Healthy Living Tip #22: Chemical Free Cleaning Products

Healthy living tip for this week is to remove all of the chemical cleaning products from your home and personal skin care products. Your health matters!

Healthy Living Tip: Chemical Free Cleaning Products

Using chemical free cleaning products in your home has numerous health benefits. Before you clean your house consider the following benefits of greening your cleaning routine. 

Health Benefits of Chemical Free Cleaning Products

  • Eczema: Toxins, pollutants, and allergens can all affect skin health. When toxins react with the largest organ in the body eczema and other skin irritations can develop. If you or a family member struggles with eczema or unexplained skin rashes remove all chemical laden cleaning products and skin care products from your home.
  • Allergies: The effects of chemicals in your home are two fold when it comes to allergies. One effect is creating an overly clean home. Antibacterial soaps, use of bleach, and other harsh chemicals found in cleaning products creates an overly sanitized home. There is a theory that removing all of the bacteria from our environment does not adequately build up immune systems in our young children thereby causing an allergy when they are exposed to dander and pollen as they grow. Secondly, simply using the chemicals found in cleaning products can cause allergies. Shortness of breathe, airway reactions, and rashes can all occur form exposure to the chemicals found in non-green cleaning supplies.
  • Eye and Airway Irritation: The fumes from harsh chemicals found in cleaning supplies can irritate the sensitive tissue in and around eyes and lungs. Some chemicals have even been linked to asthma in children, especially those used in schools. If a bottle warns of harmful damage if splashed in the eyes, that should raise huge red flags on their safety of that product. 
  • Poisoning: One child poisoned a year is far too many in my opinion. Unfortunately, 1.5 million children under the age of 20 are poisoned every year and many of those children die from the effects of the poison. 

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Healthy Living Tip #21: Elderberry

Healthy living tip, elderberry. Health Benefits of elderberry on your immune system. Help your immunity naturally.

Elderberry is from a fruit bearing shrub native to Europe and North America. In the past 20 years it has gained research attention for it’s antiviral, immune boosting properties, as well as possible weight loss effects.

Health Benefits of Elderberry

Immune Boosting

According to the “The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines” authored by Michael Murray, ND only the blue and black elderberries possess the potent immune boosting properties. Rich in flavonoids, these natural compounds with antioxidant properties protect cells against damage and infection. Elderberry also contains vitamin A, B, high amounts of vitamin C and amino-acids. These nutrients boost your immune system and thereby can help you stay healthy and prevent diseases.

Fight Influenza

Two studies indicate that elderberry is more effective at fighting the influenza virus including H1N1 than a placebo and flu vaccines including tamiflu. The first study, published in the winter 1995 issue of “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, New York” looked at influenza A and B in Panama 1993. This study found that of the 90 patients that contracted the flu virus were cured within 2 to 3 days when they regularly took elderberry versus the placebo group which required 6 days to recover from the virus. The second study, by B.Roschek, published in the July 2009 issue of “Phytochemistry” indicates that elderberry is comparable in efficacy to tamiflu and Amantadine for H1N1 viral infections.

Personally, my family and I take elderberry during cold and flu season to help boost our immune system and ward off viruses. Elderberry syrup is thick with a deep purple color and sweet-tart taste. 

Our favorite elderberry syrup is Gaia Herbs – Black Elderberry Syrup 5.4 oz

I hope you are enjoying my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips series this month.

Medical Disclaimer

Healthy Living Tip #19: Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice has been used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), digestive health, and help fight cancer. Find out more health benefits of cranberry juice and other beneficial healthy living tips in my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips series. AlexisMathews.com

Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice

With their deep, rich red color it is no surprise that cranberries are high in antioxidants.  Second only to blueberries in antioxidant capacity, a cup of cranberries has a total antioxidant capacity of 8,983. Antioxidants are responsible for fighting free radicals which may cause damage which leads to heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Frozen cranberries are available year round while fresh cranberries are sold during the fall and winter months. While eating cranberries is an excellent option for enjoying the health benefits, most prefer the convenience of drinking cranberry juice.

Pure cranberry juice is the best choice when considering juice options, however pure cranberry juice can be quite tart in taste. Cranberry juice blends are very common just be careful to choose a blend that is low in sugar.

Prevents Urinary Tract Infections

According to this article, cranberry juice may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women, particularly in those that are highly susceptible to these types of infections. Also according to the same article, a scientific study published n the Journal of Urology found that cranberry juice changes the structure of e.coli the main culprit in UTIs an prevents it from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract.

Promotes Digestive Health

In a May 2008 article in Nutrition, researchers found that cranberry juice slowed the growth of a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers and a risk factor for gastric cancer. This article show that cranberry juice is effective at preventing bacteria from attaching to the stomach wall and causing damage.  Cranberry juice also helps maintain the levels of beneficial bacteria, particularly in the mouth. The antioxidants in cranberry juice according to an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association may prevent periodontal disease. If oral bacteria can not stack to teeth and gums, periodontal disease will not develop.

Helps Fight Cancer

Numerous scientific studies including a June 1996 Plant Medica and The Journal of Nutrition indicate that the antioxidants in cranberry juice may help prevent certain types of cancers including prostate, lung, breast, colon and other tumors.

Lakewood Organic Cranberry Juice is my favorite brand of organic cranberry juice. There are numerous juice blends as well as pure cranberry juice available depending on your tastes.

I hope you are enjoying my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips series.

Medical Disclaimer

Healthy Living Tip #18: Neti Pot

The neti pot is a nasal flushing device and a great addition to your healthy living medicine cabinet. Keep your sinuses clear and healthy with the neti pot. Alexis Mathews.com

Health Benefits of a Neti Pot

Millions of Americans suffer from sinus pain, pressure, and reoccurring infections each year. Unfortunately, time and time again those suffering from sinus problems turn to western medicine and prescription drugs to relieve their pain. A simple little device, known as a neti pot could save pain, suffering, infections, and unnecessary antibiotics every year.

The neti pot is a ceramic or plastic container that looks like a tea pot or genie lamp. When filled with a saline solution, the neti pot is highly effective at flushing the nasal passages and helping the body’s natural cleansing methods function better. Surgeries, allergies, and environmental irritants can clog the nasal passages and prevent the sinus cilia cells from clearing mucus and irritants naturally.

Many people that suffer from sinus pressure, pain, and infections are turning to neti pots to relieve their symptoms more often. Most use the neti pot on a regular basis, some even as frequently as daily to relieve their pain, congestion, and prevent infections. 

Biologically speaking, the neti pot works with the tiny hair-like cilia cells in the nasal and sinus cavities.  Cilia cells wave back and forth to move mucus back toward the throat or forward into the nose to be blown out. The saline solution in neti pots helps the increase the speed and efficiency of expelling mucus.

Neti Pot Use

The process is quite simple when using a neti pot. After preparing a simple saline solution of 2 cups lukewarm filtered, purified water and 1 teaspoon of salt the solution is added to the neti pot. Once filled, tilt your head at a 45 degree angle and place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril. Gently pour the saline solution, it will flow through your nasal cavity and out the opposite nostril. A bit of the saline solution may travel to your throat, simply spit it out. Be sure to blow your nose to remove any remaining saline solution before repeating the process in the opposite nostril.  Wash your neti pot and leave to air dry between uses.

If you are a chronic sufferer of sinus problems 3 times per week or as frequently as daily will help relieve your symptoms.

Side effects are rare and minor when they do occur. Nose bleeds or nasal irritation may occur. Reducing the frequency or concentration of salt in the saline solution will alleviate these minor side effects. To prevent infection, always use clean purified or bottled water.

 
This ceramic neti pot is my favorite and one that I use when the need arises. However, if you prefer a plastic neti pot the NeilMed NasaFlo Unbreakable Neti Pot with 50 Premixed Packets is a great choice.

 

Medical Disclaimer

Health Living Tip #14: Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree essential oil has numerous health benefits including healing ear infections, skin irritations, acne, and disinfecting the home. Join me for more healthy living tips in my 31 Days of healthy living tips series. AlexisMathews.com

Tea tree essential oil is derived from the tea tree in the swampy area of the southeastern Australian coast. Tea tree oil is most commonly applied to the skin for a variety of health conditions. As with other essential oils, tea tree should not be taken internally. Much like oregano oil, tea tree oil is very versatile and a must have in your natural health first aid kit. Tea tree oil has a very unique smell, one that makes this oil easy to identify even in an unlabeled amber bottle.

Health Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

1. Helps with Infections

When applied topically, tea tree oil can help with a number of infections. Most commonly use for acne issues, tea tree oil is also helpful in treating lice, nail fungal infections, athlete’s foot, and ringworm. 

2. Antiseptic

When used topically, tea tree oil can treat skin abrasions, burns, insect bites, boils, and ear infections. Tea tree oil is one of the few oils that can safely be applied neat, that is directly on the skin without dilution in a carrier oil. 

Personally, I use tea tree oil most often to treat and prevent ear infections in my children as well as prevent infections in the ever occurring akin abrasions. Tea tree oil is one of the few oils that I purchase in a large volume because of the frequency with which it is used. 

There no known side effects or drug interactions with tea tree oil.

Medical Disclaimer

Healthy Living Tip #12: Probiotics

Probiotics restore gut health and help the immune system. Join me for 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips. AlexisMathews.com 

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics are cultured strains of bacterium found in cultured or fermented foods. Probiotics promote digestive health, help with allergies and asthma, and support the immune system. Probiotics are most commonly found in yogurt and kefir which for those of us following a plant based diet makes finding a vegan source challenging. Thankfully, there are numerous fermented vegetables that are safe for vegans to eat and still reap the health benefits that probiotics provide.

Everyone should be adding a probiotic to their daily regimen. Whether taken in capsule form or through food sources, our gut and immune system need the support that only probiotics can provide.

Benefits of Probiotics

  • produce vitamins
  • helps to break down and digest food
  • manages the growth of microbes such as yeast
  • helps with intestinal issues such as urinary tract infections and diarrhea
  • potentially helps with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic UTIs, diarrhea cause by antibiotic use, autoimmune diseases, colitis, and ulcers

Vegan Probiotic Options

Probiotics pose a problem for vegans because the most common strain of bacteria in probiotics is grown on cheese. Although the cheese source is removed prior to packaging and consuming, this causes an ethical issue for vegans. The bacteria, lactobacillus is found in most probiotics labeled as “vegan” or “vegan friendly”. If you wish to avoid this bacteria you will need to closely read the label of the probiotic you are considering purchasing. Health wise there is nothing wrong or inferior about lactobacillus, it simply poses an ethical issue for vegans that do not want to promote or encourage the dairy industry.

If you choose not to take a probiotic with lactobacillus you have two options. The first of which is to source a probiotic that does not have this bacteria. There are numerous effective probiotics that use other beneficial strains of bacterium. The second option is to add cultured or fermented foods to your daily diet. If you choose this option, which I highly recommend, again be cautious of the label to make sure you aren’t eating a fermented food with the dairy sourced bacteria.

In eating fermented foods you are not only consuming the bacteria as nature intended but you are also saving money in your food budget. Fermented foods are by far less expensive that probiotics in capsule form.

If you are looking for a truly vegan probiotic you need to be aware of the following items to consider when reading the label:

  • Magnesium stearate; make sure you look for vegetable magnesium stearate
  • Gelatin capsules; typically made from horse, cow, and sheep hoof leftovers
  • Casein; a milk protein to avoid for numerous health reasons
  • Honey, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, beeswax; all sourced forms bees which some vegans choose to avoid
  • Cholecalciferol; an animal version of vitamin D
  • Vitamin A; sourced from animal or fish livers

Vegan fermented probiotic sources

  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • cultured vegetables such a pickles or carrots
  • coconut kefir
  • kombucha (a fermented drink)

If you still prefer a capsule probiotic I recommend Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Ultimate Probiotic Formula

I have purposely omitted the fermented soy sources from the above list. For a variety of health reasons I do not eat soy and do not promote or encourage the consumption of soy here on my blog.

Repair your gut and immune system health, add some probiotics to your daily diet. Your body will thank you!

 Medical Disclaimer 

Healthy Living Tip #9: Lavender

Healthy living tip, lavender. Discover the health benefits of this amazing plant. AlexisMathews.com

In day 9 of my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips we will look at the health benefits of lavender. Whether in tea, oil or herbal form lavender has a wide variety of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Lavender Tea & Essential Oil

1. Relaxation

The scent of lavender when inhaled through a glass of hot tea or through aromatherapy using lavender oil promotes relaxation. Inhaling lavender has been shown to slow down the central nervous system thereby promoting relaxation. The action on the nervous system can help with stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

2. Digestion Issues

Lavender tea is great for helping with an upset stomach, nervous stomach, and indigestion. The oils in the tea are thought to act on the smooth muscle of the intestine, as seen in animal studies. A study published in the November 2004 “Life Sciences” journal reported that lavender oils protected against the formation of gastric ulcers in rats and relieved indigestion.

3. Convulsions & Spasms

Lavender oil is thought to act on the calcium channel in cells thereby reducing the effects of convulsions and spasms.

Health Benefits of Herbal Lavender

1. Vitamin A

Herbal lavender when added to food is a low source of vitamin A. However, the vitamin A in floral lavender is excellent for eye health. Adding herbal lavender to your recipes can help prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, night blindness, dry eyes, and eye infections.

2. Calcium

Floral lavender is a moderate source of calcium in your daily diet. When added to recipes this herb can help ward off osteoporosis and ease the symptoms of your menstrual cycle.

3. Iron

Eating lavender will add a significant amount of iron to your diet. Iron is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Low iron levels will lead to anemia and fatigue.

Safety Concerns of Lavender

Lavender in either herbal or oil form has no known interferences. However, it is recommended that if you are taking medications for anxiety or pain you may want to avoid lavender as it could enhance the effects of these drugs.

Healthy Living Tip #7: Ginger

Healthy living tip, the benefits of ginger. 31 days of healthy living tips from AlexisMathews.com

Health Uses of Ginger

Ginger is used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Everything from stomach distress, pain, burns, food flavoring, laxative, and anti-gas are all common uses of this amazing underground herb.

Ginger contains chemicals that reduce nausea and inflammation. Research has shown that the chemical primarily works on the intestines and stomach. However, some evidence points to ginger acting on the brain and nervous system to help with nausea.

Fresh ginger juice can be applied to skin to treat burns. While ginger oil can be applied to treat skin pain.

Stomach Troubles

  • motion sickness
  • morning sickness 
  • colic
  • upset stomach
  • gas 
  • diarrhea 
  • nausea caused by cancer treatment
  • nausea and vomiting after surgery
  • loss of appetite.

Pain

  • arthritis 
  • muscle soreness
  • menstrual pain
  • upper respiratory tract infections
  • cough
  • bronchitis
  • chest pain
  • low back pain

The chemicals in ginger have profound health effects on the body. Ginger is undeniably a fresh herb you should always have in your refrigerator as well as dried and powdered in your pantry. 

If you would like recipes, health tips, and use suggestions for ginger please follow my Grab Some Ginger pinterest board.

Healthy Living Tip #6: Plant Based Diet

Healthy living tip, plants based diet. 5 benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. Health Matters. Life Matters. AlexisMathews.Com

A plant based diet, otherwise more commonly known as a vegan lifestyle is incredibly near and dear to my heart. If you’ve read my blog for any time you know that my recipes are only vegan and one of my missions and passions behind pouring so much time and effort into this blog is to encourage each and every one of you to adapt a plant based diet.

For years and years my mother-in-law encouraged all of her children to reduce their meat consumption and lead a more plant based diet-like lifestyle. Typical of children we all brushed her off and continued eating our steaks, seafood, and dairy products. It wasn’t until my father-in-law and cardiologist uncle-in-law decided to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle cold turkey did the rest of the family take notice.

Now that my husband, seven children, and I have been vegan for quite some time and have experienced the health benefits first hand there is no way we can in good conscience go back to our omnivorous lifestyle.

Unlike my other articles in this series, I am going to focus on our personal experiences rather than hard scientific facts.

Health Benefits of a Plant Based Diet (aka Vegan Lifestyle)

1. Diabetes

My husband was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes 8 years ago just before our oldest daughter was born. It was a shock and an enormous adjustment for our family to change our eating habits and lifestyle to help him lower his blood sugar. Being that he is insulin dependent, unless his body heals itself he will never be free of the daily need for insulin injections. Prior to adapting a vegan lifestyle my husband took approximately 25-30 insulin units every day. Some diabetic patients take 25-30 units of insulin at every meal because their health and food choices are so poor. Since changing our diet to a strictly plant based diet my husband has lowered his total insulin units per day by over half. On an average day my husband takes 6-15 units and more often than not is able to skip 1 meal per day because his sugar levels are incredibly consistent. 

In reading T. Colin Campbell’s books The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, he clearly warns diabetics to closely monitor their sugar levels after adapting a plant based diet because of the positive effects it has on their insulin levels. My husband undoubtedly experienced this positive effect and because of his increased health and decreased need for supplemented insulin we can not in good conscience ever go back to consuming animal products.

2. Sleep

I am a notoriously horrible sleeper. Even as a child I can not remember waking up from a night of 8-10 hours of sleep feeling refreshed or rejuvenated. I was always tired in the mornings getting ready for school and took forever to get dressed because I’d fall asleep on the floor outside of my closet. Even as an adult and new parent I relied heavily on cream and sugar ladened coffee to wake up enough to get out the door for work or to wake up enough to care for my children. Needless too say sleep has never been my strong suit.

Until I became vegan that is. I can distinctly remember about 4 weeks after removing animal products from our diet I woke up one morning feeling awake, alert, and incredibly well rested. I had honestly never felt that before in my nearly 40 years. Nothing else had changed, only my diet. I knew I was now sleeping deeper and getting more rejuvenating and healing rest because my diet was clean and whole.

You will remember in my healthy living tip #2 that sleep is incredibly important for our overall health. I am so happy that I am finally getting the sleep that my body needs to heal and rejuvenate for optimal health.

3. Energy

Sleep and energy almost go hand in hand. You definitely need sleep to have more energy the following day. I definitely have more energy throughout my day and no longer experience the 3pm afternoon energy crash that sends you running for a sugar or caffeine pick-me-up. Those days are gone, my energy is consistent throughout the day because of my clean diet that is based on plants and the foods that fuel my body.

4. Digestion

I know this is not a topic any of us want to talk about but it is incredibly important for our overall health and well being. If you are not digesting and evacuating your bowels multiple times everyday your body is storing toxins and food waste that is detrimental to your health.

Trust me I know, this topic is one we could all easily ignore. I used to use the bathroom 2-4 times per week to clear my bowels before being vegan. I thought this was my normal. I always shrugged off suggestions from others, including my husband, that it was not indeed a normal schedule. What else was I supposed to do? I didn’t need to go so I didn’t.

Then I began feeding my body what it was designed to digest, plants and plant products rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Then everything changed. 2-4 times per week turned into 2-4 times per day. I felt cleaner, leaner, and healthier. No longer was I bloated or constipated. Finally my digestive system was working properly and ridding my body of the energy draining toxins that were poisoning my body.

5. Weight Loss

Weight loss was not one of my goals or purposes when we removed animal products from our diet. We did it for health reasons not for vain weight reasons. After a few weeks however, I noticed that my love handles were gone and I could fit into jeans that I hadn’t even thought about trying on for years. These jeans by the way fit perfectly, no squishing or jumping around to get the button and zipper closed. I hadn’t started exercising, the only change I had made was the food and drink I put in my mouth. Nothing more nothing less.

I’ll take the weight loss, especially as I march closer and closer to the big 4-0. My metabolism is naturally starting to slow down as I age but eating a plant based diet is counter acting the slower metabolism and my weight is holding steady at where I was 15 years ago.

Honestly, I could go on an on about the health benefits of living a plant based diet lifestyle. The advantages are health reasons are nearly limitless. Please, if you have nay questions please do not hesitate to contact me regarding a plant based diet lifestyle.

Thank you for joining me for day 6 of my 31 Days of Healthy Living Tips.

Healthy Living Tip #3: Soda

Healthy Living Tip Soda

This weekend I am at the ShiftCon conference in Los Angeles networking with other healthy living and environmentally conscious bloggers as well as brands in our industry. Blogging conferences go against everything I recommended in yesterday’s healthy living tip. Sleep will be few and far between this weekend as I cram in speaker sessions, networking with other bloggers, and forming relationships with brands.

Typically sleep deprived people, such as I will be this weekend rely heavily on caffeinated drinks to help them feel awake and alert. Being that I cut out caffeine, particularly soda years ago I won’t be turning to those jolts of energy to keep me awake this weekend. I know the harmful effects that caffeine and soda have on my body and I choose not to harm my health which I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

What are the benefits of removing soda and caffeine from your diet?

1. Lose Weight

Soda is packed with calories. One 12 ounce can is approximately 140 calories while a 32 ounce big gulp has a whopping 364 calories.  Just one can of soda a day will add 51,110 calories over the course of one year. That is enough calories to pack on 14.6 pounds of fat. This alone should be enough motivation to ditch the cola.

2. Prevent Diabetes

The sugar and calorie combination in soda can lead to diabetes. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who drink one to two cans of soda per day have a 26 percent greater chance of developing type-2 diabetes than those who abstain from sugary drinks.

3. Live Longer

Added weight along with diabetes is a recipe for cutting your life shorter than it would be otherwise. The extra calories and sugar could also lead to obesity which will shorten your life dramatically. Around one in every 100 deaths from obesity-related illness is caused by soda, according to Gitanjali Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, commenting on research presented at an American Heart Association conference in March 2013.

4. Healthier Heart

The added caffeine in soda can increase your chance for heart disease. The sodium and caffeine in soda have a dehydrating effect on the body which increase blood pressure, blood glucose, and triglycerides.

The moral of the story today is, ditch the soda and grab some water.

If you haven’t had a chance already, please read the rest of the tips I’ve shared so far in this month long series.