Thursday, July 31, 2014

Digital Detox

Welcome to the digital age! As a society, we’ve all grown accustomed to instant access to information via electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, and smart phones. In fact, we often panic if we’re away from electronic devices for too long, a term known as fear of missing out (FOMO). If you’ve questioned this reliance on digital devices for you and your family members and feel a break might be necessary, read on for information regarding a digital detox.

What is a digital detox?

A digital detox is either a formal or informal program designed to give electronics users a break from their reliance on digital devices. From a Digital Blackout Challenge, which is a detox week, to a Tech Timeout, a program that has family members commit to a certain amount of non-tech time on a weekly basis, there are programs that help guide family members in effectively taking a break from electronics.

Ill effects of technology on health:

Trouble preserving thoughts in long-term memory due to “split focus.”
Difficulty filtering out irrelevant information.
Chronically distracted.
Adverse affect on vision.

According to this article, there are no findings to support the theory that cell phone radiation causes disease such as cancer. However, research supports the theory that technology can have negative impact on overall health in a number of ways. For instance, Dr. Guy Meadows, author of “The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night,” has seen an increasing number of patients with insomnia due to their inability to put down their gadgets. Performing just two or three tasks at the same time, such as texting, watching TV, and spending time on the computer, puts far more demand on the brain in general, which can lead to difficulty with long-term memory. Some attribute poor communication and social skills in kids to our society’s increased reliance on technology.

Effective ways to detox:

1. Set a time frame for a digital detox. Some suggest starting with one day, such as a Sunday, and progressing to a weekend or even a detox week.
2. Notify necessary individuals you’ll be unavailable. For instance, your boss, clients, and other family members might grow concerned if unable to reach you.
3. Have a plan for emergencies. For example, decide how your children will communicate with you if they’re away from home.
4. Don’t treat the detox as a punishment.
5. Plan to do something fun with the detox time. A family activity is a great way to use the free time.

Benefits of a digital detox:

The detox provides a break from information overload and overstimulation from technology.
It allows for reevaluation of the use of technology.
The break encourages setting boundaries and limits for technology use. Living without constant access to information, even temporarily, makes you realize you can.
Kids learn how to do nothing, a valuable tool for life.

How to set healthy limits with technology:

Have a “no texting” rule at dinner. Encourage conversation with the family instead.
Set a good example. If your kids see parents who are constantly glued to their phones and/or computers, they are likely pick up and exhibit the same habits.
Emphasize the importance of finding balance in life with technology.

Additional information on digital detox:

Visit or for valuable information.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What the Heck Is Astragalus Root Anyway?

Astragalus (pronounced like this) is a plant that grows wild in Asia. Its dried roots are considered medicinal in several parts of Asia, where it's liquid extract form is used in clinics and hospitals, often injected directly into the body. In the US, you can find Astragalus root in health food stores usually as a tablet, capsule, or as a liquid extract. But what the heck is it? Is it safe to take, and are there real benefits?

Health Benefits of Astragalus Root

The natural properties of Astragalus root allow it to be classed as an adaptogenic herb – one that protects your body from mental, emotional, or physical stress. It is also known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Claims of Astragalus health benefits include the following:
  • Immune system protection and support
  • Preventing upper respiratory infections
  • Diabetes treatment
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Liver protection
  • Healing skin wounds
  • Antidiarrheal support
Though not a health benefit per se, the gummy sap of the Astragalus plant is sometimes used as a thickener in ice cream, and even as a denture adhesive.

But Does Astragalus Research Support Health Claims?

There is a surprisingly large number of astragalus studies although, not surprisingly, most of the research in in Asian countries where the herb is more widely known and used.  These Asian studies (see footnotes here and here) generally support the health claims related to astragalus as an antioxidant and as a means of improving heart health and lowering cholesterol.

Research on astragalus in the U.S. also supports the use of astragalus to undergird the immune system after its been stressed by chemotherapy or radiation. In one study, Astragalus supplementation not only accelerated cancer patient recovery but also increased their longevity.

But some of the most compelling recent studies on astragalus – including one in Spain and one in the U.S. – show strong evidence that astragalus can have a positive effect on our telomeres – the part of our DNA strands that effect our longevity.  Scientists believe that the shortening of the telomeres equates to shortening of life.  Thus, some theorize that, if we can prevent or slow the telomeres from shortening, we can dramatically increase longevity and health. 

In the 2011 Spanish cancer research, reported in Aging Cell, scientists identified a compound in Astragalus that also activates telomerase, not only increasing the health span of adult mice, but significantly increased average telomere length, which resulted in improvements in glucose tolerance, osteoporosis symptoms, and skin fitness.

Any Astragalus Risks or Astragalus Side Effects?

Astragalus is generally considered safe for adults with no serious side effects. That said, there are some situations in which astragalus should not be taken.
  • For some people, astragalus may have a mild diuretic effect – a useful thing if you are trying to get rid of excess fluid, but a potential risk if you are already dehydrated.
  • Because Astragalus may stimulate the immune system, there could be undesirable side effects for those with autoimmune diseases.
  • Some health practitioners advise against using any adaptogenic herb regularly for long time periods, but rather switching every month or so to a different adaptogen. Here's a list of adaptogenic herbs you could choose to rotate through.
  • Use caution if you have allergies to legumes; those who do often have allergies to astragalus as well.
  • Don't use astragalus if you are using immune system suppressant drugs or lithium.
To be safe, it's best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication or herb.  

Expand your Knowledge

Now that you have a conversational understanding of astragalus and its potential benefits, you can expand your wherewithal on several other complementary health practices, health foods, and herbal buzzwords by checking out our other "what the heck" articles, such as What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway?, What the Heck are Antioxidants Anyway?, What the Heck Are Bioflavonoids Anyway?, What the Heck are Superfoods anyway?and What the Heck is Detoxing Anyway?

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Watermelon–A Health Food!

Here’s more good news on your favorite summer foods.  First, we shared the health benefits of pineapple.  Now, we tell you why watermelon is not just a sweet summer treat, but a year-round healthy addition to your diet, and maybe even to your love life. 

Watermelon Health Benefits

You may have been told long ago that a watermelon is a great way to conquer thirst because it’s largely comprised of water (it is called a watermelon, after all).  True enough: At 92 percent water content, watermelon is a killer way to hydrate.  But that other 8 percent of the watermelon is quite impressive too – so much so that watermelon made the list on the not-for-profit site (World's Healthiest Foods).  Here are seven reasons to add watermelon to your diet:

1.  Watermelon may equate to cancer protection

Watermelon is one of your best sources of lycopene. It contains even more lycopene than raw tomatoes, and in a more bioavailable form. Many studies have shown lycopene to be a protective agent in the fight against cancer.  And if you like the color of watermelon, thank lycopene, it's red pigmentation. 

2.  Watermelon helps with heart disease

Watermelon is heart-healthy for several reasons:
  • Watermelon contains the amino acid citrulline, which is beneficial to the entire circulatory system, and particularly the heart.
  • Watermelon contains a generous portion of potassium and magnesium – both good for the heart.
  • Watermelon’s lycopene content has been shown in studies to help prevent heart disease, and even protect the DNA contents of white blood cells. 
Not a fan of spitting watermelon seeds?  Here's a surprising bonus; the seedless variety of watermelon has more lycopene than seeded watermelon. 

3.  Watermelon ingredients repair cellular damage

A serving of watermelon is packed with over 12,000 IUs of vitamin A, providing you precisely the recommended daily amount.  Vitamin A is an important part of your body's ability to neutralize free radicals (What the Heck Are Free Radicals Anyway?) that, if not neutralized, can accelerate aging, damage tissue, and harm the body at the cellular level.

4.  Watermelon is vitamin C-dense

While a cup of watermelon only has 20 percent of the recommended daily minimum amount of vitamin C, let's not forget that:
  • Watermelon is more than 92 percent water, which means it is incredibly low in calories (45 per cup).  Per calorie, you're actually getting a whopping amount of vitamin C.
  • Who can eat just one cup of watermelon?  Have three and you’re more than half way to the RDA.
Like vitamin A, vitamin C is another important antioxidant, increasing the body's ability to fight illness.

5. Watermelon may be the next Viagra replacement!

A study in 2008 determined that the watermelon ingredient citrulline appears to deliver a Viagra-like effect on the body, relaxing the blood vessels.  PubMed confirms that citrulline is converted during consumption to arginine, and arginine pumps up the body's nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels. Scientists in this study even believe that this key ingredient in watermelon may someday be used to treat or even prevent erectile dysfunction. 

6.  Watermelon may control fat accumulation

Though the research is new in this area, scientists now suspect that watermelon’s citrulline content affects the body fat “deposition” – how and how much fat gets deposited.  In preliminary studies, high amounts citrulline in the diet generates peptides that block the enzymes that our fat cells use to create fat.  Although testing has only been done in animals so far, researchers suspect that citrulline in food may eventually be used to prevent over-accumulation of body fat.

7.  Watermelon is a healthy alternative to certain pre-workout and post workout supplements

Body builders and endurance athletes often take an arginine supplementation before a workout for its performance-enhancing benefits, including reducing fatigue during exercise.  As well, athletes sometimes use arginine supplementation after a workout to enhance post-exercise metabolic responses and for recovery benefits.

While some studies support the exercise benefit of citrulline, there are concerns over the safety of other ingredients found in many of the exercise supplements on the market.  If you want to boost your performance by increasing citruline, why not do so by consuming watermelon instead of supplements?  The citruline in watermelon is indisputably bioavailable, and packed with other antioxidant nutrients that will also aid in workout recovery.

Other watermelon benefits and watermelon information

While it may seem to be stretch, you can even use a watermelon as a kind of canteen.  According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, early explorers used watermelons as canteens.  Two ways to do this: 
  1. Hollow out the watermelon using this method to use the watermelon as a water carrier. 
  2. Just carry a fresh watermelon in your backpack.  Its 92-percent water content makes watermelon a flavorful hydration pack! 
Finally, if you prefer seeded watermelon, here’s good news; watermelon seeds have a little iron and zinc.  Though small in quantity, studies show that the iron and zinc in the seeds is up to 90 percent bioavailable. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


You may have heard about or know someone who has had a disease called shingles. What do you need to know about this painful condition?  How can you keep your family members healthy?

What is shingles?

Shingles is a disease that causes a painful, burning, itching, or tingling sensation on one side of your body or face. A rash of blister-like sores typically accompanies the discomfort of the skin. The varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that triggers chickenpox, causes the disease.  Left untreated, shingles can lead to complications such as nerve damage or vision loss.

Who is at risk of developing shingles?

  •   Individuals who have had chickenpox.
  •  Women.
  • Those over 50 years of age; the risk increases as you get older.
  • People under extreme stress.
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system.

Can you prevent shingles?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the shingles vaccine is the only prevention against the disease. There is no guarantee that the vaccine will ward off the disease, but experts agree it will minimize symptoms and possible complications.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

  • Pain, itching, or tingling of the skin.
  • A painful rash of blister-like sores, which usually develop 1-5 days after the onset of skin discomfort. In some instances, people do not develop a rash.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Headache.
  • Upset stomach.

Keep in mind, shingles usually only affects one side of your body and/or face.

How is shingles diagnosed?

Usually your physician can diagnose shingles from the pain you’re experiencing and/or the rash. In some instances, a tissue culture or swab of a blister may be sent to a laboratory for examination.

What is the treatment for shingles?

  • Antiviral medications: will help shorten the length and severity of your outbreak.
  • Pain medications: may help relieve the pain of shingles.
  • Topical treatments: wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may relieve itching of the skin.

*Remember to use your FamilyWize Discount Prescription Drug Card to receive discounts on any medications your healthcare provider might prescribe.

What’s the connection between shingles and chickenpox?

Shingles and chickenpox are both caused by the same virus, varicella-zoster. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in certain nerves in your body; you may develop shingles if the virus is reactivated. You will not develop shingles if you have not had chickenpox first.

Is shingles contagious?

Yes, it can be. Typically, direct contact through the open sores associated with shingles can result in “catching” the virus. If you have not had chickenpox, the virus will present as chickenpox if you catch it.

What’s the latest news on shingles?

A recent report in the British Medical Journal indicates that individuals with immunosuppressive conditions, such as HIV and leukemia, are at highest risk of developing shingles. Yet, due to safety concerns, these same individuals should not receive the shingles vaccine. As a result, researchers recognize the importance of finding ways to reduce to risk of shingles among patients with immunosuppression.

Where can you learn more about shingles?

Check out,, or for additional information regarding this disease.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Top 8 Health Benefits of Pineapple

Can it be that something as tasty as pineapple can also be good for you?  Indeed, yes!  You may be surprised to know that pineapple has many health benefits.  Here are the top 8 reasons you should include pineapple in your diet.

1.  Pineapple’s goodness is well packaged by nature

Unlike many other fruits, we don't eat the outer shell of the pineapple fruit. Consequently, consuming pineapple naturally presents less risk of exposure to pesticides and herbicides compared to most other fruits.

2.  Pineapple is low on bad stuff

Depending on your dietary needs, you may benefit from the low-sodium, low-fat, and low-cholesterol properties of pineapple.

3.  Pineapple is vitamin-rich

While pineapple is low on sodium, fat, and cholesterol, pineapple contains many beneficial vitamins. A one-cup serving of pineapple provides:
  • Vitamin C – as much as 131 percent of the daily adult requirement.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the body's immune system and can prevent infections.
  • Vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 – 8.6 percent and 9 percent, respectively, of your daily adult requirement.  Vitamin B helps your body metabolize protein and fats.

4.  Pineapple is mineral-rich too!

As well as providing many vitamins, pineapple is also a source of these two essential minerals:
  • Copper – 9 percent of the adult daily requirement.  Copper aids in proper physical growth, iron absorption, and healthy aging. Dietary copper is also beneficial for connective tissues, hair, and eyes.
  • Folate – Pineapple contains 7.4 percent of your adult daily requirement.  Folate, also known as vitamin B 12 or folic acid, aids the body in many ways, including cell maintenance, cell repair, and metabolism.

5. Pineapple is a healthy source of dietary fiber

Getting the right amount of fiber in your diet ensures proper food digestion.  Fiber also reduces hunger sensations, making you feel more full, which can be useful if you are trying to lose weight.  As well, many studies show that fiber can reduce your risk of heart disease.  A cup of pineapple will get you 6 to 11 percent of your daily recommended intake. 

6.  Pineapple may reduce cancer risk

Ever hear of bromelain?  Bromelain is a compound found only in the fruit pulp and stem of pineapples. According to several studies, including one in 2008 by Duke University, testing with bromelain enzyme supplements, researchers concluded that bromelain can reduce your risk of acquiring ulcerative colitis, and even appears to inhibit cancer cell growth.

7. Pineapple may reduce asthma and arthritis symptoms

The bromelain in pineapple has also been shown to possess anti-inflammatory characteristics, potentially giving arthritis and asthma sufferers a natural way of reducing symptoms.  This anti-inflammatory benefit appears to be most effective when bromelain is consumed with certain other supplemental compounds, namely trypsin and rutosid.  The combination appears to be just about as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are at reducing osteoarthritis inflammation.

8.  Pineapple retains its nutritional value longer

As you probably know, most fruits begin to oxidize and lose their nutritional value after being exposed to air. But, according to a study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, pineapple that has been cut open and chilled lost only trace amounts of its nutritional content after six days. Consequently, cubed pieces of fresh pineapple are an effective way to add zest to your workplace lunch or at a picnic, even if prepared the night before.

health risks of pineapple?

For the most part, the health benefits of pineapple far outweigh any health risks it may present. But you should be aware that pineapple, like most fruits, is high in sugar. While natural sources of sugar are generally believed to be much healthier for us then processed sugars, any sugar will be high in calories and can has the potential to negatively affect individuals with insulin sensitivities. 

Pineapple Recipes

Not all good-for-you foods are tasty, but pineapple certainly is.  To get the most out of your enjoyment of this tropical fruit, try some of these delicious pineapple recipes.
Isn't it nice to know that something as tasty as pineapple can also be good for you?  If you have any healthy pineapple recipes, please post them using the comments. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What do you need to know about travel immunizations?

Are you planning to travel this summer? Depending upon your destination, immunizations might be necessary to ensure the safety and well being of you and your family members. Check out the guidelines below and consult your healthcare practitioner prior to traveling.

What routine vaccines are suggested?

Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
Varicella (chickenpox)
Annual flu shot

What are the most common additional vaccines needed for travel?

Hepatitis A and/or B

Check out this website, which provides comprehensive details regarding specific vaccines necessary for a variety of destinations, including travel within the country as well as abroad.

Examples of how diseases may be contracted while traveling:

Typhoid fever: You may contract this condition by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the Salmonella Typhi bacteria while traveling. It is more common in underdeveloped parts of the world.
Rabies: You can easily contract rabies through a bite from an infected animal.
Hepatitis A: This form of hepatitis may be passed from an individual with the virus, such as a food worker, through an action as simple as improper handwashing. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice and water may be contaminated, too.

Should you be concerned about adverse reactions to immunizations?

Reactions are typically rare, but they can occur.
Ask your doctor for a list of any symptoms you should be aware of that might indicate a reaction.
Call your doctor or healthcare provider immediately at any sign of distress or reaction.

Are there factors that can increase your risk of exposure to infectious disease while traveling?

Yes, according to experts at, the following can put you at greater risk of becoming ill while traveling:

Visits to more rural areas, such as farms, zoos, and other animal habitats.
Engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking and backpacking.
Staying with locals.
Extended stays.

What should you take with you while traveling to ensure a safe trip?

1. A list of allergies and medications you’re taking.
2. Your doctor’s contact information.
3. A list of immunizations and the dates they were received.

What you should know before you go:

The location of the nearest hospital or clinic.
Guidelines for your insurance covering you while traveling.
How to get emergency assistance while traveling outside the U.S. Check out this site. 

Helpful travel hints:

*It’s ideal to visit your doctor 4-6 week before your trip. This will allow adequate time to receive vaccines and any medications you may require.
*Keep away from animals you meet while traveling, especially if you don’t know their health history and if they’ve been properly vaccinated.
*Choose food and drinks wisely. For instance, in some areas, it’s advisable to drink bottled water.
*Always check with your doctor before traveling if you have a compromised immune system or other health concerns.

Where can you learn more?

Check out sites such as or for valuable information regarding safe travel.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sunscreen or Sun Exposure–Which is Worse?

Is Sunscreen Bad for You?

We all know that too much sun is certainly bad for us, if not from the pain of sunburn then from the long-term consequences of sun exposure, such as the risk of deadly melanoma skin cancer.

Recently however, new studies and data indicate that our reliance on sunscreen lotions or sprays for protection could potentially be a big mistake.  Some reports indicate that certain ingredients in modern sunscreens present health risks.  As well,the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified two major problems regarding sunscreen usage, both related to human error: improper application and over-reliance on sunscreen.

Sunscreen danger #1: Improper application

Even when we take the precaution of applying sunscreen before going out, FDA research indicates that, too often, we do not properly apply sunscreen. Common errors in sunscreen application include:
  • Not applying enough sunscreen: According to research, the amount of sunscreen we apply is often insufficient for adequate protection.
  • Not applying sunscreen evenly:  Most often, people apply sun screen lotion on themselves. But it is very difficult to apply sunscreen evenly and thoroughly even on someone else – nearly impossible to do so on ourselves, especially on the back. Missing a single spot exposes the sunbather to harmful sunrays and potential burn.
  • Inhaling sunscreen spray vapor: Many of the chemical ingredients of sunscreen are only considered safe for external use. However, the increasing popularity of sunscreen sprays increases the need for caution when applying them, avoiding contact with the mouth or nose.
  • Not reapplying sunscreen often enough:  Most sunscreens recommend reapplying after a certain amount of time. The FDA warns that there is no such thing as a truly waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen.  Water resistant, yes. Waterproof: no. This is why the FDA recommends re-applying sunscreen every two hours, or even more often if the sunscreen labeling recommends it and if you are going in and out of the water or are perspiring significantly.  New labeling standards from the FDA require manufacturers to identify the water resistance timeframe.

Sunscreen danger #2: Over-reliance on sunscreen

In the days before there was any such thing as sunscreen lotion, people still protected themselves from sunburn by using certain common sense practices, such as covering exposed skin with clothing, limiting the amount of time spent in the sun, or avoiding sun exposure during the hottest part of the day.
Too often these days, common sense practices have been replaced by a strong reliance on the protective properties of sunscreen lotions and sunscreen sprays. But, as noted above, all it takes is one missed area of skin exposure when applying sunscreen to leave you or your child vulnerable to sunburn and its potentially long-lasting dangers.

Sunscreen danger #3: dangerous sunscreen ingredients

Some of the ingredients found in certain sunscreen formulas may be best avoided:
  • Vitamin A.  While vitamin A is generally assumed to be good for us, a recent study showed that the form of vitamin A often used in lotions, retinyl palmitate, can actually accelerate the development of skin tumors and lesions if applied to your skin in sunlight.
  • Petroleum-based fragrances. Those tropical scents that you enjoy when applying sunscreen can be problematic. For some, allergic reactions are common. For all, the petroleum-based fragrances commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to skin tumors.
  • Nanoparticles. Many sunscreen lotions with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as ingredients contain nanoparticles – microscopic particles about the same width as a human hair.  Some research indicates that nanoparticles can present health risks, depending on their size and shape – something completely unregulated today.
  • Oxybenzone. - One of the most popular ingredients in modern sunscreens, oxybenzone is a chemical known to disrupt hormones, with the risk being highest for children.

Solutions for safe sun exposure

There are many ways you can safely enjoy your time in the sun.  Recommendations from the FDA and other sources include the following:
  • Follow the recommendations in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide to avoid potentially harmful sunscreen ingredients.
  • Use sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.
  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is when sunrays are most dangerous.
  • Cover skin exposed to the sun with clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and broad-brimmed hats. And protect the eyes with sunglasses.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and even more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
  • When using spray sunscreens, avoid spraying anywhere near the mouth or nose. The safer solution: use the spray on your hands, and then use your hands to transfer the lotion carefully to the face.
Beyond the steps to protect yourself, the FDA continues to take steps to protect the public. The measures they have recently taken or are in the process of taking include the following:
  • Finalizing regulations to establish standards for testing the effectiveness of sunscreen products and require labeling that accurately reflects test results
  • Proposing a regulation to limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labeling to “SPF 50+” (According to FDA research, there is no advantage to going higher than SPF 50)
  • Performing a data request to have identified the relative safety and effectiveness for different kinds of sunscreen products (e.g., sprays vs. lotions, etc.)
  • Creating guidance for sunscreen manufacturers on how to test and label their products in light of these new with
  • Requiring sunscreen manufacturers to meet certain minimum standards in order to use the labeling "broad-spectrum"
Following these guidelines, you should still be able to enjoy your time in the sun.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Scream for Ice Cream Recipes!

A U.S. president has so much to do, what with economic challenges, military threats and whatnot, but somehow Ronald Reagan had a few spare moments in 1984 to designate July as National Ice Cream Month. To celebrate, check out this guidance on selecting ice cream making machines, plus a few amazing ice cream recipes, some even guilt-free! 

But first, here's a little ice cream history that may surprise you. While ice cream is a pretty big deal in the U.S., enjoyed by 9 out of 10 of us, its history can be traced over 2,000 years, back to when a snow-ice version of it was enjoyed by earlier Europeans.  The mixture we’ve come to know and love, with cream, sugar, and eggs, came about in the 19th century.

Make your own ice cream

Nothing tastes like homemade ice cream, especially on a sweltering July night. Rather than loading up the car for a family trip to your nearest dairy treat store, why not make up a batch yourself. 
Even better than “by yourself,” make it together with your spouse or your kids, so that homemade ice cream can also be a family bonding time that will make for a lifetime of memories. 

Ice Cream Maker or No Ice Cream Maker? You have options!

There’s more than one way to churn up a frozen ice cream recipe:
  • Hand crank ice cream makers. Yes, you can still buy these! While it’s a lot more work, you can feel better about the incoming calories knowing that you’ve burned off a few just making the treat. They also tend to be cheaper than electric options, and have no motor to burn out.
  • Electric ice cream makers. Traditional-style electric ice cream makers have a metal canister in the middle with room around it for ice and salt (the combination lowers the temperature). Electric power sets the canister ingredients in motion until it reaches the desired thickness.
  • Frozen container ice cream machines. This style of ice cream maker requires no ice or salt. Instead, you freeze the canister for several hours and
  • Skip the ice cream machine. Truth is, you don’t even need a machine to make some frozen ice cream or similar frozen treats. We’ve got a few such recipes below.

Our favorite homemade ice cream recipes

Traditional ice cream recipes

If you're new to making homemade ice cream or using an ice cream maker, these classic ice cream recipes are a good place to start.
  • Begin with the top-rated recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream at
  • Move to the head of the class with this classic Strawberry Ice Cream recipe with just four ingredients.
  • Graduate to this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream recipe – a great way to make use of those summer mint leaves around your property. The trick to its rich and smooth flavor? Cream cheese!

Wild and crazy ice cream recipes

Ready to experiment a little? Have a little fun with these unique ice cream recipes that may wake up your imagination and your taste buds.
  • Dirty Chai Ice Cream – If you enjoy the flavor of coffee and chai tea, here's a tasty dessert-oriented way to mix the two flavors. But don’t worry - chilled espresso is what makes it “dirty,” not dirt. 
  • Breakfast ice cream?  Can’t wait to get some ice cream into your day? Add a cup or so of Post Golden Crisp Cereal or Kellogg's Fruit Loops cereal to a quart of vanilla ice cream and call it breakfast.
Machine-optional ice cream recipes
If you don't have an ice cream maker, or just don't feel like having to clean one up afterwards, here are some killer recipes for satisfying your ice-cold smooth treat fixation:
  • Pumpkin Soft-Serve “Ice Cream” - This blender-based recipe is not only creamy and rich, but super healthy, substituting coconut milk and almond butter for cream.
  • Sweet Cream Custard. This low carb machine-free recipe is so easy, the whole thing's right here. Simply combine in a mixer and 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup of your favorite artificial sweetener (sucralose or xylitol work well) 2 tablespoons of whole-milk ricotta cheese, and optionally add a quarter teaspoon of vanilla
  • whip until stiff peaks form. Scoop and freeze for a creamy treat.
Healthy Ice Cream Recipes
Watching your weight, or trying to avoid dairy? Good news – either of these options will help: 
Got a favorite ice cream recipe you'd like to share? Use the comment fields below to give us "the scoop!"

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot cars, children, and pets – a deadly combination

Each year approximately 38 individuals die due to being left in hot cars, according to San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences. The mix can be deadly for pets, too.  How can you keep your family safe in vehicles this summer season?

How hot does a vehicle get in summer?

According to this site, a vehicle’s temperature can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. On what seems to be a mild day, the inside of a car can quickly become like an oven.

How can a hot vehicle affect children or pet?

Heat stress, heat stroke, a form of hypothermia, suffocation, and irreversible organ damage are all possible risks of being left in a hot vehicle. A hot vehicle can mean danger for the elderly and disabled individuals, too.

Symptoms of heat stress include:

Difficulty breathing or heavy breathing
Glassy eyes
Rapid pulse

Why are hot cars more deadly for certain individuals and pets?

The bodies of children and elderly adults don’t regulate temperature as well as others. As a result, their body temperatures rise 3-5 times faster than that of a healthy adult’s.
In some cases, they can’t let you know they’re hot and uncomfortable even if they realize they are.

Common reasons animals or kids are left in cars:

Even when individuals are aware of the dangers of leaving children, certain adults, or pets in a car, many are still left behind for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

The errand will only take 5 minutes.  In reality, the errand takes longer than just a few minutes, the vehicle quickly heats up, and the individual or pet you’ve left behind is in danger.
There’s a change in routine. In some cases, children are left in a car by the parent who doesn’t normally drop the child off at daycare or school. While this isn’t done intentionally, it can happen to the best of parents when there’s a change in routine.
Driver distraction. You receive a phone call or make an unexpected stop on your way to daycare or school. When you arrive at your destination, you’ve forgotten you have a passenger in the vehicle.
I left the window cracked or the car running with the air conditioning on.  According to the Humane Society, neither of these measures will compensate for the temperature rising in the vehicle.

The National Safety Council recommends:

Place something important, such as your wallet, on the backseat floor of your vehicle, so you’ll open the back door of the vehicle when you reach your destination.
Set up a system with your childcare provider or your child’s school to call you if your child does not arrive by a designated time.
Always check the front and back of your vehicle before locking the doors and walking away.
Have a routine of placing a stuffed animal or doll in your child’s car seat when it’s not in use. Move the object to the front seat when your child occupies the car seat as a reminder that your child is in the car.
Keep vehicles locked when they’re not in use so children can’t wander in by themselves.
If a child goes missing, immediately check vehicles and their trunks.

Help prevent this dangerous occurrence by sharing information regarding the danger of hot vehicles with others!

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Caution: Summer Sun Affects Medications!

Enjoy the warmth and sun of summer, but heed these warnings. Not only can some medicines be harmed by heat or sunlight, but you can be harmed by the sun when you are taking certain medications.

There are several risks related to sun and medicine. In a nutshell, these include:
  • Sun-damaged drugs – pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs that lose potency or become unstable when exposed to heat
  • Phototoxic reactions – dangerous physical conditions (including cell death) resulting from ordinary sun exposure when taking certain medications
  • Photoallergic reactions – Skin rashes resulting from UV light/sun exposure with some drugs
  • Compromised physical abilities – negative effects on your body's ability to respond to normal physical stresses when taking certain drugs
To be prepared, let's look at each of these four sunlight-drug interaction risks.

Medications Harmed by Summer Heat

Many prescription drug do not store well at higher temperatures, leading to rapid potency degradation. If you read your medications' fine print, you’ll find that many common prescription medicines should be stored at normal room temperatures: roughly mid-70s (f). With some medicines, the drug’s stability may be able to withstand a brief time of moderately elevated temperatures, but usually that still assumes maintaining it at less than 90 degrees (f). This means that:
  • You may want to discontinue ordering any prescriptions by mail delivery during high heat seasons, as they will likely be exposed to prolonged and damaging high temperatures during transport. During the summer, consider instead buying your drugs at a local store, or using overnight delivery of your mailed medications.
  • If you lose your home air conditioning due to electrical failure, or don’t have air conditioning and may experience heat in the 80s or higher in your home, have a plan B for your pharmaceuticals, such as keeping them in the basement, in a cooler (in a plastic bag for moisture protection) with some ice, or at a neighbor’s air-conditioned home.
  • If you’re traveling in summer by car or by air, your drugs may be at risk of slowly “cooking” at temperatures above their safe zone in your car’s trunk or while your suitcase is baking in the sun on an airport’s tarmac. If you must travel in hot weather with your medications, consider keeping them in a purse with you; if you’re uncomfortably warm, then your drugs are at heat risk.
Be alert in hot climates to any changes in your health that might indicate a potency problem with your drugs, and let your doctor know of your concerns. Also, talk with your medical insurance provider, as they may have replacement coverage for your heat damaged medications.

To see if any of your prescription drugs are temperature sensitive, look them up on

Certain Drugs Increase Sensitivity to Sun

Photoallergic drug interactions
Some medications can cause your body to react to the presence of ultraviolet (UV) rays, such as those naturally present in sunlight. If you are taking these drugs, you can easily become sunburned with considerably less time in the sun than you can handle normally. Another common reaction is developing a spreading rash that resembles eczema.

This photosensitivity from drugs occurs with several types of common prescription and non-prescription medications, including certain antibiotics, antidepressants, diuretics (water pills), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and sulfonamides (sulfa drugs).

Phototoxic drug interactions
Having certain medications in or on your body can result in abnormal sun sensitivity, known as a phototoxic reaction. Phototoxicity occurs when the drug reacts to the sun's UV light, spreading throughout your body, and resulting in cell death. Phototoxic damage can often be long-lasting, even up to 20 years. Phototoxic drug categories include certain NSAIDs (including ibuprofen) and many tetracycline drugs, as well as some heart medications.
How to avoid phototoxic and photo allergic reactions
To find out if a drug you are taking may result in photoallergic or phototoxic reactions, talk with your doctor or perform a search for the medication on

If it is necessary for you to continue taking a drug that can cause photoallergic or phototoxic physical responses, protect yourself by avoiding direct sunlight, wearing sunblock, and donning protective clothing.

Overheating and Other Physical Risks

Some drugs affect blood flow to your skin and your ability to sweat. These interactions can cause you to overheat easily in the heat of summer. Other drugs can cause dehydration, which also limits your ability to perform physically demanding tasks.

These drugs cross many categories of pharmaceuticals, including certain water pills, recreational drugs, allergy and cold medicines, antidepressants, stimulants, blood pressure medications, and psychiatric medicines.

Given the seriousness of these reactions, which could lead to life-threatening conditions, it is important to curtail or carefully monitor physical effort during hotter seasons when taking medication. Talk with your doctor to make sure you are fully aware of the over-the-counter medications or prescription medicines you take that can affect your body's physical abilities.

General Sun Safety

To make sure you can fully enjoy your time in the sun this summer, become knowledgeable about the potential sun-medication interaction risks of any drugs you are taking, and follow standard sun safety and heat safety procedures, such as protecting your skin with sunblock and appropriate clothing, and limiting direct sun exposure.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer