Making Your Home a Healthier Place to Live In

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You don’t have to ride a crowded bus, tramp all over a busy mall, or visit a sick friend at a hospital to start coming with some bug or other. Your home may be harbouring the very germs you make pains to avoid. You may be oblivious to microbes lurking on your toothbrush, replicating on kitchen countertops, or making hay in your body sponge.

Germs, however, are not the only dangers to your health that you have at home. The culprits for lead poisoning, allergies, diabetes, insomnia, and even declining fertility rates may be right there in your own safe zone…the home.

With kids or the elderly around, it makes it more imperative to install home habits, daily routines, and perhaps some hardware to ensure home health for everyone in the family. You can start making your home a healthier place to live in following this short list of tweaks, if you aren’t doing them already:

Clean Gadgets

Computer keyboards, mice, cell phones, and remote controllers may be the dirtiest gadgets you own. We rarely wash our hands before touching these and so are definitely not conscious about how much germs our hands track on our everyday things. Many people use their tablets and phones while in the bathroom, a bad habit that increases the chances for these devices to actually be filthier than a toilet seat.

The habit of snacking while on the computer also contributes to allow a build up of mouldy food flakes (not to mention dry skin cells and dust) to settle deep into keyboard cracks and crevices.

Wash your hands before touching your devices and if you can help it, keep snacking at bay while working on your computer. Besides having a much more pristine workstation, you get to prevent a broken one by accidentally spilling juice or sauce all over it.

Wage War on Allergens

Dust mites, pet dander, and mould are common allergens found in the home environment.

Lower the level of dust mites in your home and you stand fewer chances of coming down with an allergic reaction. Weekly vacuuming of upholstery and mattresses and using dust mite resistant pillowcases and beddings can minimise the numbers of these microscopic insects in your home. You may also need to wash your linens in hot water all the time and remove carpets and curtains.

As for pet dander, the best way to eliminate this is by simply banning hairy pets into your home. Failing this, zone the home into pet-free areas (like the bedroom, dining area, etc.). In addition, bathe the animal frequently and change its beddings and litter box often to control the shedding of skin cells or dander.

Hold the Mould

Allergic reactions may not just be the result of invading pollen or Fido’s dander. Allergies could be triggered by mould growing at the back of laundry appliances or under the kitchen sink. Moisture and oxygen are mould’s best friends which make leaky bathrooms, kitchens, ceilings, basements, and other high humidity areas the best places that allow these fungi to thrive. Mould spores in a home can number in the millions and trigger common allergic reactions such as coughing, wheezing, sinusitis, and itchy rashes.

For acutely sensitive people, however, mould can pose greater dangers than just a perpetual runny nose. In fact, prolonged exposure to indoor moulds over the years can actually cause serious health problems such as liver damage, blood vessel fragility, immunosuppression, and infertility. Breathing in mould spores over the course of time may also cause people to acquire memory problems, mood changes, and depression.

To control indoor mould, you must control the level of moisture in your home. Fix leaky faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines. Properly vent and calibrate fireplaces, space heaters, gas logs and the like because not only do these pollute your indoor air with combustion products but these also produce water vapour. You may need to monitor your home’s humidity level; so, invest in a hygrometer. If it regularly gives a reading surpassing 50%, getting a good dehumidifier should help you control your home’s moisture level.

Lessen Chlorine Intake

Tap water is chlorinated to destroy microbes. Chlorine’s effectivity as a potent germ killer however is disillusioning because chlorine, as a toxic chemical, raises the risk factors for bladder, colon, and breast cancers.

Dechlorinate water in your home by installing kitchen and bathroom faucets and showerheads with an activated charcoal water filter. Charcoal water filters attract and trap chlorine and other carbon-based impurities, thus purifying your water.

Instil More Germ-Fighting Habits and Solutions

Any place or thing can be a breeding ground for germs, some more than others. Insist that all family members wash their hands before eating and after every trip to the bathroom.

In the kitchen, air dry sponges after use because a moist sponge is breeding ground for germs and fungi. Disinfect the sponge by soaking for five minutes in a solution of two tablespoons of bleach mixed into one litre of water.

A toothbrush is another good breeding ground for microbes because it remains damp most of the time. The influenza virus can live a day on moist bristles. Disinfect your toothbrush daily by rinsing it with hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash.

Clear the Pantry of Junk and Processed Foods

A lot of modern day illnesses can be blamed on poor diets that include the consumption of sugary and processed foods and beverages. Packaged food is mostly processed; baked goods and sodas have excess sugar content; and virtually all chips and most cereals are pure junk. To maintain your family members’ well-being, only good, healthy food, devoid of added sugars and additives, must be available at the table or in your pantry. A home culture of eating fresh, unadulterated food should be a norm among family members for them to incorporate mindsets for fitness and health.

These are just a few ideas on how to make your home a healthy place. There are more you can do but starting with some of these can make a huge difference for the better.

 

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Removing Added Sugar from Your Diet

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Sugar is the stuff that makes life sweet. But as most of us bemoan the fact that epicurean delights are often have what we should not ingest, we need to know why sugar is one such culprit.

Natural sugar occurring in fruits and some vegetables is not the kind you find on a nutritionist’s hit list. What’s on target is added sugar. Added sugar is considered excessive sugar, the real problem underlying a lot of expensive health issues.

The pervasive presence of sugar in our diets today has unwittingly led most of us down the road of sugar addiction. Particularly damaging is the inclusion of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is ubiquitous in sodas and processed foods. Fructose is particularly damaging as the body cannot metabolise this substance. According to an American endocrinologist and fructose-defamer, Dr. Robert Lustig,

“There is not one biochemical reaction in your body, not one, that requires dietary fructose, not one that requires sugar. Dietary sugar is completely irrelevant to live. People say, oh, you need sugar to live. Garbage.”

HFCS is considered toxic and is present in many foods we think (or are made to believe) are healthy but are actually otherwise. In Australia, processed food is sweetened with sucrose which consists of one molecule of glucose and one of fructose. A July 2013 Huffington Post article by Ferris Jabr states, “Regardless of where the sugar we eat comes from, our cells are interested in dealing with fructose and glucose, not the bulkier sucrose. Enzymes in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose within seconds, so as far as the human body is concerned sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are equivalent.”

To truly be on a healthy diet, we need to stop consuming added sugar. Is it worth the lifestyle effort of foregoing your weekend slice of heavenly pie forever…or at least on special non-celebratory days? Let’s see what happens when one drastically cuts excess sugar from the diet.

Since sugar can be likened to a drug as per the addiction we have with it, expect annoying withdrawal symptoms such as crankiness, irritability, and headaches as part and parcel of detoxing from a sweet tooth. Your body may mount its protests for a few weeks but after such time, it will adjust blithely to its low sugar allotment. When this happens, you will feel…

Energized

Your inner batteries will be optimally charged enough for you to ditch that mid-day lethargy for good. You will feel lighter, younger, and able to go through the day like that Energizer Bunny.

While it is true that sugar raises one’s energy levels, the effect of the “sugar rush” is temporary. Chronic occurrences of these rushes ultimately create metabolic problems in the long run.

Glowingly Youthful

Apart from the newfound energy, you will find that your skin will thank you for it. Sugar is inflammatory; hence, your mid-life zits. Eating too much sugar for years can also leave your skin vulnerable to wrinkles, sagging, and dullness. Sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form the process of glycation. Glycation contributes to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep skin firm and supple. This also increases your body’s vulnerability to sun damage caused by diminishing the body’s antioxidant power.

Cut out sugar and expect to have clearer, smoother, and younger-looking skin. The temporary hell of a sugar detox is worth the youthful look, don’t you think?

Sharper

Your brain will benefit tremendously from a sugar cut, too. Various researches on sugar and brain power have revealed the damaging effects high sugar diets have on the brain. Over time, excess sugar can wreak havoc or neuronal communication leading to cognitive decline. It diminishes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical that helps the mind form and retain memories. Low BDNF has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Because sugar slows down communication among brain cells, a UCLA study discovered that aside from memory, the learning function is affected as well.

Drastically cutting down your sugar intake to healthy levels can keep your brain functions and reflexes as sharp they should be.

A Healthier Ticker

In just a few weeks, your risk for cardiovascular disease will significantly decrease, bad cholesterol will drop by 10%, and 20-30% of triglycerides will melt away. Blood pressure will tend to stay at more normal levels. In the absence of excess or high sugar intake, pressure on the sympathetic system to deal with rising insulin decreases, spelling improved and healthier cardiovascular performance.

A Healthier Liver and Metabolic System

Research has revealed that the chronic ingestion of 150 calories of excess sugar is 11 times more likely to drag one down with Type 2 diabetes. Added sugar may form fatty deposits around the liver which promote insulin resistance and therefore greater pancreatic pressure to regulate insulin.

Lighter with Weight Loss

Cut down on sugar and see that scale drop. The high empty calories sugar touts with it turns into belly fat. Stop stocking the fridge with sodas, pastries, and packaged juices, and see how admirably you can lose your muffin top in less time than you thought.

More Emotionally Stable

Chronic consumption of excess sugar may make one susceptible to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. The brain depends on the balancing of glucose and insulin for its proper function. Chronic sugar spikes and increased insulin responses to those spikes soon wear out insulin’s effectivity to regulate glucose. The long-term effects of excess sugar intake could translate to the doldrums and panic attacks. This is why a study of adults who drank more than four servings of soda daily had 30% more chances of developing depression than those who simply imbibed water or unsweetened coffee or tea.

Although a sugar detox may seem to add to the intensity of mood swings, just hang in there. It is going to get better. Getting rid of your addiction to sugar will give you more reasons to smile, as your increased energy levels help you get that on-top-of-the-world feeling.

Now, won’t you agree…isn’t ditching the sugar addiction the sweetest thing there is?

How Vital Is Copper

 

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Copper is important to most living organisms on earth. In humans, it is the third most abundantly needed mineral and it is present mostly in the liver, bones, and muscle. The liver is the organ that regulates copper volume in the blood. Copper is so vital to proper bodily functions that a slight deficiency can cause health issues. Fortunately, cases of copper deficiency are rare because only trace amounts (1.7 mg/day for men and 1.2 mg./day for women) are enough to maintain optimum health. Such amounts may be sourced from one’s diet.

Copper Deficiency

A major sign of copper deficiency is anaemia, the type that is unresponsive to iron supplementation. This kind of anaemia shows abnormalities in the bone marrow and other bones. Other symptoms signifying a copper deficiency are cardiovascular problems, decreased resistance to infections, low birth weight in newborns, and impaired collagen production, to name some.

Australia’s soil has low copper content. This problem was discovered when Australian farmers were puzzled as to why their herd of cattle and sheep experienced seemingly unexplainable health problems. Cattle were plagued by aortic ruptures and sheep grew poor wool and birthed newborn lambs with swayed backs. The discovery of low copper levels in soil of grazing land prompted farmers to supplement their livestock with copper so that presently, these diseases are not prevalent anymore.

Although copper deficiency is uncommon, it is still worth noting some points:

  • People whose regular diets are high in zinc are more likely to be copper deficient. Zinc hinders copper absorption. People who always consume processed foods and vitamin supplements commonly fortified with iron and zinc are most susceptible to copper deficiency. In addition, meat eaters who do not balance their intake with copper-rich seafood and legumes are also at risk for copper deficiency. Meat, with the exception of organ meats, is high in zinc and low in copper.

    The key here is to balance one’s intake of zinc against copper.

  • High consumption of fructose and other types of refined sugars can lower copper levels. Regular soda and dessert consumption are habits worth breaking.

Conversely, too much copper is detrimental and may even be fatal. Amounts beyond 10 mg. / day are considered excessive. Copper toxicity can lead to jaundice, cardiovascular problems, coma, and death. It is also good to keep in mind not to ingest copper supplements when having a bout with diarrhoea.

What Copper Does for You

Copper has a variety of important tasks in human physiology, a few of which are:

  • Promotion of proper chemical reactions of enzymes. More than 12 kinds of enzymes rely on copper to maintain the delicate chemical balance and biological reactions among cells.
  • Essential to the production of collagen. Collagen is a protein that is responsible for the suppleness and firmness of skin. A copper deficiency may manifest in prematurely aged-looking skin. Collagen is also needed in maintaining healthy connective tissue. Lack of collagen (which may come from a copper deficiency) will show connective tissue abnormalities. It may also cause the rupture or aneurysm of large blood vessels.
  • Strengthens bones and muscles. A copper deficiency heightens one’s risk for osteoporosis.
  • Helps maintain healthy cognitive function. The lack of copper may promote neurodegenerative problems in adults; although its excess can cause Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a neurological condition in which brain cells die, causing progressive decline in memory, perception, and other cognitive functions.

Food Sources

Foods rich in copper are:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews
  • Soybeans
  • Leafy greens — kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens
  • Shiitake and crimini mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Summer squash
  • Unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate
  • Blackstrap molasses

Whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds make very good dietary sources of copper. Most fruits and vegetables however are low in copper.

The importance of copper to human life and health cannot be understated. Copper has unique properties other substances cannot replicate. No other mineral can replace it.

 

Why Interrupted Sleep is Worse than Short Sleep

 

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Sleep is as essential to health as a balanced diet and regular exercise. Yet many seem to relegate this bodily need to the sidelines. Work and entertainment take precedence over getting a good eight hours rest. The choice of cut sleeping hours usually backfires later on in the form of insomnia, a sleep disorder characterised by interrupted sleeping patterns or difficulties in falling asleep.

Of the two occurrences that typify insomnia, interrupted sleep has shown to be more detrimental to health than shorter but uninterrupted sleeping duration. Both conditions of course soon wreak havoc on the mind’s cognitive and emotional functions as well as the body’s energy and immune system; however, chronic interrupted sleep seems to be the bigger, badder culprit that can bring anyone down faster than sleeping straight for only four hours a night can.

Interrupted Sleep Dampens Positive Mood Quickly

Sleep quality is as important as sleep duration for someone to get healthy, ample rest. Studies however show that waking up repeatedly during the night contribute to depression, fatigue, and confusion more speedily than short sleeping hours. A study conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine by assistant professor of psychiatry, Patrick Finan, compared interrupted sleep and shortened sleep. A total of 62 people with good sleep patterns were divided into three groups. For three nights, the first group was woken up several times in the night; the second group was required to sleep very late, and the lucky control group were allowed to have a good night’s sleep.

Comparisons in the data showed that both the interrupted sleepers and the abbreviated sleepers reported a drop in positive mood after the first night. After the second and third nights however the interrupted group reported a continued decline in positive mood vis-a-vis the short sleeping group which, although not as perky as when they first started, reported no further drops in positive mood. Finnan then concluded that interrupted sleep diminishes positive mood more than it intensifies negative emotions.

Interrupted Sleep Disrupts the Sleep Cycle

Sleep happens in stages and cycles through them. From sleep with slow wave patterns, one progresses to REM (rapid eye movement) in sixty to ninety minute cycles. Interruptions to this pattern cuts periods of deep restorative sleep. When this happens, it is like not having had any rest at all. Disruption to the sleep cycle then results in mood drips, lessened cognitive abilities, low energy, and the like.

Small Changes in Circadian Rhythms Could Negatively Affect Health

Changes like shifts to daylight saving time can disrupt your circadian rhythm and create a negative impact on your mental and physical health. Even a one hour difference in change to one’s sleeping schedule spells a huge difference between getting enough sleep and disrupted sleep.

A study has shown that cutting one’s sleep from 7 ½ hours to 6 ½ hours a night could raise the risk of multiple and chronic illnesses such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased production of corticosterone, as stress hormone that dampens the creation of new brain cells in the hippocampus
  • Alters the metabolism, decreasing the capacity for weight loss and maintenance
  • Inhibits melatonin production which in turn decreases the body’s ability to fight cancer cells and tumors.
  • Raises the risk of one becoming pre-diabetic
  • Premature aging because of interference with the growth hormone (GH). Low levels of GH can result in decreased muscle mass, weakened immune system, increased fat tissue, and other health issues.

How to Improve Your Sleep

Improving your sleep may sometimes just boil down to routine. Here are some suggestions to boost your sleep hygiene:

  • Avoid blue light at least one or two hours before bedtime. Blue light is that emitted from electronic devices such as cellphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid huge meals or spicy food close to bedtime.
  • Sleep in a very dark room. Even a little light from your night light or alarm clock could be interfering with sleep. Turn off, cover, or remove anything that disrupts complete darkness. Better yet, sleep with an eye cover and blackout curtains.
  • Shower or bathe warm one and a half to two hours before bedtime.
  • Expose yourself to morning sun daily for ten to fifteen minutes. The sunlight habituates your internal clock to respond to daytime properly and reduces its confusion with weaker light signals at night.
  • Avoid letting your dog, cat, bird, or other pet sleep in your bedroom. Animals have their own schedules and more often than not, they tend to disrupt your sleep.

There are a lot of tips out there that can help you fix problems of interrupted or shortened sleeping hours. Rest is essential. For the sake of your mental and physical health, make your sleep a priority.