Three Surprising Facts about Probiotics

Acidophilus spilling from container

Many individuals take probiotic supplements on a regular basis. Probiotics are available in oral products such as dietary supplements and yogurts, as well as other products such as creams. After all, they can provide many benefits, especially when it comes to digestive health. However, this is not all that these organisms can do.

Those that ingest probiotics may be doing themselves some even bigger favors. There are three facts about probiotics and their benefits that many people are simply not aware of:

Probiotics May Boost Immunity

Healthy bacteria in the gut is closely associated with a healthy immune system. Those who have ample amounts of “good” bacteria appear to be less likely to suffer from problems such as allergies and asthma. The immune system is better equipped to fight off the irritants and toxins that are responsible for these responses. This may be especially true for infants that are breast fed, as probiotics are transmitted from the mother.

Probiotics for Antibiotic Side Effects

Although antibiotics are used to treat illness, they are not selective and kill both good and bad bacteria. For this reason, a direct side effect of antibiotics often includes diarrhea and sometimes a yeast infection. Introducing good bacteria such as probiotics, sometimes called “normal flora,” can help prevent and treat the digestive disturbances and imbalance caused by the use of antibiotics.

Probiotics for the General Treatment of Illness

Contrary to popular belief, not all of the ailments probiotics can help treat are related to digestion. Probiotics may boost immune function, which can prevent many different ailments. Probiotics have been shown to assist with the skin disorder eczema, and, according to preliminary studies, have been linked to positive effects in those who suffer from depression and anxiety as well.

Click here to check out iHerb’s selection of Probiotics Products! New to iHerb? Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

Krans, Brian; 6 Surprising Facts About the Microbes Living in Your Gut; Healthline News; Accessed August 6, 2014

Martin, Laura, MD; What Are Probiotics; WebMD; Accessed August 6, 2014

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Filed under Herbs and Supplements

How to Prevent Running Injuries

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Running is a favorite sport of many because it burns calories, improves physical endurance and does not require a great deal of pricey equipment, fancy clothing or a gym membership. An exception is a quality pair of supportive running shoes, which is important for proper foot support.

Whether one runs just a few miles each week or trains for marathons, most runners agree that running is an exhilarating experience that can be addictive. However, as with any sport, there is a potential for injuries while running. Most injuries involve the joints in the feet or legs — particularly the knees and ankles. Sometimes, ligaments or tendons are pulled, resulting in pain and possibly even a sprained joint.

Other times muscles can be stretched too far, requiring the individual to rest for several weeks until the affected muscle heals. These top three ways to prevent running injuries can be followed by anyone and will result in fewer sprains and less time spent at home recuperating on the couch.

Do a Proper Warm-up

Warming up before a run is as simple as taking a gentle five-minute walk prior to the run. The individual should begin the run gradually, working into his or her full speed. Sometimes stretching before a run is not ideal because this can stretch cold muscles further than they should go, leading to injury. But, if you like to stretch, first do a walking warm-up for five minutes, then add slow and gentle stretches to your routine, and then start running.

Alternate Running with Strength Training

Strength training should be used one to two days each week on non-running days. Weights should be used to strengthen both the upper and lower body.

Take Adequate Rest Days

At least one “rest day” each week is important. Running through pain does not help the body; instead, it can quickly lead to strains and sprains. Anyone experiencing moderate to severe pain should rest even if it is not a regularly scheduled rest day. Seek the help of a health professional if pain persists.

Click here to see iHerb’s selection of sports, fitness and athletic supplements! New to iHerb? Use Coupon Code WOW123 to get $10 off any first time order with a minimum $40 purchase or $5 off for orders less than $40.

References

Hamilton, Michelle; How to Prevent Common Running Injuries; Runner’s World; accessed August 14, 2014

Fitzgerald, Jason; 4 Bulletproof Ways to Prevent Running Injuries; Art of Manliness; accessed August 14, 2014

Smith, Stephanie; 6 Tips to Avoid Running Injuries; Men’s Fitness; accessed August 14, 2014

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Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie

Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
Photo and Recipe from Marisa Westbrook of the Uproot from Oregon Blog

Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie

Ingredients
(serves 2)

Instructions

  1. Soak oats overnight, or at least 2 hours, in milk and water.
  2. Once the oats are soaked, combine all ingredients including the soaking liquid into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add additional ice for a thinner smoothie.
  4. For an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie smoothie: Top with additional oats, chocolate shavings or chocolate chunks after blending.

Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup soy milk or dairy milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups ice cubes
  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 1 Tbs. hemp hearts
  • 1 Tbs. almond butter
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Soak oats overnight, or at least 2 hours, in milk and water.
  2. Once the oats are soaked, combine all ingredients including the soaking liquid into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add additional ice for a thinner smoothie.

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What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. Most often, this infection is brought on by bacteria-laden moisture in the ear. Although this moisture often appears in the ears during swimming, it can also occur when bathing or showering.

However, if bacteria begin to grow in the ear, the individual will experience mild pain as well as itchiness and clear discharge. Without treatment, these symptoms can progress to more intense pain and itching, a pus-like discharge, redness in and around the ear and a fever. If swimmer’s ear is not addressed immediately, it can lead to a myriad of other more distressing problems.

Ear Infections

The acute infection may lead to chronic, or long-term, infections of the ear. This is particularly true of swimmer’s ear caused by a mixture of bacteria and fungi.

Cellulitis

As the infection worsens, it may spread from the ear canal deeper into the surrounding tissues. The cartilage of the outer ear can be affected as can the surrounding soft tissues on the side of the head.

Malignant Otitis Externa

This is the most extreme infection, also called necrotizing otitis externa. In this situation, the bacteria may spread into the bones of the skull as well as to the brain and the nerves. This excruciatingly painful condition can be life-threatening without treatment.

Hearing Problems

Hearing gradually worsens as swimmer’s ear progresses. What may initially be simply a fullness in the ears can turn into full-blown hearing loss. However, most people’s hearing returns to normal when the infection is gone.

Prevention

To prevent this condition, it is advisable to use earplugs or a bathing cap while swimming, not to put fingers or cotton swabs into the ears and to dry ears thoroughly with a towel or hair dryer if the ear canal does become moist. According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler of the Medicine Net website, a preventative ear drop solution can be made by mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Using this solution to rinse the ear before and after swimming can serve as a protective measure against infection while providing antibacterial properties.

Help for Swimmer’s Ear

If you have Swimmer’s Ear, moisture and irritation will prolong the itching and irritation. Dr. Stöppler recommends keeping the ears dry and doing your best to avoid scratching. If you wear a hearing aid, leave it out as much as possible until the discharge stops.

Common Treatments

The most common treatments are ear drops containing antibiotics, along with oral antibiotics in more serious cases. Antihistamines may be prescribed to decrease itching. In addition, sometimes a doctor will recommend suctioning of the ear canal to help keep it open, remove debris and reduce bacteria.

 Click here to see iHerb’s selection of Ear, Hearing and Tinnitus Products! New to iHerb? Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

Mayo Clinic Staff; Swimmer’s Ear; Mayo Clinic; accessed August 15, 2014

Swimmer’s Ear; American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery; accessed August 15, 2014

Stoppler, Melissa Conrad, M.D.; Swimmer’s Ear Infection; Medicine Net; accessed August 15, 2014

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Filed under Fitness, Nutrition and Weight Loss, General Health

Lose Your Lawn: Three Alternatives to Grass

Lose Your Lawn - Three Alternatives to Grass

When it comes to the average yard, chances are the first thing you think of is a front lawn. However, while grass may be the ubiquitous covering all over the US, it isn’t always the best option since it requires a lot of water and a fair amount of attention.

If you’re looking for something that’s more eco-friendly and will leave you with a bit more free time, there are some non-plant alternatives you should consider. The style of your home and the area you live in will play a big role in what you choose, but you don’t have to be stuck with a grass lawn forever.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are one of the more common alternatives to grass lawns because they are natural and tend to make a yard look good without the upkeep. While wood chips can work in many areas, they aren’t always good for areas that experience high winds. You’ll want to make sure you kill any weeds before you put wood chips down as well since they can be difficult to remove later on.

Gravel

Often used for more contemporary homes, loose gravel or natural stone is easy to care for and provides a unique look to any yard. It’s also less likely to blow away in a high wind area because of its extra weight. Like wood chips, you’ll still want to remove all weeds thoroughly before laying down gravel or stone.

Fake Turf

Fake turf has one major benefit for homeowners – it looks very similar to real grass but doesn’t require the same maintenance. You don’t have to mow fake turf and watering it simply isn’t necessary, though it will easily stand up to rain and all sorts of weather. Best of all, fake turf is ideal for families with children who still want to play in the yard.

Companion Articles:

Save Water with Lawn Substitutes

Lose Your Lawn: What to Plant Instead

Click here to check out iHerb’s selection of Healthy Home and Garden Products! New to iHerb? Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

Do It Yourself Staff; Wood Chips vs. Gravel Landscaping; Do It Yourself; accessed August 1, 2014

Westover, Jessica; How to Change Your Front Garden from Grass to Gravel; SFGate; accessed August 1, 2014

Blair, Jennifer; Landscaping with Wood Chips; SFGate; accessed August 1, 2014

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Lose Your Lawn: What to Plant Instead

Lose Your Lawn - What to Plant Instead

A beautifully manicured, grassy lawn is found at many suburban and even rural homes these days. While they may look lush and gorgeous, the amount of time and money that go into them can be astronomical. Homeowners today need lawn mowers, fertilizer and spreaders, weed killer and handheld trimmers. They walk behind gas fumes and spread chemicals across their yards. During the summer, they will spend numerous hours every week maintaining their lawns. In addition, water costs can go through the roof in dry areas.

However, with the plenty of alternatives to the traditional lawn that are available these days, homeowners can create an equally beautiful space that requires little to no maintenance. Many of these require no trimming, watering or weeding, and all can be used for moderate amounts of walking and playing. The following plants are some of the best examples of ground cover for replacing lawns.

Clover

Often thought of as a weed, clover actually provides beautiful, carefree ground cover. It is exceptionally drought-resistant and remains green even during the hottest, driest summers. It is inexpensive and enriches the soil, eliminating the need for expensive fertilizers. Dutch White clover is best suited for lawn cover.

Thyme

This plant is more than just a classic kitchen staple. Certain varieties create beautiful and fragrant ground cover. Although it can be expensive to plant initially, it will not require any special care or cutting after the first few years. It may need some weeding during the first year or two. Doerfleri and serphyllum are two excellent varieties that grow less than two inches tall.

Moss

Moss may be the best choice for very shady lawns. It grows extremely close to the ground but provides dense coverage. Sheet moss, known as hypnum, is good for lawns with a lot of human and pet traffic. Although it is more expensive than thyme, some may prefer the solid green landscape rather than flowery ground cover.

Companion Articles:

Save Water with Lawn Substitutes

Lose Your Lawn: Three Alternatives to Grass

Click here to check out iHerb’s selection of Healthy Home and Garden Products! New to iHerb? Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

Hall, Janet; Fields of Green: 5 Favorite Lawn Substitutes; Gardenista; accessed August 1, 2014

Harris, Susan; Low-Maintenance Alternatives to Lawns; Fine Gardening; accessed August 1, 2014

Lawn Alternative; Eartheasy; accessed August 1, 2014

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Three Relaxing Facial Mist Spray Recipes

Three Relaxing Facial Mist Spray Recipes

Using a face mist is a calming ritual at the end of the day, or whenever you need a relaxing break. While the market is full of facial mists, there are plenty of all-natural face mists that you can make right at home. Many of these recipes include an essential oil that gets absorbed into your skin, which may improve skin texture while boosting your mood. Next time you’re looking for a hydrating facial mist, try one of the following DIY recipes.

Rosewater Mist

Rose oil is an essential oil that is common in perfumes. A rosewater facial mist hydrates your skin and relieves swelling. It is extremely simple to make and only requires two ingredients. You will need to fill a one pint spray bottle with filtered water, and then add a few drops of concentrated rose oil. After shaking the mixture, hold the spray bottle about two feet away and spray it directly on your face.

Cucumber-Aloe Mist

A cucumber-aloe mist recipe combines ingredients that can directly benefit your skin. It consists of 2 tbs. aloe vera juice, 1 cucumber, and 10 drops of lemon essential oil. The cucumber is first blended, and then you can strain its juice through cheesecloth. Cucumber has a cooling effect and aloe soothes and heals damaged skin. Lemon helps prevent acne and keeps skin from getting oily. Fill the rest of the one pint bottle with filtered water. The scent is fresh and bright, with cucumber and citrus notes.

Black Tea and Lavender Mist

A black tea and lavender mist is ideal for skin that has been damaged by too much sun. Lavender is an essential oil that helps with the stinging and peeling from a sunburn, and black tea contains tannins — which are anti-inflammatory. To make this facial mist, you need to steep two black tea bags in about 1 cup of boiling water. Add about 15 drops of lavender oil per one pint of filtered water. You can also add aloe, chamomile and peppermint to the mixture if desired. Once it cools, keep it in a spray bottle for handy use.

Click here to check out iHerb’s selection of Facial Mist Sprays! New to iHerb?  Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

FP Bridget; Homemade Refreshing Cucumber Aloe Mist for Face and Body; Blog.freepeople; accessed August 4, 2014

Campbell, Sarah; Easy DIY After-Sun Lotion; Beautylish; accessed August 5, 2014

Snyder, Katie; DIY Facial Mists for Softer Skin; Sheknows; accessed August 4, 2014

The Thrifty Scholar; DIY Facial Mist and Toner; Thethriftyscholar; accessed August 4, 2014

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Filed under Aromatherapy and Essential Oils, Mental Health, Stress Management, Women's Health/Beauty Info

Household Uses for Lemons

Lemon

The versatile power of citrus fruit is found in its cleaning ability. It can do everything from fight stains to disinfect surfaces and make the home smell fresh. Here are the top five things to clean with lemons.

For Clothes

A paste made of cream of tartar and lemon juice can remove stains on clothing. In addition, you can add hot water and lemon juice (at a 2-to-1 ratio) to the wash cycle, in order to brighten clothing in a normal load.

For the Microwave Oven

Microwaves are notorious for stains and odor. Cleaning with harsh chemicals may remove the grease, but it’s far more eco-friendly to use something natural, which can safely come in contact with food. Placing a cup of water with a few slices of lemon or a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice inside can clean the microwave and leave it smelling fresh. Heat the cup to boiling and turn off the microwave. The steam from the lemons will loosen the grime, and then wipe the surfaces with a clean cloth.

To Freshen the Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals sometimes have odors and lodged pieces of food that build up over time. Grinding a few small slices of lemon rind can help break up food and release a pleasant odor in the kitchen. Hot water and lemon juice can accomplish the task in a similar manner if fresh lemons are unavailable.

For Countertops

Fresh lemon juice diluted (2 parts water to one part lemon) in a spray bottle can make an excellent hard surface cleaner. A small drop or two of lemon essential oil in addition to the lemon will enhance the disinfecting power. The same formula can be used to clean toilets.

To Brighten Chrome

A hard surface cleaner made up of salt and fresh lemons can be used to naturally scrub the surface of chrome and steel found on tub spouts and kitchen faucets.

Click here to check out iHerb’s selection of Healthy Home and Garden Products! New to iHerb? Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get up to $10 off your first order.

References

Majer, Karyn; Natural Cleaning Recipes with Essential Oils; Mother Earth Living; accessed August 7th, 2014

D’Aquino, M; Lemon Juice as a Natural Biocide for Disinfecting Drinking Water; National Institutes of Health; accessed August 7th, 2014

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Filed under Healthy Home and Garden

Five-Spice Peanut Butter

Five-Spice Peanut Butter
Photo and Recipe from Lisa Lin of the Healthy Nibbles and Bits Blog

Five-Spice Peanut Butter

Ingredients
(makes about 1-3/4 cups)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (~177ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Spread the peanuts on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the peanuts start to brown. Once the peanuts are done, let them cool for a few minutes.
  3. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you see a creamy peanut butter consistency. The coconut oil is necessary for making the peanut butter creamy and spreadable.
  4. Store in a jar or airtight container and refrigerate.

Five-Spice Peanut Butter
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 -1/2 cup raw shelled peanuts
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. melted coconut oil
  • ½ to 1 tsp. five-spice powder, to taste
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (~177ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Spread the peanuts on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the peanuts start to brown. Once the peanuts are done, let them cool for a few minutes.
  3. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you see a creamy peanut butter consistency. The coconut oil is necessary for making the peanut butter creamy and spreadable.
  4. Store in a jar or airtight container and refrigerate.

iHerb sells thousands of natural food items, everything from stevia to gluten free flours to much more!  Click here to take a look at our product offerings.  If  you’re new to iHerb, you can use Rewards Code WOW123 to get $10 off your first order with a minimum $40 purchase or $5 off orders less than $40.

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Is Working Behind a Desk Adding Inches to Your Waistline?

Is Working Behind a Desk Adding Inches to Your Waistline?

Maintaining a healthy diet and doing moderate exercise on a regular basis can prevent packing on pounds at work. Here are five tips that could help.

Lunch Time

Bring lunch to with you to work instead of eating out most of the time. You’d be surprised how many calories you can save by doing something so simple. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables along with some low-fat protein, such as tuna, chicken or chickpeas. Avoid boredom by alternating veggies and protein sources each day.

Exercise

Use breaks to exercise. It doesn’t have to be a full workout; exercise can be as easy as walking outdoors while getting some fresh air or climbing the stairs for a few minutes. It not only gives your mind a break from the stress at work, but it also gets endorphins running through your body, making you feel better.

Keep Healthy Snacks at Your Work Station

While it is quick and easy to grab something from a vending machine, those items are often packed full of unhealthy calories, sugar and sodium. Healthy snacks — such as fresh fruit, almonds or cut vegetables — are good for you and filling.

Drink Water

Soda contains so much sugar, chemicals and calories; drinking as few as one can per day adds up to 715 calories to your week at work. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water instead. It is not only good for you, but it makes you feel full, helping to eliminate mindless snacking. Keep filtered water at your desk and drink it throughout the day.

Brush Your Teeth

A good habit to incorporate into your day is to brush your teeth after each meal or snack at work. Having fresh breath will remind you that you have already eaten, and therefore make you less likely to grab one of the brownies or cookies in the office.

Control your eating habits at work by adding these minor lifestyle adjustments to your daily routine. You’ll be healthier and more likely to keep extra pounds at bay.

Looking for vitamins, herbal supplements and other alternatives to help you keep a healthy balance in your life? Check out the thousands of products we sell at iHerb.com. Use Rewards Code WOW123 to get  you $10 off any first time order with a $40 minimum purchase or $5 off any first time order less than $40.

References

Sugar, Jenny; 5 Healthy Habits to Avoid Weight Gain at Work; Women’s Health; accessed May 6, 2014

Li, Rhea; 5 Ways to Prevent Weight Gain When You Can’t Make Your Own Food; Fit Day; Accessed May 6, 2014

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Filed under Fitness, Nutrition and Weight Loss