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Natural Health

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Everyone knows that exercise is good for your physical well-being, but many may overlook the fact that regular exercise has a real and positive influence on mental health as well. Exercise helps reduce stress, increase focus, heighten self-confidence, improve memory, ease anxiety and improve motivation. There are a few quick, simple exercises that will have you looking, feeling and thinking your best.

outdoor group fitness
Photo courtesy Boot Camp Melbourne.


Walking has a great impact on your mental health, aiding in reducing anxiety and depression. Even a short 20 minute walk can make a huge difference in your attitude. The increase in body temperature and release of feel-good chemicals (endorphins) that come with physical movement have been shown to relieve some depression symptoms. Walking also helps give your mind a break from the everyday, which takes it off of things that might be causing anxiety and worry. If possible, take a hike outdoors with a friend or pet to enjoy fresh air, nice scenery and really maximize the mental benefits.


The practice of yoga offers many health benefits. It helps alleviate stress, calms the nervous system, relaxes muscle tension and decreases stress. There are many places that have regularly scheduled group yoga classes, but if you don't have the time or desire to take one of these, simply practicing with a yoga DVD from the comfort of your living room will provide a multitude of benefits.


According the United States Census Bureau, swimming is the second most popular sport in the United States. Swimming with others during swim lessons or at a public pool fosters friendships, which alleviate stress, provide a sense of well-being and improve memory formation. If you live in or around New York City, find swim lessons near you and get started learning a skill you can use your whole life.

Jumping Jacks

Several studies have shown that creativity increases for a few hours after an aerobic workout. If you don’t have time to do a long workout, or need to wake your brain up fast, short bursts of aerobic exercise are very effective. Try doing 20 jumping jacks or jogging in place for a few minutes. While, short mini-exercise sessions may help in the short-term, regular exercise has more lasting benefits.

Bike Riding

Cycling provides you with new scenery, physical exercise and mental stimulation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that regular exercise can keep your “learning, thinking, and judgement skills sharp as you age.” With Alzheimer's on the rise and a growing concern for many, it's encouraging to hear that exercise can help improve memory and long-term cognitive function. Bike riding is enjoyable for most and relatively easy to get started, even if you aren’t in fabulous physical shape.


Dancing can be enjoyed by anyone, at any age and any fitness level. You can dance at home while doing housework to increase your aerobic exertion, or sign up to take a formal class. Classes provide the opportunity for you to interact and be social, and also offer accountability, motivation and fun.

As a general rule, any exercise that’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. To maximize the benefits, it’s best to exercise in the morning before your day gets started. This gets blood flowing and spikes brain activity, which will allow you to respond quickly and appropriately to difficult situations and reduce your stress throughout the day. Experts recommend exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you’re unable to do that immediately, start small and work up to it. So, do your heart and mind some good and get exercising!

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter, @BrookeChaplan.


Chewing is as simple as cramming a bite in your mouth, chomping down a few times, then down the hatch, right? Wrong! It’s actually a really important part of digestion, and if we don’t do it right, it could cause big problems.

friends sharing meal together
Photo by Fotolia/gstockstudio.

It may surprise you, but chewing does more than what meets the eye, or in this case, taste buds. When we take our time to munch up food, it becomes encased in saliva. Saliva, along with acting as a lubricant to send food gliding smoothly down our esophagus, contains enzymes that start breaking down all that delicious goodness into stuff our bodies can use. When food is chewed well, we don’t swallow as much air, which keeps embarrassing gas away.

If you throw back snacks faster than the county fair pie eating champion, you may also be missing out on vital nutrients. When food is left in partially whole form, our bodies can’t properly absorb essential vitamins or minerals. If you start doing more of the work in your mouth, it will make things easier on your belly, keeping it strong and healthy.

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), ulcers, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and diverticulosis are occurring at alarmingly high rates, and it’s difficult not to blame the “fast” food mentality as a contributing factor. And we’re not just talking a cheeseburger with fries, I am talking choking that cheeseburger down without taking a breath.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15.4 million adults have been diagnosed with ulcers which, simply put, are holes in our stomach lining. WebMD states that cases of GERD, a condition that allows stomach acid to creep up the esophagus, have risen a shocking 50 percent over the last decade. WebMD also includes that 58 million Americans suffer from IBS. Half of people over 60 have diverticulosis, when pockets of the intestine become weak and bulge outward. I’d say statistics like that are great reasons to spend an extra 15 minutes at the table!

So when meal time rolls around, give yourself adequate time to eat. Cut food into smaller bites and chew until everything is ground well. Our busy schedules keep us from enjoying the simplest things in life, like eating. If we take time to focus on the smaller things, our lives will become more enriched.  Taste the flavors, enjoy the aromas, and notice yourself feeling more nourished and satisfied after each meal and snack.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives..


You do it every night but you probably have a number of questions related to sleeping and getting a good night’s rest. Before you take your next nap or shut your eyes for the night, open your mind to the following question and answers related to sleep.

woman sleeping
Photo by Fotolia.

1. Why is sleep so important?

Sleeping well influences how you feel while awake, which includes how you work, interact with others, and engage in forms of exercise. Getting rest helps the brain retain information and energizes the body for the following day’s events.

2. Is napping good or bad?

A number of people rely on short naps to keep them feeling good. However, if you find that you’re taking long naps or lethargy is a perpetual problem, you may not be getting a deep, restful night’s sleep. If you feel like you “need” to take a nap each day, speak to your doctor.

3. Do I need a premium mattress?

The average person spends about one-third of their day in bed, so the quality of mattress does determine how well you sleep and how you feel. The term “quality” is a bit subjective and does not mean you have to spend a load of money to sleep well. However, if you feel achy or sore upon waking, or often toss and turn at night, it may be a sign that your present mattress is old or it’s not a quality product.

4. How much sleep do I really need?

Some need more or less but most people sleep for an average of 7 to 8 hours per night. However, a person’s schedule is not always so regimented; some may have to get up early for work after working the night before, or take business trips at unusual hours. Plus, having a newborn in the home can definitely make a mom or dad sleep inconsistently. Some believe that if you sleep a lot longer on the weekends than you do during the week, you’re probably not getting enough rest.

5. How can I get better rest?

A consistent sleep-wake cycle helps. Try to go to bed and get up at the same times. Of course, you can alter things a bit on the weekends, but maintaining a schedule helps the most. Secondly, reserve a way to wind down each night, whether it’s drinking tea, reading, watching television, etc. Thirdly, create a restful environment, such as making the room dark, getting into bed, and adjusting the temperature in the room to match your preferences. If you suffer from an unknown sleep disorder, you may be unsuccessful and need to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis.

6. What can I do if I work varied shifts?

Some people work in varied shifts or sleep during the day and work at night. If you need to sleep during the day, do your best to make your immediate surroundings model nighttime conditions, such as blocking out the light and sleeping in an area of the home that will remain quiet. Creating white noise, getting a new mattress, and sleeping with earplugs are also methods to help you get better rest.

7. Is it OK to fall asleep in a chair or on the couch?

Ideally, you want to fall asleep in your bed so you get a full night’s rest. If you find that you prefer your chair or couch, you may be in denial about the state of your present mattress. Check the Bedroom Store for a wide selection of mattress solutions. Moreover, being on the couch or in a chair may pair with bad behaviors such as drinking alcohol or eating before bed, which does not make for a good night’s rest.

8. Can you make up for lost sleep?

No, as mentioned, the best method is to try and get at least 7 to 8 hours each night and go to sleep on a schedule. Don’t assume you can get 2 hours one night and 10 hours the next and feel as if you slept for 6 hours both nights. Your body does not respond that way, and trying to compensate on the weekends or particular nights of the week will take a toll on your body and mind.

9. How can I tell if it’s time for a new mattress?

Most mattresses will need to be put to rest after ten years or so, but look for signs of wear, such as lumps and uneven sections, in addition to taking note of how you feel upon waking in the morning.

Learn more facts about sleep in 11 Things You Didn't Know About Sleep.

Sandra Moon works at a doctor's office and knows just how few of her patients get an uninterrupted night's sleep. She shares tips and knowledge on a broad range of health topics to get everyone feeling better.


Photo by Fotolia

The effects of medical radiation and its safety remains one of the more controversial subjects in healthcare. Despite the large amount of help imaging procedures can provide, some concerns regarding the risks associated with radiation have arisen.

Let us explore the current state of medical radiation and the risks associated with it before examining alternative imaging techniques.

How Much Radiation is Too Much?

The simple answer to this question is that any additional radiation results in an increased chance of developing complications from radiation. While students will be familiar with risk and reward in medical procedures, the risk with traditional medical diagnostic procedures can be circumvented with new techniques.

As radiation levels approach just 50 to 100 times the radiation levels of background radiation exposure, patients experience a dramatically higher risk of developing conditions like cancer.

The problem with medical radiation pertains to the way it is delivered to the body. It must be strong enough to pass through the entire body, which in turn means that even the least harmless of medical radiation can be potentially dangerous to the long-term health of patients.

The Risk of Medical Radiation

In 2011, the American College of Radiology released a statement on the FDA's call to reduce radiation in medical imaging. They confirmed that side effects from medical radiation are rare, but warrant enough attention to seek alternative imaging methods.

The main risk of common imaging techniques like x-rays revolves around the way they deliver radiation to the body. Concentrated doses of radiation reach far deeper into the body than they would if they merely hit the skin like background radiation or UV radiation normally would.

Smaller x-rays, such as those for chest x-rays, contain six times the radiation of normal background radiation. Larger x-rays contain 181 times the radiation per image.

On their own, these x-rays contain relatively minimal additional risk. The problem arrives with how medical technicians use these x-rays.

Multiple Images Mean Higher Risks

The problem with traditional x-rays is that they tend to come in series. One chest examination may carry six to ten concentrated x-ray images, which means that the patient is exposed to up to 60 times the radiation they would be exposed to in a typical day from ambient sources.

The problem becomes even greater with larger images, which may further require additional x-rays to thoroughly diagnose problems.

Technicians tend to be liberal when they use x-rays. They will expose patients to enough x-rays until they have a clear diagnosis.

This leads to a situation where 10 percent of patients are exposed to a high amount of radiation each year. Their risk of developing conditions associated with radiation, such as cancer or even radiation poisoning, is much higher than it would be otherwise.

Seeking Alternative Ways of Diagnosing Health Conditions

The first step in reducing the amount of medical radiation patients receive is to make x-rays more sensitive. Digital x-rays are one of the more favorable approach due to their similarity to traditional x-rays.

The second step is to eliminate x-rays completely. Techniques like medical sonography can provide an alternative way to diagnose issues in soft tissues, but these techniques require additional training for technicians. Colleges like ADU Online are helping technicians acquire a bachelor’s in sonography degree online to make this possible.

The last step is to look for additional ways to diagnose conditions. Blood tests are particularly favorable for eliminating the need for many types of soft tissue diagnoses. Intravenous imaging techniques may also be used to reduce the need for diagnostic imaging, which in turn keeps patients safer.

Revolutionizing the Way Patients are Diagnosed

Despite the relatively safe nature of radioactive diagnostic imaging, there are still certain risks that patients will be exposed to. Reducing these risks requires medical diagnostic imaging to change considerably, both in terms of techniques and technology.

This change should be a natural step, as new techniques should offer more precise diagnostic imaging with fewer undesirable side effects. Healthcare will become better, safer and more efficient for patients when this happens.

Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.


As the end of the year approaches, the holiday madness has begun and it's time to boost your dedication to fitness if you want to avoid packing on any extra pounds this season. Between your busy social calendar and the indulgences that are as much a part of the season as the lights and carols, you've certainly got your work cut out for you. To make the most of every spare moment this holiday season, use these tips to squeeze in a workout.

woman preparing for workout
Photo by shutterstock.

Use Your Calendar

You live and die by your calendar in every other aspect of your life, so why should your fitness be any different? Make sure you keep up with your workouts by scheduling them in your smartphone calendar just like all of your Christmas parties and appointments.

Determine what time of day works best and stick to it. While some find a gym session the perfect way to end a long day at the office, others would rather not have the task looming over them all day and would rather check this item of the daily to-do list first thing in the morning.

Keep Your Routine Flexible

Sure, that hot yoga studio you love has a pretty addictive workout, but if you're going to be traveling at all over the holidays, it'll be hard to maintain your practice with consistency while you're out of town. Instead incorporate a mix of cardio, weight lifting and classes like cycling and yoga, to offer a well-balanced workout that you can accomplish anywhere you travel. Join a gym with locations across the country so you have one less excuse to skip your workouts while you're on the road for Christmas. By increasing accessibility and varying your workouts, your routine will be flexible enough that you won't have any excuse not to get out and burn off that mulled wine and pumpkin pie.

Add in HIIT

Are you so busy that you feel like there's no time to squeeze in an hour at the gym? With high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a lack of time is no excuse; most HIIT sequences can be completed in less that 15 minutes. The best part: the majority of the workouts don't even require equipment, so you can do them anywhere, whether that's in your grandma's living room or on the beach while on a New Year's holiday. Check out the 12-Minute Athlete's recommendations for the best holiday HIIT workouts.

Make the Most of Your Chores

Housework is no excuse to skip a workout. Work up a sweat while cleaning the house by finding ways to exercise at least one muscle group during each chore. Do lunges while vacuuming to tighten your glutes. Do a few sets of standing push-ups against your kitchen countertops as you're wiping them down. Tone your tummy while folding laundry by sitting next to a basket full of clean clothes and twist at the waist to pick up each item, one-by-one to fold it. Move the basket to the other side once it's half empty to balance your efforts.

Stay Committed with a Friend

The good old-fashioned buddy system is an easy way to stay committed to your fitness goals through the end of the year. Not only will this help get you to the gym and keep you accountable, but it's also ideal bonding time which is often scarce with the many time commitments during the holiday season.

Allison Wilkinson is a WAHM, an explorer, an amateur chef and a fitness buff. You can find her Instagramming photos of her (adorable) son or researching everything from the latest parenting theories to healthy hacks for desserts.


Nothing is worse than a sudden dental emergency—in the middle of the night or during a holiday or weekend. A chipped tooth, cracked or dislodged tooth, or having a filling or crown fall out can be a terrible experience. Discover ways to handle it calmly and effectively on your own, and instances that require professional help.

woman in dentist chair
Photo by Fotolia.

Chipped Tooth

Any serious trauma requires care by a skilled dentist. But, does a cracked or chipped tooth count? It could. If there’s no pain and the chip is small, it’s up to you to decide if and when the tooth should be repaired. It may not require emergency repair. In fact, unless it’s chipped into the dentin, it’s not likely to become infected, but you should still make an appointment to have it checked out.

Cracked or broken teeth should be examined by a qualified dentist to ensure that no further damage is done. The dentist might seal the tooth or recommend other procedures.

Symptoms of a cracked tooth include hypersensitivity to hot and cold, sensitivity while chewing, and sensitivity to air. Over time, these symptoms may become more pronounced. It’s unusual for a crack in your tooth to be unnoticeable on x-ray, but it is possible.

Knocked Out Tooth

If your tooth is knocked out, you probably need to see a good 24 hour dentist right away. This is an emergency situation. Handle the tooth with care and avoid touching the root of the tooth (the part embedded in the gum). If the tooth is dirty, rinse it off with milk, or a sterile saline solution. Do not run it under tap water or wipe it with a rag or anything abrasive.

Even a soft cloth could damage the microscopic cells that are still alive on the root. Keep the tooth moist, dropping it into a class of milk, if possible. If no milk is available, place the tooth in the mouth between the cheek and gums while someone drives you to the dentist’s office.

If you do hold the tooth in your mouth, take extra care not to swallow it. This is actually a pretty dangerous way to keep a tooth moist because of the choking and swallowing hazard.

Do not try to force the tooth back into the socket. If you can’t get in to see a dentist immediately, try slipping it gently into the socket. Make sure it’s positioned properly, facing the right direction. If you can’t get it in without pressure, stop. Place the tooth in a glass of milk or in saliva until you can get in to see the dentist.

Dislodged Tooth

If your tooth becomes dislodged, you have a few options. This type of injury is normally called an extruded tooth. If the tooth isn’t broken or chipped, and the nerve and blood vessels are still attached, then the tooth can be saved.

Leave the tooth in your mouth, even though it’s partially coming out of the socket. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. Apply a cold ice pack to help relieve pain or swelling until you can get in to see a professional.

Severe Tooth Pain

If you’re in severe pain, take pain reliever and make an appointment to see your dentist right away. It may not be as serious as you think, but it could be—you never know unless you go in. Food particles stuck in your teeth can become uncomfortable and, at times, very painful. Sometimes this pain is caused by bacteria that have become overgrown, creating an abscess. 

Injured Lips or Gums

Any trauma to the lips, tongue or gums should be attended to right away. Bacteria that get into the bloodstream can cause a bloodstream infection, called sepsis. This is a very serious, possibly life-threatening condition. The soft flesh of the lips and their exposed location make them susceptible to injury. A severe injury may allow normal oral bacteria to get into the bloodstream where they don’t belong.

As soon as you experience trauma, rinse your mouth out with a mouth-rinse containing alcohol. Apply pressure to the cut or laceration and make an appointment to see your doctor.

Mouth Burn

It happens to the best of us. You’re really excited about the pizza you just ordered, and you haven’t eaten all day. When it hits the table, you dig in immediately. Hot cheese, ouch! Your mouth is on fire and you spit it out, but the damage is already done. You feel a little stupid, but you’re otherwise OK.

Then, it begins. You feel a smooth patch form on the roof of your mouth. What started as a mild irritation turns into a nagging pain. You burned your mouth.

Most burns of this type will heal in a few days. Warm salt water rinses after meals will keep the area clean. You probably don’t need to go to the dentist unless your mouth hasn’t healed within a week.

Paul Craig has extensive experience as a dental technician. He enjoys sharing his tooth health insights online through blogging.


Most of us are figuring out how harmful many of our household products are, and toothpaste is no exception. Top brands contain harmful ingredients that can contribute to a variety of illnesses.

mom helping daughter brush teeth
Photo by Fotolia.

Toothpaste Ingredients to Avoid

• Sodium fluoride is used for cavity prevention and causes nausea, vomiting and even death if large amounts are swallowed.
• Triclosan is carcinogenic and is added to toothpaste for its antibacterial qualities.
• Sodium lauryl sulfate is a cleansing and foaming agent that is carcinogenic and causes skin irritation.
• Propylene glycol absorbs effortlessly into the skin and goes into our blood stream.
Diethanolamine is another foaming agent that disrupts our hormones. Most commercial toothpastes contain all of these ingredients.

You’re probably getting pretty tired of hearing about all of the catastrophic things our environment is doing to our bodies. But there are some companies that are making toothpaste right. Natural toothpaste can be effective, healthy and taste great, all at the same time.

Many companies who sell natural toothpaste started making their products for a reason: They couldn’t find toothpaste they felt was safe for their families. They have created their products out of effective sources derived from the earth. So much of what we need in life has always been here, in a safe, pure state.

My Thoughts: Natural Toothpastes

David's Natural Toothpaste
Photo by Karyn Wofford.

David’s Premium Natural Toothpaste: With natural ingredients, recyclable packaging, no artificial flavors, no preservatives and no fluoride, David’s comes in at a rating of 1, on the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity scale. (0 is the least toxic rating, 10 is the most toxic.)

This American-made paste boasts great flavor too. 100 percent natural, USA-farmed mint oil is used to give it a super minty taste. Limestone is used to add a gentle, abrasive quality that really made my teeth feel polished. The clean feeling was long lasting as the mint oil really sticks around, keeping things fresh.

David’s takes pride in being earth friendly—“David’s is all about sustainability…sustaining our earth, our USA economy, our health…Thank you for your support and being part of the solution.”

The Natural Dentist All-In-One Toothpaste: This toothpaste is made with a combination of aloe vera and botanicals. It does contain fluoride, but they sell a fluoride-free version that uses xylitol. The EWG gives them a rating of 3.

The taste is very traditional. Mint is the dominant flavor and it isn’t too sweet. My mouth felt as clean as it did when I used regular toothpaste. If you are struggling to toss your SLS filled, mainstream toothpastes, this one is for you.

Mouth rinses are one of the main focuses of The Natural Dentist. They have a variety to choose from, including selections that soothe and heal bleeding gums. Just like the paste, I found the taste to be very pleasant. I have been using another mouth wash that actually made me a little queasy because of the sweetener in it. I didn’t have that problem with The Natural Dentist rinse.

I don’t agree with the use of fluoride in their products, but they do make sure that consumers have fluoride-free options.

Earthpaste Lemon Twist
Photo by Karyn Wofford.

Earthpaste: This one is probably the most unique products I came across during my research. It is pure enough to eat, it has only five ingredients, and the main ingredient is clay. Yes…clay! The clay polishes and cleanses. It is also alkaline and provides essential minerals to your teeth. With essential oils, salt, and xylitol, Earthpaste has everything you need for a healthy mouth. According to a representative from the company, after 20-25 brushings, all previous glycerin agents from unhealthy pastes are broken down, and the clay will start healing your teeth and could even heal cavities. The EWG rates it at a 1.

I had to try this stuff and was really excited to receive some samples in the mail. It was really different at first, but pleasant at the same time. The paste is grey, but smooth in texture. I felt like I did not put enough on my brush at first, because Earthpaste does not contain any foaming agents, however when I rinsed, my mouth felt incredibly clean.

Earthpaste comes in five different flavors, cinnamon, wintergreen, lemon twist, peppermint and spearmint. Lemon twist and peppermint were my favorites!

Green Beaver Toothpaste I’ll start by saying Green Beaver has incredible flavors. Cilantro mint, cinnamon, frosty mint, green apple, spearmint, star anise and zesty orange all taste ridiculously good. A fresh mint flavor is also available for anyone with sensitive teeth or gums.

It is hard to pick a favorite flavor, but frosty mint delivers that really fresh feeling most of us are looking for in a toothpaste. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for something milder, for example, when I want to brush up before a meal and the fruit flavors come in handy here.

This is another great product for those who are just converting to natural oral care products. The consistency isn’t shockingly different from any other toothpaste you’ve probably tried, but the ingredients are wholesome.

Green Beaver believes in creating products that do not harm animals, the earth, or humans. The company offers everything from oral care products to hair care products. “Green Beaver was founded on the belief that humans can live happily and healthfully off of the goodness that Mother Nature provides”—Alain Menard.

Honest Company toothpaste
Photo via The Honest Company.

The Honest Company Toothpaste: I have tried almost every personal care product The Honest Company offers. Their toothpaste is one of my favorite things they have. Natural peppermint is used to add flavor, organic aloe and ginger create a calming effect to ease sores and abrasions, and calcium is added for enamel protection.

The EWG rates the paste at a 3 because of a coconut derived cleanser, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate. The Honest Company says that this is a natural ingredient and it has two stamps of approval from the Handbook of Green Chemicals and Whole Foods Premium Body Care. To further solidify the company’s stance that their product is pure, the Think Dirty App, an affiliate with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, rates the paste at a 0. This means according to their research, the product does not pose health risks.

So Which One Is the Best?

Each of these amazing pastes have their own strengths, many of which depend on what your personal preferences are. Is fluoride a must for you or do you think its toxic? Are you adventurous with flavors and textures? Do you have sensitive teeth or inflamed gums? Are you looking for something you and your kids will both love? Those questions should help you decide which natural toothpaste is right for you.

After trying all of them, Earthpaste came out on top for me. I love the fact that it not only cleans my teeth, but detoxes my mouth. I will probably continue buying all of the brands, and rotating. I like to keep things fresh…no pun intended.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

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