Fall is creeping up on us, and with it comes those seasonal allergies that some of us know all too well and drudge all the same. More people are opting out of using traditional medicine to treat allergy symptoms as they are costly and often leave people feeling unnecessarily drowsy and lethargic. “The biggest trend we see in allergies isn’t technology and it isn’t medicine — it’s the tendency to go for a more natural treatment,” says Brunilda Nazario, MD, a lead medical editor at WebMD.
If you’re also experiencing earlier than normal symptoms, there may be a reason for that also. “Climate change may actually be causing an earlier and longer fall allergy season,” said Dr. Stephen Tilles, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in an ACAAI news release. “In addition, windy days can mean heightened allergy symptoms, because wind can carry the pollen from ragweed, grasses and trees up to 100 miles from its source.”
To help minimize your seasonal allergies, Tilles suggests minimizing the growth of mold in your home by limiting moisture exposure. “Mold is nearly impossible to eliminate. It tends to grow wherever there is water, particularly basements, bathrooms and near sinks. Mold also lurks outside, even in piles of dead leaves. Use fans in the bathroom and clean up standing water right away. Scrub visible mold from any surfaces and ensure they are kept clean and dry. Keeping the humidity in your home below 60 percent and routinely cleaning gutters is also a good idea.”
In addition to mold, it’s probably best to stay away from pollen as best you can, “Ragweed and other pollens that trigger allergy symptoms must not be brought into your home. Be sure to take your shoes off when you walk through your door. If you’ve been outside working, exercising or playing, take a shower and change your clothes to wash off any pollen that sticks to your hair or body. Keep your home and car windows closed and use an air conditioner, particularly when pollen counts are high. If you are doing yard work, consider wearing gloves and a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask. Those with severe allergies may want to avoid outdoor chores entirely.”
This information may make it seem like experiencing allergies are unavoidable but here are a few simple ways you can limit your exposure in addition to avoiding pollen and mold suggested by the ACAAI:
- Keep your windows closed at night and if possible, use air conditioning, which cleans, cools and dries the air.
- Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold counts are high. If your symptoms are severe, wear a pollen mask if long periods of exposure are unavoidable. When you return indoors, take a shower, shampoo your hair and change clothes.
- Avoid being responsible for mowing lawns or raking leaves. This stirs up pollen and molds. Also avoid hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry.
- When traveling by car, keep your windows closed.
- Take any medications as prescribed.
Below are some natural alternatives you can try but like with all things, make sure to read the labels to ensure that you are able to use it and are using it properly. Some of these items can still come with side affects and may not be recommended to use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Butterbur is a herb that people use not only to treat allergies, but even migraines. They use the leaf, root, and bulb to make the medicine. One study showed that after only a week of being given butterbur tablets, participants showed significant improvement of their allergy symptoms and they contained smaller amounts of the allergy-producing substances leukotriene and histamines. Butterbur seems most effective to treat nasal allergies and can be administered as an oil extract or in pill form.
TIP: Confirm before purchasing any Butterbur products that they are certified and labeled “PA-free.”
Stinging Nettles have often been used to treat a number of health concerns like UTIs, benign prostatic hyperplasia, joint pain, sprain and strain, insect bites and hay fever.
They can be used in many forms like tinctures, teas and topical gels but are most effective dried in a capsule. Because they are a natural antihistamine, they are very effective in blocking the body’s ability to produce histamine.
TIP: Doctors recommend taking a freeze-dried preparation before hay fever season begins.
Eucalyptus is a pretty easy scent to detect and as an oil, is highly effective in minimizing the symptoms of allergies as they are happening.
A lot of respiratory medicines contain eucalyptus because of its antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. In a 2006 study, 14 essential oils were used to test the effectiveness of killing house dust mites, something most people are highly allergic to, and found eucalyptus oil to be the most effective. Not only that, when combined with a specific kitchen detergent, a high amount of dead dust mites also turned up.
Eucalyptus oil is great to have running in the day or through the night in your diffuser and if you’d like even more relief, try mixing eucalyptus oil with coconut oil and rub it on your chest and behind your ears.
TIP: A neti pot is also a great way to clear your sinuses during allergy season and if you choose to use it you can put several drops into your neti pot.
Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant responsible for helping make those superfoods super. It is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables, onions/shallots, green teas and citrus fruit, and displays anticancer properties. It is also a potent antioxidant that is said to help reduce inflammation. Because quercetin stabilizes the release of histamine, it helps to naturally control allergy symptoms.
In a 2016 study, quercetin was shown to be so effective that it can help calm down allergic asthma by reducing the hyperactivity of airways.
TIP: Start taking it about 4-6 weeks before allergy season to help prevent allergy symptoms.
Apple Cider VinegarACV is notorious for its many uses and we even highlighted them in a an article titled, 15 + Ways Apple Cider Vinegar Can Improve Your Life, and now we can add “allergy killer” to the list.
There are many ways you can utilize AVC in your allergy preventative routine. We’ve mentioned a neti pot before and how great it is at clearing the nasal passages of allergens and irritants, and in addition to the saline rinse, you can try adding 1 teaspoon of ACV at the first sign of an allergy attack. You can also mix a teaspoon of ACV into a glass of water and drank this three times a day.
TIP: Make sure that when you buy ACV it is raw (not pasteurized), certified organic and contains “The Mother”; a colony of beneficial bacteria.
When there is an imbalance in our immune system, it is due to the proportion of the antigenic stimuli. Generally speaking, the healthier you are with a strong immune system, the less likely you are to develop allergies to begin with, and studies have shown that more than 80% of your immune function is stored in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. So when you have beneficial bacteria in your gut, it’s likely you’ll experience reduced effects of allergies, which is why probiotics play a great role in helping to ward off allergy symptoms.
Research has found that pregnant mothers who regularly took probiotics reduced their child’s risk of developing allergies. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, non-pathogenic E. coli was administered to infants to stimulate their immune systems and at 10 years old and 20 years old, these children suffered from significantly fewer allergic diseases.
TIP: Consume fermented foods like sauerkraut or drink kombucha to help build your gut bacteria. Otherwise, a capsule daily should work just as well.
Local Raw Honey
Consuming local raw honey has not only been shown as a great preventative, but even helps to mitigate symptoms as they happen. Health blogger Mark Sisson experienced this firsthand when he bought raw local wildflower honey from a vendor on a camping trip after experiencing a bought of day fever. After consuming it on the hike, the next day he found his symptoms were 75% better.
Aside from anecdotal evidence, studies have been found to confirm the theory that consuming local honey from where you live will help you build a tolerance to allergens in the environment there. In 2011, subjects who were allergic to birth pollen were asked to ingest birch pollen honey and found that, “a 60% lower total symptom score, twice as many asymptomatic days, and 70% fewer days with severe symptoms, and they used 50% less antihistamines compared to the control group,” than those who took conventional medications.
TIP: Start ingesting a spoon of local raw honey a month before allergy season starts and continue to do so for the rest of the season.
As previously mentioned, a strong immune system really helps in the fight against allergies. In addition to diffusing your eucalyptus oil, you can also try frankincense oil as it can boost the immune system. Research also suggests acupuncture can help those who suffer from hay fever as it curbs inflammatory immune-system substances involved in allergic reactions.
Boy or Girl – Baby Gender Selection Issues
Some parents have the possibility to opt for gender selection; however, being able to decide whether to have a baby boy or girl is a controversial issue.
Many couples expecting a baby do not think it’s a big issue whether they have a boy or a girl; however there are several medical, social, and personal reasons that could influence parents to recur to some form of gender selection.
Like many other controversial practices, the legality of gender selection, also known as sex selection, varies from country to country.
The Legality of Baby Gender Selection
The United States has perhaps some of the most relaxed laws regarding baby gender selection in the world. Most European countries and Australia, on the other hand, have bans on sex selection and only allow it for medical reasons. For example, if a parent is a carrier of a mutation or gene with more chances of manifesting itself in a certain gender, baby gender selection is valid. However, if parents simply wish to balance the ratio of boys and girls in their family, they are not allowed to recur to sex selection.
This has generated a form of medical tourism in which couples from countries where gender selection is illegal, like the UK, travel to the US in order to be able to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl.
On the other hand, sex selection is illegal in the two most populated countries on Earth, China and India. In these countries, baby gender selection has been performed clandestinely for many years and for reasons other than family balancing or avoiding genetic diseases. In these societies, having a baby boy is preferred mainly for cultural and economic reasons. Parents believe that boys have better chances of earning income and eventually support them when they reach an old age.
Methods of Baby Gender Selection
There are two major types of gender selection methods: the first one is called sperm sorting, and involves separating X-chromosome sperm from Y-chromosome sperm by flow cytometry, a purification technique in which chromosomes are suspended in a stream of sperm and identified by an electronic detector before being separated. Intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization can then be performed with the enriched sperm. The success rates for this method vary from 80% to 93%.
The other method, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, consists in generating several embryos through in-vitro fertilization, which are then genetically tested to determine a baby’s gender. The chosen embryos can then be implanted. This method has a success rate of almost 100%; however, it can be quite expensive, costing up to $15,000.
Issues Regarding Baby Gender Selection
While there are few objections against baby gender selection when it is performed for medical reasons, it has become a highly controversial issue when it is used for balancing the number of boys or girls in families. Some people raise the obvious ethical question of whether people who opt for gender selection are “playing God” by manipulating whether to have a baby boy or girl. Others believe that new parents will raise a baby more appropriately if he or she belongs to their preferred gender.
Gender Imbalance Caused by Baby Gender Selection
Gender selection has caused demographic concern in China and India since it has contributed to generate a gender imbalance in the populations of those countries. In some regions of China, for example, the sex ratio for newborns is 118:100, boys to girls. This phenomenon has in turn been associated with social problems such as an increase in violence and prostitution.
It seems like a logical solution for governments around the globe to legalize baby gender selection but to analyze the personal reasons why each couple intends to select a baby boy or girl. Gender selection for medical reasons should even be encouraged, since it could prevent serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and Haemophilia A. Balancing the gender ratio of a family should be accepted if by doing this, a healthy family environment is created. On the other hand, China and India have shown that baby gender selection as a result of a bias towards a particular gender can not only create a gender imbalance in the population, but contribute to social problems as well.
Organic Certification: What the USDA Organic Label Means
- The Facts:
Organic and natural labels mean different things, and various types of labels tells you what percentage of ingredients are actually organic. We'll explore what to look for.
- Reflect On:
Do you sometimes buy products thinking they are organic or fully natural based on their wording? Have you later found out that those products aren't natural or organic at all? Read labels more closely at grocery stores to be aware.
Don’t get conned by fraudulent claims of “natural” or “organic.” Learn what to look for, and why it’s important, to ensure you’re getting the quality you are paying for.
The industrial age of the 20th century brought about changing agricultural practices that have generated increasing alarm about the effects of these practices on the environment and health. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, irradiated and genetically altered food and fiber products has created a groundswell of rightful concern. It has led to the growing demand for non-toxic, organic products that many are willing to pay a higher price for to ensure the healthful purity of food and clothing provided for their families.
With such profit opportunities, it’s little wonder that the lucrative organic product market has suffered abuse with so-called “organic” labels being fraudulently placed on products that have not earned the right. As a result of pressure from farming and consumer groups, legislation for the standardization of organic certification was introduced in the 1980s. It has been updated to include more vigorous enforcement and control methods since, with the current standards established in 2002 by the USDA.
The Standards of USDA Organic Certification
Specific standards must be met in order to legally claim a product as USDA certified organic. Organic producers must utilize methods that conserve water, maximize soil health, and reduce air pollution. The specific standards to earn USDA organic certification include:
• Free of synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and additives
• Free from irradiation and genetically modified organisms
• Agricultural products grown on land that has been free of prohibited substances for a period of three years
• Animals used for meat, eggs, milk or other animal products must be exclusively fed foods that are organically grown, may not be given antibiotics or hormones, and must have access to outdoors.
• Clean and sanitized harvesting and processing equipment throughout the process from harvest to finished, packaged product
• Detailed chain-of-handling records from the field through final sales
• Physical separation of certified organic products from non-organic products throughout the process of production
• Regular on-site inspections from USDA-approved inspectors to ensure compliance
Understanding the Certified Organic Label
Once the rigorous process of certification has been completed, organic producers may place the USDA certified organic seal on their products. Currently, there are four levels of certified organic products, with a specific definition of the percentage of organic ingredients the final products contains. They are as follows:
• 100% organic: all production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic.
• Organic: at least 95% of the production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.
• Made With Organic Ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.
• No organic wording or seal: less than 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic and no claims may be made on the front or back of the product.
Manufacturers or producers who knowingly label a product “organic” when it does not meet the USDA standards are subject to fines up to $11,000 per violation.
Why Organic Certification is Important
When you see the official USDA organic certification seal on food, clothing, and bedding products, you can be assured that these products have met the meticulous standards required and are free of chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and hormones. When you see the USDA certified organic label, you will understand the value of the higher priced organic products as compared to non-organically produced products.
With the current stringent organic certification requirements enforced by regular inspections from USDA accredited agents, the USDA certified organic label has great meaning and importance to the consumer. Look for the label to know that you are getting the quality you are paying for.
WHO Finds Global Lack Of Inactivity Rising Especially In Wealthier Countries — What You Can Do
- The Facts:
Inactivity is on the rise and it's the cause of a wide range of health concerns. Our population is only becoming more inactive, not less, and it's time to change that.
- Reflect On:
There are many factors of our modern world that make us less active. Our jobs, driving rather than walking/biking, too much screen time. What can you do differently to bring more activity into your life? What story stops you from starting?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than a quarter of the entire population on this planet are not getting enough physical exercise, this number has barely improved since 2001. There are many factors that contribute to this, but just how much damage are we doing by failing to be active?
The lack of physical exercise raises the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and various types of cancers.
Interestingly, according to their study published in The Lancet Global Health, higher income countries, such as the UK, were among the least active population. Women were also found to be more sedentary throughout the world, excluding two regions in Asia.
The study looked at self-reported data on activity levels from 358 population based surveys covering 168 countries and included 1.9 million people.
The populations of higher income countries, which include the UK and USA showed an increase in the proportion of inactive people and had actually risen from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016, in the lower income countries it remained at 16%.
Those who were classified as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise and around 75 minutes of intense activity per week.
It was found that women were less active than men overall, except for in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and higher-income Western countries. The authors believe that this was caused by a few different factors including extra childcare duties and cultural perspectives that may have made it more difficult for them to exercise.
Why More Inactivity In Wealthier Countries?
According to the researchers, in the wealthier countries, many of the jobs have transitioned to more office or desk jobs, meaning a more sedentary type of lifestyle. On top of that much of the population of these countries drive automobiles or take public transit to and from work which in many cases accounts for a lot of their time.
In the lower income countries, many of the jobs require the people to be more active, are physically demanding and people often have to walk to and from their jobs.
The WHO has had a goal to reduce the global levels of inactivity by 10% by 2025, the authors of the study feel that at the rate we are currently going, this target will be missed.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Regina Guthold said, “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health.”
Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.”
Co-author, Dr. Fiona Bull added, “Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.”
According to the WHO,
Exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds
- at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week
- strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
- break up long periods of sitting with light activity
What is moderate aerobic activity?
- Walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball
What counts as vigorous activity?
- Jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts
What activities strengthen muscles?
- lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups, heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling, yoga
What activities are both aerobic and muscle-strengthening?
- circuit training, aerobics, running, football, rugby, netball, hockey
I was surprised to see that the WHO didn’t touch on inactivity due to too much screen time — watching television, Netflix, Facebook scrolling, messaging, texting, browsing etc. Certainly, the increase in screen time plays a roll with the amount of inactivity, especially in the higher income countries. If you are someone who spends too much time staring at a screen, then it is important to consider the above information. Can you limit your screen time and replace it with something active? Or would you consider jumping rope, or rebounding while watching the television? Our health is our greatest wealth and having awareness about an issue is the first way to create change and take responsibility for our lives.
Could you walk or bike to work instead of drive? What about trying a new sport? Could you commit to adding a few hours each week of physical activity? These small decisions could have a profound impact on your health, longevity and overall well-being.
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