effort to “go green.” However, learning more about sulfates and parabens definitely gave me a kick-start to dump the chemical-filled products in my bathroom.

Why rid my shower of products with sulfates and parabens?
Sulfates are used to make products foam up and create suds, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but sulfates are also toxic and known to over-dry the skin and hair. Of course, shampoo by definition is supposed to rid a person’s hair of excess oil, and most people find this desirable. Over-drying however, which sulfates are known to do, can actually be a cause of oily hair because a person’s oil glands try to over-compensate if the skin or hair is dry. So here I was suffering from oily hair, and washing it more with sulfate-filled shampoo so that it wouldn’t be so oily, and all I was doing was making it worse! Balancing the oils in one’s scalp is key to healthy, strong, and shiny hair.Parabens are a class of chemicals used as preservatives in many personal care products. Parabens imitate estrogen, and can interfere with the natural hormones in one’s body, and may be linked to some types of cancer and reproductive issues. While there are limits to the concentration of parabens a manufacturer can put in a product, there aren’t limits for how many various types of parabens can be included, or how much exposure a person gets from all his or her various products. Really, there is still a lot of research being done to discover just how these chemicals may be reacting with our bodies, but in my opinion, toxic products really don’t belong on my skin.

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle: Pros
After deciding that sulfate- and paraben-free is the way to go, good ol’ TJ’s was right there for me, waiting with an affordable and high-quality option. Tea Tree Tingle serves its name well—it’s refreshing, cooling, and has a slight clean tingle to it. One great thing about Tea Tree Tingle that other sulfate-free shampoos often miss is the lathering factor. Despite its lack of sulfates, the shampoo still lathers well, which most of us are accustomed to. Finally, this shampoo cleans your hair–that’s what it’s meant to do right?! It doesn’t make any fantastic claims to give you amazing body or lift or curl or that it will make you look like a hair model, but it cleans your hair, and does it well. It leaves my hair soft and well cleaned, but not stripped of all moisture or full of conditioner build-up. In fact, the longer I’ve used this shampoo and conditioner set, the less I have to wash my hair. Once an every-day shampooing devotee, I now shampoo every-other day; Tea Tree Tingle would be to use in a low-poo or co-washing routine, too. I tribute the gentle, yet effective wash in part to the natural foaming agent (cocamidopropyl betaine) and natural preservative (grapefruit seed extract) used in Tea Tree Tingle. The more natural and effective ingredients used, the better; thanks to TJ’s Tea Tree Tingle for my naturally balanced hair oils!

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle: Cons
Unfortunately, while this product is sulfate- and paraben-free, it does list small amounts of two ingredients with debated implications for health: C12-14 olefin sulfonate and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. First, olefin sulfonate is a foaming agent related to sulfates; while olefin sulfonate is less toxic that SLS or SLES, it can also be drying. Tea Tree Tingle does list the safer, gentler cocamidopropyl betaine as a secondary foaming agent, but I wish it were the only foaming agent used here. Second, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate is a preservative used in place of parabens, but can also be a skin irritant in high doses. Again, grapefruit seed is listed as a secondary preservative; I just wish it were the only preservative used. I use up my shampoo fast enough, anyway!Bear in mind that I can speak only for my hair, which I mentioned has been thin and lifeless; should you have hair that is thick and full of life (congratulations!) I would still suggest giving Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle a shot, as it’s the best and most affordable sulfate- and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner I’ve tried.

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle: Ingredients
Shampoo: Aqua (purified water) with *tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) oil, *peppermind (mentha piperita) oil, *eucalyptus (eucalyptus officinalis) oil, *rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) oil, *nettle (urtica dioica) oil, *thyme (thymus vulgaris) oil, birch leaf (betula alba) oil, *chamomile (anthemis nobilis flower), *clar

y (salvia sclarea), *lavender (lavandula angustifolia), *coltsfoot leaf (tussilago fargara), *yarrow (achillea millefolium) oil, *mallow (malva sylvestris), *horsetail (equisetum arvense) oil, *soybean protein (glycine soja), C12-14 olefin sulfonate (coconut derived), cocamidopropyl betaine, Tocopherol (vitamin E), trace minerals, citric acid (corn), sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, sodium chloride (sea salt), grapefruit seed (citrus derived). *organic

Aqua (purified water) with *tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia) oil, *peppermind (mentha piperita) oil, *eucalyptus (eucalyptus officinalis) oil, *rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) oil, *nettle (urtica dioica) oil, *thyme (thymus vulgaris) oil, birch leaf (betula alba) oil, *chamomile (anthemis nobilis flower), *clary (salvia sclarea), *lavender (lavandula angustifolia), *coltsfoot leaf (tussilago fargara), *yarrow (achillea millefolium) oil, *mallow (malva sylvestris), *horsetail (equisetum arvense) oil, *soybean protein (glycine soja), cetyl alcohol (plant derived), Tocopherol (vitamin E), trace minerals, citric acid (corn), sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, grapefruit seed (citrus derived). *organic

Originally posted 2013-01-15 00:42:00.

Whole Oranges vs. Orange Juice

Have you ever wondered if drinking orange juice is as healthy as eating the whole orange? Perhaps you haven’t, but many people seem to think that drinking a serving of fruit juice is equivalent to eating a serving of whole fruit. This misunderstanding is reinforced by claims the USDA allows fruit juice companies to make on their products, such as “One serving is equal to one serving of fruit.” I’m not quite sure how the USDA arrived at supporting such a statement (probably because of the lobbying pressure from large food companies), but to say what is in some cases little more than liquid sugar is equal to a serving of whole fruit is preposterous. Don’t get me wrong, some juices are better than others, such as the less refined ones that are unfiltered or with pulp, and fruit juice is usually healthier than soda, but even juice with a little bit of fiber left in it doesn’t compare nutritionally to a serving of whole fruit.

Whole oranges and orange juice provide the perfect opportunity to compare the differences between the two. Check out the picture above of the three glasses of processed oranges. The glass on the left contains the juices of three hand squeezed oranges while the two glasses on the right contain the pulp and juice of three whole oranges that I liquified in a blender (minus the peel). Three whole oranges produced almost twice the volume of material as the juice alone. That extra material is the pulp and pith which contain a number of important nutrients that work together to make the whole orange a highly nutritious food.

To start, the high fiber content of a whole orange helps the body properly process the high fructose content of the juice. The fiber actually blocks some of the sugar from being absorbed, which makes the orange more nutritious for the amount of calories it contains. The fiber also makes a whole orange much more filling than the juice (it’s far easier to consume several glasses of high sugar orange juice than several whole oranges). If you eat a whole orange you’ll also be more satisfied and less hungry for calorie-dense, nutritionally-deficient food later on.

In addition to the benefits of the extra fiber in the pulp, a whole orange contains numerous health promoting micro-nutrients that aren’t found in the juice alone. One of the most researched is a flavanoid called hesperidin, which is concentrated in the pulp and inside of the peel. Hesperidin shows promise as an anti-inflammatory, in lowering blood pressure, and in promoting healthy cholesterol. One animal study also found that a diet rich in orange pulp increased bone density!

I’m not saying that we should never drink orange juice again; studies have shown that fresh-squeezed orange juice has significant anti-oxidant properties. It’s just important to know that the juice isn’t as healthy or satisfying as the whole fruit. Juices and other drinks can be a hidden source of surplus calories for those trying to live healthfully. A diet that emphasizes whole fruits over juices contains fewer sugary calories and more health promoting nutrients!

Originally posted 2013-01-12 02:35:00.

How to Make Your Own Coconut/Olive Oil Body Butter

In this article you’ll learn how to make the healthiest, most luxurious body butter you’ve ever used.  Big claims, I know, but try it for yourself and see!  There are several benefits that come with making your own coconut/olive oil body butter:  For one, you get to add far more nutrients (vitamin E and vitamin D) than what’s added to typical store-bought body butter creams, which is essential because the outer layer of the skin needs topical nourishment for optimum health. Second, you’ll know exactly what will be going on your skin (no laundry list of unknown chemicals here).  And finally, what homemade recipe would be complete if it didn’t save you a bit of money? This recipe makes 16+ oz and only costs several dollars to make.  

I custom crafted this body butter recipe to contain high amounts of fat-soluble vitamins E and D, which have incredible benefits for restoring and protecting the skin from sun and age-related damage.  This recipe also calls for extra virgin olive oil, which has anti-oxidant and healing properties of its own. Beeswax is added to make the end product have a creamy/buttery texture that applies smoothly to the skin (plain whipped coconut oil, like some recipes call for, is more oily).  

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup of water
1 tbsp of vitamin E oil (d-tocopherol)
1 tbsp of vitamin D oil (cholecalciferol)
1 tsp of essential oil (if desired – I used tea tree oil)
2 oz of beeswax (pellets are easiest, but you can also make your own shavings from bars)

This homemade coconut/olive oil body butter is incredibly easy to make, and it will nourish your skin like no other.  Simply combine all of the ingredients, except for the vitamin oils, in a pot on the stove.  Heat the mixture on low (heating just enough to melt the ingredients) and stir frequently until ingredients are blended and melted.  

As soon as the ingredients are heated just enough to melt, pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Immediately begin beating with an electric mixer and add the vitamin oils.  

Beat for a minute or so then place the mixture in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes.  Remove from refrigerator then beat on high for another 3-4 minutes.  The body butter should be congealed, smooth, and creamy.  If it’s still too warm and liquified, you may need to let it sit for a few more minutes, occasionally mixing it with the blender.  The main goal is to prevent separation or lumps by keeping the body butter mixed while it’s cooling.  The end result should look like the picture above, which I produced using the same method and recipe.  This is a great all-purpose body-butter cream, excellent in winter and summer months, effective enough for men and gentle enough for babies (my wife likes it for her legs)!  Enjoy!

NOTE: If you are allergic to bees or beeswax this recipe is not for you!

Recommended Products: Coconut Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Liquid Vitamin D, Bees’ Wax

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Originally posted 2013-01-11 03:02:00.

Office Job Hazards: Nearsightedness and Eye Strain

In the last “Office Job Hazards” post, I wrote about the hazards of sitting too much.  This time we’ll take a closer look (pun intended) at how reading or looking at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time can cause myopia (nearsightedness), eye strain, and dry eyes, as well as possibly contribute to macular degeneration.  Thankfully, there are several strategies to help prevent these problems.

Almost all of the hazards posed by working in an office or in an office-like setting (such as in school), revolve around repetitious movements that put too much strain on one area of the body.  Our bodies are meant to move around in and interact with living, dynamic environments.  Forcing our bodies to conform to the efficiency and uniformity of dead machines damages them.  An example of this is the strain and damage caused to the eyes by focusing at one distance for too long.  Every year, like other first world diseases and medical problems, myopia (or nearsightedness) continues to affect more people around the world.

While the mainstream medical community tends to focus on the role of genetics in disease and health problems, the evidence indicates that nearsightedness is primarily caused by environmental factors.  For example, a study of Alaskan Eskimos in the 1960s found that 60% of the children were nearsighted but that most of the parents and grandparents had excellent vision.  What changed to cause such an increase in nearsightedness?  The children were the first generation to begin schooling at an early age. Nearsightedness has also increased drastically in Asian countries, such as Singapore, where education and technological jobs are on the rise. In the U.S., myopia is estimated to affect 41% of the population.   With the increase in office jobs and education levels, more people are focusing at close distances for much of the day.

What causes myopia: Focusing at a short distance for long periods of time causes the eyes’ focusing muscles (ciliary muscles) to lock up (also called accommodation).  The stress of the ciliary muscles locking up causes the eyes to elongate, leading to permanent nearsightedness.  Children and adolescents are especially susceptible to developing permanent nearsightedness, as their eyes are still in the process of developing. To make things worse, they’re often prescribed distance glasses that can actually make their vision worse over time (by forcing the ciliary muscles to continue accommodating even at long distances).  Adults with clear vision are less susceptible to developing myopia than children, but if they engage in too much close work without taking the proper precautions, adults too can damage their vision.

Strategies for prevention: A number of preliminary studies indicate that it might be possible to prevent nearsightedness by wearing convex /+ reading glasses while doing close-up work (such as reading a book or looking at a computer screen).  The strength is supposed to be just strong enough to make the close-up text slightly blurry but still readable.  The theory is that reading glasses prevent the ciliary muscles from having to work too hard (accommodate), which prevents them from locking up.  As long as the ciliary muscles don’t lock up, the eye retains its normal shape and, therefore, retains normal vision.  For more information check out http://www.preventmyopia.org and talk to an optometrist who understands the environmental causes of nearsightedness.

In place of, or in addition to, using reading glasses, the symptoms of nearsightedness can be prevented by:

  • Spending more time outdoors (big surprise!), 
  • Resting the eyes while working (looking at different distances around the room), 
  • Using plenty of light while reading and working at the computer.  

Dry eyes and macular degeneration: While the evidence is less conclusive, looking at a computer screen all day might also contribute to dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration.  It’s possible to reduce the symptoms of dry eye syndrome by resting your eyes during the work day, drinking plenty of water, consuming enough omega-3s, and using eye-drops at night. 

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which causes blurry eyesight, is largely attributed to oxidative damage caused by exposure to blue-light.  Ultraviolet blue light is emitted by the sun, but it’s also emitted by electronic screens.  While the research is limited regarding how much computer screens contribute to AMD, we know that enough dietary consumption of vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin can help prevent macular degeneration.  All three of these pigments (which are also called carotenoids) are concentrated in the eyes’ retinas and help filter out blue light and prevent oxidation.  Some of the best sources of carotenoids are spinach, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and romaine lettuce.

We were designed to depend on God’s creation, rather than artificial environments, for optimum health (including clear eyesight), so EAT plenty of greens, Play outside, and REST your eyes from close-up work.  If you do a lot of close-up work, you might consider looking into the preventative measure of getting reading glasses.  Remember, children are especially susceptible to developing myopia.  Don’t let them sit too close to the TV (at least 6-feet away).  Also, if your child begins to develop myopia, do more research before you let the doctor prescribe him distance glasses.  Reading glasses, as counter-intuitive as it seems, are probably the better option and might even save your child’s vision.

References:

Originally posted 2013-01-09 05:03:00.

Eat. More. Berries!

Out of all the possible types of food, berries are probably one of the healthiest and most widespread on planet earth.  If I had to choose only three varieties of foods to eat, berries would be one of them.  They are loaded with powerful phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and great TASTE!  Various varieties of berries can be found on almost every continent, from pole to pole, and they grow well without any tending; I think they are one of God’s greatest food gifts to us.  While fresh berries can be expensive, frozen berries are almost just as nutritious and more versatile.  Also, since berries grow wild in most places, they are one of the few foods that can still be gathered for free if you’re willing to invest a little bit of labor (also a great opportunity to get outdoors for fresh air and sunshine).  Read below for some of the nutrients found in berries and their amazing benefits:

Flavonols:  Flavonols are a class of flavanoids, which are pigments that help plants perform secondary functions like filtering UV rays, attracting pollinators, and protecting against diseases.  A few of the most plentiful flavonols in berries are kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin.  In humans, these flavonols have been found to have significant health benefits. Quercetin and kaempherol may help reduce the severity of mild allergies, improve cadiovascular health, have anti-inflammatory effects, and improve athletic endurance.  Myricetin has shown the potential to increase fertility, improve cholesterol ratios, and act as an anti-carcinogen.  

Ellagic Acid: Ellagic Acid is an organic compound and an anti-oxidant.  Preliminary studies have found that ellagic acid (found in high concentrations in the seeds of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) has potential antiproliferative effects and cardiovascular benefits.
 
Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are the red, blue, and purple pigments found in high concentrations in blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, and acai berries.  Anthocyanins in berries may be particular effective against mouth, throat, and colon cancer.  There’s reason to believed that they might also help prevent Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases.
 
Vitamins and minerals: In addition to the numerous phytochemicals berries contain, they can also be a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, potassium, and manganese (they also contain small amounts of almost every other vitamin and mineral).

It’s important to remember that the organic compounds listed above aren’t always effective when isolated as supplements.  Whole foods, like berries, contain hundreds of nutrients that work synergistically to improve absorption and utilization of these important compounds.  

With all these health benefits in such a tasty, low calorie, high-fiber food, what are you waiting for?  Berries are delicious in cereal, in smoothies, in baked goods, and as a simple snack.  Look for them fresh, frozen, and freeze dried. 

Eat. More. Berries!

References:
Ellagic Acid’s Antiproliferative Effects
Quercetin and Allergies
Black Raspberries and Cancer

Originally posted 2013-01-07 21:38:00.