Healthy Lifestyle

Taking Care of Your Liver

The liver is our largest internal organ, roughly the size of a football and is positioned under the lower rib cage on the right side of the body. It’s also considered a gland because it secretes chemicals used in other bodily functions. The liver is essential for survival as it helps clean our blood by eliminating harmful chemicals, produces bile which helps us break down fats in food and turns glucose into glycogen and stores it for when the body needs a quick burst of energy.

Liver cells also make many proteins required for blood clotting and the maintenance of fluid within the circulatory system. Detoxification is another key responsibility; it converts ammonia into urea which is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. It also breaks down alcohol, drugs, medication, insulin and hormones in the body. Finally, the liver acts as a storage unit in the body for vitamin B12, A, D and K as well as folic acid and iron.

With all of the important processes your liver is responsible for,  it makes sense to take really good care of it! Here are some ways to keep it in tip top shape. . .

  • Moderate your alcohol intake. It can damage the cells of the organ and leads to scarring called cirrhosis, which can be deadly. The National Institue on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism defines moderate intake as up to four alcholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day with a maximum of 14 weekly drinks for men and 7 drinks for women. 
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Doing so will keep you from the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which also leads to cirrhosis.
  • Watch your intake of painkillers such as acetaminophen as it is damaging to the liver if taken too much.

A healthy diet is also beneficial to the liver. Check back with us next week when we’ll share several foods that are beneficial to the health of your liver!

 

#TBT – Rose – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. In honor of Valentine’s Day we are focusing on the rose!

Fossil evidence dates the rose as 35 million years old and there are around 150 species spread through the world. The Chinese were most likely the first culture to begin garden cultivation of roses, some 5,000 years ago. Throughout time the rose has come to symbolize romantic love and you are bound to love some of the surprising health benefits of this sweet smelling queen of flowers.

Dietary Benefits

Rose hips, the flowers which have swollen to seed are commonly used in tea and have been used throughout the ages to aid in relieving bladder infections, menstrual cramps and diarrhea. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, a natural antioxidant which can block some of the damage that can result from exposure to toxins and helps to support the immune system The flower petals are also edible and can be mixed into salads! The petals contain polyphenols which research shows help to prevent cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis.

Skin and Hair Health

Rosewater is a perfect choice for sensitive and irritated skin. Along with balancing out oily skin, softening, deep cleansing and toning the skin, rosewater also provides relief from irritation and itching. Those battling acne will want to reach for the rosewater as it contains antibacterial properties to dry up the acne, a natural antiseptic called phenyl ethanol and its a good moisturizer to boot! Rose essential oil is also useful in maintaining a healthy scalp and hair and many swear by it’s ability to prevent hair loss.

Aromatherapy

No wonder the rose has become such a symbol of romance and considered an aphrodisiac. The scent of rose essential oil is known to boost the libido and reduce symptoms of sexual dysfunction. The oil has also been used to treat depression, stress, anxiety and headaches.

Ready to reap the rewards of the rose? Here are some links you might want to check out. . .

Rose Petal Iced Tea

Rosehip Jam

Homemade Rosewater

Stay Safe in the Snow – Hypothermia

In our third and final piece on how to Stay Safe in the Snow, we are sharing ways to avoid, recognize and treat hypothermia. In cold temperatures, the body cannot produce heat as fast as it’s losing it and this can lead to serious health problems. Hypothermia happens gradually and people become confused and unaware that this life threatening condition is happening to them.

Avoiding Hypothermia

  • Dress appropriately! Make sure areas most likely to be affected by frostbite are covered including your nose, ears, cheeks, chin and fingers. It is best to dress in layers and it’s best if the outer layer is something wind and waterproof. As for the inner layers, go for wool or fleece. Do not wear cotton as the base layer. Because cotton retains moisture, dries slowly and loses its thermal properties causing your core temperature to drop.
  • Carry at least one thermal heat blanket in your car’s emergency kit.
  • Avoid activities where you might sweat a lot if possible. Stay as dry as possible.
  • Rain, sweat or snow can cause hypothermia in temperatures as warm as 40 degrees Farenheit. Be aware!

Recognizing Hypothermia

  • Uncontrollable shivering means the body cannot warm itself.
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty forming thoughts/confusion
  • Lack of energy/unconsciousness
  • Weak pulse/shallow breathing

Treating Hypothermia

  • If you cannot call 911 or get emergency help, the first thing to do is seek any kind of shelter you can find, the warmer the better.
  • Remove wet clothes immediately. Get into dry clothes and/or  layers of blankets. Skin to skin contact is beneficial.
  • If using warming packs/compresses from a first aid kit, place them on the chest and groin area not the legs or arms. This will force cold blood to rush to the heart.
  • Do NOT drench the body in hot water or rub skin vigorously as this is too taxing on the heart.
  • It’s okay to drink warm liquids slowly but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Since skin may be numb, victims of frostbite may unintentionally harm themselves further. Do not walk on feet or toes affected by frostbite unless absolutely necessary for survival. Don’t rub or massage frostbit areas.Don’t use a fireplace, heat lamp, stove, heating pad or electric blanket for warming this can be damaging to the skin and if the heart is struggling, could cause cardiac arrest. It is good to place afflicted areas in warm-to-the-touch water, not hot.

#TBT – Eucalyptus – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today the spotlight is on eucalyptus!

Eucalyptus is a native plant of Australia where there are over 700 varieties. Aboriginal people considered them a general “cure-all” and the trees have been utilized for paper, mulch, fuel, as windbreakers and for fighting malaria. Because it has an extensive root system it can absorb large quantities of water and so it was intentionally planted in marshy, malaria infested areas to dry up the soil. The plant is also a good example of why humans have to be careful introducing non-native species. In the 1850’s during the California Gold Rush, thousands of acres of eucalyptus trees were planted in the state. Since the climate is similar to parts of Australia, the hope was that it could serve as a renewable source of timber for all sorts of construction including railroad ties for an ever expanding railroad system. However the timber wasn’t suitable for railroad ties as the wood has a tendency to twist when drying. Unfortunately eucalyptus trees release compounds which inhibit other plant species from growing nearby, it’s an invasive species and a fire hazard in a state plagued by drought and wildfires.

All that said, eucalyptus has some wonderful health and wellness benefits and has been used from ancient to modern times for respiratory ailments like bronchitis, coughs and flu. During World War 1, the oil was in high demand to help control a meningitis outbreak and as a treatment during the terrible influenza breakout in 1919. The plant is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, plus it’s a natural decongestant. Studies have shown that for people suffering from non-bacterial sinusitis, symptoms improve faster when given medicine containing eucalyptus oil. It’s also used as a remedy for sore throats and can provide relief when mixed with warm water and used as a gargle solution.

With it’s cool and refreshing smell, eucalyptus has also been used to do away with sluggishness and promote mental alertness. For those suffering from asthma, massaging a few drops onto the chest and inhaling the vapors helps to calm the throat and dilate blood vessels allowing more oxygen into the lungs. The oil is also useful in dental care, the treatment of lice, as a foot deodorizer and skin coolant and for sore muscles. Below are links to some ways to incorporate eucalyptus into your wellness routine.

Cooling Foot and Shoe Deodorizer

Homemade Chest Rub

Frozen Eucalyptus Towels

DIY Bath Salts/Benefits of Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt has many therapeutic qualities! Today we’ve got some reasons why this mineral compound, comprised of magnesium and sulfate, does wonders for the body and why you should incorporate a good soak in them to your wellness routine. We’ll also share some links to homemade bath salt recipes so you can try making your own concoctions to give to friends and family and enjoy yourself.

Magnesium deficiency is all too common and soaking in epsom salt can naturally boost internal levels of magnesium as it’s easily absorbed through the skin. This benefits many bodily functions including muscle control, boosting energy levels and the ability to eliminate harmful toxins. Epsom Salt also works to alleviate muscle tension, joint pain from inflammation and speeds up healing from bruises and sprains. Researchers have found that magnesium deficiency also has a profound effect on stress so a nice long soak in Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and the mind.

Epsom Salt also works wonders as a natural exfoliant to keep skin soft and smooth. It’s not as harsh as typical sodium chloride (table) salt so it’s less drying and irritating. The coarse texture is ideal for removing dead skin and it’s anti-inflammatory properties prevent irritation. You can also use it on hair that is prone to being oily in order to get more volume.  To do this, mix equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt and warming it in a pan. Work the warm mixture through your hair, leave on for 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly.  

Finally, it just feels heavenly to take a nice long soak in the tub! Here are links to several simple bath salt recipes for you to try out.

Lavender Mint Bath Salts

DIY Bath Bombs with Epsom Salt

Pink Lemonade Herbal Bath Fizzy

Candy Cane Bath Salts

Sinus Congestion Bath Soak

Vanilla Chai Scrub

Whole Foods Spotlight – Chickpeas

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf

It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition. . .including fiber rich chickpeas!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans or ceci, were one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains of chickpeas dating 7,500 years ago have been found in the Middle East where they remain a staple of the region’s various cuisines and they are enjoyed around the rest of the world as well. In fact, it’s the world’s second most widely grown legume just behind the soybean. Today, they are only found in the wild in areas of Turkey and Syria and it was likely domesticated there around 11,000 years ago.

Considered both a vegetable and protein, chickpeas are a staple in most vegetarian diets and are a great source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. A 1 cup serving provides 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. Fiber is one of many reasons to add this nutty legume to your diet. The average person needs about 21 to 38 grams of fiber a day and that serving of chickpeas meets about a third of your daily need. Fiber not only helps to keep you regular but chickpeas also contain soluble fiber which helps to lower bad cholesterol and thereby reduces hypertension and protects against heart disease.

You can find chickpeas dried, precooked/canned or precooked/frozen but many say that making them from scratch (in their dried form) leads to the best flavor and texture. If you do use the canned variety, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess sodium. If cooking the dried variety, be sure to soak them as you would any dried bean overnight prior to cooking them. This makes them more digestible, decreases cooking time and aids in nutrient absorption.

Need some recipe ideas to get you going? We’ve included links to a few recipes featuring the magnificent chickpea below!

Easy Chana Masala

Chickpea Avocado Feta Salad

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Hummus

Stay Safe in the Snow – Snow Shoveling Tips

 

Last week we gave you some suggestions for driving in the snow in part one of our Stay Safe in the Snow series. Today it’s snow shoveling tips as we focus on how to take care of your body when you have to shovel the snow away from steps, sidewalks and driveways. It’s really all about body mechanics. Snow shoveling is a rigorous task and one people can easily get hurt doing.

Snow Shoveling Tips:

  • First and foremost, check with your doctor if you are unsure of whether you are in healthy enough condition to be shoveling snow in the first place. Don’t be stubborn! Your life is worth more than a cleared sidewalk!
  • Stretch before you go out! The cold can be hard on your muscles. Limber up a little, for at least 10 minutes to warm up and to avoid strain. Concentrate on your lower back and hamstrings. Shoveling a driveway can burn up to 500 calories!
  • Be sure you are dressed for the weather. Layers of light, water-repellent clothing are best. Don’t forget a hat, gloves and slip-resistant boots.
  • Find a lightweight, ergonomic snow shovel. One with a curved handle or adjustable handle length will minimize bending.
  • Spray the shovel blade with cooking oil to keep snow from sticking. It’ll slide right off.
  • Pay attention to what’s around you. Watch where you are stepping and when shoveling near a street pay attention to the traffic since they may not have good traction in the snow and ice.
  • Push the snow when you can. Use your legs, not your back to lift the snow if you can’t push it.
  • Keep your back straight when you move from a squat to an upright position.
  • Hold the shovel close to your upper body. Keep one hand close to the blade of the shovel for better leverage.
  • Never twist your body as you throw snow. Your back will thank you! Use those shoulder muscles. Walk and dump it instead of throwing it.
  • Keep hydrated. Rest frequently and always ask for help if it’s just too much!

#TBT – Lavender – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on the sweet benefits of lavender!

One of the most popular herbs/flowers on the planet, lavender is believed to originate from the Meditteranean and parts of the Middle East and India. The name lavender has its roots in in the Roman word “lavare” which means “to wash” as it was used frequently to scent baths, hair and beds. The herb, which is a member of the mint family and contains high amounts of camphor, is known for deterring mice, fleas, mosquitos and other pests. Through the years, it gained quite  a reputation with ancient herbalists for its disinfecting and sanitizing abilities and it’s many healing qualities.

Here are some fun facts and uses for lavender . . .

  • In the language of flowers, lavender is associated with devotion, luck and success
  • High quality honey is often made from the nectar of the flowers
  • Most plants produce blue or purple flowers but there are some pink and yellow varieties
  • The herb is often used to promote sleepiness and calm relaxation
  • Lavender buds are covered in fine hairs which is where the oil comes from, extracted in a process called distillation
  • The plants do not produce seeds and are propagated by cutting or root divisions.
  • It is drought tolerant and can thrive even in very high temperatures
  • Lavender plants will attract bees and butterflies to your yard
  • A few whiffs of the oil are said to help with dizziness
  • According to some studies, in high doses it can destroy many common bacteria such as pneumococcus, streptococcus, diphtheria and typhoid
  • Highly beneficial in relieving muscle tension, aches, soreness and headaches
  • Used often in cooking meats and sweets, it’s part of the popular blend Herbes du Provence

 

DIY Lavender Sleep Balm

DIY Hand Sanitizer and Antiseptic Spray

Lavender Lemon Bars

Making a Healthy Smoothie

A well made smoothie is a delicious, simple and quick way to get in servings of fruits, veggies and protein. They are a favorite “on-the-go” breakfast for a lot of folks and can help keep you away from donut shops and drive throughs where you may be tempted to load up on empty carbohydrates. A well concocted smoothie made with natural, nutrient dense ingredients are a great source of vitamins and fats for complete nutrition. Dietary fat assists the body in absorbing vitamins and nutrients.

However, there are some things you could be doing that are limiting or working against nutritional benefits. So today we’ve got some do’s and don’ts when it comes to concocting a truly healthy smoothie.

What to avoid using in a smoothie

  • Store bought fruit juices which are typically laden with sugars and sometimes even high fructose corn syrup
  • Ice cream and sherbert
  • Chocolate syrups and powders
  • Milk that comes from cows treated with hormones and antibiotics
  • Commercial peanut butter (avoid ones with additional sweeteners and hydrogenated oils

What to choose when making a smoothie

  • Fresh and frozen fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Yogurt (organic, Greek, homemade)
  • Fresh fruit and veggie juices either extracted from a juicer or squeezed
  • Almond and coconut milk or organic cow’s milk
  • Fermented beverages like kefir and kombucha
  • Local honey, pure maple syrup
  • Raw nuts and nut butters
  • Hemp seeds and/or protein, chia and flax seeds
  • Cacao, aloe vera, spirulina
  • Herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, mint, etc.

Don’t forget the greens! Smoothies are a great way to reap the nutritional rewards of greens. Spinach, kale, collard greens, parsley, dandelion greens and watercress are all great choices and pair really well with fruits like apples, pears, bananas, mangoes and avocados. For those of you who really struggle getting those greens into your diet, this is the perfect option!

We’ve gathered up some links to several smoothie recipes to give you some inspiration. . .

Strawberry Spinach Green Smoothie

Kale Berry  with Almonds

Green Ginger Apple

Peach Mango Smoothie

Banana Kiwi Chia Seed 

Iodine Deficiency

The World Health Organization (WHO) regards iodine deficiency as the most prevalent yet easily preventable cause of impaired cognitive development of children around the world. In fact, they report that this deficiency affects 72% of the world’s population. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones which play a vital role in the development of most organs but especially the brain. Inadequate intake of this trace mineral can lead to disorders such as hypothyroidism, goiter, decreased fertility rate, increased infant mortality and increased cholesterol levels.

Iodine also has the following benefits

  • Aids in the removal of heavy metals and  toxic chemicals in the system
  • Boosts immunity
  • Stimulates the activity of antioxidants in the body
  • Aids in shiny hair and healthy skin
  • Prevents enlarged thyroid gland
  • Controls metabolic rate
  • Helps to maintain energy levels

The recommended daily intake for children ages 1- 8 is 90mcg. For kids 9-13: 120 mcg daily, 14 years and older: 150 mcg daily. Pregnant women are advised to have 290 mcg daily. Iodine does not occur naturally in specific foods like calcium, iron or vitamins do. Instead, it’s present in the soil and then ingested through foods grown on that soil. Seafood and sea vegetables are also a good source. Switzerland was the first country to add iodine to table salt in the 1920’s in an attempt to combat deficiency.

There are plenty of iodine rich food sources to add into your diet, including. . .

  • Seaweed, whole or 1 sheet can contain 11% to 1,989% of recommended daily intake! Nowhere is it as highly concentrated as in seaweeds. Kelp and bladderwrack have especially high levels. In Japan, consumption of iodine is 25% higher than compared to American intake due to a diet rich in seaweed. Studies are even being done that correlate breast cancer rates between the two countries to iodine intake.
  • Cod, 3 oz = 66%
  • Cranberries, 1oz = 60%
  • Plain yogurt, 1 cup = 50%
  • Shrimp, 3oz = 23%
  • Egg, 1 large = 16%
  • Dried Prunes, 5 pieces = 9%