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Simple Beauty Tips for the Busy Mom

Oatmeal Mask
Photo by Fotolia/Alliance

For moms, the new school year brings stressful morning routines, such as getting kids fed, packed up for school and out the door. The day’s end brings on homework help, school projects and preparing a healthy, hot and quick dinner.

In the midst of the chaos, craziness and chores of back-to-school madness, moms must not forget that they need a little me-time and downtime. Sure, an hour of relaxing yoga can relieve stressed out muscles and create comfort. But sometimes, a mom needs a pampering beauty routine to really feel refreshed and glowing.

The best beauty secrets are often hidden amongst Mother Nature’s flora and fauna. Forget spending a fortune on expensive creams, masks and salves, and take a peek in the fridge and pantry for green remedies to common beauty needs.

Ready to DIY? Grab a mixing bowl, some fresh ingredients and start creating all-natural and organic beauty treatments to pamper skin, hair and face and look fresh and glowing.

Here are five of the best recipes and natural ingredients to begin a journey towards a green beauty regime.

Homemade Sugar Scrub:

A sugar scrub helps exfoliate the skin while helping it stay nourished with moisture. Blogger Allison Czarnecki, founder and editor of Petit Elefant, offers up one of the simplest recipes for a decadent DIY scrub. The recipe calls for four simple ingredients: white sugar, brown sugar, olive oil (or baby oil, if preferred) and vanilla. Grab a small bowl and measure out equal parts white sugar and brown sugar. Start with around 1/4 cup of each type of sugar. Mix sugars together well using either a hand mixer or spoon. Make sure the sugars are well blended. Next, add olive oil — the amount used depends on the individual. Be sure to use enough oil, though, to coat the sugar and create a pliable texture. Finally, add in a few drops of vanilla or other essential oil to add a relaxing scent to the scrub.

Organic Coconut Oil:

Everyone needs a container of organic coconut oil in the pantry. This delicious oil is a must for healthy cooking and for a yummy skin moisturizer. Actress Lisa Bonet confessed her love of coconut oil to the New York Times and uses organic coconut oil on her body and her hair. According to Bustle.com, model Suki Waterhouse uses it in dry skin emergencies, and Emma Stone uses it to take off makeup. The oil also can be used to tame frizzy hair and keep curls moisturized. Need more reasons to invest in a jar? Check out Wellness Mama’s “101 Uses for Coconut Oil” and prepare to be amazed.

Oatmeal:

Naturally soothing oatmeal is one of the best solutions for irritated and itchy skin. Add a cup of finely-ground oats to the bath, tied up in a porous container (such as a sachet or stocking) to help soothe the itch and pain of sunburned skin. Make a face mask with milk, banana and oatmeal to help aging skin look refreshed and replenished. A recipe featured on Pioneer Thinking features oatmeal mixed with sea salt, baking soda and a little bit of water to make a wonderful exfoliating scrub for hands and feet.

Aloe Plant:

The natural gel found within the leaves of the aloe plant can soothe burns and promote healing. Aloe plants are one of the most ideal plants to have in the household to treat sunburn or common kitchen burns. Aloe also helps soothe diaper rash, dry skin and canker sores. Aloe plants are fairly easy to maintain and can be kept indoors. Just make sure the plant has a source of direct sunlight.

Tomatoes:

Rich in antioxidants and a great source of numerous vitamins, tomatoes are natures little treasures. Times of India writer Bushra Khan advises rubbing a simple tomato juice preparation on the face to treat oily skin or mild acne. For more severe acne, mash up a tomato and apply to your face as a mask for one hour.

Every mom can treat herself to invigorating and relaxing beauty treatments without splurging on expensive products. Many natural and organic skin and hair treatments can be whipped up in the kitchen using green ingredients found in the fridge or the pantry, because the best kept beauty secrets are held by the most knowledgeable mother and beauty editor in the world:  Mother Nature.

Natural Remedies to Alleviate Sinus Pressure

The sinuses are small pockets around the eyes, nose and forehead that are lined with mucus membranes that moisten and filter the air we breathe. Because they are dark, warm, moist areas of the body, they are a haven for bacteria and fungi. Luckily, the body does a great job of removing or destroying these things before they begin. Infections usually only occur when the sinus membranes are damaged or mucus becomes too thick to move (congestion).

woman with sinus pressure
Photo by Fotolia/Piotr Marcinski.

We’ve all probably had sinus pain or pressure at some point—whether from allergies, colds or sinus infections. These symptoms tend to dissipate on their own, however, if you experience chronic sinus issues and wish to alleviate pressure and expel excess mucus, try these natural remedies.

Stay Hydrated

As with many health issues, proper hydration can work wonders. Drinking the recommended amount of water, every day, will help keep your sinuses moist.

Irrigate Nasal Passages

Although sinus irrigation may seem foreign and uncomfortable to some, the process of flushing the nasal passages with a saline solution has proven effective for sinusitis and chronic sinus issues. Daily use of a neti pot will keep sinus passages moist and free from mucus build-up. If you’re recovering from a cold, experiencing allergies or battling general congestion, try flushing your sinuses twice a day instead of once.

Take a Steam

Have you ever noticed that your nose always seems to run after a nice, hot shower? Well, it’s not just you. Steamy showers, and hot water vapors, help moisten the sinus passages and keep them clear. Try adding a few drops of essential oils, to your bathroom or a pot of hot water, for a truly relaxing steam.

Some Like It Hot

If you love spicy foods, consider making them a regular part of your diet. Wasabi, mustard and hot peppers may help clear up congestion.

Don’t Say Cheese

If you’re prone to sinus infections or excess mucus production, try to avoid or limit the amount of dairy you consume. Milk and cheese have been known to thicken mucus, making your sinuses congested.

Our noses and sinuses are also the respiratory system’s first line of defense against foreign objects—bacteria, viruses, pollutants. Basic hygiene practices, such as washing your hands and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, along with these simple remedies will go a long way toward keeping your sinuses and respiratory system happy and healthy.

5 Yoga Poses for Immunity

Fall is, officially, only a few weeks away! And as much as I love the cooler weather and beautiful foliage, the changing seasons also bring a greater risk of getting sick—at least for me. In an attempt to ward off illness, stay active in a new city and just be a bit healthier, I’ve been practicing yoga more often. 

Yoga has been shown to yield positive health results, aside from increased flexibility and relaxation. So before seasonal illnesses can even begin to wreak havoc on your health, incorporate these poses into your daily routine to help bolster your immune system.

simple child's pose
Photo by Fotolia/f9photos.

Child’s Pose (Shishuasana)

Child’s Pose is by far one of the easiest and most relaxing yoga poses around.  It’s also great for cold and flu season because it requires very little exertion (if you’re already feeling under the weather) and the forward fold position can help with decongestion

Simply kneel on your yoga mat, bring your toes together and widen at the knees (if necessary). Gently fold forward at the hips, keeping your arms at your sides, and bringing your forehead as close to the mat as possible.

cobra pose
Photo by Fotolia/kegfire.

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Cobra is my favorite lower back and abdominal stretch. Plus, it always leaves me feeling a bit bendier and energized when I’m done. It’s also a chest opening pose that assists in stimulating the thymus, an organ located behind the breast bone, which is responsible for T-cell production (these are the body’s first line of defense against illness). 

Lie flat on your stomach, place your hands underneath your shoulders and push your upper body off the mat. Be sure to keep your thighs and the tops of feet on the mat, pressing down through these areas to create the stretch. Hold for 2-3 breaths before releasing the pose.

downward facing dog pose
Photo by Fotolia/GVS.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog may not always feel like a simple yoga pose, but it’s a miracle worker for increasing circulation, stretching tight leg muscles and allowing you space to breath. It’s also perfect for cold and flu season; due to the slight inversion, this yoga pose will help drain blocked sinuses.

legs-up-the-wall restorative yoga pose
Photo by Fotolia/julief514.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

A modified shoulder stand, Legs-Up-The-Wall can help alleviate a number of common ailments. However, if you’re battling seasonal woes, this pose may cure headaches often associated with colds, bronchitis and other upper respiratory illnesses. 

Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)

This pranayama—or breathing exercise—is one to have in your arsenal of calming, every day practices. Skull Shining Breath is an internal cleansing technique that is said to detoxify and bring our bodies into complete balance. When used for boosting immunity, Kapalabhati increases respiratory function and aids in eliminating mucus.

Who knew boosting the immune system could be as simple as a few deep, cleansing breathes? Definitely, not me!

If you need assistance executing any of these poses on their own or without going through a full yoga sequence, check out Yoga Outlet for easy-to-follow instructions.

6 Ways to Improve Home Air Quality


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There are many ways to enhance the air quality in your home. Aside from remembering to dust, if you are sensitive to allergens and pollen, really cleaning and purifying the air is something you need to do. If you want to breathe better throughout the day, here are some natural purifying techniques you can use to improve your life at home.

 

Open the Windows

Fresh, clean air dilutes the pollution that’s found in various spaces. To achieve the best results, leave the windows open for about 15 minutes each day, during times when the air is relatively dry. If the pollen count is high, you should keep your windows closed to avoid allergies. Letting moist air into your house means potential mold risks in certain areas will increase, so be aware of when you decide to let fresh air in.

Vacuum in multiple passes

In order to get clearer air throughout your entire home, you must get rid of dust. By vacuuming dirty areas more than once, you’ll capture more dust and boost the overall air quality. To prevent fraying on area rugs, work from the center outward. Take your time and be sure to empty it as you go, so the suction will work best.

Use the Bathroom Fans

Mold can cause coughing and congestion if not addressed in your environment. However, you can prevent the development of mold by running your bathroom fans regularly. When the blades spin, they’ll pull the air out of the space and reduce the chances of mold growth in moist areas.

Clean the Filters

Air filters that are clogged or dirty won’t operate at high efficiency. If you have an AC system, you must design a proper maintenance schedule by working with an HVAC maintenance company. According to the American Lung Association, the filters in a typical HVAC unit should be inspected every season.

Use the Fireplace Less Often

When wood burns in a fireplace, it produces harsh toxins that can cause serious breathing issues. If certain kinds of wood are burnt regularly, children or elderly family members could develop severe health problems, such as lung or heart disease.

Avoid Volatile Organic Compounds

Many forms of commercial house paints include toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Keep paint buckets in an area that’s well-ventilated. Better yet, try using paint with low-VOC or non-VOC content in your home to reduce or eliminate those contaminants completely.

Overall, the process of keeping the air in your home clean isn’t complicated if proper procedures are implemented. If you’re concerned about gas levels and other harmful toxins you may consider investing in an air quality test. Companies such as AirCheck One can detect additional pollutants you might not be aware of, and can make your home safer. Typically, prices for these services start at around $100 for a test kit, or $300 for a professional residential air quality test. If you have allergies or asthma, using these techniques may improve your overall quality of life.

“All-Natural” Personal Care Products to Avoid: Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste

Over the past few years, I’ve been working to reduce the number of skin- and personal-care products I use on a daily basis, and transitioning to natural products whenever possible. It’s been hit-or-miss on occasion, but with a little trial and error I have been able to find quality alternatives that meet my needs.

Toothpaste—at least in our house—is a product that’s hard to agree on; I love Earthpaste, but my partner isn’t quite as fond of it. So, in an attempt to keep both of our mouths happy, we’ve been experimenting with Tom’s of Maine.

Tom’s has quite a few flavors and dental products available, including many that are SLS- and fluoride-free. However, upon a bit of research, I discovered that a handful of their products are ranked as moderately hazardous (3 out of 10) by the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Database.

Ingredients of Concern

Sodium Flouride: Ranked 5 out of 10 (moderately hazardous) by the EWG, sodium fluoride is often the active ingredient in many types of toothpaste. Initially used to prevent cavities, new research has shown that fluoride can actually degrade connective tissues, creating “pockets” in gums that may allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause infection.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): This is the ingredient that my partner seems to miss the most since the switch to natural toothpaste. Even though SLS provides no added benefit, it does gives products the sudsing we’re used to in soaps, shampoos and toothpastes. Although the EWG rates this ingredient as low hazard, prolonged use may lead to cold sensitivity and increased occurrence of canker sores.

Hydrated Silica: Also ranked as a low hazard by the EWG, hydrated silica is a crystallized compound found in quartz, flint and sand. This naturally occurring compound is used as a whitening agent in toothpaste, but is also abrasive enough to damage tooth enamel.

As we become a more health-conscious society, limiting the number of toxins in our homes has become a larger priority. Personal care routines shouldn’t be an exception, even though simplifying these routines isn’t always easy—trust me, I know—it’s well worth it in the end.

The Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Your Body


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Almost all of us have tried some form of alcohol at some point. Studies show that more than 85% of adults in the US consume alcohol, yet very few of us pause to think about what exactly goes on in our body while drinking. Even though we are complex organisms, you might be surprised to find out how various parts of our bodies instantly react to consuming alcohol. Here’s a quick rundown that will help you better understand the after effects of drinking, and why alcohol makes you feel the way it does.

Stomach

The stomach is where alcohol is first broken down. Breaking down alcohol takes up a significant amount of energy, making it a hard substance to digest. The enzymes in the stomach convert alcohol into a substance called acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen which is toxic for our bodies. Acetaldehyde is also a known carcinogen.

Liver

You’re probably well aware that alcohol takes a toll on the liver. Well, that’s because acetaldehyde is a harmful substance, and the liver is what immediately converts it into something that is less dangerous for our bodies. The liver has enzymes that convert acetaldehyde to acetate, which is similar to vinegar. There’s a catch though - the liver can only metabolize a certain amount of acetaldehyde at a time. If acetaldehyde starts to accumulate in the liver, our bodies start to adversely react, especially in response to heavy drinking. That’s why chugging drinks, or doing many shots one after another can quickly lead to excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and other short-term effects.

Heart

On a normal basis, our hearts maintain a fairly steady pulse rate. Consuming alcohol puts the body in conditions of stress, and so the heart rates tend to increase. Frequent consumption of copious amounts of alcohol can cause the heart to become very stressed, and lead to many heart problems later in life.

Kidneys

You might have noticed the urge to frequently urinate while drinking. Since alcohol has diuretic properties, drinking alcohol causes the kidneys to send water to the bladder. However, the kidneys start to expel more water than usual, and so you might also start to feel dehydrated when drinking. It’s most important to keep drinking water alongside alcohol so as to replenish lost fluids.

Alcohol and Your Immune System

Alcohol greatly reduces the efficiency of our immune systems, for as long as 24 hours after consumption. This means that the body is vulnerable to all sorts of illnesses for a whole day after drinking! It’s critical to keep this in mind, especially if you are already suffering from illnesses such as a common cold, since your immune system might not be  at peak efficiency, thus prolonging your healing time.

Now that you know what alcohol does to your body, do keep these facts in mind before you decide to go out. Remember, always drink responsibly and stay safe!


Infographic courtesy of Lakeview Health

How Drinking Water Benefits Your Health


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You might be a fan of having coffee and orange juice with breakfast, soda with lunch and maybe a cocktail or glass of wine with dinner. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but switching out some of those beverages with a glass of water is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

Water is basically magic elixir for the human body. There are endless benefits to drinking a glass (or multiple glasses) of water every single day! Even just being in water gives your body a burst of life that only water can give.

So, now that you know that water is great, let’s talk about exactly why it’s so awesome:

Your Body Is Made Out of It

Your body is already 60% water! Keeping up this hydration is vital to maintaining the fluid balance in your body. When you don’t drink enough water, your body dehydrates, which prevents it from regulating its temperature, digesting properly and transporting nutrients. Staying hydrated also helps prevent muscle cramps and joint pain.

Helps Weight Loss

Drinking water can actually help you lose weight! If you drink water before and during a meal, it helps you feel more full so you don’t end up overeating. It’s also easy to think that you’re hungry when you’re actually just thirsty.

Drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for the chips is a healthier way to fill your stomach and satisfying cravings. It also boosts your metabolism, so it’s the all-around best bet for those of you trying to get that beach body.


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Gives You Energy for Exercise (and Life!)

Obviously, drinking water during exercise is extremely important. It replaces the hydration you lose when sweating and working out. Most people do already drink water when they’re working out — especially when it’s a hot, outdoor workout.

However, it’s also important to drink enough water during your workouts in the winter months. These colder workouts don’t make us as thirsty, so we think we don’t need water. However, it’s still important to stay hydrated, because you’re losing just as much fluid.

Makes Your Skin Glow

Drinking enough water flushes out those nasty toxins that give you breakouts and clogged pores. This helps keep your skin clean and fresh in an all-natural way! Rinsing your skin with water also helps the skin itself hydrate, which helps keep it firm and bright. These benefits apply to your hair, too! Rinsing your hair in cool water helps your tame your hair, and make it shine.

Aids Digestion

Enough water intake helps keep things moving and promotes a healthy digestive system. Staying hydrated helps the kidneys flush out waste and prevents constipation. It also adds fluids to the colon. TMI? You’ll thank us when your bathroom trips are care-free!


Photo by Fotolia

Cures Hangovers

If you weren’t drinking water the night before at the bar, you’ll want to hit the tap the next morning. Alcohol dehydrates you, so rehydrating helps get rid of that nasty hangover and even the headache that comes with it. Additionally, try drinking a glass of water during your wild night out to reduce your hangover symptoms the next day.

Provides Pain Relief

Ice and cold packs provide relief for sprains and strains by reducing blood flow and swelling. Often, athletes use ice baths to treat muscle damage and recuperate after exercise. It’s a particularly good solution when performing long exercises in the heat.

On the flipside, hot-water soaks can relieve some types of chronic pain. For people with back pain, waterbeds can provide relief for a restful night’s sleep.

Provides a Perfect Workout Space

Ever tried working out in water? Exercising in a pool or another body of water is actually great for you! It provides a low-impact alternative to on-land activities like running and weightlifting. There are even group exercise classes you can take! Exercises like aqua yoga and aqua cycling are becoming more and more popular as people realize the benefits of exercising in water.

Decreases Anxiety

In multiple ways, water helps our anxiety levels. Living near water leads to good health and a higher satisfaction with life. Staying hydrated also helps improve overall mood and helps us sleep more soundly. Also, the sound of running water and waves is extremely soothing. It can lower our pulse and blood pressure, which both rise when we listen to noises such as screeches and car horns. Spending time in water, like a warm bath, releases oxytocin to make your feel warm and relaxed, taking away feelings of sadness and anxiety.

Overall, being in water, drinking water and even being near water can drastically benefit your health and your life. Keep a water bottle with you on a daily basis to encourage yourself to drink enough water. Even set a reminder on your phone or calendar if you have to so you can ensure you’re drinking enough, It’s a natural and healthy way to stave off illness and keep your body up-to-par. So what are you waiting for? Drink up!