Monday, November 23, 2015

How Generosity Makes You a Happier Person

When Joshua Williams was four years old, strapped to a booster seat in the backseat of his mother’s car, he told her to stop the car. He had a $20 bill in his pocket — a birthday present from his grandmother — and he knew exactly what he was going to do with it: give it to the homeless man on the street. Hardly a year after that incident, he became quite possibly the world’s youngest foundation president, leading Joshua’s Heart Foundation. Its mission is to “stomp out world hunger” and to “break the cycle of poverty.” To date, people in need have received 450,000 pounds of food through the foundation.

The day after Christmas of 2004, Czech model Petra Nemcova, then age 25, and her fiancĂ©, photographer Simon Atlee, 33, were vacationing in Khao Lak, Thailand, when the devastating tsumani hit. It killed 230,000 people in 14 countries, including Atlee. Nemcova, who’d broken her pelvis, clung to a palm tree for eight hours until she was transferred by helicopter to a hospital. Barely a year after the tsumani, and still recovering from her physical and emotional wounds, Nemcova set up the Happy Hearts Fund with the vision of rebuilding schools and the lives of young victims of natural disasters.

These are just two of the many inspiring stories featured in the new book The Giving Way to Happiness by philanthropy advisor Jenny Santi.

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Giving

giving way to happinessIn her pages, Santi shares a wealth of scientific data that points to the link between giving and happiness, and how altruism is hardwired into the brain. For example, a study led by Jordan Grafman, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health, showed that when participants donated to charities, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that an area of the brain known as the anterior prefrontal cortex lit up. She explains:
The results demonstrated that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Donating affects two brain “reward” systems working together: the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA)-striatum mesolimbic network, which also is stimulated by food, sex, drugs, and money; as well as the subgenual area, which is stimulated when humans see babies and romantic partners.
There are physical benefits to giving as well. In fact, the term “helper’s high” was introduced 20 years ago by volunteerism and wellness expert Allan Luks to describe the powerful physical sensation experienced when helping others. This even extends to those activities, like caregiving for a spouse, that are thrust upon us. A 2009 study in Psychological Science led by Stephanie Brown showed that spending at least 14 hours a week providing care to a spouse predicted decreased mortality for the caregiver. When we participate in altruism or volunteer activities, our brains release a “do good” hormone called oxytocin. Interestingly enough, Santi explains, “when our compassion circuits are turned on, our angry circuits cannot be activated.”

When Burnout Happens

I experienced all this when I created the Beyond Blue Foundation, a nonprofit that offers hope and support to people with treatment-resistant depression. But a few months into it, dedicating 25 or 30 uncompensated hours of my week got old — especially while trying to manage two demanding kids, a day job, and treatment-resistant depression myself. Also, the process of fundraising produced a lot of anxiety and depression for me: As a highly sensitive person, being shut down 99 times out of 100 when asking for money felt demoralizing. I tried not to take it personally, but ultimately realized that I am not built from the same material as a friend of mine, a director of development who tried to convince me that fundraising is a “ministry.”
After a lot of tears and frustration, I had a candid conversation with God, in which I asked him, “Why did you plant this seed in my heart if managing this nonprofit is producing the very symptoms that its mission is trying to relieve in others?” I made clear to Him that I would much rather prepare for five colonoscopies — in five foreign countries — than have to ask friends and family for money and waste time applying for grants (because I have yet to get one). If this thing was going to happen, I told Him, it was up to Him to make it work.
Two things happened next.
First, a woman I don’t know sent me $1,000 completely out of the blue, which paid the hosting and tech support fees for Project Beyond Blue (our online depression community) for five months.
Second, a woman in Germany reached out to me and said that after reading all of the desperate stories on Project Beyond Blue, she would like to set up the Beyond Blue Grants Program and donate $1,000 to help someone pay for a depression treatment that he or she cannot afford.
I was blown away by the kindness and generosity of these two women. They made me realize why I had formed the foundation in the first place. The “helping high” came back as the second woman and I collaborated on the details of the new Beyond Blue Grants Program that would help pay for an alternative treatment for someone with unrelenting depression, and give that person an ounce of hope that could possibly save a life. Her purity of heart moved me past my burnout and back into the spirit of altruism.

How Givers Stay Happy

Burnout is very real, though, which is why I was pleased that Santi addressed it in her chapter on compassion fatigue. If you’re not careful, you’ll get to stage four (like I did) in no time at all: serious stress symptoms, complete cynicism, loss of professional interests and apathy, and negative attitudes toward work. I decided to implement three of her recommendations from people who stay resilient and happy while doing good work.
They take care of themselves first. If I’m not careful, I can easily spend 40 uncompensated hours a week responding to foundation emails and questions on our forums. So I created a special email just for my editors at Everyday Health and my husband. No one else either pays me or makes breakfast for my kids. With this separate email address, I can take breaks from all other messages if I need to, and I can limit the time I devote to them. It was important for me to make the distinction between my charity efforts and my compensated work, because the charity work was beginning to take over my life, which was causing resentment and other problems. After separating “what pays” from “what does not pay,” I decided to set aside 10 or 15 hours a week to charity work, depending on how much time is left over after my compensated work is done.
They know how to say ‘no.’ I’m still very bad at this. But I’ve recently asked for more help running Project Beyond Blue and the foundation so that I don’t have to do so much myself. Life happens, and sometimes people can’t do what you’ve asked. This is especially a problem when you’re not paying anyone. So instead of getting in there and picking up the slack, I have decided to either get someone else to do it, or let the thing go — whether it be a program or emails or some other request from members. The ugly truth is that saying “no” sometimes results in a mess that you have to learn to live with, maybe moving it out of your view instead of fixing it.
They renew their energy by going deeper into the cause. This is what the woman from Germany did for me. I was just getting ready to tell the board that I had no intention of adding any new programs for the next two years — because I was severely allergic to asking for money — when I received her gracious email. Her compassion was contagious, and before long, I remembered why I went to the trouble of forming the foundation: to help those who think their future is hopeless.
Santi’s book is a great read not only for those involved in nonprofit work, but for anyone who wants to know how to give, how to find a purpose, or how to make an impact. I found it incredibly inspirational to discover the stories behind why some of the largest philanthropists in the world give their time and money to a cause. Warning, though: It’s very possible you’ll catch the giving bug by peaking inside the covers.
Join, the new depression community.

Ways to Use Cranberries to Detox Your Body Naturally

Cranberries are a coveted, must-have ingredient during the holidays, and fresh cranberries are only available in the fall and winter. These brightly colored berries make a delicious rice pilaf, stuffing, and of course, incredible baked goods. But cranberries’ bright, cheerful color and incredible sweet-sour taste do much more than just appeal to our senses… cranberries are also packed with detox properties that make them worth enjoying all year round!

Cranberries are a magical berry for your health
Cranberries are an excellent choice if you want to lose weight and lower your blood sugar. Why? Because unlike other common berries, cranberries are lower in sugar (fructose and sucrose). Fresh cranberries only have two grams of sugar and 40 calories per cup, and they are packed with fiber and antioxidants. Dried cranberries, however, are often packed with added sugars, oils and preservatives. It’s best to enjoy your cranberries fresh or frozen to obtain the most benefits, and always buy organic since berries are commonly sprayed with pesticides.  Let’s take a look at five reasons to add more cranberries to your diet.
Protection against bad bacteria
One of the most unique properties of cranberries is their ability to protect the body from a form of stomach bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. This bacteria has been linked to digestive problems, allergies, and chronic yeast infections.
Eating cranberries has been shown to kill these bad bacteria and support overall immunity in the gut to protect the body. Cranberries’ fiber and low sugar content also support the body when candida (yeast overgrowth) is present. Because of the way cranberries fight bacteria, they will not feed yeast in the body, which other fruits that are higher in sugar may do. Cranberries can also aid in removing waste from the body that can cause constipation and poor digestion.
Cranberries are so effective in reducing bacteria in the body that they even help fight tooth decay!
Kidney health and water weight
Cranberries support detoxification of the kidneys, which is why they are so well known for treating bladder infections and supporting urinary health. They help stimulate urine flow and also remove harmful bacteria from the kidneys that can lead to infection. As a result, they support the removal of excess water and can help you lose water weight naturally, unlike harmful diuretics that can contribute to the loss of crucial vitamins and minerals. Removing excess water weight is also important for improving your energy and making you feel less bloated. 
Vitamin C
Cranberries are a great source of vitamin C, which supports detoxification by protecting and improving immunity. Vitamin C also stimulates the digestive tract to help with the removal of waste. This can help fight constipation and support the body’s defense mechanisms. Vitamin C also improves the uptake of iron in the body to assist with overall health. Lastly, vitamin C supports liver function and detoxification by improving enzyme functions that aid in the removal of toxins.
Aids in regularity
Cranberries.Cranberries are fantastic for fighting constipation since they are high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Each of these support digestive flow, preventing the stagnation of waste in the body that can lead to sluggishness and lack of bowel movements. The fiber in cranberries also stimulates the formation of good bacteria known as probiotics; good bacteria feast on fiber and fight bad bacteria such as yeasts and fungi.
All berries are great for fighting constipation, but if you’re sensitive to fructose, cranberries are a good option since they are one of the lowest in sugar. 
Antioxidants that fight free radicals
Cranberries are also packed with polyphenols, which are antioxidants that give the berries their bright and beautiful color. These help to fight off free radicals in the body that lead to toxicity and many forms of disease. Simply filling up your diet with antioxidant-rich foods will support overall detoxification and may even help you fight off cravings for unhealthy foods because the body is getting what it needs most at a cellular level. Other foods high in polyphenols include dark chocolate, beans and other berries.
Cranberries should be a part of everyone’s diet, especially in the fall and winter months when the body’s defenses may need some help. You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal or quinoa porridge. You can bake with them or use them in wild rice pilafs. What are some other ways you enjoy using cranberries, and have you ever used them for health purposes?
—The Alternative Daily

6 Things You Can Do Today to Prevent Colon Cancer

If you’re close to 5o years old and just had your initial baseline colonoscopy, kudos for taking a proactive approach to your future good health!
That’s one of two main things you can do to combat colorectal cancer: get regular colonoscopy screenings (check!) and adopt and follow healthy lifestyle habits. Even if your screening results were good, you’ll want to do everything you can to decrease your risk of developing cancer. Here are a few habits you can adopt right now to help keep your colon (and the rest of your body) healthy:
  1. Get moving. Maintaining a healthy weight and moving regularly (both through intentional exercise and regular daily activities) can go a long way in decreasing colorectal cancer risk. How much activity should you aim for? Consider walking 10,000 steps (about 4 to 5 miles) per day or working out for 30 minutes at a moderate pace (break a sweat and get your heart rate up) five days a week to get started. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Every little bit counts, so just try moving a little more each day.
  2. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A diet rich in these foods (especially those that are bright in color) has been linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. The jury is still out on exactly what it is in these foods that helps to lower risk. Some studies suggest that it’s the fiber in these foods that makes them beneficial; however, studies on fiber supplements have not shown the same benefit. So choose whole foods instead of a pill to prevent colon cancer. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water when eating more fiber.
  3. Eat sources of “good” bacteria. Yogurt and other foods with active cultures improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. Some recent studies have also shown that bacteria may help to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, sour pickles, miso, and kimchi all contain the good bacteria known as probiotics.
  4. Limit saturated fats and salt. Cut back on red meat and meats that have been fried, smoked, and salt-cured. Other foods high in saturated fats and salt include cheese, pizza, and prepared dishes. Instead, reach for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish.
  5. Go easy on the alcohol. Research has shown that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol (three drinks or more per day) may negatively affect the metabolism of a number of nutrients that reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Although the jury is still out, there may be an elevated risk associated with drinking any type of alcohol.
  6. Avoid all forms of tobacco. In addition to increasing overall risk of developing cancer, studies have shown that tobacco significantly increases risk of death in those who develop colorectal cancer. It has been estimated that 12 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer in the United States were the result of tobacco use, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The ‘Bottom’ Line

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Developing healthy habits is the first step toward decreasing your risk. Keep in mind that early screening, beginning at age 50, is the best form of preventive care. We all know colonoscopy is a little uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to detect colorectal cancer at the earliest and most treatable phase. A few moments of discomfort are well worth the benefit — your good health!

10 Ways to Supercharge Your Digestive System

If you’re having trouble with digestion, poor health is not far behind. As Hippocrates is often quoted as saying more than 2,000 years ago, “All disease begins in the gut.” Your organs, blood, eyes, hair, bones, thoughts and feelings are literally built from the food you eat. Your ability to break down food to form the essential building blocks of life determines your ability to thrive.

An impaired digestive system is not only uncomfortable (and potentially embarrassing, in the case of frequent gassiness), but also endangers your health. Experts estimate that approximately 75 percent of the immune system lives in the gut, so taking care of your tummy is vital to avoid disease.
Being able to effectively break down and absorb nutrients is also paramount in avoiding the inflammation that we now know is behind so many major diseases and causes of death. Chronic illnesses, such as allergies, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, arthritis, autism and depression, have been solidly linked with gut health and digestion. If you want to resolve a plethora of health issues, digestion is a great place to start. Here are 10 rules to follow for optimal digestion.
1. You are what you eat — or what you digest
Your digestive system isn’t just a trash compactor or blender. It’s a living environment with sensitive tissues and an ever-changing bacterial microbiome. Look out for foods that are damaging to your gut, even despite a healthy reputation.
Dietary sensitivities are increasing as our food supply becomes more saturated with pesticides, chemicals, additives and processing agents. At the same time, meat and produce that is farmed on a large commercial scale is derived from nutrient-depleted soil. It’s vital to choose foods that provide optimal nutrition and do not cause irritation in the gut. Avoiding processed foods, grains (especially those that contain gluten), commercial dairy products, corn and soy is the first step toward cultivating a healthy gut and robust digestion.
2. Reduce or eliminate caffeine
Many people find that caffeine causes intestinal distress. For a gentler alternative, try herbal coffee, which may also have other health benefits. Other alternatives include green tea and herbal teas, which provide anti-inflammatory power and may even help boost digestion. Peppermint, chamomile and fennel tea are all touted for digestive benefits.
3. Work on your posture
Your mom was right when she nagged you about your posture! Slouching can seriously impede digestion and contribute to constipation.
Bathroom posture is also important. Human beings were built to squat for optimal excretion of waste, but modern toilets are in conflict with our biology. Using a small stool or purpose-built squatting device that sits in front of the toilet is beneficial for many people who otherwise suffer from constipation and other digestive woes.
4. Add more fiber
Fiber has long been touted as a digestive panacea, adding bulk to stools and helping to cleanse the colon. These superfood seeds are rich in fiber — try sprinkling them on top of salads or yogurt.
Although this may be true, recent research indicates that the main benefit of fiber is actually something different altogether. Fiber-rich foods are largely indigestible by the human gut, so they tend to pass through to the lower intestine. This is where our friendly bacteria get hold of the fiber, which is their ideal food source. Consuming lots of fermentable fiber (also known as resistant starch), such as green plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, and roots including yucca and burdock can help support a robust and thriving intestinal microbiome.
These little guys are instrumental in digestion — they break down food and extract nutrients, and also form a large part of your immune system.
However, it is important to note that fiber may cause intestinal distress and constipation in some people. Consumption should be dialed up gradually to prevent discomfort and gassiness. Cue point number 5…
5. Or add more fat
Simply adding more fiber on its own may block up the works. We need to drink enough water and also consume healthy fats to keep the excretory system well lubricated. Good choices for healthy fats include those that are naturally sourced and minimally processed:
  • Coconut oil
  • Extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Red palm fruit oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Lard or tallow from pastured animals
Fats are like WD-40 for your gut. Try making your own salad dressings with healthy fats, and adding a few tablespoons to smoothies and stir-fries.
6. Stimulate stomach acid production
Stomach acid is to digestion what gasoline is to a fire. Digesting food isn’t just about the mechanical mashing-up motion of the stomach and intestines — the acidic medium of bile and stomach juices are also required to break everything down.
Unfortunately, many of us today have weak stomach acid, and suffer because of it. Try stimulating stomach acid production with natural supplements such as fresh ginger (made into a tea or added to foods), raw apple cider vinegar with the culture intact, herbal bitters, or dandelion root tea (you can find these at your local health-food store).
7. Get into digestion mode
Have you ever heard the term “fight or flight”? This refers to the survival mode we go into when we are under threat. Many of us live in this mode on a fairly permanent basis, with the never-ending stresses of board reports and bills hanging over our heads.
The problem is, survival mode is not conducive to digestion. A simple fix is to take a few deep belly breaths before sitting down to eat. Remember to continue to breathe deeply as you savor your food as well.
8. Move your body
Similar to a slouchy posture, sitting still all day tends to get digestion all backed up. Not only does regular exercise help work gas out of your system so that it doesn’t cause discomfort, it also stimulates the digestive process and helps you excrete waste more regularly. A further benefit of movement is that it can be a great way to relieve stress, so that you find it easier to get into “digestion mode”! (See the previous point.)
9. Consume friendly bacteria
Along with providing fibrous foods as fuel for the probiotic bacteria living in your gut, you should also continue to develop the “community” by consuming bacteria-rich foods. These include fermented and cultured products such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi, kvass and sauerkraut. Many people find that regular consumption of these foods and beverages goes a long way toward keeping digestion optimal.
human digestive systemAvoiding antibiotics and other medications such as oral contraceptives is also important in order to foster a healthy gut microbiome. Studies show that these chemicals damage beneficial bacteria in ways that are not reversed without external intervention.
10. Heal the gut lining
In order for digestion to work, the “machinery” has to be well maintained. This means avoiding things that damage the intestinal lining, and adding foods that heal it. Many of us suffer from a disease called “leaky gut syndrome,” which is thought to be caused by too much processed food, chronic stress and overuse of pharmaceuticals.
Luckily there are a few key foods you can add to your diet to bring the intestinal tract back into good health.
  • Broth — make your own broth from organic, pastured animals in your Crock Pot. It is rich in proteins like gelatin and collagen which are hugely healing for your gut.
  • Fermented foods — see point number 9 for more information.
  • Coconut products — coconut oil and coconut milk are high in medium-chain fatty acids which are easier to digest and help support gut healing.

It’s easy to find better digestion naturally, without resorting to over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions or surgeries. Try incorporating these 10 key ideas one at a time — you will find that many chronic health issues will melt away, and you will gain energy and vitality.

39 Ways to Use Honey and Why It’s Good For You

Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said, “Eating honey is a very good thing to do.” This liquid gold has been a staple in my home for many, many years, and for good reason. The benefits of honey are seemingly endless.

Everywhere I have lived, I have sought out raw local sources of honey for use in my kitchen, as well as for other medicinal purposes. I am also beginning to do my own research on keeping bees—partially because I use so much honey and partially because I find it absolutely amazing that bees provide us with this wonderful gift that I want to watch them work up close and personal.

I am not alone in my awe of honey. Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Romans and Greeks used honey for treating wounds and to heal conditions of the gut. Hippocrates himself used honey and vinegar for pain, honey and water for thirst, and honey mixed with water and other substances for fever.

Medicinal properties
Honey is truly a healing gift from nature, and is rich in medicinal properties:
Hygroscopic property: In its natural state, honey has a very low water content, but it absorbs moisture when exposed to air. This hygroscopic property makes honey highly beneficial to dry skin by allowing it to better retain moisture. It also helps to speed up wound healing time.
Antibacterial property: One especially vital component in honey, glucose oxidase, is an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide. Research indicates that this is one of the main reasons why honey seems to have such powerful antibacterial and wound-healing capabilities. The production of hydrogen peroxide is just one of the remarkable ways that honey helps to kill bacteria and heal wounds.
Antioxidant property: Although darker honey generally contains more antioxidant power than light colored, both are still a rich source of valuable antioxidants. Antioxidants go to work against free radicals and encourage new tissue growth. This, in turn, helps expedite healing of damaged tissue and also helps skin appear younger and more radiant.
Nutritional powerhouse
Honey is also a nutritional powerhouse, containing glucose, fructose, and numerous minerals including calcium, iron, copper, phosphate, sodium chlorine, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Vitamins in honey include B6, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid and a number of amino acids. It is also quite acidic, with a pH between 3.2. and 4.5. This helps prevent the growth of bacteria. It is also loaded with protective antioxidants.
Ways to use honey
There are literally hundreds of ways to use honey—here are just 39 of my favorite. I hope you give some of these a try. You will be amazed at what you find.
Wound cleaner: Dab honey onto a minor burn or cut, lightly covering the wound like an antibiotic ointment. Research published in The FASEB Journal shows how honey kills off bacteria and helps speed healing time.
Diaper rash cream: A New Zealand study investigated using topical pharmaceutical-grade manuka honey in place of traditional barrier cream for treatment of redness, itching and inflammation. Researchers found that symptoms were improved in a similar fashion to using a traditional barrier cream. To help prevent diaper rash, try adding equal parts of honey to your usual diaper cream and use daily.
Hair conditioner: Honey makes for a great natural conditioner. Mix together one-half cup with one-quarter cup olive oil and warm slightly on the stove. Apply to your hair and then allow it to soak in by wrapping your hair in a towel, and then rinse, preferably with cool water.
Natural hair remover: Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm slightly in the microwave and allow mixture to cool, and apply to facial hair using a popsicle stick. Place a small piece of muslin cloth over the area and rub slightly. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil to the area where you removed the hair.
Burn treatment: The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery published a paper based on an analysis comparing the use of medicated dressings (silver sulfadiazine) with honey dressings over a five-year period.
When burn healing time was compared, those patients with the honey dressings healed in an average of 18.16 days, while those with the medicated bandages healed in 32.68 days.
Researchers concluded that the honey dressings made wounds sterile in a shorter time period and also improved healing time. Note: Only try this home treatment for minor burns. In case of a serious burn, call the emergency room.
Makeup remover: Mix baking soda and honey together to make a paste and add a few drops of tea tree oil. Apply using a warm washcloth in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water.
Bad breath: If you suffer from bad breath, try a mixture of ¼ cup water, I teaspoon raw honey, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Gargle for 3 minutes and spit out for fresh breath all day long.
Face mask: Honey can effectively treat conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema, while coconut oil is great for relieving dry or irritated skin, as well as for reducing wrinkles. Combining them leads to super soft, clear, hydrated skin! Mix 1 tablespoon coconut oil and 1 tablespoon raw honey in a small bowl with a spoon until it’s well combined.
Apply the mixture to your face and neck with your fingertips—gently—as sometimes honey can crystalize and be rough on your skin. Let it sink in for up to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Simple, easy and effective!
Strengthen nails: If you have weak, brittle nails, try mixing 1 tablespoon of honey with ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in a shallow dish. Soak your nails for 10 minutes and rinse. Repeat weekly for strong and healthy cuticles and nails.
Relieve acid reflux: Raw honey coats the lining of the esophagus and provides relief to the burning caused by acid reflux. In a report posted in the British Medical Journal by Professor Mahantayya V Math, Math found relief from reflux when he ingested 5 ml of honey.
Balance blood sugar: Although honey is sweet, it has a fairly low glycemic index. The natural sugars in honey have a “slow-release” effect, which means it does not cause the sharp peak in blood sugar that other sweet substances (like refined sugar) do. The sugars in honey are therefore more slowly absorbed and metabolized. Despite its sweetness, honey will not cause blood sugar levels to spike as high or as fast as other high-sugar foods.
Natural cough syrup: You can make a very effective, tasty, natural cough syrup using the following ingredients: 1 cup of filtered water, ¼ cup fresh ginger root, ¼ cup marshmallow root, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 cup honey. Pour the water into a saucepan and add the dried herbs.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. Pour through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove herbs. While the liquid is still warm, but not boiling, mix in the lemon juice and honey. Stir well and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Dark circle remover: Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of sweet almond oil and spread the mixture under the eyes. After about 20 minutes, wash the mixture off and follow up with a light layer of organic coconut oil. Repeat this treatment a few times a week to keep your skin looking great.
Lip moisturizer: A very easy way to heal and prevent chapped lips can be made with honey. Mix one part of warm, recently-melted beeswax to three parts olive oil. Then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey to the mixture. Once the mixture has set, it’s ready to use.
Healthy sports drink: Commercial sports drinks are loaded with sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. However, it is very easy to make your own homemade sports drink using honey. Simply combine the following ingredients in a Vitamix and blend until the honey dissolves: ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 2 cups water, ⅛ teaspoon of sea salt and 2 ½ tablespoons of raw honey. Take some of this mixture in a water bottle when going out on a long hike and you’ll feel hydrated and energized.
Improves healthy gut bacteria: Bees have a very diverse population of beneficial acid bacteria. A unique characteristic of raw honey is its ability to feed good gut bacteria and fight off bad bacteria. Good bacteria is essential for overall health and wellness, and forms a main defense against outside threats.
Relieve morning sickness: Organic honey is also effective in relieving morning sickness for pregnant mothers. A warm tea made with honey and ginger is highly effective at calming a pregnant mother’s tummy.
Fruit preserver: Preserving your fruits with raw honey makes them so much healthier. Simply use one part honey to ten parts water and cover your berries in the mixture. So much better than sugar!
Weight-loss aid: Hands down, honey is a better and far healthier sweetener than sugar. The body knows just what to do with this natural gift from the bees, and our cells can use it for energy. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, replace your sugar with honey. It will boost your metabolism and give you energy.
Just remember, all in moderation, and you must eat a healthy diet and exercise for any permanent weight loss to occur. For an added boost, mix half a teaspoon of organic ground cinnamon in a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes. Add one teaspoon of raw honey and enjoy!
Infections in the mouth: Bacteria and viruses can cause oral infections that impact the teeth, gums, palate, tongue, lips and the inside of the cheeks. Oral infections are very common. In fact, infections that cause tooth decay are the second most common infectious conditions after the common cold.
Researchers in India have found that manuka honey worked just as well as commercial mouthwash, and better than chewing gum with xylitol, for reducing plaque levels. This they attribute to its outstanding antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey, taken orally, can help reduce gingivitis and keep the mouth healthy and free from harmful bacteria.
Insect bites: Mixing some lemon juice with honey makes a natural antiseptic solution; the natural sugar in honey kills the microorganisms, while the lemon partners with it to prevent bacteria from taking over. The combination will also reduce the swelling associated with insect bites, and decrease itchiness.
For best results, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into 2 tablespoons of raw honey and spread on the infected area. Allow the mixture to remain on the skin until the swelling goes down and you’ll notice a decrease in itchiness.
Fertility issues: Raw honey is also an effective natural remedy for fertility issues. It can be combined with raw goat milk to increase sperm counts in men. In women, it can increase chances of successful fertilization.
Caramel sauce: If you love a sweet treat from time to time, consider this amazingly healthy caramel sauce that uses honey. Check out the recipe here. I tried it, and it is so tasty you won’t believe it!
Reduce the appearance of scars: Over time a mixture of honey and baking soda can reduce the appearance of scars. Mix 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste to a scar and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Do this daily until the scar begins to fade.
Yeast infections: There is evidence that applying raw honey in and around the vagina can help get rid of yeast infections. Apply the honey in and around the area, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then wash it off in the bath or shower.
Stockpile: Are you building up an emergency food supply for the apocalypse? Honey should be in it! This food never spoils—collections of it have actually been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It also provides the perfect balance of glucose and fructose for energy, along with a ton of healthy vitamins and enzymes.
honey sweetenerNatural sleep tonic: If you have problems sleeping, your stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are out of whack. Both sugar and salt help to prevent adrenaline spikes but it is best to use raw honey and sea salt. Just keep a little mixture of salted honey by your bedside and take a teaspoon if you find yourself waking up in the night.
Allover skin softener: The same qualities that make honey good for your hair also make it good for your skin. It’s a great way to keep your skin naturally soft and clean. Just add 2 tablespoons of honey to a cup of hot water and let it dissolve. Add 2 to 3 drops of lavender essential oil, and then pour the mixture into your bath.
Healthy peanut butter: I love peanut butter but hate sugar. This is quite simply the most delicious peanut butter I have ever tasted.
Parasites: If you have parasites, try using a mixture of raw honey and apple cider vinegar. Simply add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a glass of water and drink it down!
Relieve a hangover: Because of its antioxidant properties, honey is said to neutralize the toxins created by consuming alcohol. The fructose in honey is thought to be the essential compound that helps the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products.
Antibiotic resistant superbugs: Antibiotic resistance is, according to the CDC, a leading world health problem. Doctors first began to notice resistance problems almost a decade ago, when kids with middle-ear infections stopped responding to the drugs they were being given.
Phenols found in manuka honey inhibit bacterial growth and promote healing. These antioxidants are not like synthetic antibiotics that promote the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Clearly raw honey is an impressive antimicrobial agent against a broad spectrum of bacteria and other infectious organisms.
Simple energy boost: If you start to feel a little lethargic towards the end of your day, a tablespoon of raw honey is just what you need. According to the American College of Nutrition, honey, unlike sugar, provides a nutritious carbohydrate that the body can use for immediate energy. When you are feeling low, take a teaspoon in a cup of warm water mixed with lemon or a scoop right from the jar!
Salad dressing: Ditch commercial salad dressing and try this delicious and healthy option instead. Combine equal parts raw honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil into a jar and shake lightly. Add herbs, pepper and sea salt to taste.
Allergies: Research contends that locally produced honey helps greatly with seasonal allergies. Try adding a tablespoon of local honey (produced during the season you have your allergy problem) to a tea made with nettle leaf for extra allergy relief benefits.
Topical antibiotic: Raw organic honey has been used as an antibiotic and topical treatment for abrasions and cuts for hundreds of years. For people with diabetic ulcers, it can be an effective treatment when many other topical treatments are unsuccessful.
Homemade dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy treat, in moderation. Make your own using honey (much better than sugar). Visit this site for an amazingly good recipe for some delicious little treats.
Protects against gastric lesions: Research shows that honey can prevent lesions caused by alcohol, NSAID pain killers and aspirin. If you take NSAID pain killers or aspirin, include a teaspoon or two of honey in your diet daily.
Breast cancer treatment: There is some laboratory and animal research suggesting that tualang honey (from Malaysia) can suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. Although there is no reliable evidence demonstrating that this effect remains true in human clinical trials, it is reasonable to include honey as the sweetener of choice in patients with breast cancer.
Choose the best
Raw honey is honey in its purest state. According to the National Honey Board, there is no exact definition for raw honey. A honey label that says “untreated” or “unpasteurized” may be an indication, but not a guarantee that the honey is raw. Obviously, any honey labelled pasteurized is not raw. Don’t be fooled by words like “natural” or “pure”—they mean nothing in regards to honey processing.
To be sure that the honey you are purchasing is raw, it is best to get it from a local beekeeper who will tell you how the honey was obtained. The very best raw honey will also be organic—beekeepers must adhere to very strict regulations in order to be certified organic. Now go out and get some honey!
- Susan Patterson

Are You Toxifying Your Home with Candles and Room Scents

Scent is an important part of our everyday experience. It can trigger memories, set a mood, warn us of danger, or fire up an appetite. In fact, the olfactory system is the only sense that is wired directly into the brain.

It’s not surprising, then, that air fresheners, scented candles, room sprays and incense are a huge money-making industry. Even dryer sheets, laundry detergent, garbage bags, drawer liners, feminine hygiene products and toilet paper carry a variety of scents to make our bodies, clothes and living spaces more appealing.
But what if all of these pleasing products are actually putting our health in danger? Increasing numbers of studies released over recent years are warning about the chemicals contained in these synthetic scented products and the potential health repercussions. As consumers, it is important for us to be aware of these potential hazards so that we can make informed decisions about what we bring into our homes.
We’ve put together a primer on scented products and their dangers, what to avoid, and safe alternatives to use instead.

What type of candles do you use at home?
Candles are a great way to make a home feel cozy and romantic, or to set the mood for a party. A birthday party, special dinner or holiday celebration would hardly be the same without them. The use of candles at night is even recommended to encourage melatonin production. But the type of candles you use matters.
It turns out your average paraffin wax candles are made from a byproduct of the petroleum industry. Paraffin wax starts out as a black sludge, which is treated and bleached with carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and toluene. Not only are these toxic candles detrimental to the environment, they also present some major health hazards.
Burning paraffin candles releases at least seven different toxins, two of which have been proven to cause cancer. Some of these volatile compounds are the same ones found in oil-based paint, lacquer, varnish, and chemical solvents. They also release tiny particles of petrochemical soot, which stay suspended in the air for several hours. These particles are inhaled, get trapped in the lungs, and can cause respiratory irritation.

Dangers of scented candles
Add synthetic colors and scents into the mix and you’re really in for trouble. Those overpriced boutique candles in cute packaging release almost as many toxins as cigarette smoke.
Scented candles are essentially a source of indoor air pollution because they are usually used in poorly ventilated spaces like bathrooms, and in the evening when the windows are closed. Research shows that this can raise the risk of health conditions such as asthma, eczema and skin problems. A study of asthma sufferers found that scented candles made symptoms worse for at least 25 percent of people. Experts say that people who believe they have allergies or respiratory illness may in fact simply be responding to the toxins from the candles they burn in their home.
The synthetic fragrances and dyes used in candles give off harmful particles when they are heated, as does the metal-cored wick typically used in conventional candles. Studies report that scented candles also give off harmful soot, and the wicks can release particles of heavy metals like lead and cadmium.
The occasional candle used at home, especially in a well-ventilated area, doesn’t present a huge danger. However, environments like churches, where candles are burned consistently, are a hotbed for toxins. One Dutch study found that the air inside a church contained 10 times the amount of free radicals (molecules that damage cells and tissues) as the air beside a busy highway.

Are soy candles safe?
still life of home lighting candles or catalyst lampSoy products are frequently marketed as healthy and environmentally friendly. Soy candles would therefore appear to be a good nontoxic option. In reality, they are frequently blended with paraffin wax, which, as mentioned above, is highly toxic.
If you do decide to purchase soy candles, make sure they are labeled “100% soy” since even the term “pure” only requires 51 percent of the product to be made of soy. Also, avoid soy candles made with colors or fragrances. Even essential oils added to candles are not safe. High heat exposure damages the structure of the oils, causing the release of unknown byproducts.
Ultimately, soy candles are not an ideal choice. The vast majority of soy crops in the world are genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides. Therefore, purchasing soy candles supports an industry that is damaging to the planet and the well-being of its inhabitants.

Dangers of air fresheners and scented products
While air fresheners are supposed to get rid of unpleasant or embarrassing odors, the scented products themselves may be the biggest faux-pas.
Not only are they dispensed from toxic plastic containers and aerosol cans that are damaging to the environment, the contents are essentially unregulated by any government authority or consumer safety agency. Manufacturers are not required to reveal the names of the substances in their products because they are considered trade secrets. Even when they are listed, terms like “fragrance” or “parfum” can cover up the thousands of unknown chemicals that manufacturers use.
One study discovered that 86 percent of air freshener products contain phthalates, including those labeled as “all-natural” or “unscented.” Phthalates are known to interfere with hormones and cause reproductive abnormalities, including infertility and birth defects. These chemicals are released into the air when air fresheners are used, where they can be inhaled or absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin.

Natural alternatives to air fresheners
Are you convinced yet? We think that avoiding conventional scented products is a vital step toward living a long, healthy, nontoxic life.
But what if we still want a nice-smelling home or an attractive ambiance for a party? The best options to use are either 100-percent beeswax candles or essential oils in a diffuser.
Beeswax candles actually purify the air, releasing ions that can help remove indoor air pollutants. They are also said to help relieve allergies and respiratory conditions. Aesthetically, beeswax candles give off a lovely warm glow and a sweet scent of honey. They are a bit more expensive, but are certainly worth the investment. Purchasing beeswax candles also supports local farmers and apiaries.
Essential oils in a diffuser allow scents to be dispersed via micro-particles of water. This helps distribute oils not just for enjoyment and atmosphere, but also to cleanse the environment and eliminate pathogens and mold.
If you love using scents to zone out and relax, try these natural, free methods of stress relief.
—Liivi Hess

5 Things a Nutritionist Wants You to Know About Carbs

Carbs are taking a lot of heat these days. Now that fat as a category is off the hook, carbs are being single-handedly blamed by some for the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. But broad assertions like that are pretty ridiculous when you recognize that some of the most nutritious foods on the planet are primarily carbohydrates. Many people take carbs to mean pasta, rice, bread, and cookies, but the grouping also encompasses many of the plant-based staples of a whole-foods diet: vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, and whole grains. The field of carbohydrate-rich foods is much too diverse to make blanket statements about their healthfulness or lack thereof. As obesity expert David Katz, MD, likes to say, “a jelly bean is not a pinto bean.”
Carbs have earned a bad rap because the most common sources in Americans’ diets are nothing to celebrate. According to government survey data from 2003 to 2006, the top five contributors to U.S. adults’ carbohydrate intake are soda, breads and rolls (mostly white, refined versions), baked goods such as cookies and cakes, candy, and fruit (phew, something positive). So people eating the typical Western, high-carb diet are loading up on sugar and white flour from junk foods that offer minimal nutritional value. On the other hand, a carb-heavy diet that’s rich in whole plant foods can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, people living in the world’s “Blue Zones” — a term for regions with especially high longevity — subsist on a diet that’s primarily minimally-processed carbohydrate foods, including beans, whole grains, and starchy root vegetables.
Clearly, carbohydrates are one of the most misunderstood nutrients in what is already, for many, a confusing landscape of food choices. To help set the record straight, here are five carb myths that may be tainting your view of healthy eating.

Carb Myths You Should Ignore

  1. A carb is a carb. Both a serving of Frosted Flakes and a serving of chickpeas have roughly the same amount of carbohydrates, but their nutrient profiles could not be more different. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains are high in fiber — indigestible carbohydrates that increase fullness, promote regularity, and nourish a diverse, well-balanced gut microbiome. These complex plant foods are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients, biologically active compounds that may help protect the body from disease. On the other hand, heavily processed carbs, including sugary drinks, sweets, white bread, and snack foods, provide a hefty carbohydrate load with few or no additional nutrients. Because they are more refined, they are digested rapidly and generally produce a greater rise in blood sugar. In short, carbohydrates are not a uniform category by any means, and the source determines the quality.
  2. Carbohydrate-rich foods contain only carbohydrates. Classifying foods as carbohydrates is a bit misleading, since nearly all whole foods are actually a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, the three major macronutrients. For example, although grains and vegetables get most of their calories from carbohydrates, they do contain trace amounts of fat, and small-to-moderate amounts of protein, which also contribute to the body’s needs. On a similar note, avocados and nuts deliver most of their calories as fat, but they still provide some carbohydrates. Rather than focusing on macronutrients like carbs, which makes sensible eating more complicated than it needs to be, I encourage people to zoom out, so to speak, and concentrate on eating a variety of whole, plant-based foods.
  3. Cutting carbs is the best way to lose weight. A recent meta-analysis found that the low-carb diets led to more weight loss after at least one year compared to low-fat diets, but the difference was only 2.5 pounds, which isn’t a meaningful advantage. According to the study, published in The Lancet, participants following any diet only kept off an average of 6 pounds after one year or longer, so the real takeaway is that making lasting changes to eating habits is a major challenge. If weight-loss research has taught us anything, it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the most important thing is to identify an approach that you personally find sustainable. Restricting portions of starches like rice, pasta, bread, and snack foods can be a very successful strategy, and it leaves more calorie room for nutrient-dense foods. But strictly limiting your daily carbohydrate grams — or cutting out higher-carb superstars, like fruit, whole grains, beans, and sweet potatoes — certainly isn’t a requirement for shedding pounds.
  4. All carbs wreak havoc on your blood sugar. All carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar, but not to the same degree. Generally speaking, foods such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains that are high in fiber and minimally processed (and therefore require more extensive digestion) have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a slow, steady incline in blood sugar, compared to refined carbs like sugary drinks, white bread, white rice, and chips. That said, some increase in blood sugar and the hormone insulin after eating is a natural part of digestion — and nothing to fear. These processes allow the body to extract energy from food and fuel the brain, muscles, and other organs. And in people with a healthy metabolism, the body has no problem handling the occasional high-carb meal, such as a bowl of pasta or plate of pancakes (although I don’t recommend eating this way on a regular basis).
  5. There is no place for refined carbs in a healthy diet. It’s wise to choose whole grains most of the time and limit foods made with white starch and sugar, but that doesn’t mean you should never, ever indulge in cookies, crusty bread, or french fries. Eating well really is about achieving balance, and if you’ve built a solid dietary foundation that prioritizes vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, then there’s certainly room for some of these “less wholesome” foods in small portions. Baked goods, sweets, and packaged foods made with white flour aren’t deadly toxins, but they should be the exception rather than the rule in a healthy eating pattern.