Monday, April 15, 2013

Where are all these marathon runners coming from?

If you had told me three years ago that I would be running marathon races – 26.2 miles – I would've laughed at you, or at least thought that you were crazy. But it happened. I have become that crazy. In fact, I've now run three marathons, as well as many shorter races.  The craziest part:  it’s all been accomplished since taking up running just three years ago

And now I have to ask; how about you?  Have you ever thought about what it would be like to run a marathon? Can you picture yourself doing the full 26.2 miles of one?

If you are laughing at me right now, thinking that I must be crazy for even asking that question, you may be in for a surprise.  Is such a monumental physical challenge beyond you?  Consider this as we debunk three common reasons people assume that running is not for them.

Woman running on treadmill


Fallacy #1 – Distance running is for freaks of nature, not me.


Is it really so rare a thing to run a marathon?  No.  More people than ever are taking up marathon racing.  There were a total of 76,000 marathoners in 1976, but 299,000 marathon finishers in 2000.  And in 2011, that number had risen to over a half million!  Not so freaky or uncommon after all. 


Fallacy #2 – “I’m not a natural born runner.”


Au contraire, mon frère.  First, scientific evidence suggests that, as the best-selling book implies in its title, we are, as a species, Born to Run

Second, nearly every marathon runner I've known, and most of the many I’ve interviewed, did not consider themselves physically fit just three years before they ran their first marathon or half marathon (13.1 miles). 

Very few of them were high school track stars.  Few were lifelong runners.  So they obviously were not born into a running lifestyle or habit, but they somehow found the courage and stamina to take up distance running late in life.

Sure, the top runners in most races often have unique physical traits that allow them to become winners, but that doesn’t explain the other 99.99 percent of the runners competing in marathons and half marathons. 


Elderly people runningFallacy #3 – I’m too old to be a runner


How old is too old to run?  Apparently at least 102!  The world’s oldest marathon runner waited until he was 101 before hanging up his running shoes. 

While 101 is an anomaly, it’s still not correct to assume that marathon running is a younger person’s game.  To the contrary, statistics show that the average age of a marathoner is 39.  And if you’ve ever turned out to watch a marathon, you know that many marathon runners are in their 70s and 80s.

Even when you look at speed, distance running proves to be a great sport for the middle-aged.   Statistics indicate that the fastest average age group belongs to men between the ages of 40 and 44. 


Why the distance running phenomenon is occurring among average adults


It may seem crazy to consider running in a marathon if you’ve never done it, but there is a surprisingly large number of such “crazies” out there, going from a fairly sedentary lifestyle to doing marathons – and in a surprisingly short amount of time.  It is as though many thousands of people well into their adult years are somehow discovering their inner Olympian. 

In my case, I started running consistently (3 to 6 times weekly) less than four years ago. Since then, I've run one 5K race (about three miles), two 10K races, three half marathons, three marathons, and been a team member on a 200-mile relay race. But, apparently, this pattern is fairly normal.

Consider for example Ijaz Afzal of Los Angeles, who didn't take up running until he was 35, but then ran his first marathon at age 37.  “I started running in September, 2006 after quitting smoking cold turkey.  I ran my first marathon less than two years later, in June of 2008. Then I did two more. Now, I'm doing two more marathons this month alone!”

Or consider Mike Dasalla of Pleasant Hill, California. Not a life-long runner either, Dasalla ran his first marathon just three years after he started running regularly.  “Now," he says, "I have seven marathons under my belt.  I'm addicted!”

Man finishing a marathon


I also interviewed Peach Villacarlos of Northern California, who tells me that this late-in-life distance running phenomenon "matches me perfectly. I did not play sports as a kid. In fact, I was sedentary for over 20 years as an adult. I started running 5k races first, about two years before running my first marathon. And in a couple of weeks, I hope to finish my second one.”

Bill Boehner of Pleasanton, California, says that he “experimented with running briefly in the ‘70s when running started becoming popular, but I stopped when I got sick once, and then got caught up in my career.” Many years later, in his mid-'50s, Boehner took it back up, and with gusto. "I ran my first race, a 5K, in October, 2009, and ran my first marathon just a year later in Dec 2010.” Did he plan on doing a marathon so soon? "No, I thought maybe a half-marathon, but I never planned on doing a full. I didn't run in school at all.”


From couch ‘tater to marathon runner?


Why is this happening? What can explain the whole distance running phenomenon leading so many people to take up marathon and half marathon running later in life?

For answers, I turned inward and outward; what motivated me to start and maintain a habit of distance running later in life (in my 50s)?  And what motivated my distance running friends or business associates to do this? 

The results of this research may surprise you, as you’ll find out in the next article in this running series, "How to Go from Couch ‘tater to Marathon Runner," where you may also find out if there is a hidden marathoner in you.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 12, 2013

Saving Green by Going Green

Fancy yourself an expert on frugal living? In today’s economy, saving money is a priority in most households. Environmental concerns are also on the rise; everyone seems to be buzzing about “being green.” Thankfully, there are ways to save your money while doing your part to save the planet. We have compiled a two-fold list of helpful tips to capitalize on this win-win initiative.

Energy efficient lightbulb


In your home


This is obviously the space where you have to potential to save the most money. Running a household is downright expensive, but there are some simple ways to conserve both energy and water in your day-to-day activities. Check out these ideas about where to save your money indoors:


    Woman loading the dishwaster
  • Weather-stripping: Take the time to either improve or repair weather-stripping and caulk on windows and doors. When properly done, weather-stripping should cause resistance when you use the door. This will help to cut energy costs associated with heating and cooling.
  • Light bulbs: Make the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Although they cost a little more than traditional light bulbs, they use about 75% less energy.  They also tend to last about ten times longer.
  • Outlets: If you aren't using your television or your phone changer, those things can’t hike up your energy bill, right? Wrong. If it’s plugged in, it’s using something called “phantom” energy. Take the time to unplug everything when not in use, use power strips that allow you to cut off energy with the flip of a switch.
  • Thermostat: Adjust your central air temperature by a mere two degrees. This small shift up two degrees in the summer and down two degrees in the winter can save up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually while lowering your energy bills by about 5%.
  • Water heater: How hot do you really need your water? Does it have to be scalding? Turn that water heater down to 120 degrees; that’s warm enough.
  • Use cold water for laundry: Heating water accounts for about 90% of energy usage during a wash cycle. Detergents work just fine without heat, and set-in stains won’t magically be removed by using warmer water.
  • It’s best to use the dishwasher: The technology in today’s dishwashers actually makes more efficient use of water than hand washing. Typically, they use under ten gallons of water in one cycle. Trust your dishwasher and save even more water by not pre-rinsing your dirty dishes. Also, only run the dishwasher when there is a full load of dishes. 
  • Shower smarter: Shorten your showers and avoid water-hogging baths altogether.
  • Get creative with DIY cleaning products: Most cleaning products are toxic and harm the environment. Do everyone a favor by creating your own cleaning concoctions. Many use common household ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemons. Check out this TLC article for specific, cleaner-substitution recipes.

Outdoors and in your travels


Most money saving moms only think green about their indoor energy and water usage. However, if you’re a money saving expert, you also know how to save your money beyond the walls of your living space. Here are some of the best ways:

Grass: About 50 to 70 percent of the water homes use goes into their lawns and gardens. For the most efficient use of your water, only water your lawn early in the morning and keep grass three inches long in order to prevent the water from evaporating right away.

Hang-dry laundry: You don’t need to use a dryer if the weather outside is decent. Set up a clothesline and harness natural energy.

Hang-drying laundry

Plant trees: Trees are green, but in more ways than you might consider. How do trees help you reduce energy consumption and save money? When they have leaves in the summer, they help shade your home from the summer heat, reducing the amount of energy needed to cool your house. Conveniently, when they drop their leaves in the fall, trees allow sunlight to shine in and help heat your home.

Grow your own food: Planting seeds for a crop is a great deal cheaper than repeatedly buying store-bought produce. As an added benefit, no fruits and vegetables are fresher than those fresh out of your own garden.

Now you know how to save cash and how to be more green. You’re welcome!


Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Should I Exercise While Pregnant?

Should I exercise while pregnant? This is a question asked by many women as they move along the path toward motherhood. Well, the answer is yes. Perhaps a qualified yes after consultation with your physician. But if done carefully, there are a lot of positive outcomes for you and your baby to be gained from physical activity.

How much? In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, suggested that women who are not already performing vigorous physical activity should get at least two and one half hours of moderate aerobic activity per week.

Sounds intimidating?  Not really. You don’t have to – and probably shouldn't – perform the entire amount at one time. “Preferably, this activity should be spread throughout the week,” the guidelines indicate. That could translate into five 30-minute sessions per week. And even if a 30-minute block is not in your daily calendar, research indicates that breaking the workout up into sessions of no less than 10 minutes each can offer quite similar results. (Actually, if you've never worked out before and are extremely sedentary, starting out with 10 minutes per day may be a good idea provided you increase a bit each day.)

So what’s an aerobic activity? This is any activity that gets your heart rate up and sustains the increase for the duration of the session. Examples include running, walking, cycling, swimming, and a variety of other modalities. But how can I tell if my intensity is “moderate”? That’s easy. You should be able to speak in somewhat-breathy complete sentences. No extended monologues or soliloquies.

Pregnancy and exercise


Those of you already performing vigorous physical activity may continue provided there are no changes in your current condition and that you share your workout information with your physician. Strength training can also be beneficial provided the weights aren't too heavy. But after the first trimester, avoid any activity that involves lying on your back.

So why is the government – and many other agencies – encouraging pregnant women to become or remain active? Well, while the answers aren't definitive, there are many strong indications that becoming and remaining active during pregnancy can improve the health and well being of you and your baby. Here are a few potential positive outcomes gleaned from a careful review of all relevant scientific studies by scientists from universities in the U.S., Denmark, Norway and Canada:

GESTATIONAL DIABETES


Women who develop diabetes or any form of glucose intolerance during pregnancy have an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. They also stand a better chance of giving birth to an abnormally large (greater than nine-pound) baby. In addition, a baby born from a diabetic mother has a greater risk of childhood obesity, which can lead to other health complications during the youngster’s life. Symptoms of gestational diabetes include blurred vision, frequent infections, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue.

It is a well-documented medical fact that improved physical activity can help increase glucose tolerance and thereby reduce the severity of if not totally eliminate Type 2 diabetes among the general population. Many in the medical community believe this also holds true for diabetes during pregnancy. In fact, there are studies that have demonstrated a greatly reduced risk of diabetes during pregnancy among those who exercise than among those who don’t.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE


Pregnancy-induced hypertension is considered one of the leading causes of preterm delivery and maternal mortality.  Again, it is a well-documented medical fact that increased physical activity can reduce the chance of hypertension among the non-pregnant population.

Most studies have shown exercise provides some protection from pregnancy-induced hypertension. A study involving 59,573 pregnant women indicated just that - a protective effect from participating in physical activity. However, similar findings were not seen in all studies.  Although more research is needed, we still believe exercise during pregnancy can help reduce hypertension during that period if for no better reason than its role in maintaining a safe, healthy weight.

WEIGHT GAIN


Obviously, you’re going to gain some weight during pregnancy. But any excess sets you up for a lifetime of potential obesity. In other words, many of the pounds won’t go away when you deliver. In addition, you may condemn your child to a lifetime of battling the bulge. Your doctor should be able to offer a suggested safe weight gain for you.

Diet will play a key role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight. But studies have also given credit to exercise – even a simple walking program – as being a major player in preventing if not reducing excessive pounds.

Pregnant woman drinking water while exercising


BIRTH WEIGHT


Being born too heavy or too light can have adverse lifetime effects on a baby. One of the fears many have regarding exercise during pregnancy is the latter – a baby too small for its birth age. But research has shown that physical activity during pregnancy is not linked to having a dangerously small baby.  Equally important, research demonstrates a strong correlation between physical activity and reduced odds of having an excessively heavy baby.

In other words, physical activity during pregnancy may reduce the odds of having an excessively heavy baby without increasing the risk of an excessively small baby.

AGE AT DELIVERY


A pre-term delivery of fewer than 36 weeks is considered one of the leading causes of disease and death. Two of the major risk factors are pregnancy diabetes and weight of the mother. As has been stated above, there is evidence to indicate physical activity during pregnancy may alleviate those two conditions. However, it may be advisable to speak with your physician regarding your level of physical activity.

BABY BODY COMPOSITION


There is evidence that children of mothers who exercised regularly were lighter and leaner at birth and remained so later in life. Enough said.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS


Most experts also feel that exercise during pregnancy can help alleviate bloating, low back pain, constipation, swelling, and varicose veins; increase your energy, improve your posture and mood, and help you sleep better. It may also help improve muscle tone, strength and endurance, qualities needed to prepare for labor.

However, be cautious. Cease exercise and call your physician if you experience vaginal bleeding, dizziness or feeling faint, increases shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement, and fluid leaking from the vagina.

Again, research into exercise and pregnancy is on-going. So far, most of the information is good. But remember to always check with your doctor regarding your level and frequency of physical activity.

By FRANK CLAPS, M.Ed., CSCS

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seven Ways to Reduce Stress

My guess is that you are already well aware of many of the stresses in your life.  Then why do we need an official Stress Awareness Month?  Actually, there are good reasons: 
  • While situations that create stress may be unavoidable, stress levels can often be managed if you know how, and often only if you can quickly identify the stress, how it’s affecting you, and what to do about it.
  • Stress is a serious problem in the hectic life of the average American, hurting us emotionally and, as many studies show, also eroding our physical health. 
Stress Awareness Month is a national effort that seeks to help us reduce and manage stress by informing us of the dangers of stress, providing coping strategies, and correcting prevalent harmful misconceptions about stress. 

So, if you believe that knowledge is power, then read on, because the following information on stress management can help you improve your health and happiness far beyond the confines of Stress Awareness Month.

Stressed man


Seven Stress reduction tips for home and work


Is all stress bad?  No – stress in its most basic sense is a force working against another force.  Proper stressing of muscles strengthens muscles.  And even certain mental or social stresses can potentially improve our ability to handle stressful situations and to respond well to danger. 

But extreme or continual stress should be prevented, or at least managed, to avoid emotional harm or physical risks, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and obesity.  By following these seven stress reduction tips, you can improve the quality, and maybe even the length, of your life.


Stress Reduction Tip #1 – Know Thyself


The first step to proactively reducing or managing stress is identifying stress.  Even if you’re not feeling stressed at the moment, take time for introspection.  Identify any of the common emotional symptoms of stress, such as feeling worried, angry, irritable, depressed, or unable to focus.  Also look for physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, back pain, problems sleeping, upset stomach, weight gain, weight loss, tense muscles, and frequent or serious colds. 


Stress Reduction Tip #2 –Plan Ahead


Stress often comes from anticipation of an approaching event that you fear.  Reduce stress by preparing ahead of time for impending stressful events, like a job interview, an annual review meeting, or a difficult conversation with a relative.  Try this:
  • Picture the event in your mind.
  • Stay positive.  Envision positive resolutions.
  • Imagine what the room will look like and what you will say.
  • Have a back-up plan.


Stress Reduction Tip #3 – Take a break


Sitting or standing for hours at work can stress your body and your spirit.  Taking a break to do something substantially different, even just a few minutes, can create a freshened state of mind and help you relax.  Take a short walk, sing a song, grab a power nap, read a chapter of a novel, or engage in a non-work-related conversation.  As the song goes, “The change is gonna do you good.”

Couple riding bikes


Stress Reduction Tip #4 – Get physical


Study after study shows that regular, sustained or vigorous exercise is one of the  best stress tonics.  Not only does the activity improve your overall physical health, but the endorphins released improve mood and reduce anxiety.


Stress Reduction Tip #5 – Help Others


Much of the stress we feel comes from wallowing – replaying the stressful thoughts over and over.  It’s hard to focus elsewhere without some kind of replacement activity.  The most effective alternative to inward focus is outward focus – make someone or something else the focus of your time.  Any helping-others activity can break you out of the spiral – volunteer at a soup kitchen, make a gift for a friend, visit a shut-in – you get the idea.


Stress Reduction Tip #6 – Sleep Enough


Sleeping less than six hours nightly will depress your immune system, reduce your daytime patience, increase fatigue, and decrease motivation or productivity – all factors that increase stress.  So, sleep it off instead. 

Woman sleeping


Stress Reduction Tip #7 – Bail!


Just about all stress is related to the “fight or flight” survival instinct.  A healthy “fight” response is to fix a bad situation.  But what if you can’t?  What if, for example, a bad situation with a co-worker or employer cannot be resolved? 
When you find yourself in a situation in which you have no control, and for which there appears to be no resolution, your stress can go through the roof, wreaking havoc in your life and potentially endangering your health.  In these situations, consider an exit strategy.  It may be the best solution for you and those around you.


Download FREE Stress Relief and Anger Relief E-Books


If you want to up your stress management game, then take advantage of these downloadable e-books while they are temporarily being offered for free:
More stress reduction and stress management resources:

Final thought: Self-help solutions are great but, for serious mental or physical stress issues, seek medical help.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer
 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Consumption of Wheatgrass 101

I am sure you have heard of wheatgrass, but have you tried it? If you read our last article about the health benefits of wheatgrass, you may be looking for answers to questions such as, where can I get wheatgrass, and how should I take wheatgrass? In what form?  Read on for answers!


Where can I get me some wheatgrass?


Let’s go over the main options available when choosing to imbibe in nature’s miracle grass:
Option 1 ‑ Buy freshly juiced wheatgrass
Find your nearest juice bar or health food store and ask for a shot or two of wheatgrass. If they offer it, you'll get an ounce of wheatgrass juice in a small cup, freshly juiced while you watch. While a fresh shot of wheatgrass is best, there are a few issues with this choice:
Shot of wheatgrass
  • This is only a good option if you live or work close to a store that offers it.
  • Be ready to fork out the cash, because an average one-ounce shot can cost $1.50 to $5.00, depending on where you live. This can add up quickly if your goal is to take it on a regular basis.
  • Be sure to ask if they are using organically grown wheatgrass. This is very important, because wheatgrass absorbs its nutritional value from the soil as it grows. It can also absorb fertilization and pest control chemicals from non-organic farming techniques.
Option 2 ‑ Juice it yourself
If you can get a tray of fresh wheatgrass still in its soil, you can juice it at home with a wheatgrass juicer. There are essentially two ways to get wheatgrass in its original grass form, rather than buying it juiced:
  • Grow your own wheatgrass. This is easily the cheapest way to get wheatgrass: buying it from seed and growing it yourself. Books are written on the subject, which tells you something: a lot goes into being a successful wheatgrass gardener. Growing enough to keep you supplied takes very little time, once you know what you're doing, but you do want to consider all that is involved. Consequently, this option is definitely not for everyone.
  • Buy wheatgrass from a store. Buying grown wheatgrass from a store is convenient, and is much cheaper than buying it juiced by the shot, but can still get expensive. The stores that sell squares (about 4" x 4") or palettes (about the size of a cafeteria tray) of wheatgrass vary from five dollars to as much as 15 dollars. I have found that a store will sometimes offer a price break if you buy more of it, or buy it regularly, so don’t forget to ask.
Sprouting wheatgrass
Growing your own wheatgrass is more cost-effective
Option 3 ‑ Buy powdered wheatgrass or wheatgrass tablets
Powdered wheatgrass or tableted wheatgrass is a convenient option for a busy lifestyle. Things to remember when buying powdered wheatgrass or tableted wheatgrass:
  • It’s worth getting if you are somewhere that you can’t get fresh, or are traveling. Freshly juiced wheatgrass is always your best option, but powdered is good to have in a pinch, and does offer the vitamin benefit even if it won't have the phytonutrient content of fresh wheatgrass.
  • Make certain the powdered wheatgrass or tablet wheatgrass was grown organically and in nutrient-rich soil, as opposed to just water (hydroponically grown wheatgrass). A nutrient-rich wheatgrass is dependent on nutrient-rich soil.
  • With the powdered wheatgrass or wheatgrass tablets, it is not only important to consider how it was grown, but also how it is processed. Low temperature drying or freeze dried are the only options that ensure you get the nutrient density a health conscious individual would want. Make sure it is not just chopped grass; unless you have four stomachs, you won’t be able to get the nutrients from it.
You can find lots of varieties and brands of powdered wheatgrass or wheatgrass tablets at a health food store or online.
Powdered wheatgrass
You can mix organic powdered freeze-dried wheatgrass into your favorite smoothie


What should I know about taking wheatgrass?


There are a few other things you should know in order to get the most bang for your buck, health-wise, when adding wheatgrass to your diet:
  • Wheatgrass juice has a very short shelf life; always drink wheatgrass juice as soon as possible after it's juiced, preferably within a few hours.
  • How much wheatgrass you should take, or can take, varies from person to person. There is a reason it is often served in shot-sized portions - wheatgrass juice is potent stuff! Start slow and discover your own tolerance. The healthier you are, the more you should be able to tolerate.
  • Taking it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is ideal. This is especially true if you are drinking your wheatgrass freshly juiced. It is best for absorption and ideal if you are using it for detoxifying.
  • If you want to mix your wheatgrass juice into a smoothie, do it in small amounts. Wheatgrass has a strong flavor, and can affect the taste of the whole smoothie.
  • Chewing wheatgrass is not the best route to go. As humans, our bodies are unable to digest the fiber in the grass. If you do choose to chew the grass, it is highly recommended that, after you've extracted all the juice possible, you dispose of the leftover fiber by spitting it out rather than swallowing.
Wheatgrass and gluten allergies?
Good news: because wheatgrass is harvested before it becomes a grain, wheat allergies and gluten allergies are not an issue when taking wheatgrass juice. Allergies to wheatgrass are rare, but if you suspect you are having a reaction of any kind, you should cease from taking any more until you see your doctor.

You should now have enough information to start your own wheatgrass adventure. Enjoy the journey, and post your questions if you'd like to know more.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer







Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wheatgrass – What's so Super about This Superfood?

Wheatgrass - a nutrient-dense superfood
Those who regularly include wheatgrass in their diet cannot sing the praises of wheatgrass loudly enough. I’ve known many people who, from their personal experience with wheatgrass, describe this superfood as a miracle worker for their health. If you’ve known anyone regularly taking wheatgrass, or had any personal experience with this beautiful, young bright-green grass, you know what I’m talking about.

Many people find that wheatgrass gives them a lift … physically, mentally, and emotionally. Why else would those who find it “distasteful” continue its use? The almost instantaneous benefits they feel, of course!

Yes, many people do find the flavor of wheatgrass unpleasant. But, for the record, not everyone finds the juice distasteful; some find it sweet and love the flavor.

No matter what you’re feeling about the taste, if you’ve used it for any length of time, you can’t deny the advantages you receive from taking this nutrient-dense green on a regular basis. For those who haven’t given it a try, let me share with you the wonders of wheatgrass.


Wheatgrass is considered a “Superfood”


Health benefits of wheatgrass juice are multifaceted. Though more scientific research needs to be done to validate claims, the reasons those who regularly take wheatgrass do so range from enhancing physical appearance (as in reversing the number of gray hairs you have); to healing disease (which is now being proven in clinical studies); to increasing energy levels.

No matter what your reason for using it, wheatgrass has something to offer. Here are a few benefits you might find appealing enough to give it a try for yourself.

Superfoods
Wheatgrass is one of several superfoods that may benefit our health


Wheatgrass benefits


What makes “superfoods” so super is the measured impact that the ingredients can have on the whole being. Because of this, even though you may start taking wheatgrass for a particular health issue, wheatgrass’ impact can be a whole-body game changer in many ways. Its benefits:
  • Improves the blood’s ability to transport oxygen during exercise. This effect continues for about 10 minutes after exercise into your post workout recovery.
  • The antioxidant values of food are described as the ORAC value. The ORAC value for wheatgrass extract was found to be higher than that of many other vegetables or extracts. Antioxidants remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in your body.
  • Wheatgrass extract absorbs free radicals and inhibits fat cells in rats.
  • Wheatgrass juice has been used clinically to treat ulcerative colitis and aid breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Many nutrition counselors use wheatgrass to treat anxiety and depression because the nutrient-dense grasses provide the building blocks to aid your body in producing its own serotonin (a hormone that contributes to your feelings of well-being and happiness).
  • Increases red blood cell count and lowers blood pressure.
  • Externally applied to the skin can help eliminate itching almost immediately.
  • Place a tray of wheatgrass you are growing at the head of your bed. It will release oxygen into the air and generate healthful negative ions to help you sleep more soundly.
  • Used as a beauty aid to slow down the aging process when the juice is consumed on a regular basis. Wheatgrass is reported to cleanse your blood and help rejuvenate aging cells, which also slows the aging process. It will help tighten loose and sagging skin.
I could continue with benefits that you could experience. The fact is, the body is a whole organism. When you positively affect one part, it is experienced throughout the entire system.


Nutrient Dense? To be or not to be…


Wheatgrass contains more than 90 minerals, including high concentrations of the most alkaline minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Wheatgrass also provides a concentrated amount of critical nutrients, including:
  • Chlorophyll
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins A, C, E, K and B-complex
  • Amino Acid
Wheatgrass is 70 percent chlorophyll. The health benefits of chlorophyll could be a full discussion in and of itself, but, long story short: chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants that it is similar in chemical structure to the hemoglobin that is found in human blood. Chlorophyll is considered by many to be as beneficial to humans as it is to plants.

Wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass is usually consumed in juice form


What does wheatgrass have over your average vegetable?



Compared to many other vegetables, wheatgrass is like a sponge when it’s growing. When the wheatgrass is grown in nutrient rich organic soil, it will absorb 92 of the known 102 minerals from the soil. The fact that it can pull so many minerals from the soil is the primary reason juiced wheatgrass is so nutrient dense, and is a good reason to make it a part of your daily regimen.


Consuming wheatgrass


Since we do not have multiple stomachs like a cow, taking wheatgrass is not as straightforward as chewing and swallowing. Wheatgrass is usually consumed in juice form. You can grow and juice wheatgrass yourself, or may be able to get some juiced for you at a local health food store.
We will talk more in an upcoming article about wheatgrass recipes, as well as how to grow wheatgrass and how to juice wheatgrass. Stay tuned!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Monday, April 1, 2013

Healthy Home Humidity

Maintaining the ideal humidity level in your house can protect your family from illness and, at the same time, make your home more comfortable to live in.

In winter, you may have difficulty keeping your home at what is considered to be the “right” level of humidity.  If you live in a cold climate, the winter air is naturally more dry than in summer.  As well, your home heater dries the air even more.

If you haven’t yet considered making your home humidity healthier, perhaps you should.  You wouldn't be alone; Consumer Reports Magazine says that sales on home humidifiers triple during colder months.  Industry estimates indicate that we buy nearly 10,000 humidifiers in the U.S. every year! 


Humidifier


Healthy home humidity levels


Ideal indoor humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent.  Within that healthy humidity range, your throat, nasal passages, and skin is in its most healthy and comfortable state.  Keeping your home at the right humidity level also makes your home more comfortable. A dry-air 70-degree temperature will feel colder than the same 70 degrees in a humidified home.
Unhealthy home humidity levels
In humid climates or in the summer, the problem is often too much humidity for comfort.  Too much moisture in your home’s atmosphere also increases the risk of mold. 

In the colder seasons, too little humidity is the bigger problem in most homes.  Without added humidification, the moisture level can easily drop below that 30-50-percent range, to as low as 10 percent.  Why?  Cold air naturally retains less moisture than warm air.  And the effort to heat up that air will dry it even more.
Measuring your home humidity level
The easiest way to find out if your home humidity is too low or too high is to purchase a humidistat.  These are available online and often at less than $40.  Either digitally or with a needle gauge, a humidistat will give you a level reading. 

If you don’t have a humidity gauge, your own body can speak of your humidity level for you.  Common symptoms of an unhealthy humidity level in winter include a sore throat, itchy eyes, dry skin, or a stuffy nose. 


Best ways to control home humidity


Humidifier
Since your heating system can dry out your home to unhealthy low humidity levels, humidifying your home is likely already a hot topic.  You have a few options to improve your home humidity. One of the first things to consider is how draft-free your home is. Any humidifier you get will be working overtime if your home is inadequately insulated from drafts, as the home humidity will seep out.
Whole-house humidifier vs. portable humidifier?
If you have a forced-air heating system, one option you have for home humidification is a whole-house humidifier, also known as an in-duct humidifier. Whole house humidifiers are attached near your furnace ducts, using your air ducts to carry humidified air.

Whole house humidifiers are generally much more efficient, and therefore cheaper to operate, than a portable unit.  While this may seem to be a slam dunk choice then, compared to portable humidifying units, consider this:
  • Because whole-house humidifiers are plumbed into your water supply, they usually require professional installation.
  • They are generally more expensive to purchase that a portable unit designed to humidify just one or two rooms.
  • If you don't want to humidify the entire house, portable units may be a better choice for you.
If you decide that a room humidifier is the better choice for you, then what follows will help you with the challenge of narrowing down your selection from the scores of models available.
Warm mist or cool mist or ionic humidifier – does it matter?
Research indicates that air moisture is air moisture – whether it enters your home environment as a cool mist or as a warm mist, the goal is the same: to raise the overall humidity level to the right zone.  By the time the moisture from your humidifier has mixed into your home air, the temperature effect difference between a warm mist humidifier and any other type of humidifier will be nonexistent.

That said, there are important considerations when deciding whether to choose a warm-mist humidifier versus a cool-mist humidifier versus an ionic humidifier:
  • The hot steam of up-close contact with a warm-mist humidifier is a burn danger.  Therefore, if you have children in the house, you should avoid using a warm-mist humidifier.
  • Warm mist humidifiers tend to be more expensive, due to the added manufacturing cost of the heating element.
  • Cool-mist humidifiers and ionic humidifiers use less electricity than a warm-mist humidifier, as there is no heating element involved.
  • Some people find the background noise of a humidifier's motor hum to be soothing. But if you are noise sensitive, consider the ionic type of humidifier.  The ionic humidifiers tend to have a much quieter operating level.
Humidifier


Humidifier reviews and humidifier purchasing considerations


No matter which type of humidifier you buy, here are some tips to consider when making a humidifier purchase decision.
  • How quiet is "very quiet" vs. "super-quiet"? Be wary of any humidifier manufacturer's quietness claims, unless they are backing it up with actual decibel level figures.
  • Investigate humidifier reviews: A good way to determine the relative quietness of one humidifier to another is to look at independent comparative ratings, such as the humidifier reviews at consumersearch.com or consumerreport.org.
  • Check out consumer ratings: To get in-depth opinions on a specific humidifier model from current owners, make sure to look at the customer comments and ratings, available at many online retailers that are selling humidifiers.
No matter which portable house humidifier you buy, make sure you follow its instructions for proper cleaning and disinfecting. Not doing so can cause mold to grow inside your humidifier, creating other health risks.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer