Attainable Health

Finding a healthy lifestyle in today's hectic world

Naturally Clean! March 17, 2010

spray bottles, cleaningIf you look under my sink you probably won’t recognize any of my cleaning products.  You won’t see typical logos or brand names.  You also won’t see any crazy-looking skeleton faces declaring the poisons found inside.  Why?  Because I make my own cleaning solutions!

My mom used to make a lot of her cleaning solutions as well, even when she had an in-home daycare.  She was a neat-freak (and I say that with love), totally focused on her house always looking like the Taj Mahal, all the way down to the showroom “peaks” she made in the carpet when she vacuumed.  Ifhousewife, cleaning anyone moved anything, she knew because everything was organized and had a place (talk about it being impossible to ever play “hooky” from school with friends).  Everyone that came to our house always complimented my mom on how clean it was and it made her positively light up…..and she achieved this in a mostly natural way.  She used basics like Comet and Dawn, but also used natural cleaners.   Always concerned with things being “antibacterial”, if it passed her test it means that it works!

A few of the basic cleaners I have always used, but it wasn’t until about two years ago when I had a revelation to “clean naturally”.  I was a preschool teacher that came home every day with a horrible headache (and no, it wasn’t the kids, I loved them to pieces!).  It took me a little while but I finally realized that the reason I was getting headaches was from when I cleaned my classroom!  I always cleaned my classroom right before I left for the day (the reason why the headaches never really set in until I got home).  Per the regulations of the preschool, we used bleach & water, a floor cleaning liquid, toilet bheadache, migraineowl cleaner, and Lysol.  Everything got rinsed and sprayed daily (especially during flu season with me — a bit of a germaphobe like my mom!).  We used antibacterial soap and even had the kids use antibacterial gels to clean their hands on field trips and things like that.  When teachers wanted the room to “smell nice” they gave little squirts of Lysol, or brought in those fragrance stick-up things.  The combination of everything was enough to send your nose into overload and yet, without fail, those kids were always sick!

Many people wonder how could that happen?  If you are using the best antibacterial products out there and always disinfecting, how can the germs still be passed?  The answer is two-parted and simple – 1) because their immune systems are not being allowed to fight off normal germs and bacteria because of all the cleaners, and 2) the germs and bacteria get stroncolds, family sickger by becoming immune to the cleaners (like the focus on the “super-bugs” with overuse of antibiotics going on now).  Not to mention the headaches, dizziness, sinus problems, breathing problems, skin/eye irritations and/or nausea that can occur when using cleaners with harsh chemicals.

My solution?  Well, first to always take a shower the second I got home to get rid of the chemicals and any germs I was carrying; second, to make my own cleaning solutions at home (which includes quite a few critters).  If the chemicals affected me to the point that I noticed it, I could only imagine what it was doing internally, as well as to my beloved pets!

I wanted my immune system to be healthy and to not live in a toxic environment.  Yes, I still use candles, but I’m careful of which kind (making some yourself is also a fun activity on a rainy day!).  For big cleaning jobs, there are only 3 cleaners that I have in my house (well locked away from my pets): Dawn, Comet and Bleach.  I don’t use them unless I absolutely have to!  I know that getting in this habit now will make it that much easier when I have kids of my own and since my mom used these methods safely around me and other children, I trust them wholeheartedly; your kids could even help you clean!

Here are all of the basic cleaners that I use at home.  Even just implementing one or two of them can make a big difference!natural cleaning

Glass Cleaner (mix in spray bottle): 1 c rubbing alcohol, 1 c water & 1 tbsp vinegar.

Basic Cleaner (in spray bottle): Ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

*Use this as your basic cleanup for spills, etc.

All-Purpose Cleaner (make in old milk jug & use in spray bottle): 1/2 c vinegar, 1/4 c baking soda and 1/2 gal water.

*Use this anywhere!  Bathroom, kitchen…any hard surface!

Furniture Polish (store in a regular bottle or jar): 1/4 c lemon juice and 1/2 c olive oil.  Wipe on with rag and polish with a separate soft, clean rag.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner (make as you use): 1/4 c baking soda and 1 c vinegar; pour into toilet, let set for about 10-15 mins (as you clean the rest of the bathroom!), then scrub with a brush and flush!

Floor Cleaners:

Carpet: Sprinkle baking soda over carpet (add crushed lavender for a fresh smell).  Let sit 10-15 mins, then vacuum.

Tile/Vinyl: 1 c vinegar per gal warm water.  Mix directly in a bucket and use to mop the floors for a fresh, shiny finish.

Save money while cleaning in a natural, non-toxic way (these cleaners save moneyaverage out to less than $1 per gallon)!  Have a home safe for kids, pets and you!

Stay tuned — more cleaning tips coming soon!


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Easy, Clean Eyes! March 11, 2010

Makeup, sweat, dust and dirt are just a few of the things that get in and around our eyes throughout the day.  If you are anything like me, eye makeup is a staple before anything else — forget never leaving the house without lipstick, give me my mascara!

The only problem is at the end of the day — you can end up rubbing your eyes raw with soap, or special makeup removers that contain all kinds of chemicals.  Chemicals —— in your eyes!!!  That just doesn’t sound very safe or healthy to me, no matter what the product says!

My solution is a very simple one that everyone probably has in their house, just not in their bathroom!  It works better than any chemical, will save you money on makeup removers (because you probably already buy it), is all natural and actually conditions the skin around your eyes (as well as your lashes) preventing wrinkles and sagging around your eyes!

What is it?

Olive oil. Yep, my Italian heritage keeps amazing me with tricks all the time.  Olive oil is really a helpful tool to have around in many different ways (but that’s for another post).

To use it as a makeup remover, simply dab some onto a cotton ball and swipe over your eyelids.  It doesn’t hurt (or do anything bad) if you get some in your eye and olive oil molecules are too large to get trapped in your skin cells or pores — therefore, using it will not cause breakouts or clogged pores.

Your makeup will come off faster than you ever thought and your lashes will become stronger and healthier.  Keep a travel size bottle of it in your bathroom to save trips to the kitchen!  Come on and give it a try, you’ll be glad you did!

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Top Apps to Sleep to

Make no mistake, I love my iPhone!  I finally got on the bandwagon last December — I got it as a Christmas present for myself.  I probably spent the entire first weekend learning how to use it and searching through/trying out all the different apps!  I was amazed at all the things that this little computer could do and sometimes it still surprises me.  There are so many useful apps that I use regularly, however, my most-used apps have to be the ones that help me sleep!

A born insomniac, I have always had trouble falling asleep at night.  My favorite show at 2 yrs old was “D. D. Ya-min” (David Letterman), in case you didn’t believe me.  I have tried many tricks of the trade — from food/drink, meditating, reading, music, T.V., audio books and even sleep aids.  Even though it is not the most recommended method, any of the tech options work best for me (T.V., audio books, music, etc).

I was so happy to find that there were apps for that too (I know, a little cliche)!  It was much more convenient to use my phone which cut down on the light in my bedroom (versus the T.V. or my laptop) and made my boyfriend especially happy because I could wear headphones!  Although there are many, many apps for this subject out there and I haven’t tried them all, these are my top 4:

4) iheartradio: A free app that offers nationwide radio stations with only a few taps and slides of your finger.  I’ve been able to find most of my local faves (mostly ClearChannel stations) and it even has a cool “Shake It!” feature, where you simply shake your phone and it randomly picks a station for you.  There are some stations that are nationwide “personality” stations and are free of commercials (like At40 with Ryan Seacrest), you can save your favorite stations in a tab and there are featured videos, stations and bonus material (interviews and such) each month.  It is good to fall asleep to if you know a good “soft” station, but commercials on some stations will still be a nuisance from time to time and there isn’t a “sleep” feature.

3) AmbiScience – Pure Yoga: Mainly pitched as an app to provide music to practice yoga by (as per the name), the music on this app is very relaxing to fall asleep to as well!  From thunderstorms to chimes, sunrise to sunset, this app packs a relaxing punch!  There are also “blanking” choices like brown noise, pink noise and white noise.  All the tracks are very good for yoga practice or meditation, but I’ve found them to also be very good to fall asleep to.

2) Pandora: I love, love, love this app!  I use it at work, in the shower (yes, in the shower — gotta love the Otter Box!), while cooking, at the gym, in the car when my boyfriend puts on something I don’t like, and when I go to bed!  I like how you simply enter in an artist or song name and a station is automatically set for you with similar music.  You can create multiple stations to go back and use at any time.  It is pretty much fully-customizable — you can even give each song played a thumbs up or down (which will affect future songs played).  Definitely an amazing app, but for the free version you are only limited a certain number of “skips” for songs each day (somewhere around 6 or 7).  After that, you can’t skip past any more songs (although you can always create a new station).  If they added a “sleep” feature, this app would almost be perfect!

1) health mate – De-stress: Pretty much my favorite relax app on my phone, I really think everyone should have this one.  The tracks are divided into categories: Sleep, Power Nap, De-Stress, Relax, and Pregnant.  There is also an option to take a Stress Test.  Each track also helps you guide your breathing (by an arrow showing when to breathe in/out and a bpm, breaths per minute, counter in the corner).  I’ve found that when I actually focus on breathing, it stops my mind from thinking about a million things that keep me awake!  It is simple and quick to use, and the tracks are fairly short (10-30 minutes), so it automatically shuts off when they are done so you don’t have music in your ear all night!

I will admit there are some nights when I choose to watch a movie (or Grey’s Anatomy), but the majority of my nights I try to use something more calming — like these music apps.  It may not be recommended as a good sleep method, but the way I see sleep is this: the main thing is to get enough of it (especially during the night because that sleep is the most restful and beneficial)!  I would much rather my method be as minimal as possible, like some tea, music or T.V.  If there are any others out there with trouble shutting their minds “off” at night and falling asleep, I hope these apps can help you find some peace and sleep!  Sweet Dreams!

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Possible Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Treatment! March 10, 2010

Why does something so miserable and evil have to look so pretty?  Breast cancer cells really need to have an un-makeover!  These cells create the cancer which is currently the third leading cause of death for women in the United States, with over 192,000 diagnosed cases each year.  My mom had it twice, my grandma had it twice (and is still living), numerous relatives have undergone biopsies for it, one of my past students’ mom had it, friend’s relatives have had it…..there aren’t that many people that haven’t had their lives touched by this disease in one way or another.  The world of breast cancer treatment (and cancer treatment in general) is constantly evolving as new techniques are introduced.  That’s why “pink” isn’t a fad, its not a theme for a month out of the year…’s a way to save lives.

I came across an article today about a new breakthrough for breast cancer treatment.  While it may have come too late save my mom, it could save my sister, my nieces or myself!  Freezing tumors is something that has been talked about in the cancer community for quite some time, but it wasn’t truly targeted towards breast cancer — until now.

A new study from the University of Michigan found that freezing breast tumors was helpful for stopping the spread of cancer in mice.  This has prompted a new clinical trial for humans to see if this is a viable treatment.  There are two different freezing (cryoablation) techniques that are being studied, rapid freezing (30 seconds) and a slower freezing technique, both of which are done by applying  a cold probe directly on the tumor.  Rapid freezing seems to be the leader of the two techniques currently, but definitive results are yet to come from further research.  Cryoablation has also shown promise in treating other types of cancer, such as prostate and kidney.

After seeing different treatments that are available for cancer patients now, I am definitely in support of this technique.  It boasts to yield better results with less cosmetic effects, and in my book seems a lot easier to cope with than the endless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation (along with the other problems they entail).

Looking back to 1987 when I first learned about cancer (it was limited because I was so young), so much progress has been made and I am fully confident that better treatments like this will be constantly evolving.  Even chemotherapy and radiation have evolved leaps and bounds (as well as the treatments/medicines to accompany them to help the patient cope with the treatments) over the past twenty or so years.  Stage 2 breast cancer in 1987 was nearly a death sentence, and today stage 2 means that it was caught pretty early!  The cancer community has been getting great support over the past few years and I hope it continues.  Cancer is the “elephant in the room”, we all know its there, whether in our families or in those around us, but it is going to take us truly working together to fight this thing.  After all, we are kind of tiny compared to elephants!

* If you want to read the entire article on this fascinating new treatment, follow this link!

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Onions – Helpful and Deadly…. March 9, 2010

Onions—some people love them, others hate them.  They can make you cry, or make you smell bad.  They can make tasty snacks like onion rings and salsa.  They can cure ailments and also can kill you……wait what?!

My quest for onion knowledge all started when my dad sent me an e-mail.  He’s notorious for filling my inbox with e-mail forwards a la the late ninties and sometimes they are interesting, and sometimes not.  This one in particular, however, caught my eye (although it also could have been the great big bold red letters my dad used to write “MUST READ” that got my attention, I’m just not sure).

The e-mail started with a story about farmers placing onions around their houses to prevent the flu in the early 1900’s.  It went on in typical fashion with other stories supporting this idea and ended that section with a plea for everyone to try this for themselves to prevent getting sick.  It seemed too good to be true, so I decided to do some research.  Here’s what I found:

  • An onion is 89% percent water—that’s only 3 % less than a watermelon!
  • The onion is a well-documented homeopathic remedy for many reasons, including: colds & flus, insomnia, coughs, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, as an anti-inflammatory, as an antiseptic, asthma, oral health, acne, libido, as an insect repellent, earaches, cancer prevention, as a diuretic, and more!

Who knew the onion could possibly do all these wonderful things?!  Certainly not me!  So, I kept reading the e-mail….and that’s when I saw the “Onions are deadly” headline.

Besides being poisonous to dogs (they can’t digest it and it causes a breakdown of red blood cells), onions can also be a big culprit of food poisoning in humans.  Due to the onions’ antiseptic and antibacterial properties, it actually sucks the bacteria out of the air around it (which is how it can help prevent colds & flus).  When the raw onion is left in the fridge (even in a plastic bag or container), in containers at the sub shop or buffet line, in pasta salads at a picnic….they are magnets for any bacteria in the air around them.  That can be really scary, just think: that chicken you are marinating for dinner can send off salmonella to that leftover onion you were planning on using for the salad!

Now, I know that I’ve saved onions to use the rest at a later date while being a frugal college student….and I’m still alive today.  But that’s not to say that some nights of upset stomach feelings weren’t caused by onions.  Onions aid digestion, so I had never thought of it before.  Its one of those things that you can choose to gamble on.

This new information has definitely motivated me to be a little more cautious about onions.  Just by cooking them a little it can kill the bacteria.  I’ve started buying smaller onions so I can use the whole thing and not waste money.  But, when I got a sub the other day, I got onions out of pure habit….some days are just a little more adventurous than others!

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Why I Hate “Diets” February 3, 2010

Filed under: Healthy Eating — Karen Marie @ 2:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Who doesn’t secretly (or outwardly) despise that word?  I personally can’t think of anyone!  Between my family, friends and myself I known someone that has tried at least one of the following: Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Sugar Busters, Jenny Craig, The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet and many more.  I have known people who have tried those juice diets and even some who have skipped meals on a regular basis.  They all have one thing in common: it doesn’t permanently stick!  Let’s face it, we don’t like being restricted and diets (some more than others) are very restrictive!  We live busy, stressful and hectic lives and with everything else going on we don’t want to be stopped when we head to a cookie or slice of pizza for comfort (or because its convenient).  However, sometimes when we look in the mirror we are reminded why we choose to diet.

Any diet starts with the BEST of intentions.  You get everything all planned out: your recipes, exercises, new plans for eating and grocery shopping.  That first week (maybe longer) you are so motivated and dedicated….then something happens and the diet eventually ends up disappearing.  This happens for multiple reasons.  These are the reasons why I personally hate diets and think that they are a bad idea:

  1. You go “off” them! Whether it is because you have reached your goal, you get bored/uninspired, it becomes too much of a hassle to maintain, you give up because of lack of results, or some other reason, my point is that all diets tend to come to an end.  The reason this is bad is that its not maintainable and you get into the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting“.  If you stop practicing the habits that allowed you to lose weight, simply, you will stop losing weight.  If you then go back to your old habits, it is likely you will gain weight back and therefore, eventually want to start dieting again.  Weight gain/loss is a simple input-output game!  Calories (which most of us on diets meticulously count) are what our bodies use to operate.  While everyone’s body burns calories at a different rate, there are some general guidelines to certain activities (find some example here).  It takes about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.  This is where the simple fact lies: if you are consuming more calories than using (or “burning”) you will gain weight; if you want to lose weight you need to burn more than you consume.  Once you are at your healthy weight (found here), you should be consuming and using the same amount.  Not doing this can start that vicious dieting cycle, which brings me to my next reason.
  2. You starve yourself. From my twenty+ years of battling IBS,  I have learned a lot, including this point emphasized over and over again by doctors I’ve seen: it is bad news to consistently “stretch” your stomach (read some interesting stomach facts here).  While your stomach (after reaching adulthood) does not physically change in size, it does get used to certain patterns that can be hard (and sometimes dangerous) to change.  Dieting can play a big role in causing this.  You know when you get the flu and are sick for the seven days so you barely eat and then when its all over you get full faster?  That is because your stomach got used to digesting less food so it is not prepared for big meals again, so you slowly work your way back up.  The same is true for habitually over-eating, your stomach is constantly digesting so it is always a little expanded.  The stomach is very sensitive to everything we do and expose ourselves to in our lives.  It can be easily affected by the foods we eat, when we eat, how we eat, environmental factors/exposures and our stress level. Once it is in a certain pattern, it can be really hard to break (think about how hard it would be to break a daily breakfast-on-the-go habit).  Another reason why it is so hard is because our stomachs have a very strong relationship with our brains, and this relates to the next reason.
  3. You end up splurging and “rebelling”. So you were really good for the first few weeks and avoided all your favorite “bad” foods.  You step on the scale and you don’t like the result; and now that chocolate cake you’ve been craving and depriving yourself of seems to look better than ever… you just “cheat” that one time.  Sometimes that becomes a slippery slope and before you know it, the diet could have gone out the window!  It seems to me that when we cut out foods from our life completely, it can only make you crave them more!  This can fall into the mentality that “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  I believe the key is “everything in moderation”.  There is not a food in this world that is “bad” for you; there is just a “quantity” of said food that is “bad”.  Having a few cookies for dessert is not going to make or break your weight, however, avoiding cookies for a few weeks and then splurging on them for the next few weeks (along with other foods you avoided) can make you backtrack any weight loss you have had so far in your diet.  Just be reasonable; eat healthy calories and fats to fill you up, leaving only a little room for your “splurges”.  That way you still get to eat what you want, just a more healthy amount of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong you technically do need to “diet” in order to lose weight (if that is your goal), but there are so many “radical” diets out there that can put you in an even worse position afterward!  Plus, it is important to remember that your weight isn’t just about what you eat, it is about what you drink (those “empty calories”), your activity level, your stress level, how much sleep you get, and many other things.  That is why I believe that in order to be the weight you need/want to be you need to live healthy overall, not just by what/how you eat!

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