Addressing Mental Health Goals for the New Year

As we enter a new year, many of us commit to new physical health without addressing our mental health, as well. The holidays typically foster actions of indulgence; not only in rich foods, but in excessive partying. In retrospect, many of us can actually admit to partying all year long! Obviously, this is not a healthy lifestyle but we don’t do anything about it because the undertaking seems impossible. For some of us, it would be without enlisting the help of professionals.

Drug and alcohol use can be symptoms of underlying mental conditions. So can obsessive behaviors such as hoarding or gambling. We sometimes use these substances and behaviors to self medicate our depression or other underlying mental disorders. To find out if you might suffer from a mental condition, try taking an online evaluation by going to http://www.healthyplace.com/psychological-tests/.

Should you test positive on any of the evaluations, make an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible. Bring your test results to your appointment and discuss your concerns with your physician. Family doctors can prescribe anti-depressants for mild depression. But for anything else beyond that, insist on a referral to a psychiatrist, as they are trained to deal with all other disorders and related medications. If you are considering over the counter or natural remedies you should discuss these with your doctor, as well.

Once your treatment begins, it is vital to stop “self-medicating”. Treatment of your medical condition will not magically make drinking, drugging or obsessive behaviors stop, but it can make stopping easier. Your body has become accustomed to certain substances and may continue to crave them. Detoxing from drugs and alcohol can not only be uncomfortable, but can also have medical (even fatal) consequences if not medically supervised. Check with your doctor to see if medical supervision will be necessary for your detox.

Finding support as you stop using alcohol, drugs or compulsive behaviors is also an important component to your mental and emotional health and recovery. There are a myriad of 12 step groups available to offer support (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous). You can find an extensive list of 12 step groups by visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_twelve-step_groups . Depending on your diagnosis, your psychiatrist may prescribe therapy as part of your treatment.

Commit to being honest about your situation. It isn’t easy, but professionals are trained to deal with our mental health as well as our physical health. So don’t be afraid. Being honest shows true courage.

5 Steps to a Healthier Home

Want a healthier home? Toxins in your house– from your mattress to your ceilings– may be responsible for dozens of common ailments, from everyday fatigue to serous illnesses such as cancer. Fortunately, these simple steps can help you make your home greener, safer and healthier.

1. Don’t smoke indoors. It goes without saying that you’ll have a healthier home if you smoke outdoors (or not at all). Secondhand smoke threatens not only your own health, but also the health of those around you. It can weaken immune systems, trigger asthma, increase the risk of cancer, and even cause sudden death in young children. If you want a healthy home, take your butt outside.

2. Use non-toxic cleaners. Common household cleaners can increase the risk of cancer, infertility, infant death, miscarriage and learning disabilities. Clean your house the nontoxic way to make your home healthier. Use baking soda, vinegar, essential oils and good old-fashioned water to keep your house clean without the toxic effects of harsh chemical cleansers.

3. Skip the carpet. Carpet isn’t just a pain in the butt to clean, it’s also a potential health hazard. Your carpet may contain harsh synethetic compounds, including formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Carpet will also collect large amounts of dust and mold, which may not be removed, even with regular vacuuming. Ideally, choose a healthier home by having hardwood or bamboo floors instead of carpet. Real floors also save energy; a broom is powered by elbow-grease, while a vacuum cleaner needs electricity.

4. Be cautious of lead paint. If your home has lead paint, Do NOT try to remove it yourself. Do, however, paint over it. Lead paint is a major cause of brain damage in young children, who may eat chips of paint and then suffer irreparable central nervous system damage. A healthier home would include sustainably sourced low-VOC paints, which are more expensive but significantly less toxic. Also be cautious with any sealants and treatments used to preserve paint.

5. Test for radon. The second leading cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoke, is radon. This colorless, odorless gas gives you no warning signs until you develop cancer. Make your home healthier by testing your home for levels of radon gas. Test kits are available for as little as $15 to ensure that your home is free of this poisonous gas. If your home does contain radon, several methods can help to draw it out of your home.

No Health Care Coverage, Even with New Laws? How to Pay Your Bills

Even with the passage of the new Health Care laws, many individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases are still left without any access to health care. Many of these men and women are no longer able to work, so the possibility of health insurance through employment is not an option and neither is the cost of private health insurance. They are left to try and pay for medical services, doctor’s visits, and even much needed medications while trying to survive on a limited budget, with many having to make the choice of keeping a roof over their head or seeing the doctor. When faced with these questions and this dilemma, it may seem like there is no hope or possible options. However, there is assistance out there if you know where to look.

Many cities, and even many small communities, offer low cost or free health care clinics for members of their community. These clinics can be offered on a regular basis like once a week, or are offered on a more sporadic basis. They are usually staffed by volunteer doctors and medical staff. While they usually do not provide specialty health care, like that of a rheumatologist or neurologist, they do provide regular medical care. Provided you have copies of any of your medical records, you may find one of these doctors willing to continue a medical treatment plan designed by a previous specialist. If this program was working to treat your condition, this may work very well. However, if your old treatment plan is not working, this option may not provide much relief. It is always a good idea to look into these clinics as you may get lucky and find a doctor that is familiar with treating your condition.

Another problem many men and women diagnosed with an autoimmune disease face is the cost of their medications. With many of these chronic diseases, the medication alone can run into the thousands of dollars on a monthly basis. If you are unable to work and living on a limited budget, the high cost of medication tends to force many individuals to take themselves off of their medication because they simply can’t afford it anymore. While doing this with some medications may result in nothing more than an increase in pain or symptoms, there are many medications that can cause serious medical issues if stopped abruptly. Before you resort to stopping your medications, you need to find out the pharmaceutical company responsible for making your medications. Many of these pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance, or even provide free medication to those patients in need. Usually this requires no more than filling out some paperwork and submitting it for approval. Once approved, the pharmaceutical companies will send your medications directly to your doctor’s office for you to pick up.

If seeing a doctor or having medical tests performed is what you need, another option is also available. Many hospitals and medical groups offer financial assistance to those in need. Again, this requires filling out forms and providing financial statements to the organizations, but, if accepted, may provide you with free or reduced cost medical care by doctors within the hospital network and the hospital itself. This is a wonderful option for those patients that will require specialists and medical testing, such as MRI’s, blood work, and more.

Should all of these options fail, and the need for money to pay for doctor’s visits, medical tests, and medical procedures, there is one more option that can be tried. Many people are now turning to the internet to try and raise money for their medical care. An organization called GiveForward has created a website designed solely for the purpose of raising money for medical costs and procedures. This company was started in 2008, and has since helped raise almost 3 million dollars for numerous people and their medical expenses. With people looking to raise money for things such as transplants, surgeries, medications, and even elective surgeries or medical services for their pets, GiveForward provides a place where the average person can start a fundraiser for their medical care. GiveForward does charge a small fee based on the amount raised in order to cover processing fees and such, but they are an organization with the sole purpose of helping people help those in need.

Those of us with autoimmune diseases and medical conditions are sometimes forced to get very creative when it comes to paying for medical expenses while still keeping a roof over our heads. With these possible options available to us, the need to choose whether to pay bills or receive medical care may not have to be a decision we have to make.

allergy free me

Sunscreen Tips: Protect Your Skin, Several Tips, And Allergy Free Me

Sun protection isn’t reserved for warm weather forays at the beach. If you want healthy skin — and who doesn’t — sun protection is a daily must for all skin types. Protect your skin from sun damage year-round by applying sunscreen. Below are some must-know tips for utilizing sunscreen to its fullest, as well as our suggestion for the best online store for high-quality natural sunscreen options (Allergy Free Me).

Using Sunscreen Tip #1

Pick a sunscreen that’s easy to apply. Grab a lotion or gel if you’re sharing the task, or a spray if you’re on your own and need to aim the product at your own back. Whichever style you choose, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests picking a product rated at a sun protect factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. If you freckle or burn easily, choose a higher SPF sunscreen.

Using Sunscreen Tip #2

Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside. Using a circular motion, rub a liberal amount of suntan lotion into your skin. On average, one application of sunscreen should fill a shot glass, advises the American Academy of Dermatology.

Make sure to apply sunscreen to hard to see areas including behind your shoulders, the tops of your ears, the back of your hands and the back of your legs. If you have a lotion-buddy, ask for help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping your complexion beautiful by using a face-specific sunscreen for your cheeks, forehead and chin.

Using Sunscreen Tip #3

Reapply sunscreen throughout the day. If you’re sweating from shoveling snow, raking leaves or from taking a dip in the pool, sunscreen will wash away. Dry the moisture of perspiration or water from your skin and rub on sunscreen every 40 minutes.

Using Sunscreen Tip #4

Sunscreen usually expires after three years. Just because your favorite suntan lotion that was tucked away in the bathroom closet still smells like coconuts or reminds you of a vacation to the Caribbean, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Before slathering it on, check the expiration date.

Using Sunscreen Tip #5

Protection from the sun isn’t just for summer. Protect your skin year-round from UV rays, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Some makeup manufacturers advertise the inclusion of SPF in their products. Before trusting the makeup to completely protect your skin year-round, make sure it has a minimum SPF of 15.

Finish your look with additional protection from the sun. Sporting a funky wide-brim hat, cute sunglasses and shimmery lip balm infused with SPF keeps helps ward off damaging UV sun rays anytime of the year.

Using Allergy Free Me for Natural Sunscreen Products

Allergy Free Me offers sensitive skincare products for healthy, safe sun protection. With almost 80 natural sunscreen, sun protection and tanning options, you are sure to find something that fits your specific needs and requirements! Check out Allergy Free Me’s store here.

Healthy Foods for a Healthy New Year

The yearly impulse to diet beginning with New Year’s Day needs to be backed up with solid planning if you are to succeed this year. Start by stocking up on healthy, and versatile foods that will be easy on your waistline and simple to prepare.

1. Boneless, skinless chicken breast

Boneless, skinless chicken breast should be a staple in any health household. Because of its low fat, but high protein nutrition, chicken breast is a very healthy meat for everyone. It can be cooked in a number of ways, but for the healthiest choice try grilling it. Grilled chicken can then be add to vegetables for a stir-fry, to a nice salad for extra protein, or can be eaten cold in a sandwich. Chicken is incredibly versatile, overwhelmingly well liked and a great option for healthy cooking.

2. Vegetables

Obviously vegetables are necessary to a balanced diet. You have options of how to purchase and use them. Fresh vegetables are best, but often spoil before they are used, especially if you are just getting used to eating healthy. Frozen vegetables can be a great option too. Or you can buy fresh and freeze any that you haven’t used after a couple of days.

3. Salad

Salad doesn’t have to be boring, but one thing it can be is fast. Buying prepared salads in plastic bags is a great trick for quick and healthy eating. Salads can be the main course, with some healthy protein like chicken or shrimp added, or can be a side dish to accompany soup. Plus the lettuce can be added to sandwiches or wraps. Very versatile, very healthy and very easy.

4. Egg substitute

Egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters, are a great option for breakfast, lunch and dinner. High in protein and low in fat, egg substitutes can be made into omelettes, or can be substituted for eggs in other recipes like cakes and muffins. Omelettes in particular are very easy to make and offer a great opportunity to add in veggies like peppers and tomatoes.

5. Non-fat Milk

Milk, if you can handle dairy, is great because of its low fat, high calcium nature. It also provides protein, and can be a great after workout beverage. Non-fat milk, drunk instead of high caloric drinks like sodas, can result weight loss without even trying!

Having a good basis for many healthy meals can make eating healthy much easier. Knowing you have good options waiting at home will prevent you from hitting the drive-through on your way and will keep you moving towards your weight loss goal.

Sources:

Healthy Refrigerator. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/healthtool-healthy-refrigerator. Accessed December 31, 2010.

Personal Experience

What is on Your Shelves? http://ezinearticles.com/?Stocking-a-Healthy-Pantry:-What-is-on-Your-Shelves? id;=259212 Accessed December 31, 2010.

Vitamin C for Kid Keeps the Doctor Away

I thought it appropriate to share with everyone a good way (that has worked for us) to help you keep your children healthy. As you know from previous articles, I have five children and they are all very active. I have two in school, and they constantly exposed to germs. I must say the school does do a pretty good job of fighting germs, with Clorox wipes and making the kids use tissues, and wash their hands before lunch, but sometimes that is just not enough.

With three little children at home, I am constantly worried about germs, and keeping the children healthy. My oldest is in fourth grade now, and he has never missed a day of school, we have the certificates to prove it. My second oldest in two years has never missed a day. I feel school is very important to their up bringing, and do not like them to miss school, so we must stay healthy, missing school they can fall behind on assignments, and it can be difficult to catch up. So it important not to miss school.

What we do every morning is set out a children’s multi-vitamin, and a children’s vitamin C, and we give each child one of each. This has helped them from getting sick along with a proper diet. Don’t get me wrong they still get the sniffles from time to time, but after taking their vitamins they always seem to perk up and feel better, much quicker.

With today’s foods we are just not getting the proper supplement’s / nutrients that we can get from a good program. Diet is also a very important part of your children’s health. Please consult with a doctor, on a proper diet for your children.

I hope this is helpful, and I would highly recommend from my experiences to put your children on a good vitamin regiment, however, please consult with your doctor before beginning any vitamin programs for your children.

Good day to all

The Health Hazards of Styrofoam

Up until the mid 1980s, restaurants served hot coffee and tea in Styrofoam cups. McDonalds packaged their sandwiches in Styrofoam containers. Environmental worries about Styrofoam largely led to its reduction in such use and toward the current trend of using paper cups and wrappers, but some health concerns about Styrofoam arose, as well. Since Styrofoam’s use as food packaging is less now, we don’t hear as much about health hazards, but there is some disturbing information about its danger.

What is Styrofoam

Styrofoam is actually a brand name and is the most commonly used name for polystyrene. Its primary ingredient, styrene, is the danger. It is used in carpets, insulation and general packing materials. People most often come in contact with it, however, as a product of tobacco smoke.

Manufacturing hazards

Workers in plants that are exposed to styrene may inhale the substance and so experience nervous system difficulties. According to the EPA, these include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and problems with coordination. Those who work with manufacturing rubber and plastic are most often exposed to air-borne styrene.

Ingesting

Food products placed in containers may become contaminated with styrene according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Eating or drinking such contaminated products can lead to anything from general gastrointestinal difficulties to liver and kidney damage.

Cancer

Some studies even suggest styrene is a carcinogen, increasing the risk of cancers in those exposed. Leukemia and lymphoma are of particular concern to the EPA, which lists styrene as “a probable human carcinogen.”

Caution

Certainly, a cup of tea in a Styrofoam cup every now and then is not going to harm most people. But the cautionary information from the EPA suggests that the move to paper cups and wraps for food and drink was important not only for environmental health but for safety, as well.

References

EPA Styrene Summary. Epa.gov.

“Styrene Report.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Cdc.gov.

Healthier Snack Options for Popcorn and Chips

Microwave popcorn and chips are two popular snack products that can be unhealthy, containing a lot of calories, fats, and sodium. However, that doesn’t mean you have to cut them out of your diet to replace and them with healthier options. Here are tasty ways to make them healthier that may save you money while reducing your calorie intake in this associated content article. Learn Healthier Snack Options for Popcorn and Chips.

Nutrition of Microwave Popcorn

Popcorn itself can be a healthy, low calorie snack option; flavored microwave popcorn can be unhealthy. There is an easy way to make healthier popcorn that can save money and reduce your calorie intake. You don’t need a popcorn popper for cooking, just a microwave, plain/unflavored popcorn kernels, and a brown paper bag.

Instructions can be found here to make homemade microwave popcorn in a paper bag. You don’t need to clip the bag and you don’t need to add oil for the popcorn kernels to cook. Without oil, you can save the bag and unpopped kernels to use again or compost unpopped kernels along with the bag or recycle it. Shake any flakes or tiny popcorn particles out before popping unpopped kernels.

Healthier flavor options for Microwave Popcorn

Fresh popped popcorn is good and you can eat popcorn plain but you don’t have to go without flavor. Adding your own gives you more options and puts you in control of calories, fats, cholesterol, and sodium that go into your popcorn. Adding flavor in the bowl means you can reuse the bag.

Remember the taste of freshly cooked naturally flavored popcorn? Instead of artificial butter flavoring like in typical microwave popcorn, you can add real butter, margarine, or olive oil. You can make spicy or sweet cinnamon flavored popcorn, or whatever you want. Pay attention to nutritional information on your added flavors. Compare nutritional information of your homemade popcorn to your usual microwave popcorn and see the difference or look it up at the USDA National Nutrient Database.

Nutrition of Chips

A lot of flavored chips can be unhealthy. An easy option to make chips healthier is to buy regular tortilla chips instead of flavored chips like Doritos. Some chips are available in lower salt varieties. Like microwave popcorn, adding your own flavor can make chips healthier.

Tortilla Chips and Salsa

For a healthier chips flavor option, pair tortilla chips with salsa or another vegetable based dip. Salsa is mostly vegetables and piling on salsa is a tasty way to add more vegetables to your diet and less chips, lowering your calories without reducing the amount of food you eat.

Chips and Homemade Hummus or other Dips

You can also make chips healthier with other vegetable dips. Guacamole can be high in fat, salsa or tomato paste can be mixed into it. Fresh homemade hummus can be made without added oils of store bought hummus and can be flavored with tomato paste, garlic, or whatever you want. Compare nutritional info of a can of chickpeas with your choice of flavoring to store bought hummus or look it up at the USDA National Nutrient Database.

Instead of buying flavored microwave popcorn and flavored chips, try these two popular snacks made healthier and add your own flavor for greater control over what goes into your favorite snacks. There’s a variety of options to choose from. Pay attention to nutritional information as adding flavors can also make microwave popcorn and chips less healthy. You don’t have to be an anorexic to loose weight; with simple changes you can greatly reduce your calorie intake. Consult your doctor before beginning any diet plan.

Sources:
Product Packaging of various microwave popcorn and chip products
USDA National Nutrient Database
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

What is Influenza Season?

Influenza season is the time of year when outbreaks of influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, are more prevalent. The season is typically during the cold part of the year, which varies depending upon geographical location. For example, in the United States the influenza season is considered from October to May. In tropical environments, the season is considered to be year round because there is no time period when outbreaks of influenza appear to be more pronounced.

The cause of influenza season is the influenza virus. The virus, or germ, is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. It can be contracted by touching an infected surface or inhaling the virus in a cloud form known as an aerosol, which is produced by someone coughing or sneezing. The most common symptoms are coughs, fever, and a sore throat. Other symptoms often show up as well, such as muscle cramps, chills, and a severe headache. The influenza virus is often confused with the common cold, but it is more severe and is caused by a different virus.

No one is sure why influenza season occurs during cold weather, but there are several theories that seek to explain it. The most common explanation is that since it is colder outside, more people stay indoors so they are in closer contact, and that leads to easier transmission of the influenza virus. Another common theory is that since it is colder, the influenza virus can linger longer on an infected surface, such as a countertop or doorknob. It has also been suggested that the cold, dry air dries out mucous membranes, which play a strong role in defending against infectious agents, and that makes it easier for the virus to penetrate the body.

To reduce the number of outbreaks during influenza season, the World Health Organization recommends getting a vaccination. Many large companies offer them free to employees now, and there are many clinics that offer inexpensive treatments. Although it is recommended most people get a vaccination, certain groups are at higher risk. It is strongly recommended that those with asthma, diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS receive the influenza vaccination. They will receive a specific type of shot, depending on the particular issue, as all of these diseases either cause, or are caused by, a suppressed immune system. Anyone who has a condition where there immune system is depressed is more at risk during influenza season.

“Flu Season,” Flufacts.com
“Flu Season,” CDC.gov

Best Foods for a Healthy New Year

O.k., you know you need to change your eating habits for a healthy New Year ahead, but how do you do that? Eat less? Eat better? Just how do you eat? And, what do you eat? What are the best foods for a healthy New Year? An informative article in this regard from Runner’s World January 2011 issue has a number of positive food choices to give you a great start. The nutrition in these foods will fortify your body, but making these food choices alone will help train you to move forward into a healthy New Year that lasts.

Black Rice

Generally speaking, the darker the color a food has, the more antioxidants and good stuff inherently in it. This food gets it’s dark color from anthocyanins, a dark pigment found in dark berries and other plant foods. Black rice is one of these foods chocked full of iron as well as carbs. This is a hearty and healthy breakfast food if you sweeten it with honey or maple syrup. Start your day with this food, and you’ll be running strong all day. Go ahead and make it a habit!

White Tea

Theanine, an amino acid (part of protein) that reduces anxiety and creates calming brain waves that combat high blood pressure, is prevalent in this type of tea. In comparison to black and green tea, white tea has the market cornered on keeping you on an even keel for more of a peaceful mindset. Sounds like a great alternative to coffee too.

Maple Syrup

For good muscle function you’ll need 2 key nutrients that largely compose a good portion of maple syrup, manganese and zinc. You’ll also have your immune system covered with these nutrients as well, making maple syrup a great alternative sweetener for many things like hot chocolate, or on top of granola, as well as things like almond milk.

Brussel Sprouts

These veggies get a bad rap most of the time, however they are on the top of the list when it comes to nutrient power. Among the healthy qualities of this food is they contain the highest amount of glucosinolates, compounds that help the body to rid itself cancer causing free radicals. These are also a rich source of vitamin C and K.

Making a commitment to change your eating habits for a healthy New Year is as easy as just becoming aware of the many healthy food choices that exist and then making a conscious effort to eat those foods rather than the other standard American foods that contribute to high fat levels as well as possessing little nutrient value. It’s as easy as making a better choice for a healthy New Year that goes the distance.