Brave the Cold: How to Get Through the Winter

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The winter solstice ushers in a dark, cold stretch for most of us that can be unpleasant or even downright miserable. The cold, dry air of winter often is accompanied by snow, sleet, or freezing rain as well as bringing on physical maladies like colds, dry skin, and sore throats. Finding relief or methods to overcome some of these discomforts can help us survive these short days until spring brings more sunshine and warmth.

Brave the Cold: How to Get Through the Winter

Warm Mobility Aids

Many times in order to stay warm we can move around to fight off the chill, but what about those who have mobility issues and require a wheelchair to get around? They obviously can’t exert themselves to get warmer so we need to look elsewhere for relief. Being able to protect yourself from the elements can be uncomfortable or even difficult when using a wheelchair to get about. One simple method to overcome this problem is with a wheelchair poncho. It gives the user the ability to be covered and comfortable. You can opt for the winter poncho or the rain poncho depending on your own personal preference. Both cover the user and the wheelchair and are easy to put on and use. Another option available to you is a simple, portable fleece blanket. Simply snug around the user and enjoy the warmth!! One option for those that are wheelchair-bound is a lap blanket with hand warmer. These are designed specifically for those seated in a wheelchair to keep hands and feet toasty warm. Another blanket route is the use of a ceramic fiber blanket. Designed to regulate body temperature, it can increase blood circulation which in turn can help our extremities stay warm. Overcoming the harsh, cold temperatures of winter has never been easier!!

Rain Poncho

Moisture Is Your Friend

Winter weather brings cold air that is devoid of moisture. Not only can this dry out your skin, but it can also dry out our throat and respiratory system. Who hasn’t suffered from a dry, scratchy sore throat? If mother nature feels the need to remove the moisture from our air, it is up to us to put it back. That sounds easy, but how do we achieve this? The simple use of a humidifier can add soothing moisture to the air around us, especially while we sleep. While they all basically do the same thing, there are some options that may be more enticing to you. These options include a cool mist humidifier, an ultrasonic humidifier, and even a pediatric humidifier. Choose which option fits you best!! A steam inhaler can also introduce warm moist air into our throat and lungs to ease discomfort. A ceramic heater can be paired in the same room as a humidifier to create a comfortable, warmer environment. Cold winter air can affect those with allergies more so than others. To combat the negative effects that cold air can have on those with respiratory allergies, the use of a cold weather mask can be beneficial. Made of arctic fleece, these masks warm the air that is inhaled while still filtering particles out of the air. For those that use CPAP machines, you can also enjoy the soothing benefits of moisture while safely continuing your CPAP therapy. A heated humidifier can easily be added to your CPAP machine to deliver warm, moist air during sleep time, therefore minimizing any irritation due to cold, dry air.

Humidifier

Tackling Cold Symptoms

Even if you take all the precautions you can, sometimes that dreaded cold is inevitable (especially if there are small children in the house). Being able to make symptoms of the common cold lesser can make the duration of your cold more bearable. Runny noses, congested sinuses, and sore throats are common symptoms of a cold. Since there is no cure for the common cold, treating the symptoms can help you feel better and more importantly get some sleep. The most common method for dealing with cold symptoms is a cold and cough syrup. Many of these cold remedies are effective in breaking up mucus and suppressing that bothersome cough that keeps you up at night. Incorporating a cough lozenge can help soothe a scratchy throat and minimize that scratchy tickle that causes us to cough, at times uncontrollably. There has been some research done on the effects of zinc on cold symptoms and zinc cold relief lozenges may shorten the duration of your cold. Use all the tools in your arsenal!!

Cold and Cough Syrup

Not only are winter months darker and colder, they can become an even more formidable foe for those that are affected by winter in a greater manner. Limited mobility and respiratory ailments are just a couple of issues that need special attention during the cold, long nights of winter. Surviving until the warm days of spring may require a little help. Bundle up and stay warm!!

Jan 10

Give a Second Chance

As a household of three growing boys, there is never a quiet relaxing moment in our home. When they are back home from soccer practices or games, they are either out in the backyard playing some more soccer or basketball or just rolling on the family room floor wrestling each other. I would not have it any other way. This is way better than them playing video games or getting lost for hours on their handheld devices.

However on the flip side of the coin, the worry about sports that plagues me day in and day out is the risk of injury…and don’t get me wrong , my boys are tough cookies and so am I. Scrapes and cuts get a kiss and off they go. Fractures and sprains are also just road bumps which cause misery not because of the pain but because they have to go out of commission for the duration of the recovery. Sitting on the sidelines watching your team play isn’t the most fun! What truly scares me when it comes to sports related injuries is head trauma, concussion and brain injuries. While a fractured leg or an arm will heal and even if you cannot play with the same skill level, your life besides the sport will go on normally. A traumatic brain injury though, does not give a second chance at a normal life many a times.

When you sign up to play a sport, you accept the underlying risk of injury as part and parcel of being an athlete. However once injured you take the necessary steps to recover before heading back out on the field. Would a player with a broken arm or foot be sent back in to finish the game? That is quite unheard of. However it is quite common for a player who has a bad fall on his head, gets hits hard on his head, loses consciousness to sit out for a few minutes or even a quarter and then head back into the game and play till the end. Nothing is bleeding, he seems a little dizzy but able to play so off he goes to do his due diligence to the team. That return to the game is often times far more harmful than the initial injury and in a lot of cases can result in the player becoming mentally incapacitated for life. No second chances here.

As a parent of three boys, I learnt about the risks and symptoms of concussion early in their life and live by the thumb rule that if the head was involved in an injury, they are not playing for the next 24 hours so I can watch for symptoms and if it was a severe enough blow, they need to get to the ER to get checked out for concussion. They are still young and listen to me but soon the day will come when I would be told to leave them alone and they will head back onto the field to play. What is needed to keep my boys and all these athletes safe is an on field medical evaluation for concussion at all competitive games. With over 300,000 high school athletes suffering from concussion every year, there is no time like now to implement onsite concussion evaluation at all varsity games, football, soccer, basketball etc. It may not be bleeding and it may not hurt but they can only return to the game if they pass the sideline concussion exam.

Most of the high school and middle school sports programs are already mandated to conduct a baseline concussion test before signing up the athletes to play for them. This test is repeated after injuries to determine if the athlete has suffered a concussion. However the test is administered in an office setting a day or two after the game where the athlete got injured and in more cases than we would like to admit, the athlete actually continued playing in that game after the injury. Thus the need of the hour is to have concussion evaluation done at the sideline. The technology has been developed. Goggles called Eye-Sync that look like a VR headset can test for concussion in under a minute using eye-tracking technology. These goggles should be made available at the sideline of every inter-scholastic and non-scholastic youth sport.

Seeing Stars Foundation, an organization that supports research and education on sports related concussion injuries from pee-wee to professional level, is currently raising funds to make sideline medical evaluation using Eye-Sync available at all youth sports. The technology is available but expensive. Health Products For you, a healthy living and wellness ecommerce store, has partnered with Seeing Stars Foundation through their Giving Day initiative on 12th January. Let us all spread the word about concussion and the need for these sideline evaluations. For the love of sports let us give these athletes a second chance.

Dec 18

9 Gifts Of Health You Can Buy With Your FSA

FSA

The holiday season can be stressful and expensive so one way to alleviate both of these issues is to look to your Flexible Spending Account. These accounts allow you to set aside pretax dollars to be used for out-of-pocket healthcare costs and these monies must be spent on eligible healthcare products during the plan year or that money disappears. This holiday season if you have funds left in your FSA account then it is time to take stress and expense out of gift giving. Smart, frugal consumers spend the money they have set aside every year in their FSA on gifts for family members, as long as they meet FSA guidelines. This holiday season get the most out of your FSA and incorporate gifts of eligible health products for your loved ones that need them.

Be the Best Gift Giver Ever

The saying is “get them something they wouldn’t get for themselves” when it comes to looking for holiday gifts. This time of year everyone starts their wish list for the holidays and many times healthcare gets overlooked. A lot of FSA eligible medical supplies can make our parent’s quality of life better or even allow them to maintain their independence. Medical supplies or aids for dependent children and even our elderly parents may be eligible and are thoughtful gifts for the holidays. Some great gift ideas include:

  1. Pressure Monitor: One way to ensure our loved ones continued good health is to provide the correct tools for monitoring our own health. High blood pressure is an increasingly all too common issue in our country and being able to monitor your own blood pressure can help our family stay healthy. One thoughtful gift is a blood pressure monitor/kit. Simply slip on the sleeve and press the button to get quick, simple and accurate readings. For those that have diminished dexterity, maybe a wrist blood pressure monitor could be the perfect holiday gift.
  2. Be Proactive: A great way to stay healthy is to maintain a healthy weight. With holiday parties and our tendency to overindulge, keeping an eye on our weight is important and the gift of a scale or even one that incorporates a body fat scale/monitor allows us to help our loved ones avoid unwanted weight gain. It’s much easier to never gain the weight than having to lose it!! Avoid those New Year’s resolutions we never keep. A weighing scale would be an extremely useful addition to your college aged kids dorm room or your teenagers room too.
  3. Great Rate: As we age, the risk of cardiac events can increase, so the ability to monitor our heart rate can be crucial. Give the gift of aheart rate monitor or a pedometer to help track and monitor family member’s exercise routines. This can help our dependent children and aging parents continue a healthy lifestyle and avoid health issues down the road.
  4. Get a Lift: A variety of causes can make standing from a seated position difficult. The ability to safely and securely stand up from sitting can often be overlooked. A lift assist recliner chair can help those with impaired mobility or someone who just needs a little help getting to their feet stand up from a seated position. These lift chairs gently and smoothly help the user to a standing position when they need to get out of the chair.
  5. Mobility Gifts: Our independence and mobility directly impacts our quality of life and sometimes is dependent upon mobility aids such as walkers, canes, or other devices designed to keep us mobile.
  6. Mobility Accessories: A thoughtful gift idea for our FSA eligible family members can be accessories for mobility aids. For instance, awheelchair cane clip can easily allow our loved ones the ability to simply click their cane to the frame of their wheelchair or walker. Another great gift is a walker basket which can allow for the safe, hands-free carrying of small items such as magazines.
  7. Overcome Bad Weather: The holiday season does happen to run concurrent with inclement weather and traversing icy patches can be dangerous. One thoughtful gift is a cane ice grip that simply attaches to the bottom of your loved ones cane and allows for added safety over those treacherous icy patches. Another way to give a great gift to ensure stability over treacherous ground is the gift of a quad cane. This added stability can overcome dangerous, slippery areas for our loved ones.
  8. Incontinence Solutions: When it comes to gifting for the holidays probably no one thinks about giving incontinence/urological products. However using your left over FSA money to buy some much needed discretion items would be much appreciated by the family member who needs them. One thoughtful gift to those who suffer from urological issues is a urinary drainage bag holder. These are designed to conceal the contents of urine drainage bags from public eyes and maintain the dignity of catheterized wheelchair patients. Another great gift idea for those who may be self conscious about their incontinence is leg bag holder undergarments. These are worn underneath clothing and prevent urine leg bags from falling down and creating embarrassing moments. A bedwetting alarm is another gift that a family member would greatly appreciate to battle incontinence. Think outside the box for great incontinence gifts!!
  9. Breathe Better: The holiday season unfortunately coincides with some of our colder, drier weather and this can present its own set of issues. With the colder weather comes stuffy noses and drive throats. To combat this, give the gift of a steam inhaler. It can open up airways and make breathing simpler and more comfortable during the cold holiday season. Many children may need to use a nebulizer this time a year and a whimsical pediatric aerosol mask can be a fun way to ensure therapy compliance as well as a cool gift.

Gift giving can be a stressful time for some of us, but when a dependent child or elderly parent uses any type of FSA approved medical supply a prudent gift giver can kill two birds with one stone. Not only do we not lose any unspent pretax dollars put aside into a Flexible Spending Account at the end of the year, but helping our family members stay healthy and regain independence or quality-of-life is what the holidays are all about. Thoughtful gifts that help them enjoy life in the world around us can bring a smile to just about everyones face.

Nov 10

5 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Raw Food

Raw salad recipe with fruits and vegetables

This month, a few of us are taking a 30-day Wellness Challenge. One week into it and our task for today was to eat a bowl of raw veg salad for any one of the meals. And I thought this was the perfect day to share about the importance and benefits of eating raw food.

A raw food diet is largely plant-based foods, unprocessed and preferably organic. The foods would usually be uncooked fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. Slight warming and home processing like making almond milk, or vegetable and fruit smoothies is fine but stay away from packaged milk and smoothies.

Last year, around the same time, both me and my husband went on a rigorous detoxification diet. Our first 2 months consisted of a 100% raw food diet and then slowly over the next 4 month, we came back to a normal eating plan with a few changes like more raw food along with cooked food. Within a few weeks of eating raw, the very sense of health in our body was different from anything we had known before. We were able to cure so many of our common illnesses like allergies, headaches, indigestion, and constipation without any medications. Our bodies felt cleaner, lighter and much more energetic.

I can claim from personal experience that eating raw food makes you healthier and while there is still a lot of research on-going, here are,

5 reasons why you should include some raw food in your diet:

  1. Raw foods have High Nutrients:

    Cooking process reduces or destroys certain heat-sensitive and water-soluble nutrients in food such as vitamins B & C, folate and probiotics. The longer the food is cooked for, the higher will be the loss in nutrients. For vegetables that are difficult to eat raw, such as broccoli, try steaming. Raw food diets allow for lightly cooking or warming the food at temperatures below 118ºF or 47ºC.

  2. Raw foods have no harmful additives:

    Raw food is unprocessed and uncooked, you get all the nutrients without any added sugars, preservatives and other harmful additives. 80% of salt in our diet comes from processed foods. Since raw food preparations are low in salt and sodium, they help control blood pressure and lower the risk of heart failure.

  3. Raw foods have High Fibre:

    Raw foods are largely plant-based foods that are high in fibre and water content and low in calories. Fibre is one of the best natural “sweepers” in our body, cleaning the intestines of all the collected waste. High-fibre foods are essential for a healthy digestive system. High fibre and water content also keeps you fuller for longer and helps curb cravings. This can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

  4. Raw foods reduce acidity:

    Raw foods neutralise acid and help alkalise the body. Furthermore, Raw food makes you chew for longer, which means more saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that aid digestion and more saliva would mean less acid production in the stomach as the food going down is already partly digested. Normally in our fast lifestyles, we gulp down big bites of cooked food, requiring our stomach acids to do all the work.

  5. Raw Foods have live Digestive Enzymes:

    Raw food proponents also call it “live food” as it has live enzymes called exogenous enzymes. These enzymes are destroyed or damaged when food is cooked. In our body, pancreas and other organs produce enzymes (called endogenous enzymes) that help in digestion. As is, raw foods are easier to digest, but it is claimed that the additional enzymes in raw foods can boost our own body’s enzymes, thus further reducing the burden on our digestive system.

These are just 5 great benefits of eating raw. Ever since I started eating more raw food in my meals, I have experienced higher energy, better skin, better memory, increased immunity, fewer allergies, less dependence on medications, and an over sense of well being.

Should you consider a 100% raw food diet?

Well not really. A 100% raw food diet is difficult to sustain. There are a lot of foods that you will not be able to eat raw and might even have to take certain supplements as some nutrients like vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids are more easily found in animal products.

Blend raw fruits and vegetables to make delicious smoothiesAlso, some nutrients like iron are better absorbed by the body through cooked food. A healthy food habit will be to strike a balance between raw and cooked food.

We now strive to eat at least 20-30% raw food every day. This comes through raw fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. I love experimenting with different combinations of fruits and vegetables to make raw salads and smoothies. You can also make salads with a mix of raw and cooked vegetables.

A few basics to remember when eating raw foods:

  • Wash the food very properly, especially leafy greens and produce like cabbage, and green onions to remove all dirt.
  • Try to eat raw food before cooked food as it is digested faster than cooked food.
  • Since there is sometimes a risk of bacteria, people with lower immunity like children, seniors, pregnant women need to be extra careful with raw foods.

One doesn’t need to go on a completely raw food bandwagon, but a little raw food in our diets every day will benefit us all. Like Dr. Bircher-Benner, one of the pioneers on the science of dietetics, said

“Whenever and however possible;

no day without green leaves”

Sep 20

Health Benefits of Brown Rice


More than half of the world’s population consumes rice as their staple food. While traditionally unpolished brown rice was the grain of choice in most diets, it got replaced by the more beautiful white rice. Inherently we all kind of know that brown rice is healthier than white rice. Still majority of us choose white rice over brown mostly because of its appearance.

Image Courtesy : http://www.britannica.com

Image Courtesy : http://www.britannica.com

With only the outer husk removed, brown rice is considered a whole grain with all its nutrition intact. The white rice that we are used to of is obtained by milling of this whole grain to remove the hull, bran and germ layer and further polishing to remove the aleurone cell layer (essential fats) of the grain. The resulting white rice is pure starch
striped of all its original nutrition. To be exact, the milling and polishing destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fibre and essential fatty acids.

Brown rice and other whole rice varieties like red rice and wild rice is a wonder food. The various nutrients found in brown rice help maintain skin, bone, muscles and nerves, regulate blood sugar levels, prevent cancer, promote weight loss, promote normal blood pressure levels and prevent heart attack. Here are just 5 of those healthy benefits in more details:

1. Prevents Cancer:

Brown rice is rich in selenium, an essential trace mineral important for healthy immune system and antioxidant defence system. The antioxidant actions of selenium have been shown helpful in prevention of cancer, heart diseases and arthritis. Furthermore high fibre content of brown rice makes it a top food to prevent colon cancer. The fibres attach to cancer-causing substances, minimising their contact with the colon walls.

2. Supports weight loss:

The high fibre content in brown rice is great news for bowel function and digestion. Eating whole grains like brown rice not only helps in reducing weight it also prevents gaining more weight.

3. Lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes:

Brown rice is a rich source of magnesium. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 enzymes in our body, including the ones involved in insulin secretion and glucose metabolism.

4. Lowers Cholesterol:

Brown rice is rich in heart healthy natural oils. Rice bran and other essential oils in brown rice help in lowering cholesterol levels.

5. Healthy Skin:

Brown rice is one of the top sources of manganese, an essential trace mineral important for collagen production. Manganese also produces antioxidants in skin cells which help protect against UV lights. Manganese is also important to maintain a healthy metabolism, nervous system and bone structure.

How to introduce brown rice in your diet?

Brown rice has an earthy taste and it takes some time getting used to it. When I just started cooking with brown rice, I used a mix of white and brown rice like in this multigrain rice casserole.

Later I started cooking many of my regular rice recipes with brown rice. Brown rice cooks a little differently than white rice, especially polished rice varieties like basmati rice. It is a little softer and stickier than basmati and other polished rice in which every grain is separated. So it cannot exactly replace the basmati in recipes like biryani and pilaf, but it is great to have it as is with curries and in rice and lentil casserole dishes.
To ensure that your brown rice is fluffy every time, soak it for at least 45 mins before cooking, drain and cook the rice on medium-low heat, in 3 times the water with a little butter, salt and a dash of lemon juice.