Archive for the 'Family tips' Category

10 Things to Avoid for a Toxin-Free Home

By: Amy Myers, MD, founder and medical director of Austin UltraHealth

Toxins are all around us. For optimal health, it’s important to reduce our exposure to chemicals and toxins. Here are 10 tips to help you keep your home clean and green.

1. Conventional flooring

Conventional carpet is made from synthetic, petroleum-based fibers that can emit up to 120 hazardous chemicals linked to asthma, allergies, neurological problems and cancer. Many of the chemicals that are mainly found in the rubber padding and adhesive glues can take years to off-gas. Instead, use cotton or wool rugs or recycled carpet tiles, which do not require adhesive glues. Also consider stained concrete and renewable wood such as bamboo or cork.

2. VOC paints

Be sure to use no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints – many companies advertise that they are no-VOC, but that’s the base white paint only. Once color is added, it’s no longer no-VOC.

3. Filter your water

Our bodies are more than 70% water and designed to run primarily on water and minerals. The water we consume can have a significant impact on our short-and long-term health. A three-year investigation of the country’s drinking water by the Environmental Working Group found that water flowing to about 85% of the population contains 316 contaminants — over 60% of these have no safety standards and are not regulated by the EPA. For the healthiest and best-tasting water possible a filtration system is the best solution. I recommend Aquasana water filters and their new countertop Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System removes ten times the contaminants as the leading filter pitcher and each filter lasts eight times longer.

4. Upholstered Furniture

Upholstered furniture can be filled with polyurethane foams that are petroleum-based and full of chemicals and fire retardants. Look for a piece made with natural latex foam, wool cushions and organic fabrics. Choose solid wood over pressed particle board, which emits formaldehyde.

5. Commercial bedding

Choose organic, untreated sheets, blankets and pillows. Otherwise most commercial materials use fire retardants, pesticides, bleach and dyes.

6. Vinyl shower curtains

Vinyl shower curtains release more than 100 VOCs that can hang around in the air for more than a month. They also contain phthalates, which are hormone and endocrine disruptors. Opt for organic cotton and linen shower curtains instead.

7. Curtains and window treatments

Most curtains contain fire retardants, pesticides, bleach and dyes. Make sure to use organic, untreated cotton or linen, or opt for bamboo.

8. Conventional mattresses

Where you sleep and what you sleep on is one of the most important decisions you can make – I can’t stress this enough. We spend nearly half of our lives asleep, and most of our detox and body repair occurs while we sleep. Conventional mattresses contain harsh chemical and fire retardants, which can out-gas for years! Choose 100% natural latex mattresses and organic wool mattress toppers.

9. Cleaning solutions

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) listed household cleaners as one of the top ten pet poisons in 2009. Levels of brominated flame retardants in cats are up to 23 times higher than those found in human beings, and dogs have an average 2.4 times more perfluorinated chemicals in their bodies than people. These are chemicals that are already found in products you buy, such as fire-proof fabrics and stain-proof rugs – just imagine how susceptible your dog or cat is to the chemicals you readily spray and pour in your home. Look for non-toxic cleaning solutions.

10. Nasty air

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns, “Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be two to five times, and on occasion more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by the EPA and its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.” Get an HEPA air filter!

For more tips from Dr. Myers, visit

About Dr. Amy Myers

Dr. Amy Myers is a medical doctor with extensive training in Functional Medicine, Integrative Medicine and Nutrition. Functional Medicine is a science-based approach to healing that focuses on a patient-centered, not disease-centered, model of care. Dr. Myers is also a contributing writer for Mind Body Green. Austin UltraHealth is located at 5656 Bee Caves Road, Suite D 203, Austin, Texas 78746.


Aquasana Launches a Ground-breaking Drinking Water System

As a leader in water filtration products, Aquasana recently launched the world’s first ever powered countertop pitcher to reduce 10 times the contaminants than the leading drip pitcher filter – fast. The Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System selectively retains beneficial minerals for health and taste through Claryum™ technology that uses pressure to quickly force unfiltered water through an ultra-dense, smart filter block.

The power pitcher is tested by NSF International to reduce 61 common water contaminants including lead, mercury, asbestos, herbicides and pesticides, as well as over 96% of chlorine and chloramines. While leading brands’ filters last about 40 gallons, our long-lasting cartridges are certified to last 320 gallons (about six months). Additionally, the eco-friendly system design reduces plastic waste by minimizing disposable plastic parts so you throw away the used carbon filter and nothing more.

The unique Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System allows you to use the filtration dock in two easy ways: with the eight-cup pitcher which fits in the refrigerator door or the 16-cup dispenser for on demand filtered water by the glass.  Filtering your water at home also greatly reduces the amount of plastic bottle waste going into our environment – filter at home and bottle your own.

Tips For Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle During the Holidays

Tis the season for family gatherings, late nights and plenty of calories ready to be consumed. While enjoying the festivities, keep these three simple tips in mind to keep your waist trim without feeling grim this season.

Late Hours Call for an Early Morning Calorie-Filled Mocha – Resist

There are various reasons why we stay up later during the holidays – parties, cramming two weeks of work into one, adjusting to the time change – which cause us to be groggy the following morning. The quick fix is to head to your nearest coffee shop and get the most caffeinated and sugar-filled drink for a pick-me-up, and not only does that affect your caloric intake, but if not timed right, it could affect your sleep. Instead, opt for a 12-ounce skim latte (100 calories compared to 400 calorie mocha latte) and try to eat lots of produce throughout the day for longer-lasting energy that simple sugars don’t provide.

To ensure you get the right amount of sleep, experts recommends turning off your computer and TV half an hour before you turn in will help to avoid from disrupting your body clock. Another tip is to try a small carb-based snack such as a banana before bed. Being more alert and energized will help you to stick with your fitness routines throughout the season.

When You Think You’re Hungry, Reach for a Glass of Water

With lack of quality sleep, your body may be suffering from dehydration which in turn often turns to calories for fuel. When you think you’re hungry, you may just be thirsty. Throughout the day, constant hydration will keep your stomach calm for longer periods. Proper hydration through water consumption is easy, and the benefits are large and wide.

Great-tasting, healthy water has never been easier. The Aquasana Powered Water Filtration System utilizes Claryum™ technology to selectively retain beneficial minerals and filter out contaminants such as lead, mercury, asbestos, giardia and over 96% of chlorine and chloramines, in just seconds. So when you hear your stomach grumble, reach for clean, filtered water for optimum hydration before the refrigerator handle and prepare to be amazed by the results.

As the Temperature Drops, Opt for Indoor Activities

The temperatures may be dropping, but that doesn’t mean your heart rate has to. With the sun down early and holiday stress weighing heavy, it is said that an average of one pound is gained during the holiday season.

Opt for indoor sports such as indoor soccer, basketball or racquetball to keep your heart pumping and your body temperature stable. Your local gym or YMCA is likely to have pick-up games for you to join in and make some new friends while you’re at it! Don’t forget to filter your water at home and bottle your own to keep yourself hydrated with the purest water available.

Top Summer Destinations

At Aquasana, we know how summer is a great time to get away and travel to new places, so we decided to give you a top five list of some of our favorite places to get away to!


The Texas Hill Country, located just west of Austin and north of San Antonio, is the next best thing to crossing the Atlantic. This area is colorful, lush, and unlike the rest of the state, is filled with big, beautiful green hills. Also, this region contains 22 wineries and buzzes with food and music festivals year round. You can also experience the great shopping experience offered at the Hill Country Galleria. Towns like Fredericksburg also offer a taste of Germany with biergartens and schnitzelhäuser. Why go to Europe when you can experience all the beauty right here in the Texas Hill Country?


In Portland, you can literally taste summer! Filled with top-ranked farmers’ markets, inventive cafes with fresh-caught fish, and plenty of cool summer drink spots, Portland landed a spot on our list. The wholesome cuisine will make you want to get active, too, because if you’re a foodie, you will be more than impressed by the array of vegan cafes and eco-hippie cooperatives. Drawn by the city’s artsy vibe, young chefs are breaking the mold and tapping into the local fisheries and artisanal farms. After your meal, rent a bicycle or check out hiking spots near waterfalls just outside town!


When it starts heating up outside, so does the entertainment in Music City. In the summer, you can check out the numerous music festivals taking place around the city including the CMA Music Festival and Music City July 4th: Let Freedom Sing. Music aside, there’s plenty of activities for the entire family, because Nashville also has its own water parks and zoo! There’s no surprise that Nashville would make it on our list due to it being the live music capital of the USA, but it might surprise you  that it’s also been named as one of the most affordable places to travel!


With its pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and almost no development, Bahia Honda Key might be mistaken for a chic Brazilian Preserve! This 524 acre islet in the Lower Florida Keys between Key West and Marathon, is actually a state park. You can experience beautiful beaches, amazing snorkeling, and an astounding biodiversity. What’s even rarer here are the prices. Admission, snorkeling, and even a cabin rental for a night will cost you less than $160. There are plenty of fishing and picnic spots located throughout, and kayaks, bikes, and skates can be rented and enjoyed all over the islet.


When you think of Alaska, you might think of freezing temperatures and a great winter getaway. What most don’t realize is that the cheapest (and probably most enjoyable) time to make your getaway to Alaska is in the summer months! You can check out popular tourist spots such as the zoo or the many parks located throughout the region. Whether you come for a classic cruise, a trek across glaciers, dog-sledding, or caribou-spotting in Denali National Park, Anchorage is a great place for amazing photo-op views and a great way to cool off and beat that summer heat back home!

While you’re traveling this summer, make sure you stay hydrated. Tips how are available on our Dehydration blog.  It’s best to keep that filtered water with you and stay cool on your travels this summer. For a great, portable glass bottle, check out!

Recycled Container Gardens

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

We all have items we have stored away in the shed, garage or simply discarded in the yard somewhere. Now that Spring is upon us, now is the perfect time to find a new use for these items. Do some Spring cleaning and set aside items that can be used for planting instead of being hauled off to the landfill.

The following items make fabulous new homes for plants and flowers and can add an element of interest to your yard or front entry:

1. Plumbing fixtures
Sinks and bathtubs make great planters. Drainage is already accommodated for and the addition of some gravel in the bottom of the piece is all that is required to prepare the fixture for planting.

2. Furniture
Old chairs, benches, vanities and dressers can be transformed to interesting yard art. Cut holes in the tops of chairs or vanities to hold recycled plastic pots. Make sure there is drainage beneath the planters. Coating the exposed surface with an eco-friendly sealant is recommended.

3. Plastic containers
Even though many plastic containers are recyclable, it can be fun to find new uses for things instead of just discarding them. Any plastic container including milk jugs, water bottles and storage containers can be used for plants and seed-starting. Clean the plastic container with soap and water and add drainage holes. The rest is up to your imagination. Try starting some seeds. It’s a super cost effective way to start herbs and veggies all year long.

4. Old dishes
Be it a favorite dish that has broken or a super interesting find at a flea market. Old dishes make beautiful containers for flowers and herbs. If drainage holes are not possible, line the bottom of the dish with gravel for drainage.

5. Tires
According to the EPA, more than 290 million scrap tires are generated each year. Fortunately, used tires make long-lasting, inexpensive raised beds.

Imagine all the garden design possibilities by using recycled and re-discovered items in your own home and yard. Enjoy!

Tis the Season to Get Organized!

As the holiday season quickly approaches it’s easy to get overwhelmed  with the ever increasing demands on our time.  Holiday entertaining, events, gift-giving and charitable activities easily add up to a hectic, stress-filled holiday season.

This holiday, get your game on.  With a little planning and organization your holiday season can be all joy!  Here are a few of our favorite tips and ideas for making the most of the next few weeks.

This weekend get a game plan for your Thanksgiving activities.  If you are hosting a celebration, use this time to complete your shopping and prepare your home for the holiday.  If possible, plan for make-ahead items to lighten the load on Thanksgiving Day.

Entertaining IdeasFill ice cube trays with Aquasana filtered water for delicious drinks.  Add lemon slices to ice cube trays for a refreshing addition to water and ice tea or make a citrus mint flavored water to compliment your meal:  Combine 3 sliced oranges and 10 mint leaves in one gallon of Aquasana filtered water.  Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

While you are recovering  from the holiday feast, make a list of all the holiday gift giving you would like to do.  Most importantly, identify those gifts that need to be given before the holiday to teachers, coaches, colleagues and holiday gift exchanges. With a little planning you can tackle these all at once and have them ready to go when needed.

Gift Idea: Stock up on Aquasana glass water bottles this weekend. Fill an Aquasana reusable glass water bottle with a holiday treat such as, gourmet coffee, tea, trail mix or pet treats.  Add a festive bow and gift tag.  Voilà! You have a fabulous, eco-conscious gift that will be appreciated and enjoyed throughout the year.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to take a few moments to plan out the remainder of the year.  You have six weekends before year end so make the most of them!  Make a list of all your commitments and plans and organize your schedule for the next few weeks.  If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make reservations and purchase tickets for dining and entertainment in December.

With a little planning you can roll effortlessly through the holiday season.  Most importantly, stay hydrated, relax and remember….you can do this!

8 DIY holiday ornaments and gifts

Time is running short on the holiday season. Are you done with your decorating and shopping? If not, here are some quick DIY ornaments and gifts you can make. They’re fun, they’re mostly quick, and you’ll appreciate them for years to come.

Have some fun DIY ornament and gift ideas? Tell us your favorite thing to make this time of year in the comments!

5 fun ways to get ready for the holidays

It’s that time of year again: carols, parties, gifts, familial guilt (for some of us), and the relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy. As much as I love this season, it can also be full of stress that can lessen joy and overshadow family time. Over the years I’ve discovered a few things that really help get me into the holiday spirit in a relaxing way.


Regardless of your religious affiliation, this is the perfect time of year to add a little something new and different to your living space. Whether it’s preparing for Christmas with a tree, wreaths, lights and stockings, breaking out the menorah and dreidels, pulling out last year’s Yule Log or just displaying some tasteful evergreen boughs, holly berries and snowflake ornaments in honor of winter itself, changing your surroundings will just make the season more merry in general. If time is an issue, just do a few additions, like a few scented candles and a nice bouquet of flowers on the table. The change of scenery will give your space and you a new, refreshing energy.

Cook or bake

If you have the time and the talent, baking is the way to go to really feel the jolly rolling in your veins. Besides the satisfaction you derive from creating something wonderful at this time of year, making your home smell amazing has a way of lifting your spirits despite the early darkness outside. Just try these little beauties: salted caramel-stuffed chocolate truffle cookies. Remember that the olfactory sense (smell) is possibly the one most powerfully associated with memory, so the warm aroma of crusty bread or chocolatey goodness can transport you to childhood or happier times in an instant. And the dishes can wait until tomorrow.


Of your time. Of your heart. Of your loose change to the Salvation Army pot at the local grocery store or a local charity. It needn’t be a tremendous out-pouring, it just needs to be sincere. Remember, if you are one of us who shoves relentlessly through December in search of perfect holiday gifts for loved ones, to let a harried mother cut in line, smile at over-worked and under-appreciated store employees, stop and give a few murmured words of thanks for small kindnesses. Feeling thankful and appreciative is one of the quickest ways I know of to feel warm inside.


Take a deep breath on this one because it’s not always easy or comfortable. This is, however, the perfect time of year to tally up in your head all the people who wronged you—perceived or real, on purpose or not—and make the conscious effort to let it go. It’s not for them, it’s for you.


Take some time to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but find five minutes a day or a weekend afternoon during which you can take a break from the hustle and just relax and be yourself. Such a break will recharge your system and give you the energy and calm center you need to make it to January.

What are your favorite things to do to get ready for the holidays? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments!

Antioxidants: Avoiding disease takes more than a piece of fruit!

Antioxidant-rich fruit
Free radicals

Have you ever left a piece of fruit on the counter for too long and it turned brown and mushy? What happened to that once vibrantly colored fruit to cause such a change? When food is exposed to oxygen from the air, the cells of the food go through a process called oxidation. This means that there is a chemical reaction on the surface of the fruit with oxygen in the air, which causes cell damage and appears as rot. When this metabolic process happens, the cells of the fruit give off byproducts called free radicals. It is this byproduct that causes food to turn brown or rot.

The same process happens within the human body. We all know that oxygen is a necessary part of living and for creating energy. However, when our cells use oxygen, they give off the same free radical byproduct and it is released into our body.


An antioxidant is a vitamin that cleans up these free radicals that are produced in both food and the human body. Have you noticed that fruit does not rot right away, but rather goes through a process every day? When all the antioxidants are used up, then the fruit begins to rot. In the human body, we manifest illnesses such as cancer when all of our antioxidants are used up.


What else can cause an increase in free radical formation in the body? Toxins. As we try to scrub toxins such as pesticides, chemicals, alcohol, cigarette smoke, fried foods, etc. from our environment, we form more and more free radicals. If we do not have enough antioxidants to compensate for these free radicals, we develop illness.

Common antioxidants

• Vitamin A and carotenoids – found in carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)
• Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits like oranges and limes, etc., green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
• Vitamin E – found in nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil
• Selenium – found in fish and shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic

At the grocery store

When you shop for food, try to buy organic if possible and look for fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors to assure you get as many different antioxidants as possible.

Also, experts recommend you take extra supplementation, but be sure to contact your natural health professional to find out which one is right for you.

~Dr. Wendy Norman, D.C, Applied Kinesiologist


What is THAT?! …Psoriasis?


With all the hype lately about Kim Kardashian and her psoriasis, it’s becoming a hot topic. The paparazzi went a little haywire there for a couple weeks, trying to get pictures of her legs or arms and the red bumps and scales. This is what you get for being in the spotlight and broadcasting such intimate medical details, I guess, but such exploitation makes me feel sick.

Unlike some of the other skin conditions we’ve discussed on this blog, psoriasis is a chronic condition. Once identified and treated with medication and/or lifestyle changes, it can go into remission, but it’s a disorder people have to live with forever. Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease, which means that some faulty wiring in a person’s immune systems puts skin cell production into overdrive. Dead cells don’t slough off the skin’s surface as fast as new cells are produced, and gather and become patches or rashes, and can become quite painful.

The good news: it’s not communicable. (Remember this if you try to call in sick to work with psoriasis!)

The bad news: most doctors agree that it’s hereditary. So by saying “it’s not communicable” does not mean you didn’t get it from SOMEone.

Recognizing it

There are several different ways psoriasis afflicts people:

• Red, patchy skin covered in flaky white scales (most common) (Plaque)
• Very intense redness that covers large portions of skin (Erythrodermic)
• Small pink dots on the skin (Guttate)
• Skin redness in places where skin touches skin: groin, armpits and behind the knees, etc (Inverse)
• White blisters with red skin (Pustular)

In general, consult a doctor for any persistent rash or skin irritation, and you might suspect psoriasis if there’s a family history of it and you see flaky, scaly skin.


Most experts agree that the cause of psoriasis is simple genetics. It comes on sometime between the ages 15 and 35, showing up as a rash or red, flaky skin. An outbreak can appear because of a variety of factors:

• Inadequate sunlight
• Overexposure to sunlight (there’s just no winning, I guess)
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Stress
• Some kinds of medicine (see also “Your Prozac might be making you scratch”)
• Infections (bacterial or viral)
• Excessive dryness (both environmental—air—and physical—skin)

Treatments: the clinical and the wild

Sadly, there’s no getting rid of it; we just have to learn to cope and be as comfortable as possible. There are a wide variety of creams and ointments available that could help (cortisone is commonly used), pills and injections, and even phototherapy. If you feel like stress is one of your outbreak triggers, you might consider taking yoga or getting acupuncture to help you relax. Or lay back in a nice, soothing oatmeal bath (there are several brands out there for bath supplements you just sprinkle in).

There are a number of wild claims on the Internet about cures, but take them with a grain of salt and big fat suitcase of skepticism. Before embarking on any treatment, discuss it with a dermatologist you trust (not just your GP), and if you don’t like what she says, seek a second opinion.

Are there any horror stories out there about dealing with psoriasis? What treatments have you tried, and how did they work? Any advice on what to ask a dermatologist regarding treatments or research on cures? Let us know in the comments!


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