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!
Buying a point of use filter system like a countertop drinking water filter or shower filter, while not an impulse buy, certainly is not quite the financial commitment that a whole house filter can be. Most people decide to purchase one of our whole house filters because it ends up being a cheaper option in the long run, it takes less maintenance, or they need a customized solution for specific water problems like well water or high iron content. But the process doesn’t end with buying the system. Then you have to install the thing!
Warranty and Satisfaction Guarantee
As you may be aware, our Rhinos come with a 3-year warranty and a 90-day Satisfaction Guarantee. If you’re not pleased with your purchase, we’ll refund your money and pay to have it shipped back, no questions asked. But in order to keep your Rhino under warranty, you must have a certified plumber install it.
Finding a plumber
If you don’t already know a local plumber you trust, give us a call. We use Angie’s List to find reputable, knowledgeable plumbers in your area to install your system.
In the video below, we used Excalibur Plumbing in Round Rock, Texas. The house we used already had a water softener in place in the garage, so there was a water loop in place and we did not need to have one created. We had them come out and do an estimate first, and the cost of installation will vary based on where your water comes into your home, what kind of preparation the plumber needs to do, and the plumbing company rates for hours, etc. The installation in the video cost $380, to give you an idea of pricing.
Here’s the video version of how to install the Rhino.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Whole House Rhino filter
Q: How do I know when to replace the filter tanks?
A: According to the EPA, the average American household containing four people uses 100,000 gallons a year. The tanks will filter up to 300,000 gallons, so that means you should replace them every 3 years. Keep an eye on your water meter to determine how much water you use, or you can have a plumber install a gallon meter on your Rhino (they usually cost around $240).
Q: Do I have to replace the tanks every 3 years?
A: We recommend you replace the tanks every 3 years or 300,000 gallons. There’s nothing saying you have to, but the warranty expires after 3 years, so it’s a good idea to keep up to date. Also, once you hit 300,000 gallons, the filters don’t work as well. When you purchase a new set of filter tanks, the warranty starts over again for 3 more years, and your filter will remove the bad stuff at the optimum rate.
Q: Can I put the filter outside?
A: The filter must be installed away from direct sunlight, and the unit must be protected from extreme cold or heat. For best results, install it indoors (garage) or build a cover for it outside.
Q: Do I need a plumber to install it? How about to replace the filter tanks?
A: Yes, a certified plumber should install your whole house filter. If someone else installs it, your warranty is void. Your replacement tanks and pre-filters, however, do not need to be installed by a certified plumber: you may replace them yourself.
If you have more questions, ask in the comments, and we’ll answer them!
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!
The pimple. The zit. The third eye. You go to bed thirty-something and wake up a teenager. You scream to yourself, “Why do I still have acne?” and that snarky little guy on your face just smiles back. Well, take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one that seemed to have taken a swim in the hot tub time machine. Adult acne is very common. It affects 25 percent of adult men and 50 percent of adult women. Dermatologists are seeing more adult acne patients than ever before given a recent study that shows it’s increasing and lasting longer . Although the causes are unknown, possibilities include hormones, cosmetics, stress and an increase of resistant bacteria. But which treatment is the best one for you to keep your skin looking beautiful?
1. “Acne surgery.” It’s basically squeezing pimples. You get immediate results, but without the risk of infection, scarring or spreading.
2. Skin care products. But which do you buy without gawking down a whole aisle having to spend an hour reading every product on shelves? That depends on the type of acne you have. A trip to your dermatologist may save you time and money. Why spend a fortune trying different over-the-counter products when one prescription will do?
3. Topical retinoic acid. It’s a form of vitamin A and a safe alternative to Accutane. New slow-release forms have greatly reduced irritation.
4. Other treatments include: azelaic acid cream, alpha-hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics and birth control pills.
Not a stranger to these treatments? Why not try these…if you’re brave.
1. Number One Plus. It’s a sexual lubricant used in Cambodia for condoms. When applied, it dries out acne lesions.
2. Toothpaste. Be sure to use a white paste, not blue, clear or a gel.
3. Nightingale droppings. This is an ingredient used for facials and is performed by an Asian-inspired salon.
4. Egg white mask. Just rub on your face, let dry, then rinse. It leaves your skin smooth and supposed to have soothing, therapeutic effects on the skin.
Not that brave? Try this daily regimen:
What are your favorite acne treatments and regimens?
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!