Archive for the 'Tips for Health' Category
What is MTBE?
MTBE(methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a chemical compound that is produced in large quantities as a fuel additive to help gasoline burn more effectively to reduce air pollution. So what’s it doing in our drinking water?
MTBE has been used in U.S. gasoline at low levels since 1979 to replace lead as an octane enhancer. Since 1992, MTBE has been used at higher concentrations in some gasoline to fulfill the oxygenate requirements set by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. MTBE was used across the US up until the last decade as a gasoline additive to make the fuel burn more thoroughly and reduce air pollution. Anytime this toxic chemical leaks or spills on to the ground, the toxins seep into the ground and contaminate natural ground water sources.
MTBE is now a commonly found contaminant in drinking water across the United States. The EPA reports a growing number of studies have detected MTBE in ground water throughout the country; in some instances these contaminated waters are sources of drinking water.The MTBE gasoline additive is now banned in many states due to the elevated risk of brain tumors, liver cancer, blood cancer, and kidney cancer when inhaled or ingested from tap water.
Who is affected?
Almost everyone in the United States breathes in or drinks some MTBE. However, some states have seen dangerously elevated levels of MTBE contamination and have banned its use. New York and California banned MTBE use in 2004, and twenty-three other states followed suit by signing legislation banning MTBE by 2005. The current court battle in New Hampshire alleges pollution of 40,000 wells with 5,590 of them reaching levels that make the water unfit for human consumption.
What you can do to protect yourself from MTBE:
If you are concerned about MTBE in your water make sure you are using a water filter that removes this harmful toxin. Aquasana water filters are certified to reduce MTBE in tap and well water. For more information on the specific impact of MTBE on your local water source contact your local EPA drinking water office for more information.
Today marks day 12 of drinking nothing but Aquasana filtered water, and I have to say, it has been quite a challenge indeed. Last week was rough. Starting the day without my morning cup of jo – rough. No relief for my mid-afternoon crash at work – rough. And forget about that evening or weekend libation – tough.
Now we are on week two of the Water Challenge here at the Aquasana office and everyone is already adjusting and feeling much better. The biggest change I’ve noticed so far is how well I sleep at night – like a baby! My body’s natural clock has kicked in and now I hit the sack by 10pm and wake up refreshed at 6am. I honestly can’t remember the last time I slept so well. It’s pretty interesting how much I used to rely on caffeine to get me going, but once cut out completely from my diet, I realize it’s really not a necessity at all.
In summary, I’m feeling great after just 12 days, so I know once I hit 21 days I’ll noticing other great benefits of healthy hydration. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to week three of the water challenge. How is everyone else feeling out there?
All you have to do to follow along is:
- Pick a team to follow (Todd, Mel, or Derek)
- Calculate how much you should drink daily
- Choose your favorite way to hit your daily target
- Share your results with us on Facebook or on this blog
The focus of the challenge is on what we drink, not what we eat. We aren’t going for the full cleanse, although drinking the right amount of fluid everyday will help cleanse your system. You should maintain your own healthy diet, but this challenge will help you avoid common dietary mistakes like drinking calories and dehydration.
Pick a team
Picking a team is simple. We’ll all be drinking mostly water, but two of the three teams have added a healthy option that will count towards your daily fluid intake. Derek’s team is for the purists out there that only want to drink water for 21 days. Mel’s team adds in decaffeinated green tea to promote weight loss and cardiac health. Todd’s team adds in green juices to bolster overall nutritional intake and to take advantage of the cleansing properties of certain vegetables. So, choose the team that most closely aligns to what you want to do. I’m with Team Todd.
Determine how much you should drink
Now that we’ve all picked a team, we need to set a daily target for fluid intake. We recently published updated information on how much water to drink on a daily basis. It’s not the old 8 8-ounce glasses a day, but there is an easy guideline to start with for your age and gender. Keep in mind that you may need to drink more if you exercise, work outdoors, or spend time in the heat. I’m a 36-year-old male, so I need 125 ounces of water per day from food, green juices, or just plain water.
Decide how to drink the right amount
Now we know what we are going to drink based on our team and we know how much we need to drink based on our age and gender. The final decision is to come up with a plan to drink the right amount every day. If you are on Team Derek, you would give your food a small allowance of water and drink the rest of your daily target in water. For Team Mel and Team Todd, you would do the same except you can count each cup of tea or green juice against your water intake. I’m going to say that my food has about 16 ounces of water per day and I will drink a 24 ounce green juice each day. That leaves 85 ounces of water that I need to drink based on my target of 125 ounces. Now, this doesn’t mean to go chug-a-lug that much water all at once.
Use a clever way to remind yourself to drink continuously throughout the day and steadily reach your target. Find a bottle that you can use to keep yourself on track with water. Figure out how much water the bottle holds in ounces and divide your target by that number. For example, I am using a 27 ounce glass bottle and I need to drink 85 ounces per day. That’s a little over three big bottles of water per day, a 24 ounce green juice and my normal food intake.
Ready, Set, Share
We’ll share if you do. Start your own challenge whenever you are ready. Share your photos and comments with us on our Facebook page or on the comments thread here. We can’t wait to hear from some of our fans!
Why 21 days?
Research shows that it takes just 21 days to form a habit. Training yourself to drink more water every day is one of the most important actions you can make to take charge of your health. So mark your calendar and get excited – you’re about to do your whole body a huge favor!
1. You’ll drink more water: It’s easier to drink filtered than unfiltered water. Unfiltered water often tastes kind of funny, depending on where you live and what your water source is. So you drink soda or bottled water (which we will discuss in a minute), or possibly turn to tea and coffee as an alternative. Filtering does two things: it removes contamination that makes your water taste funny and maintains the healthy minerals (calcium, potassium and magnesium) that your body craves along with its water. If you’ve ever tasted distilled water or water from a reverse osmosis system, you may notice that it tastes kind of flat. Drab. Almost dry. That’s the lack of minerals. Often drinking this water fails to quench your thirst, so even if you’re full, you still have a craving for something wet. Why do people turn to sports drinks and soda? They both contain minerals your body needs—that’s both their value proposition and the mechanism that satisfies your thirst when you drink. By drinking filtered water that maintains healthy minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium, you feel more satisfied and less thirsty, and won’t hanker so much for a soda, either.
2. Your water will be cleaner: Filtration gets rid of the majority of your water’s contamination while preserving the healthy minerals that hydrate you better and relieve thirst better than some of your other options. Tap water is all right: It generally contains all the minerals in it you need, along with a good dose of contamination that you don’t. Some cities are better than others—get your local water report to learn where your city ranks—but even after treatment, the city pipes and water delivery system most likely contains some kind of contamination that gets back into the water before it gets to you. Heck, the pipes in your house are probably not all that clean, either! To be sure, a point-of-use system that attaches to your faucet goes a long way to easing your mind about the quality of water you consume.
3. You’ll have more control: Filtration gives you more control and insight into what’s in your water. It’s just always better to KNOW what you’re eating or drinking. Look no further than the spate of governmental rules and regulations food and beverage manufacturers must comply with to see that not only is it good to know what’s in there, but you have the legal right to know what’s in there. Filtering your own water once it enters your house offers a fine level of control over the quality of your drinking, cooking and bathing water.
4. It’s convenient: Really, what all the above reasons amount to is a higher level of convenience in your life. One more thing you don’t have to worry about, you don’t have to think about or wonder when you’re shopping in the grocery store. “Do I need to stock up on bottled water? Oh, no—I have better at home!”
5. It’s cheaper: Filtering is cheaper than bottled water by a mile. It’s even cheaper than pitcher filters. With Aquasana drinking filters specifically, you get almost twice as much bang for your buck than many pitcher filters, and over thirty times more than from bottled water. If you’re looking to save money in 2012, quitting the bottled water habit and choosing to filter is a long step in the right direction.
6. It’s green/sustainable: Going along with cheaper, filtering is also a very sustainable method of treating your water. Reverse osmosis wastes quite a bit of water, especially as a household solution (as opposed to a larger scale operation). Basically, you get a bit of clean water, but concentrate the contaminated water and send it back into the environment. Distillation requires electricity and also wastes water. Bottled water, aside from its health concerns, fills landfills with tons of plastic waste each day. Most bottles are not recycled (up to 80% are simply tossed in the garbage), despite their eligibility for recycling, and end up clogging rivers and land when they’re not actually disposed of “properly” in a landfill. Filtering can remove up to 4,000 bottles a year from landfills. Also, filtering is removing contamination from water—meaning less ambient contamination in general (not just for your drinking pleasure). And carbon—the chief material used in filtration—is good for the environment even once you’re done with using it to filter your water.
Have another great reason to filter your water? Let us know in the comments!
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.
• 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
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.
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
• 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!
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!
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??
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…