Archive for the 'Healthy Living' Category
It’s not JUST water
We can all remember the days of high school chemistry class and learning the basic components of water, H2O: 2 hydrogen molecules attached to 1 oxygen molecule. You may also remember that our bodies are composed of 70%-80% water and we must drink enough of it to survive. Today we face major problems regarding safe drinking water, not only because of mass contamination from environmental and synthetic chemicals, but an even bigger problem is growing due to corporate and governmental control of our bottled water system. We are being forced to buy more bottled water than ever and the only people who benefit are the big corporations who mass produce this highly consumed product. It’s not easy to find clean, affordable drinking water but there are things that we can do.
The EPA has set standards for more than 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water and pose a risk to human health. The EPA claims its standards protect the health of everybody, including vulnerable groups like children. Is there really a safe standard when it comes to drinking toxins? And, what happened to the countless other contaminants found in our drinking water? According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) two-and-a-half year investigation, tap water in 42 states is contaminated with more than 140 unregulated chemicals that lack safety standards. In an analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests, most of which were required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EWG found that water suppliers across the U.S. detected 260 contaminants in water served to the public. One hundred forty-one (141) of these detected chemicals — more than half — are unregulated; public health officials have not set safety standards for these chemicals, even though millions drink them every day.
According to the EPA, contaminants fall into two groups based on the health effects that they cause. Acute effects occur within hours or days of the time that a person consumes a contaminant. Chronic effects occur after people consume a contaminant at levels over EPA’s safety standards for many years. The drinking water contaminants that can have chronic effects are chemicals (such as disinfection by-products, solvents, and pesticides), radionuclides (such as radium), and minerals (such as arsenic). Examples of the chronic effects of drinking water contaminants are cancer, liver or kidney problems, or reproductive difficulties.
Go here for more information.
The bottled water scam
With so many of us becoming aware of our contaminated tap water, the world is embracing the bottled water industry like never before. In 1999 the sales of bottled water in the US was around $6 billion in one year. By 2007 the sales of bottled water jumped to over $11 billion. Some believe that drinking bottled water is no more pure or better for your health, nor is it safer than community or municipal water. The purity standards for bottled water are no higher than those applied to tap water — in some instances they are lower or less rigorous. Studies have shown that chemicals called phthalates, which are known to disrupt testosterone and other hormones, can leach into bottled water over time. There are no regulatory standards limiting phthalates in bottled water. The bottled water industry waged a successful campaign opposing the FDA proposal to set a legal limit for these chemicals.
Go here for more information.
What can you do?
The majority of the contaminants found in our drinking water can be traced back to improper or excessive use of ordinary compounds like lawn chemicals, gasoline, cleaning products and even prescription drugs. As a consumer, you might consider buying eco-friendly cleaners, avoid using toxic toiletries, and dispose of your medications properly. By doing your part in creating a less toxic environment, we will be able to create safer water for generations to come.
The benefits of bottled water are convenience and novelty. Instead of buying bottled water you can carry a canteen or a reusable athletic bottle. My personal favorite is to use a glass bottle and filter the water at home using a water filter. It is good for the environment and lowers the risk of chemical exposure such as BPA, a common toxic chemical in plastics. This change will save you a lot of money and will help the environment because water bottles are one of the major sources of plastic going into landfills today. Shipping billions of gallons of water every year also uses a lot of fuel.
Lastly, recycle empty water bottles, EVERYTIME! And don’t WASTE your water by letting the shower or faucet run. Use old water for things like watering plants and invest in water saving devices for you home. Be a responsible and conscious water consumer. We will all benefit from it.
—Dr. Wendy Norman, D.C.
And for more information on how to dispose of your pharmaceuticals:
Unfortunately, studies and records show that eczema, particularly in babies and children, is becoming a more common and widespread problem. The good news is that it’s not always a life-long affliction for kids (they often outgrow it by 5 years old), but it’s still painful and frustrating to treat as a parent (and no picnic for your wee one, either).
Many cases remain of undetermined origin, but there are some environmental and genetic variables that can play a part:
• Skin too dry (dehydrated or not enough natural oils, excessive sweating)
• Exposure to physical allergens and irritants
• Plain old bad luck (genetics)
In babies and young children, eczema shows up initially as red or swollen—sometimes pebbly or rough—skin, especially in skin folds that tend to stay damp: armpits, behind the knees, and in the groin area. Sometimes there are blisters or raised red bumps, and sometimes the scratching and dryness can get so bad the skin cracks and leaves open sores. Fussy, irritable babies with tender skin who dislike bath time might have a problem with eczema.
Treatment invariably depends on the cause, which is not always obvious. Please consult your pediatrician or a dermatologist in order to get direction on the proper course of treatment.Your doctor will evaluate your kiddo, and ask a lot of questions about his or her environment. Why? If your child’s skin reacts to the laundry detergent you use, resolving the issue could be as simple as switching brands or going to a “free and clear” version. Children’s skin often responds to diet changes as well; removing things like dairy, nuts or soy can improve eczema symptoms a surprising amount. There are lotions and creams, acupuncture and other homeopathic treatments, and even UV light treatments. Here are the biggies:
• Filter your child’s bath water (I can personally attest that this does help, as I have adult eczema, and it helps me!)
• Change laundry detergent, and dress your wee babe in 100% cotton clothing to allow the skin to breathe
• Perform an allergy test and identify possible contact or internal allergens (we’re looking at you, cow’s milk!)
• Remove certain Big Allergens from your kid’s diet (or stop eating them yourself, if you’re breastfeeding): cow’s milk, soy, nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, and wheat
• Try keep your baby in a warm (not hot!), dry environment to minimize sweating (sorry, fellow Texans, you will fail this one)
• Try OTC hydrocortisone cream (though I’m not a huge fan of chemicals)
Those are just some of the remedies available. There are a lot of them out there on the web, but please be careful when trying them out! Always test first on yourself, and if there’s no reaction, a small part of your baby (with something handy to wipe/remove the solution if it’s not well received).
Does your child have eczema? What have you found works to help alleviate the symptoms? Share in the comments!
Oh, rashes. We’ve all encountered them in some form, mostly from an allergy or something we touch. Growing up on 10 acres of wooded land, I found myself adventuring outside to “explore” (usually poison ivy). I then got to explore the rash that would form on my skin, along with all the scratches I collected on my legs from stepping in briars, and all the itching that ensued. Rashes are a common skin condition that many children and adults experience and they are utterly annoying to deal with.
Rashes, also called dermatitis, are often caused by things that your skin touches (contact dermatitis) such as:
Cosmetics, soaps and detergents
- Jewelry (like all women, I’m allergic to fake gold)
- Dyes and other chemicals in clothing
- Poison ivy and poison oak
Common symptoms include:
Red rash or bumps
- Dry, red patches
- Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases
- Pain or tenderness
Irritant and allergic contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis fall into two categories: Irritant and allergic. Irritant contact dermatitis is more common and caused by repeated contact with a substance that – wait for it – irritates the skin! Bleach is a substance that can cause this after just one exposure, as it removes oil and protective barriers in the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by a reaction to substances (allergens). The resulting rash, and sometimes blisters, is your body’s response to the allergen. It can take several years to develop
an allergy, which will then last for life.
Most the time you have to ride out the rash, which is the most annoying part of developing a rash. After taking antibiotics, I developed a rash that lasted for two weeks and the only remedy that significantly soothed my itching was olive oil. Olive oil has healing and renewal properties and helps restore moisture to the skin. The only thing more annoying than having to apply this on my skin is the craving of bread that followed. Other self-help remedies include:
- Witch hazel
- Aloe Vera
- Calendula Essential Oil
- Baking Powder
- St. John’s Wort
- Wild Pansy
Prolonged scratching may increase the intensity of the itch and lead to Neurodermatitis, so it’s best to keep your skin as moisturized as possible. The chlorine that is in your shower water can exacerbate itching, as it strips your skin of its natural moisture. Installing a shower filter that removes chlorine, as well as other contaminants, is one of the best things you can do for persistently itchy skin.
When to see a doctor
Some rashes may require a visit to your dermatologist or family doctor. See your doctor if:
- You’re so uncomfortable that you’re losing sleep or daily routines are interrupted.
- Your skin is painful
- Your skin becomes infected
- Self-care has failed
- You feel the cause is job-related
We all know we should use sunscreen to help ward off the harmful rays of the sun. Sometimes there are so many choices, however, that it’s hard to know where to start. At the most basic level, there are lotions (the old stand-by) and the newer sprays and spray lotions. Do they do the same job? Do they both give the same amount of coverage and protection? There are lots of articles out there that go into the science of the debate, which I (not being qualified to) will not do here. But people tend to have a great deal to say about which sunscreen they like better (just ask—there are some pretty big opinions out there!).
For your skin, lotion might be the better way to go. To me, the sprays tend to lose at least 75% of their liquid to every chance wind that gusts up right when you hit the button. But sprays undeniably go on faster. But what’s in them? Lots of chemicals and questionable ingredients that may provoke a negative reaction. Not that lotion is any better—it’s goopy and white and “takes FOR-EVER, MOM” and is hardly attractive. So after sifting through several blog posts and discussion posts on forums about the issue, I have boiled it down to the major pros and cons for each (as told by others).
So which is better? I’d say that whatever works for you and your family is the better choice. And there are, as I mentioned before, lots of studies and reviews to help you choose:
And here’s a list of lotion-based, chemical and hormone-free sunscreens
In the end, whichever route you choose, there are a few rules of thumb when dealing with sun exposure:
- 1. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure, to give the ingredients a chance to activate.
- 2. Cover every inch of exposed skin (I know lots of people who apply it naked before dressing, to avoid missing those little slices of skin at your clothing lines).
- 3. Reapply regularly (every 2-3 hours at most—more often if swimming or sweating profusely).
Other pro tips:
- Cover with lotion in the morning, then reapply with spray during the day (because it’s quicker).
- Remember to get the back of your neck, your ears, your hands and feet (even the soles, if you’re planning on lying on your tummy for any length of time), and very carefully under all the hems of your clothing.
- If you begin to feel over hot, or if your skin turns a markedly different color when you press your finger into it, get into the shade for a little bit and drink some water!
As much as possible, wear protective clothing to block as much sun as you can: hats, shirts, and loose clothing.
Which do you prefer? Spray or lotion? We had the discussion in the office, and everyone has an opinion and a reason! What are yours??
When most people think of dermatology, they probably think of beauty. No longer are dermatologists known for removing embarrassing warts or moles, but for chemical peels and Botox. They are the go-to person for making skin beautifully flawless. But dermatologists also engage clients to help them deal with some of the more unsightly dermal concerns: skin abnormalities, rashes and cysts, among other things.
My own first meeting with a dermatologist was over a cyst. Cysts are a common abnormality that often appear on the face and neck, but can appear anywhere on the body. They’re just plain ugly, and coming from personal experience, I can assure you that they’re embarrassing and made me feel self-conscience. I even had people ask if I had cancer!
What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a noncancerous, closed pocket of tissue that can form anywhere in the body and is common on the skin. Skin cysts develop due to an infection, clogging of sebaceous glands (also called oil glands), and may form around foreign bodies in the skin, like piercings. Certain factors increase the possibility of developing a cyst such as:
• Age (30s or 40s)
• Damaged hair follicles (skin abrasions or wounds)
• Trauma (skin is crushed or broken from an injury, such as hitting your finger with a hammer)
• Birth Defects
Common Skin Cysts at a Glance:
Cysts are usually noticeable and tend to be slow-growing, painless and can be rolled under the skin. Some of the most common types of skin cysts include:
• Epidermoid cysts (which men are twice as likely to have): the most common type of skin cysts (this was the type I had) and are often mislabeled as sebaceous cysts, which are a rare type of cyst. Epidermoid cysts range in size from ¼ inch to 2 inches (Mine was about an inch).
• Lipoma: a fatty lump that tends to grow slowly over time and is usually discovered accidentally.
• Pilar cysts: form from hair follicles and commonly occur on the scalp.
• Milia: tiny white bumps or small cysts on the skin. These cysts are common in newborns, which then are called Epstein’s pearls, and go away on their own.
• Pilmatrixoma: a slow-growing, hard mass found beneath the skin. Occurs most commonly on the face and neck and is seen mostly in children under 10.
The treatment of most cysts depends upon cause, size and location. Removal of the cyst is done at your doctor or dermatologist’s discretion, as some cysts can be drained or aspirated, or injected with a cortisone shot (My dermatologist gave me a cortisone shot, which resulted in an infection, so instead of a smallish size cyst, I had what looked like a goiter. I went back and it was drained – yuck! – and removed). Some cysts disappear on their own without treatment. Most people elect to have their cyst drained or removed for cosmetic reasons or to prevent further growth of the cyst. Pilmatrixoma cysts are removed surgically as an outpatient procedure.
Some skin cysts can be prevented by keeping your skin clean and avoiding skin irritation. Using a shower filter that filters out harsh chlorine to keep your skin soft and less dry may help reduce irritation. Use gentle, oil-free cleansers, wear soft, cotton clothing, and adjust anything that may rub against your skin.
Need a little less skin irritation in your life? Check out our shower filters to keep your skin soft and from drying out! Click here to receive half-off during July 2011!
As you may or may not be aware, dermatology is the field of medicine that focuses on the skin: skin diseases and disorders. This includes things as varied as hair removal and implantation, skin cancer treatment, skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis and (the most unfair of plagues) acne, to plastic surgery like liposuction and face lifts.
And just how, you might ask, is dermatology related to water and water filtration?
For hair removal issues, plastic surgery and cancer, water is important for all the usual health reasons, but has little impact aside from that. Where water becomes an essential component of dermatology issues are in the areas of skin health and skin disorders. Proper hydration is often the heart and soul of health in general, but it particularly affects the skin. Lack of adequate hydration can exacerbate (or cause) rashes, eczema, allergic reactions and other topical ailments.
Along the same lines, the water you wash with can affect the quality and vitality of your skin in surprising ways. City water contains a whole raft of contaminants in varying concentrations, some of which have been shown to be harmful to your skin. Chlorine in particular is cause for concern. We all know how it feels when you get out of a chlorinated pool: the itchy, dry, tight feeling plagues you until you can rinse off with less chlorinated water. But there’s chlorine in your shower water, too, if in lesser amounts, and it’s still not good for you.
Dermatology and you
For the next several weeks, be on the lookout for blog posts, Facebook and Twitter activities, and general buzz on Aquasana.com and our other community channels that relate to dermatology and skin issues. The subject is near and dear to our hearts, and we have undertaken a mission to shed light on various dermatology topics. With that in mind, we’ve found some really excellent resources about dermatology and skin conditions out there on the net:
Related, interesting sites on dermatology…
So your kitchen has a refreshed and energized look. What next? If you have some budget left over, or some time next month, you might consider making some updates to another room in your home. I’d say the bathroom is worthy of attention, for two reasons:
1) Often all it needs to really look spiffy again is a good hard scrubbing and a few cheap changes to dress it up.
2) We all know the bathroom is one of the rooms that determine a home’s character and level of sophistication (for whatever reason—real estate agents harp on bathroom updates constantly when a house goes on the market), so it’s a good investment to spend some time bringing it up to date.
So what can you do that is easy, relatively painless and inexpensive to give your bathroom a fresh and clean look? More or less, you do the same things as you did to your kitchen—paint, color, fixtures. There are just a few different things to keep in mind as you make changes.
• Add a new coat of paint or stain. Same as the kitchen, a new color can transform a room in ways you can hardly believe until you do it. (See the paragraph below about color before you go crazy, though!)
• Install a new vanity or mirror treatment. Mirrors give us only what we put into them, right? If you make the setting a bit more attractive, you might be surprised at what stares back out at you!
• If you have windows, try a new window treatment. This is where that complementary color comes in: choose a lovely complementary shade to the walls and dress the windows and the shower curtain to really make the most of the bathroom.
• Add some fashionable and useful storage. I don’t know anyone who could not use more storage in their bathroom. So get out to IKEA or the Container Store and find a fashionable and serviceable set of shelves or a cabinet and really make full use of all the space in your bathroom (but make sure to do this after you paint).
A word about color
Take a moment to reflect on how you feel in your bathroom versus how you want to feel. Do you feel hot and sticky in the bathroom when you have to be in there? Do you often take cool showers? Do you approach blow drying your hair with dread? If you feel uncomfortably hot in your bathroom, you might consider painting and decorating with cool colors—blues and greens and greys and whites—to promote an illusion of a cooler atmosphere. Alternately, if you always shiver your way through showers and bathroom activities, redecorate with warmer colors and tones. Install a space heater or overhead heater/fan. Invest in some lovely warm, fluffy towels and floor mats! (And remember the 60/30/10 rule of colors! Choose a main color and make the room 60% that color, a complementary color to cover another 30%, and an accent shade in about 10% to give just a taste of freshness.)
Like every room in your home, you want to customize your bathroom to be comfortable for you. It’s not as important as the kitchen or family room, certainly, but it’s still important and worthy of some summer attention.
Are you planning on making any changes to your bathroom this summer? What’s the one update you’re burning to make? Or are you misering away your extra dough against the unpredictable and difficult economic times? (Either way, fair enough!) Let us know in the comments!
Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, and the race is on to secure a good, enticing, enjoyable gift for the men in our lives who grease the wheels and make life exciting. But what do you get for the man who already has every tool from Home Depot and too many ties to count? Why not go sideways this year, and reach for a practical and exciting gift that he’ll love? (That’s my plan, anyway.) Here are some ideas to get you started!
For the closet cook
Cooking has become a more acceptably enjoyable activity for men, and a good many of them show a decided flair for it. Why not invest in a few really excellent kitchen gadgets to help him out?
Men really like to grill best, and summer is the perfect time for him to get some more experience! Try the cookbook Everyday Grilling from Sur La Table. He’ll be able to make everything on the grill, appetizers to desserts!
If he already knows the grilling ropes, a great instant-read digital thermometer can help him hit just the right level of done.
A nice pizza stone is a good investment, too. When not in use for pizza parties, you can use it to bake other yummy things, like biscuits and cookies.
But not every man likes to cook. Some of them just can’t ever own enough gadgets. For some spectacular ideas on what to get to indulge him, try looking at Skymall.com or Brookstone.
Weather stations are pretty neat little things, and the prices on the good ones are coming down. If you need to know instantly how to dress the kids today, don’t wait for the weatherman, just take a peek at this little guy!
Maybe your man is security-minded, though. If so, investing in a home security system could be a good gift to ease his anxiety. There are lots of options out there, and some even come with iPhone or smartphone apps that let you manage your security remotely, so you always have access and control.
Or if your husband is the fastidious sort, you could consider even our own Aquasana shower filter with handheld wand. Clean himself, the kids, the dog, pots and pans, whatever he wants, in clean and healthy shower water!
Being a dad is a demanding job, one that increases stress and tension. Why not get Dad a back and neck massager of some kind? (And when he’s not using it, you can hop right in there and take a whirl!)
There are lots of other ideas out there, but use these to get you started. Use a bit of thought and imagination, and forgo the tie or cufflinks this year (unless they shoot lasers or auto-clean the house or something). And remember the best gift dads can ever get, those three little words they love to hear:
“I’ll clean up!”
We all want to upgrade and beautify our homes, but the problem with making changes these days comes down to two key facts: money is scarce and tastes change. High-contrast color kitchens are trendy this year (lime green and stark white, purple and white), but may not always be. Chrome and black appliances are all the rage, as are granite counters and reclaimed wood cabinets. Some people are also really into making healthy and/or “green” changes, trying to make their spaces beautiful and functional in a way the supports long-term sustainability and health goals. You know what they say about diets: if you want to eat more healthy, stock your kitchen with healthy food, not junk. The same idea can apply to your home: if you make it easier to be good, you will be good more often. And we start the being “good” by not over-reaching our budgets. Living within your means is the hottest new fashion, and we certainly want to promote that!
This year, forgo the massive remodel, and opt to give your kitchen a face lift instead.
Repaint/stain your cabinets with VOC-free paint or stain, of course. Unless your cabinets are just falling apart at the seams, you can probably get away with simply giving them a good hard scrub and a layer of paint or re-staining them. The new look will make you see the space with fresh eyes, trust me!
Get a sink-mounted water filter. (I know, please forgive the plug.) You’ve no doubt heard the recent clarion call to abandon our national love affair with bottled water; the concerns that inform this trend are real and incredibly sobering, and we’ve covered them in other blog articles. But to get the healthiest water, you need to filter what you drink (and bathe in). And for those of you who really want the convenience of a water filter spout in your kitchen, but don’t want to sacrifice your kitchen’s feng shui, we have seven different finishes just for you!
Consider green lighting options. Some older kitchens still have overhead fluorescent bar lights. Yuck. Aren’t we a bit too old and discerning for that? We don’t all have the budget to add a new skylight (which would be the ideal green kitchen lighting) but you have options to make a few changes to the illumination in your kitchen, save some energy and update the look all in one swoop. You’ll be amazed at the difference good lighting can make. Look into sustainable countertops. There are a number of sustainable, affordable options out there if you’re into getting new countertops. There are the reclaimed wood and recycled paper varieties like PaperStone and EcoTop. Recycled glass counters like Vetrazzo, EnviroGLAS and EnviroSLAB. Ceramic tile can be a good option if you take care when shopping (look for tiles made from recycled material) and use a low-VOC adhesive to lay the tile. Invest in energy star appliances. You can get some really good models of fridges, microwaves, dishwashers, ovens and stoves out there that look great, don’t cost a ton, and can save you money on your house bills in the long run (and some even come with local or even national rebates for going green!). Make sure they rate well and save lots of energy (some models only barely save you enough to be considered Energy Star compliant, and I’ve avoid those), and recycle your old appliances with your local municipality (or donate them to Goodwill). Up next time: redo your bathroom with a few key additions or changes and give it a whole new look and feel.
Consider green lighting options. Some older kitchens still have overhead fluorescent bar lights. Yuck. Aren’t we a bit too old and discerning for that? We don’t all have the budget to add a new skylight (which would be the ideal green kitchen lighting) but you have options to make a few changes to the illumination in your kitchen, save some energy and update the look all in one swoop. You’ll be amazed at the difference good lighting can make.
Look into sustainable countertops. There are a number of sustainable, affordable options out there if you’re into getting new countertops. There are the reclaimed wood and recycled paper varieties like PaperStone and EcoTop. Recycled glass counters like Vetrazzo, EnviroGLAS and EnviroSLAB. Ceramic tile can be a good option if you take care when shopping (look for tiles made from recycled material) and use a low-VOC adhesive to lay the tile.
Invest in energy star appliances. You can get some really good models of fridges, microwaves, dishwashers, ovens and stoves out there that look great, don’t cost a ton, and can save you money on your house bills in the long run (and some even come with local or even national rebates for going green!). Make sure they rate well and save lots of energy (some models only barely save you enough to be considered Energy Star compliant, and I’ve avoid those), and recycle your old appliances with your local municipality (or donate them to Goodwill).
Up next time: redo your bathroom with a few key additions or changes and give it a whole new look and feel.