What Exactly Are You Putting on Your Skin?


Aromatherapy and Stress Relief


What is Aromatherapy

You might think of aromatherapy as a more modern type of alternative treatment, but the use of essential oils to improve brain function, health and well being has been around for thousands of years.

We’re not exactly sure when people discovered or first started using aromatic plants in this way, but it’s thought this technique may have developed in ancient China. There is text documenting the use of incense to help create a harmonious and balanced atmosphere.

The word aromatherapy is derived from the word “aroma” meaning smell or fragrance, and “therapy”, meaning treatment. Treatment can involve essential oils made from bark, stems, leaves, flowers or roots of a plant.

Egyptians also attempted to distill oils, and they used cedar wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, myrrh, and clove to embalm their dead. Traces of herbs still hung faintly in the air when a tomb was opened in the early 1900’s, and residue was found on the body.

There is evidence the Egyptians were able to (albeit somewhat crudely) distill cedar wood, the general consensus is that other herbs were used as infusions.

The Greeks also used infusions and distillation to benefit from the medicinal properties of herbs. Hippocrates himself used aromatherapy to not only enjoy the scent, but also to increase good health.

One famous perfume with medicinal properties created by the Greeks, involved mixing a blend of herbs, including myrrh, into a fatty base. This not only smelled wonderful, but also had anti-inflammatory properties, and was applied to the skin to help heal wounds.

Not to be outdone, the Romans had the help of a book written by one of their own, describing the properties and uses of over 500 plants. However, the Romans focused far more on extractions for floral water and not so much for essential oils.

Aromatherapy Uses

Aromatherapy” as a term came into use only after 1937 when Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (a French chemist) burned his hand in a lab accident. He happened to have a pot of lavender water nearby, and out of instinct plunged his hand in to cool it.

Afterward, he noticed the lavender water had appeared to help prevent the burn from getting as bad as it could (should) have been, and seemed to have helped heal the wound. This spurred him on to do further research about the medical benefits of herbs.

The use of essential oils in aromatherapy offers many benefits, and they can be applied in various ways. Utilizing a diffuser is a wonderful method to not only improve your mood, but also make your home smell nice, and is also a great way to welcome visitors inside.

Not only will a diffuser help to lift your mood as the diffuser sprays tiny droplets into the air with water, any beneficial properties will also be dispersed, and will increase the health of your environment.

Citrus essential oil, for example, is anti-bacterial and can attack germs and bacteria floating around in your indoor environment, so you’re less likely to inhale them and suffer ill effects.

Various essential oils are available to help uplift your mood in a number of ways. By trying out a variety of oils you can find what works best for you. Lavender for instance, is soothing, and can help make your space relaxing. Or, if you need some pep in your step, citrus scents or peppermint are great for this. 

Aromatherapy can also be used when the oil is applied to the skin either through massage, or a dab behind the ears or wrists. Angelica is a popular massage oil because it promotes calm, reduces anxiety, and helps promote a good solid sleep for those suffering the effects of insomnia.

In Germany, Angelica was also referred to as the “oil of angels” because of the level of peace it brought those who used it. Another great oil for massage is Coriander oil. Coriander has warming properties, and will promote a better digestive system, and improve circulation.

If you use a moisturizer, why not create your own using essential oils? In this way you eliminate dry skin, and benefit from the healing properties of your favorite scents.

Try blending several oil carrier oils such as coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil or even olive oil. Add a few drops of essential oil and mix thoroughly. You’ll want to store your cream in a glass jar out of direct sunlight, and use whenever you need a boost!

If you suffer from sore muscles try a blend with peppermint oil, which helps to soothe and cool aches and pains throughout your body. Peppermint is also said to increase mental alertness, so it’s a good oil to use before that important meeting or school exam.

Additional Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Patchouli is a strong smell, but those who like it tend to use it for everything. This oil helps to reduce anxiety, reduce cellulite and bloating, and will help you in your fight against smoking, over eating, or other addictions.

Eucalyptus can help those with respiratory issues by quickly and efficiently opening up the sinuses. It also has cooling properties, so if you suffer from headaches or migraines, try a bit of eucalyptus oil on your temples or the back of your neck for relief.

When it comes to stress and anxiety relief, it’s hard to beat the benefits of lavender oil. This delightful smelling herb lends itself well to instilling a sense of calm and tranquility, and can help those with depression.

Use lavender in your diffuser or dab it onto your wrists. You can also use it along with laundry soap to make your clothes carry hints of this lovely herb all day.

Ylang ylang, like lavender, is another essential oil used for calming and quieting the mind. It can also help soothe nausea, may reduce high blood pressure, and can help improve skin conditions.

Essential oils offer powerful aromatherapy benefits you can easily integrate into your life. They are widely available, and enjoyable to use.

ABOUT OUR GUEST AUTHOR: Nina Wells, from Steam Shower Store has over 10 years of experience in writing health related topics, and specializes in the health benefits of saunas and hydrotherapy.


How Your Home May Be Making You Sick

Indoor pollution
                                Photo via Pixabay by Pexels

It used to be the word “pollution” brought to mind images of factories and car emissions, dirty lakes and overfull landfills, while “detoxification” was something associated only with cleansing the body of drugs. 

Now, however, there is a very different type of pollution happening, and many people aren’t even aware of it ... or the fact that it might be making them sick.

“The whole concept of indoor pollution is quite new. For a long time, our focus was on what was going on in the environment outside our homes. But in the last decade or so, we’ve realized that the indoor environment can be making you sick,” says author Jeffrey May.

The problem lies not with how clean your house may be, but with all the hidden places you may not think to clean, like the air and heating ducts. 

The average home has several little spaces that are breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, so it’s important to know where to check if you or your family begin exhibiting symptoms consistent with indoor pollution, such as headaches, constant sinus issues, or trouble breathing.

How Your Home May Be Affecting Your Health

HVAC System

The air ducts in your home are likely filled with traces of water -- condensation which forms every time your air conditioning unit kicks on -- that can breed germs, bacteria, and mold. Have the vents and ducts professionally cleaned every two years if possible.

It’s also important to not forget the heating system. Furnace filters can attract copious amounts of lint, dust, and debris, that not only keeps your heating system from working properly, and hikes up your utility bills -- but also sends those particles back out into the air, where you breathe them in. Change the filter as often as every month to keep your furnace working properly.

Smart Meters

Smart meters -- small devices usually installed on the outside of a home to measure utility usage -- have become a popular fixture for many homeowners, as they send data automatically to a utility company using radio frequency waves

However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified smart meters as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, and while it's impossible to do a true study on just how dangerous they may be, it’s important for those who are already at risk for cancer, to know the risks associated with these meters.

The Bathroom

Your bathroom may appear to be clean at a glance, but the one thing many people overlook is the bottom of the bathmat. If you step out of the shower to dry yourself, your bath mat will take on quite a bit of water, and when it soaks through to the bottom and stays up against the floor, conditions are perfect for mold and bacteria

Wash your mats in hot water once a week and, after your shower, pick it up and lay it over the shower rod to air dry. Better yet, dry yourself while you’re still standing in the tub to cut down on the amount of water that will hit the mat.

While it can be alarming to think about, knowing the issues your home faces will help you to become proactive in keeping you and your family safe and healthy. 

~ by Charlotte Meier, Guest Author


Winter Skincare - How to Do It Right


5 Tips to Follow in the Winter Months

 essensu skincare

Here are five important, effective tips for keeping skin smooth, healthy, and hydrated during the winter months.
  1. Drink Lots of Water

You probably drank lots of water during the Summer months. However, it’s equally important to remember during the Winter. Start from within! Stay hydrated and dry so skin will retain more moisture. Plus, you’ll have more energy and be able to fight off infection more effectively. There’s a reason why health professionals tell you to drink more fluids.

Fruits and vegetables also contain a lot of H2o! Therefore, make sure your diet includes lots of organic produce. Consider shopping seasonally for increased health benefits and environmental sustainability. Your skin (and the planet) will thank you!

  1. Switch to a Heavy Duty Moisturizer

A change in weather also means a change in your skincare routine. Switch to a heavier moisturizer and consider washing your face with an organic oil (like almond or coconut) in order to avoid stripping the skin of its natural oils.

  1. Limit Your Time in Hot Water

I realize that this seems counter-intuitive. However, spending too much time in hot water can be incredibly drying for your skin. It’s tempting to do because it’s so cold outside! How are you supposed to stay warm? One technique I use is washing my hair in warm water and then shaving my legs on the side of the tub. I wrap myself in a warm towel and take my time, limiting the use of hot water, and making sure my skin stays moisturized.

Once you’re out of the tub and/or shower, apply oil while the skin is still wet. This will lock in moisture and keep legs feeling smooth. My favorite is the jojoba oil from Trader Joe’s! Inexpensive and effective!

  1. Use Proper Protection

Scarves, hats, gloves… these items are important for keeping your skin protected from the elements. Remember, it isn't just about the skin on your face, but it's also about your hands, neck, and even your ears! Some people are sensitive to fabrics like wool, so be sure to test run a particular fabric before making any kind of financial investment!

  1. Listen to Your Body

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to skincare. Beauty is a holistic experience. As such, it’s important to listen to your body’s needs. Are you flaking around your nose and forehead? Perhaps you need to switch to a gentler cleanser and find a more powerful moisturizer. Are you breaking out despite the harsh elements, maybe you need to incorporate more salicylic acid into your beauty regimen.

Often times, stress, lack of sleep, and a poor diet will wreak havoc on your skin. If you are feeling lots of Wintertime anxiety, make sure you’re getting proper rest and adequate exercise. Meditate, take a walk, or even a nap! Your skin will look better and it will elevate your mood! Promise.

Do you have any Wintertime skin care tips? Leave your comments in the section below!

GUEST AUTHOR: Cassie Brewer is a beauty and women’s health journalist. She occasionally contributes to the blog of Bellezza Spa and has enjoyed writing for The Holistic Diva. She encourages you to check out the rest of their great content! 


4 Easy Steps For Beautiful Hands and Nails Year Round


Four Easy Steps for Maintaining Beautiful Hands and Nails

Temperature changes can be harsh on our skin, and especially on our hands. For anyone with dry skin, you know exactly what we’re talking about. It starts with a dryness a bit more intense than usual, intensifying to red skin that feels rough to the touch, and it may even hurt when stretching your fingers. It feels as if your skin is not your own anymore, and you’re turning into some sort of strange reptile. The worst part is, your normal hand cream is useless against the damage.

To get your hands and nails back in shape after being exposed to temperature fluctuations, harsh chemicals or soaps (like car care products), from swimming or gardening, etc. your hands will need special treatment. Follow these four easy steps, and you'll be able to have beautiful hands and nails year round. 

Start from Within

Drinking Adequate Water Will Keep Your Skin Hydrated

Drink plenty of water, as it promotes skin circulation, hydrating your skin from the inside. Calculate how much water your body requires and make sure you don’t miss a cup.

Opt for foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, avocado, flax seeds), which also have the ability to lock moisture inside the skin. Omega-3 is also good for your general well-being, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Also think of incorporating vitamin A, E and Zinc-rich foods in your meals. This dynamic trio is vital for fighting damage that’s caused by air pollution and UV radiation.

This is important even in the winter time. The truth is, the sun is always above us, no matter how overcast the sky is. And, while we use sunscreen every day in July, we often forget about it when we can’t see the sun through the clouds. This is one of the reasons our hands are particularly dry when it gets cold, and foods like oysters, turkey, beans, crab, leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, nuts, seeds and broccoli can help fortify our skin from the inside.


Perform A DIY Homemade Hand Soak to Relieve Dryness
Hands and nails love a good bath. But this is not your old hot water bubble bath. Your hands need shock therapy to get that skin and those nails shining again.

For a homemade soak, use nourishing ingredients, such as extra virgin olive oil, eggs and a bit of lemon juice, mix and warm up, then dip your hands for at least 20 minutes for the full effect. If your hands are really dry, you can even put on a pair of cotton gloves or cotton socks, and go to bed with them on. Finish by washing your hands in warm water, with the mildest of soaps.

The antioxidants and fatty acids in the olive oil, in combination with the vitamin cocktail in the eggs and the ascorbic acid in the lemons, will make your skin and nails look and feel better.

Scrub at Home

DIY Hand Scrub From Kitchen Cupboard Ingredients
You don’t need expensive scrubs to make your hands softer and your nails stronger. In fact, some of the most expensive ones can be recreated at home, with inexpensive ingredients. Scrubs will remove dry skin, and help to keep your hands youthful looking.

One of the best hand and nail treatments is the sugar scrub. Aside from being very efficient, it’s easy to make and perfect for beginners. To get it done, mix two parts sugar, with one part oil (coconut oil works best, but olive and almond are great too) and half a teaspoon vitamin E oil. Mix well, scrub gently, wash your hands and apply moisturizer.

This scrub is wonderfully versatile, so get creative and substitute your favorite skin care ingredients into the recipe. Use natural plant oils and ingredients from your kitchen cupboard such as ground oatmeal, ground flax or chia seeds, ground coffee, etc. as your inspiration.

Change Your Hand Cream

 Lemon Twist Intensive Repair Hand Cream
Lemon Twist Intensive Repair Organic Hand Cream
One of the main problems with hand care during temperature fluctuations or exposure to chemicals is our normal hand cream loses its edge against these conditions. Applying and reapplying won’t do much good in this situation. Changing your hand moisturizer to a new one is a good idea. Try to find products that focus on care for dry skin, and treatments that are more than moisturizers. What we always do when we have a dry hands and nails situation is switch to our essensu Lemon Twist Organic Intensive Repair Hand Cream, which is formulated to fix skin problems fast.

In the end, our hands take weather, environmental, and chemical damage harder than the rest of our bodies, and we do need to give our hands extra tender loving care to keep them from becoming overly dry and looking unattractive.

GUEST AUTHOR: Gwen Lewis is a freelance writer who lives in Southern California. She currently works with Fair & Flawless as well as other beauty and health sites. Although she lives in California, she knows what the cold can do to your skin as her parents live on the East Coast and she visits often.


Best Supplements To Take When Following a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet


There are multiple health and ethical benefits to following a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, it is fundamental when undertaking a vegetarian or vegan regime that the right food choices are made, in order to ensure your body is not deprived of vital nutrients

These nutrients are fundamental for sustaining overall physical and mental well-being. Often the quantity and types of food consumed by vegetarians and vegans results in being deprived of certain vital nutrients

A viable solution to this problem is incorporating vitamin supplements, which provide your body with the nutrients required, while still upholding the values of vegetarianism and veganism. Listed below are a handful of recommended supplements you can take, to protect your own body when pursuing this type of diet.

Vitamins for Vegetarians Image Source

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is responsible for red blood cell growth and nervous system maintenance. However, because the only unfortified, natural sources of Vitamin B12 are meat and dairy products, vegetarians and vegans are most often deprived and deficient in this very important vitamin. One recent study using the more sensitive vitamin B12 testing technique, found high rates of deficiency: 68% for vegetarians and 83% for vegans, as compared to just 5% for omnivores.

This is important to note as B12 depletion can take years to become clinically evident. This means deficiency sets in long before obvious symptoms appear, and some of the more serious effects, such as nerve damage from being deficient, are irreversible.

Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to a host of serious problems including macrocytic anaemia, an abnormality in red blood cell development, heart palpitations, numbness, loss of vision, learning disabilities in children, cognitive decline, memory loss, infertility, premature aging, vascular problems such as heart disease and stroke, irreversible nerve damage, and numerous other symptoms. 

Also, Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin we can not obtain from plants or sunlight. Plants don’t need B12 so they don’t store it. It's found exclusively in animal foods, such as liver, clams, oysters, mussels, fish eggs, octopus, fish, crab and lobster, beef, lamb, cheese and eggs.

A commonly held  misconception amongst vegetarians and vegans is that it’s possible to get vitamin B12 from plant sources like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewers yeast. However, it's important to note, plant foods said to contain B12 actually contain vitamin B12 analogs called cobamides, which actually block the intake of, and increase the need for true vitamin B12.

Therefore, it’s crucial for those abstaining from animal products to understand there are no plant sources of vitamin B12, and that all vegans and most vegetarians should supplement. This is especially imperative for vegetarian or vegan pregnant women, and for children, whose need for B12 is even greater than that of adults.

In addition to the importance of supplementing with vitamin B12, the proper form of B12 to use should also be considered. A general approach to B12 supplementation might include 1,000 mcg (1 mg) to 5,000 mcg (5 mg) of sublingual methylcobalamin

Cyanaocobalamin is the most frequently used form of B12 supplementation in the US, as it's the cheapest form of B12, but not the best. This low-grade, low-quality, and slightly toxic (contains cyanide) form of vitamin B12 is widely available and used in most vitamin formulas, so read your labels. (Hydroxocobalamin is frequently used in Europe, and is another inferior form of the vitamin).

The far superior choice for B12 supplementation is to choose methylcobalamin. This is the form existing in nature, and is a bio-available form, meaning your body can put it to immediate use. Methylcobalamin has increased absorption, better retention in tissues, is free from toxic cyanide, and supports the production of SAMe. Also, there are no worries of toxicity by supplementing with vitamin B12.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a common deficiency, because most people think they receive sufficient amounts of it from the sun. However, cloud cover, long winters, living in a northern climate, using sunscreen, and indoor jobs means for majority of us, our bodies do not have access to enough vitamin D. Moreover, vitamin D is only found in a small variety of foods, most of which are not included in the vegetarian or vegan diet, such as milk, egg yolks and salmon. 

Therefore, it's recommended to supplement with a minimum of 1000 to 2000 IUs per day. It would also be prudent to request your doctor test your vitamin D levels, including those of children. Most people, even those who are not vegetarians or vegans are deficient in vitamin D, and may find their levels are below optimum. 

However, bear in mind that while vitamin D2 is vegan, vitamin D3 is not, so always read the label carefully before purchasing if you follow a vegan diet. Fortified vegan products contain D2 (ergocalciferol). Foods with naturally occurring vitamin D usually contain animal derived vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). (There is one form of D3 that is derived from lichen and suitable for vegans, which is marketed as Vitashine).

A vegan diet can be planned to provide adequate amounts of vitamin D through use of fortified foods like fortified plant milks. Some brands of hemp milk for instance, provide 160 IUs of vitamin D per eight ounce serving. Any person, regardless of chosen food path, who does not include good sources of vitamin D their diet or take vitamin D supplements can be at risk for not getting adequate vitamin D, especially if sunlight exposure is limited. 

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones as it helps the body maintain calcium levels in order to regulate tooth and bone development. A deficiency can thus lead to stunted or defective bone growth and conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, etc. which require long term medical aid and chiropractic therapy. The body also needs vitamin D to absorb calcium so it's important to use these supplements in conjunction with one another for optimum bone health.


Calcium is vital for bone and tooth growth, blood-clotting capabilities and the overall health of your heart, nerves and muscle function. Calcium is often found in milk and other dairy products, however, there are other excellent sources of calcium. 

Sources of well-absorbed calcium for vegetarians and vegans include calcium-fortified organic soy or rice milk, calcium fortified juice, calcium-set tofu, tempeh, organic soybeans and soy nuts, bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, navy beans, almonds, almond butter, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens, and okra, grains, beans (other than soybeans), figs, and hummus.

Vegetarians and vegans should strive to meet daily calcium recommendations, and if these can not be met through food choices, than a calcium supplement should be used. Adults require 1,000 milligrams every day to maintain health and prevent long term illnesses associated with low bone mass such as osteoporosis, convulsions or abnormal heart rhythms.


Iron serves as a pivotal element of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood from your lungs throughout your body. Iron comes in two forms; heme and non-heme. Heme is more readily absorbed than non-heme, and unfortunately for vegetarians, all plant based sources of iron are non-heme, thus vegetarians and vegans may have lower iron stores than omnivores. 

However, this has not translated into higher rates of anemia, and many vegetarians' iron stores are in a low-normal range, but is not cause for alarm. There are some evidence based studies supporting low-normal iron stores as beneficial for improved insulin function, and lower rates of heart disease and cancer. 

Many nutritionists believe if you eat a varied, healthy plant-based diet which includes a balance of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables, then it's not necessary to keep close track of iron intake. 

Begin, by making sure you’re eating foods containing substantial amounts of iron. Some of the best plant sources of iron include: 
  • Legumes: lentils, organic soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans. 
  • Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal. 
  • Nuts and Seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistacio, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame. 
  • Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens. 
  • Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice.
But regarding iron, here’s the key: It’s not how much iron you consume, but how well you absorb it.

There are ways to to increase the absorption of non-heme iron from a plant based diet, so making sure you're absorbing your iron is as important as making sure you’re getting enough from your food.

Here's how to do it ...
  • Consume less - The less iron consumed per meal, the better it's absorbed. When consuming higher amounts of iron at one time, our bodies absorb less than when eating small amounts throughout the day. 
  • Eat non-heme iron foods with vitamin C foods - This can increase iron absorption by as much as five times. Example: Beans and rice with salsa
  • Avoid coffee and tea when eating high-iron meals - The tannin in coffee (even decaf!) and tea inhibit iron absorption. Avoid them an hour before or two hours after your meal.
  • Cast-iron skillets increase iron absorption - Cooking with a cast-iron skillet increases the iron in your meal — especially when you cook a food containing vitamin C in it. (Think tomato sauce)
  • Avoid spinach as an iron sourceSpinach contains oxalates that may block absorption. You can certainly still eat spinach, but avoid combining it with an iron containing plant source you may be having with your meal.
If you choose to take an iron supplement, it's best to break it in half, and take half in the morning and half at night, always with meals or juice.


Zinc is vital for a healthy metabolism, immune system and healing. The National Institute of Health recommends that vegetarians need 50% more than the recommended 40 mg dose of zinc due to the fact that the zinc found in plant based foods has a lower absorption level.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids host a wealth of health benefits, ranging from assisting with inflammatory diseases, decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease, lowering blood pressure, alleviating joint pain and arthritis, to protecting against dementia and depression. 

Vegans are at risk because they do not eat the fish which contains these fatty acids. To optimize your intake of omega 3 fatty acids, you can supplement your diet with flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed. (Keep refrigerated).

Taking vitamin supplements is ultimately a personal choice. If you research the amounts of nutrients your body requires and shop for your food accordingly, you may be able to receive enough vitamins and nutrients from your diet alone. However, a large number of vegetarians and vegans undergo a diet which does not contain the sufficient nutritional quantities for optimal body function. In these instances, supplements provide a simple solution to protecting the overall physical and mental well-being of your body, without compromising your vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

Guest Author Bradley Taylor, is a freelance writer from Derby, England. Bradley is a motoring enthusiast who loves writing about cars and everything automotive but is versatile, and also writes across a variety of other topics. You can find him on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.


New Year's Resolutions: 5 Strategies Science Says Really Work


What Science Has Learned About Willpower and Self-Control

Perhaps your resolve for 2014 is to quit smoking, improve your diet, drink less alcohol, become more physically active, or to break some other bad habit. However, we all know sticking to a New Year’s resolution can be hard. After all, temptations are everywhere, and bad habits can be difficult to shake.

I almost think of bad habits as something needing to be healed like a pesky wound, or something to be nurtured and encouraged to move on. After all, if you think about it, if a person becomes dependent on their bad habits, they establish a relationship with them, and it can be hard to say goodbye to that which is known so well.

Plus, everyday life is full of self-control demands, and these daily demands can drain ones willpower. Keep in mind it's most challenging to resist temptations when you're tired or stressed. Researchers have determined self-control is highest in the morning hours, and steadily declines and deteriorates over the course of the day. When trying to change you can't relay on willpower alone. If you do, you run the risk of feeling burnt out.

Luckily, scientist are discovering which strategies are effective at boosting willpower, and WILL put an end to bad habits. The best part is, these strategies consist of instituting minor, doable tweaks to your usual behavior.

Five Strategies That Work For Breaking Bad Habits:

Choose the Right Words 
It's more empowering to say, “I don’t,” rather than, “I can’t,” when trying to resist temptation and stick to your planned course of behavior, according to the latest recent research. For example, if you are trying to eat healthy and someone offers you a chocolate chip cookie, you'd say, “I don’t eat sweets,” rather than, “I can’t eat sweets.”

This is effective because the phrase, “I can’t,” signals a sense of loss from having to give up something you want – whether it’s ice cream after dinner or sleeping an extra half an hour in the morning, rather than getting up to work out.

By contrast, saying, “I don't” is self-empowering and elicits determination, thus making any refusal strategy more effective. Researches say using the words "I don't,"  increased peoples' feelings of control, which then resulted in a positive behavioral change, more than saying “I can't,” or using the generic, “just-say-no” strategy.

Keep Other People’s Reactions in Mind
When considering a particular choice for yourself you're trying to change - that bad habit you want kiss goodbye – researches suggest you consider the opinions of people you value - what would they think of your choice? Would they be proud of you or would they disapprove?

Using this 'social element' can provide a powerful boost to ones self-control. Bringing a role model to mind is also an effective tool when you need a little boost to your willpower by asking yourself what that role model would do.

For some people, envisioning what their mother or father would think about their loss of willpower is an effective way to stay on track.

Engage in Mini Workouts 
Recent research has also found short bouts of exercise improved self-control. The theory: Brief bouts of exercise may boost blood flow to the pre-frontal areas of the brain, which are responsible for executive functions, such as planning and controlling inhibitions.

For people trying to quit smoking for example, going for a short, brisk walk when a craving for a cigarette ensues, helps to alleviate the craving and break the habit cycle. It's turning your attention away from your craving and toward an activity, thus helping to reprogram the brain, and enjoy a healthier pursuit.

Commit to a Small, Consistent Act of Self-Control 
Sticking with a single behavior requiring self-control can improve overall willpower. Simply foregoing dessert after dinner for example, helps to improve the overall willpower in other areas of a person's life, like taking good care of our health, resisting temptation, and feeling more in control of our emotions.

Implementing this single behavior self-control becomes a form of training, which will naturally boost confidence, and help a person to improve all areas of their lives. Such as when a person starts to lose weight and they begin to feel healthier, they are rewarded with an improved self image, positive feedback and support from others, increased energy, improved sleep, etc. which furthers motivates change, and strengthens self-control and willpower.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation 
Mindful meditation, or shamatha, is a form of meditation involving developing a conscious awareness and acceptance of living in the 'now' – assisted by focusing on breathing, posture, and gaze – while letting your mind roam free. It's taking your mind to a place of calm and harmony.

This activity is relaxing, but has also shown, according to a recent study at the University of Basel in Switzerland, to counteract the effects of focusing on maintaining self-control, which can lead to a depletion of self-control by feeling worn out from maintaining the effort to change.

In other words, mindfulness meditation can replenish your self-control after it’s been drained. Mindfulness meditation is  not difficult to do, requires no special equipment, and is best performed in a place that is void of too much noise or distraction. If you'd like to learn more about this form of meditation, there are many websites offering online guides. This is one I personally like: How To Do Mindfulness Meditation.

Implementing these research-proven strategies should help to empower anyone looking to break and change a bad habit for good, or to gain more self-control. These tools can bring success, and move any New Year's resolutions to the completed list.

You may also enjoy our post: What's in Your Goal Setting Tool Box? 


Are You Gluten Intolerant? Is Gluten Making You Sick?


Is gluten reacting in your system like a poison and making you sick? A few short years ago the word, “gluten” was unfamiliar to most people. Today, this protein (gliadin) naturally found in wheat, rye, barley, (and malt) is frequently discussed and written about in health news circles and the media, and it's found in breads, pastries, pizza dough, and surprising places like beer, canned goods, medications, candy, and condiments. Has all this attention being brought to gluten have you wondering if you could benefit from a gluten-free diet? Since our bodies consider it a a poison it causes a violent and obvious reaction in some people. In others, the reaction is different. It's possible you're unaware it’s even a problem for you. The symptoms can be hidden from you.

For people who's bodies consider it a poison, it goes into defense mode and creates antibodies to block the perceived danger. The immune system then fires the antibodies at this poison to get rid of it. This offender is gluten and it can send your immune system into overdrive. That’s where the problem really starts. Your immune system can fire (attack) where you don’t want it to—like at your gut or your thyroid. These are the two main often, hidden victims of gluten poisoning.

By attempting to banish the poison your body turns against you in the process. This is where celiac disease and auto-immune thyroid disease can begin.

Gluten Sensitivity and Gluten Intolerance may be used interchangeably. These terms help describe any health condition in which the underlying cause is gluten. Gluten sensitivity covers a broad spectrum; from light gluten intolerance, to Dermatitis Herpetiformis (celiac disease attacking the skin), to celiac disease. Celiac disease is the most severe form or gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity. One out of 100 people are estimated to suffer from this form of autoimmune disorder, making it one of the most common autoimmune diseases. In celiac disease the body attacks the lining of the small intestines when gluten is present, leading to malabsorption of nutrients. Every person living with celiac disease, is gluten intolerant. However, an individual can be gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, and NOT have celiac disease. It’s also important to note, neither gluten sensitivity or celiac disease are caused by allergies.

(Non-Celiac) Gluten Intolerance or Gluten Sensitivity

Researchers are still trying to understand what non-celiac gluten intolerance really is, and it’s estimated as many as 17 million Americans (approximately one in 18), or upwards of 15% may be gluten sensitive, and most are never diagnosed.

Gluten-sensitive individuals can’t tolerate gluten, and often suffer from a range of gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those in celiac disease. We do know gluten is hard for the body to digest, and it may be a contributing factor to causing sensitivity in some people. However, in people with gluten intolerance their overall clinical picture is generally less severe, and their bodies don’t produce the auto-antibodies found in those who have celiac disease  which is caused by an inherited weakness, thus it tends to run in families. Doctors often attribute the gastrointestinal symptoms to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), resulting in a misdiagnose, and continued suffering for such individuals.

Researchers have also found a difference in the immune reactions for those with gluten sensitivity and those with celiac disease. In those with gluten sensitivity, the body sets up barriers to repel the invaders (gluten). The subjects with celiac disease have adaptive immunity – the body develops specific cells to fight the foreign bodies which are the basis of the autoimmune response. For those with gluten sensitivity a gluten-free diet is the only treatment recommended, although, some may be able to tolerate small amounts in their diets.

If you suspect you may be gluten sensitive, eliminating gluten and following the guidelines below for a minimum of three to four weeks is your first line of action. Then, you reintroduce gluten into your diet. If you feel significantly better off of gluten, or feel worse when gluten is reintroduced, then being gluten intolerant is likely. To get accurate results from this testing method, 100% of the gluten from your diet must be eliminated. It may be well worth the inconvenience of following this elimination diet to confirm any suspicions, as more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, and healing the body is how you will feel better.

What Symptoms May Indicate Gluten Intolerance:

Digestive issues; gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Constipation is common in children after eating gluten.

Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal containing gluten.

A diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as lupus, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, scleroderma or multiple sclerosis.

Migraine headaches.

Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.

Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or the feeling of being off balance.

Mood issues; anxiety, depression, mood swings, and ADD.

Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses indicate your conventional doctor can’t determine the cause of your fatigue or pain.

Keratosis pilaris which causes small, acne-like bumps, which usually appear on the upper arms, legs or buttocks; they usually don't hurt or itch. This is most often a result of a fatty acid, and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat malabsorption due to gluten damaging the gut and intestinal villi.

If you don’t have celiac disease but want to try a gluten-free diet, consider these tips:

  • Be Mindful of Balance – A restrictive eating plan can hinder your ability to achieve a balanced diet. Choose a variety of foods, including whole foods in their natural state such as fruits and vegetables, which are naturally gluten-free. Eliminate toxic food groups: cereal grains and soy. Supplement with vitamins, minerals, and add probiotics to ensure your body has a healthy balance of gut flora (bacteria).
  • Read Labels – When foods are labeled gluten-free it, doesn’t necessarily mean they are foods that are good for you. Make sure to check the labels to ensure the foods you are choosing are low in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, and avoid processed foods which are filled with added sugars, bad vegetable oils, additives, or dyes which damage health.
  • Shop Wisely  – By sticking to the outer perimeter of the grocery store, you’ll find many naturally gluten-free and nutrient dense foods including: fresh produce, fresh poultry, meat, and seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Naturally Gluten Free Foods

These Common Foods Are Naturally Gluten-Free:

Corn in all forms: corn flour, corn meal, grits, etc. But beware as almost all corn crops are GMO, unless they are labeled organic. *Corn has been shown to problematic for Celiacs, even though it’s gluten-free. See below.
Buckwheat (kasha), pure oats, amaranth, millet, Montina, teff and sorghum (Look for oats labeled gluten-free, as oats are sometimes cross contaminated from nearby growing wheat fields) *Oats have been shown to trigger powerful inflammatory responses in Celiacs. See below. 
Potato starch and flour, tapioca flour or starch, cornstarch, arrowroot, guar and xanthan gums
Quinoa (However, this grain contains large quantities of saponins – a plant defense chemical, which severly damages the gut wall and causes leaky gut).
Rice in all forms: white, brown, basmati, and enriched rice. *May be problematic for children. See below.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh meat, poultry, and seafood
Vegetable oils (Choose healthy oils rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil) Avoid consumption of corn, canola, cottonseed, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil which are high in Omega-6 fatty acids and promote inflammation in the body
Unflavored milk, cream, and butter
Most yogurts
Aged cheese, cream cheese, and cottage cheese
Nuts, beans, legumes, and flours made from them
Raw Honey
Peanut Butter
Lecithin, vinegar, plain spices
Soy (but not soy sauce) Bear in mind, soy is not a health food unless it’s a fermented soy product such as, tempeh, miso, natto, pickled tofu, stinky tofu or fermented bean paste

Celiac Disease (the word “celiac” is from the Greek word “abdominal”) is the most severe form of gluten intolerance/gluten sensitivity. Gluten needs to be avoided completely to avoid intestinal damage. It’s a lifelong change. Gluten is a toxic protein for those with celiac, and because of the genetic weakness, the protein gets trapped under cells lining the gastrointestinal tract (the villi). This autoimmune response then attacks the villi, which is needed for the absorption of nutrients. When villi are destroyed, the absorption of vitamins and minerals is compromised. This attack on the wall of the intestines is why it’s an autoimmune disease –  the immune system attacks it’s own healthy tissue, which leads to leaky gut (intestinal permeability) and inflammation. Inflammation in the body causes a host of symptoms and diseases.

It’s worth mentioning, those with celiac disease may still suffer from symptoms if they simply follow the gluten-free diet above, which is also the same one prescribed by most doctors. This is because there’s a laundry list of other foods that drive inflammation and sustain the intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Yes, gluten is the worst offender but a Celiac’s gut is severely damaged and highly susceptible to poor food choices. If the “other dietary triggers” contributing to the disease are not removed, a person suffering from celiac disease will remain sick. Going gluten-free usually is not enough.

Most cereal grains contain a toxic protein called prolamines, which are knurly, tough proteins humans can’t digest. These proteins irritate the gut lining and sneak their way past the intestinal wall. Prolamine in corn is problematic for those with celiac, and the prolamine in oats has been shown to trigger a powerful inflammatory response in those with celiac, in addition, prolamine in brown rice can cause inflammation in the gut of children.

These same grains also contain toxic sugar-binding proteins called plant lectins, which also don’t get digested, but rather bind to the cells on the gut wall and prevents them from completing their normal healing processes. These plant lectins make their way past the intestinal wall and cause leaky gut, triggering inflammation, which also leads to nutrient deficiencies.

A diet high in these grains also reduces the body’s ability to process vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D, and being vitamin D deficient are associated with leaky gut. Until the leaky gut is stopped, damage from celiac disease can’t be reversed.

Inflammation and leaky gut are also caused by toxins produced by bad bacteria. To make a long story short, carbohydrates and sugars are the primary food for the bacteria in our gut. Bacteria live on sugar, that’s normal. But when the delicate gut flora balance gets upset, pathogenic bacteria can quickly take over and cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth due to the damage to villi of the small intestine. Therefore, it’s important to avoid processed carbohydrates and processed sugars because those with celiac disease suffer from leaky gut and bad gut flora. And we've already learned inflammation triggers leaky gut, and leaky gut triggers inflammation. It becomes a vicious cycle, and the only way to begin healing is to break this inflammation-leaky gut cycle.

Celiac is a multisystem disease, meaning it affects many organs, and a number of conditions may be the presenting symptom of the disease. Infertility, migraine headaches or even seizures may be the first symptoms experienced, making it difficult for doctors to associate symptoms suffered with celiac disease. If you are at high risk of celiac disease – if a close family member has it, or you are experiencing symptoms, a doctor can order a blood test to test for the disease. An intestinal biopsy can also be used to detect the disease.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is the skin manifestation of celiac disease. It is characterized by an extremely itchy, watery blister or rash that is found on the limbs, trunk, face and scalp. The blisters are often mirrored on both sides of the body or face and reoccur in the same areas. The eruptions are often mistaken for and treated as other skin conditions, including psoriasis, infected mosquito bites, contact dermatitis, allergies or “non-specific dermatitis.” In people with dermatitis herpetiformis its been found beside following a gluten-free diet, gluten-free skincare products are a beneficial choice, as certain ingredients in body and skincare products may contain gluten, which tend to aggravate the affected areas.

Many authorities believe no one should consume gluten foods. Considering many, many people never get diagnosed, or get properly diagnosed, I suspect those suffering from gluten intolerance is well above the 15% reported. Perhaps all humans are intolerant of gluten, but in some of us our bodies have managed to adapt to the onslaught of gluten, and not suffer any repercussions. Do you think you might be one of the 15% who would benefit from going gluten free?


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