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