Category Archives: Wellness

Health Benefits of Aromatherapy

aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a fascinating alternative medicine that involves the use of volatile plant materials, also known as essential oils, that can be aromatically inhaled by patients of a wide variety of health conditions. It is often used to improve mood, change cognitive states, and can also be utilized as a supplemental medicine. Some of the most common health benefits of aromatherapy are explained in greater detail below.

Stress Relief: Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for, since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Boost Energy Levels: We can all use more energy to get through the hectic daily tasks of modern life. While diet and exercise can also help, many people turn to aromatherapy to put a bit more pep in their step. Many essential oils are known to increase circulation, raise energy levels, and generally stimulate the body and mind. The best essential oils for giving yourself an energy boost include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, angelica, jasmine, tea tree, rosemary, and sage.

Headaches: Everyone gets headaches from time to time, and aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution that may not only eliminate your current headache, but possibly reduce the stress, anxiety, or origin of your headaches to prevent them in the future. Some of the best essential oils that have been connected to reducing headaches and migraines are peppermint, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and rosemary essential oils. You can also mix these oils in a carrier oil and spread that oil onto your skin, scalp, neck, and temples. Some of the best carrier oils for headaches include almond, avocado, coconut, apricot kernel, and sesame oils.

Sleep Aid: Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate or cause a huge range of medical conditions and can leave us feeling unproductive and devoid of energy. Luckily, aromatherapy can provide us with a more balanced sleep schedule and even realign our Circadian rhythms so our body naturally gets tired at an appropriate time, sleeps restfully through the night, and is energized in the morning to face the day. Some of the best essential oils for managing your sleeping habits and having a healthy, sedative effect on the body include lavender, chamomile, jasmine, benzoin, neroli, rose, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang ylang essential oils.

Whatever your condition, and whatever essential oils you choose to use, always consult your doctor before embarking on a new treatment plan. Also, be sure to only acquire essential oils from approved sources and don’t attempt to mix and use oils unless you have been trained as a professional aromatherapist.

Breakfast Alert!

Healthy breakfast. Yogurt with granola and berries

As a teenager, you may have rolled your eyes when your mom insisted that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” as you were running out the door. But guess what? She’s right. A new study just found a link between skipping breakfast and what may seem like an unrelated condition: atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries.

In the study, those who skipped breakfast or ate very little for breakfast were more likely to have the condition — and also have unhealthy cholesterol levels and a higher waist circumference, blood sugar, and body-mass index. What’s the connection? Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast may help to regulate your appetite throughout the day, leading to fewer cravings and more appropriate portions. So frequently skipping breakfast may spell bad news for your eating patterns, which can affect your heart health.

The researchers emphasized that people who eat little or nothing for breakfast tend to have a less healthy lifestyle overall. Which is why skipping breakfast may be a signal to take a look at your daily habits. Keep a journal for a week or two, without trying to change anything, and record your habits without judgment. Write down how much time you spend exercising, your ratio of whole foods (spinach, apples, legumes, brown rice, salmon) to processed foods (frozen pizza, white-flour bread, packaged muffins or cookies), how often you cook, order in or eat out, your alcohol intake, and your sleep. When you’re done, don’t try to overhaul your whole life at once! Get support from a health professional, and from family and friends, for any changes you’d like to make. And by all means, add in a bowl of oatmeal in the morning — try the steel-cut variety, with nuts and fresh berries.

Workplace Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace. The ultimate goal of ergonomics is to design the workplace so that it accommodates the variety of human capabilities and limitations and prevents injuries. Working Americans spend about 2,000 hours per year in the workplace. All of these hours can take a toll on your eyes, back, arms, and neck. Here’s how to set up your workplace to make it a healthier and safer place for you to work.

ergonomic

Power of Produce Club

POP

The Power of Produce Club helps children ages 5-12 to make healthy food choices by offering educational activities, recipe tasting, and money to spend at the Fort Bragg farmers’ market!

Participating children will receive $4 each week of the program to spend on fruit or vegetables. Look for the POP booth at the farmers’ market, and enjoy fun activities like recipe tasting, seed planting, art and science activities. Read more about the program here:

POP Flyer

Join POP at the Fort Bragg farmers’ market every Wednesday in the month of September: September 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at Franklin and Laurel Streets in the heart of downtown Fort Bragg.

If you live outside the Mendocino area, go to Farmers Market Coalition to see if your local farmers’ market has a POP Club already. If they don’t, you can apply to start your own in your own backyard. Let’s keep the Power of Produce growing and our children growing stronger and healthier!

Got happiness? Enjoying life boosts your health!

smiling

Enjoying your life doesn’t just put a smile on your face. It’s good for your health!

Life satisfaction, enjoyment of life, optimism, and other aspects that make up what researchers call “subjective well-being” may profoundly affect health. Positive emotions, both passing happiness and longer-term contentment, seem to make us more resilient to stress and are linked to healthier behaviors as well as better cardiovascular health and improved immune system functioning. Good feelings may even slow down the aging process itself.

Of course, unlike clothes, books, and blenders, good vibes can’t be ordered with the click of a button, and “don’t worry, be happy” is easier said than done. You have to generate good feelings. Healthy daily routines, like regular exercise and good sleep habits, can produce feel-good brain chemicals and lower stress hormones.

Make sure your relationships support your happiness, too, by investing in the ones that make you feel good — and divesting from the ones that don’t.

Adding a mindfulness meditation practice to your routine will help you manage the inevitable stresses of life and keep you feeling good. Don’t know how to meditate? Try this:

1. Sit or lie comfortably.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Sleep Is Good Medicine

sleep

Sleeping together makes for a more harmonious relationship — and better health. And we mean sleeping in the literal sense! New research shows that insufficient shut-eye can amp up hostility between partners and make relationship conflicts more damaging to your health. It’s not all that surprising when you consider how grumpy you feel after a bad night’s sleep, right?

To find out how sleep quality affects romantic relationships and health, researchers interviewed 49 couples and asked how many hours they’d slept the previous two nights. Then they took blood samples, had each couple discuss a topic that tended to provoke conflict, and then took a second blood sample. Those who hadn’t had much sleep had a greater inflammatory response, which over time is associated with conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. In fact, for every missed hour of sleep, levels of two inflammatory markers rose by 6 percent! And when both spouses slept less than 7 hours, the couple was more likely to argue, making the situation worse.

Think of sleep, relationship harmony, and physical health as a kind of “love triangle.” Work together on following good sleep habits, and if either of you has a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, be sure to see a physician for treatment. The couple that sleeps together may just stay healthy together!

Four Steps to Good Health

healthyfood

About 40 percent of adults over 40 are thought to have “metabolic syndrome”, a cluster of three or more of the following risk factors: high triglycerides, a waistline circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 for men (regardless of body-mass index), low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. The good news is that while metabolic syndrome may be silent, the prescription for counteracting it is loud and clear.

1. Eat real food. Vegetables, legumes, fish, fruit, olive oil, intact grains, nuts, herbs and spices…these are the foods that nourish us and support metabolic and overall health. Highly processed foods, refined flour and sugar, and manufactured oils never have and never will.

2. Just do it. Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise can help prevent and reverse metabolic syndrome. Make exercise a game, make it a goal, make it a date, whatever it takes. Getting 150 minutes of moderately intense activity a week is ideal, but don’t fall into the all-or-nothing trap. If you can’t make your Zumba class or don’t have time for your 30-minute walk, take a few brisk loops around the block or do a few minutes of jumping jacks and push-ups. Something is always better than nothing.

3. Lose weight if you need to. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can lower your heart disease risk by 20 percent.

4. Chillax. For a lot of people, stress reduction should be step number one for the simple reason that it makes other beneficial habits much more likely. When you’re in a state of chronic stress, it’s easy to let healthy habits fall by the wayside. Chronic stress can also increase inflammation, which can fuel metabolic syndrome. A regular practice of meditation, yoga, tai chi is a fantastic way to work stress relief into your routine. When in doubt, just breathe: spending 5 minutes doing slow, deep breathing can trigger the body’s relaxation response.

Family Fun – Get Moving Together!

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Anyone who has tried to sit through dinner with wiggly young children can see that the human body is made to move (and that not spilling beverages is an acquired skill!). Making sure kids and teenagers keep moving, despite the constraints of dinnertime, school, screens, and our sedentary culture, can help set good habits for life.

Physical activity among American kids and teenagers is alarmingly low, according to a new study. More than half of teenagers, half of 6 to 11-year-old girls and 25 percent of 6 to 11-year-old boys, don’t meet the World Health Organization’s recommendations for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. And the average activity of 19-year-olds is similar to that of 60-year-olds!

The researchers emphasize that all physical activity matters, not just the heart-pounding variety. In a study that pushed 8 to 10-year-olds to do 70 minutes of physical play a day, their grades and tests scores went up as their belly fat went down. So start brainstorming ways to increase activity of all kinds. Can your children walk or bike to school some days instead of driving or taking the bus? How about a family walk after dinner? Make weekend excursions for hiking, biking, or walking around a city part of your routine. Organize sports, dance classes, swimming, or good old-fashioned tag, kickball, or capture the flag. At the beach this summer? Bring a Frisbee and soccer balls — and have everyone leave their screens inside! As much as possible, make movement a family affair, and everyone will benefit.

Antioxidants – Protecting Healthy Cells

antioxidant

Our bodies are battlegrounds against infection and diseases. Normal body functions, such as breathing or physical activity, and other lifestyle habits (such as smoking) produce substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells. When these healthy cells are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants — such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein — help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Carotenoids

Among the 600 or more carotenoids in foods, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein are well-known leaders in the fight to reduce the damage from free radicals. Foods high in carotenoids may be effective in helping prevent certain cancers and may help decrease your risk of macular degeneration.

Foods high in carotenoids include red, orange, deep-yellow and some dark-green leafy vegetables; these include tomatoes, carrots, spinach, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, winter squash and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Research has demonstrated the broad role of vitamin E in promoting health. The main role of vitamin E is as an antioxidant. It helps protect your body from cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease and cataracts as we age. Vitamin E works with other antioxidants such as vitamin C to offer protection from some chronic diseases. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, salad dressings, margarine, wheat germ, whole-grain products, seeds, nuts and peanut butter.

Vitamin C

Perhaps the best-known antioxidant, vitamin C offers a wide-variety of health benefits. These benefits include protecting your body from infection and damage to body cells, helping produce collagen (the connective tissue that holds bones and muscles together) and helping in the absorption of iron and folate.

To take advantage of these benefits, eat foods rich in vitamin C like citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits and tangerines), strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes.

The best way to build a healthful eating plan is to eat well-balanced meals and snacks each day and to enjoy a wide variety of foods. Eating at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables daily is a good start for healthful living.

Sun Sense: Protect Your Skin, Inside and Outside!

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Summer is heating up, and as you dive headlong into seasonal fun and frolicking, you want to be sure to protect your skin.

According to new research, the two most common types of skin cancer are on the rise. The locations of these cancers has shifted, too. While they used to be found mainly on the head and neck, they’re now commonly found on the torso, arms, and legs. The upshot: It’s time to up your sun-protection game. Make wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and clothing made with SPF fabric part of your regular wardrobe, and brush up on sunscreen basics for exposed areas.

Some research suggests that the majority of people use sunscreen incorrectly, so here’s a reminder: Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher (we prefer micronized zinc oxide) and apply it early and often, even in overcast weather. If you’re outside and have a lot of skin exposed, you should apply about a shot-glass full every few hours. (Yes, really!) Pay extra attention to your lips, scalp, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your legs. These “hot spots” are easy to forget about, which makes them especially prone to sun damage.

And keep in mind that sun protection may be an inside job, too. Some research suggests that eating a Mediterranean-style diet, with nutritious fats and plenty of vegetables and fruit, may help to lower your risk of the sun damage that can lead to cancer. Carotenoids, compounds found in brightly colored produce like bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, and kale, may be especially helpful. How convenient that what’s good for the heart, brain, waistline, and taste buds may also be good for the skin!