Happy smiling woman looking at herself in bathroom mirror

How to Boost Your Blood Circulation for Better Skin

It seems like this is common knowledge, but it definitely bears repeating – blood circulation is truly essential for your body.

Look at it this way – the body’s most ardent soldier, the heart, is fighting for your health by sending tiny, tiny blood cells to every part of your body, giving your cells oxygen and helping them to thrive.

But, did you know that great blood circulation is also beneficial to your skin? If you’re looking to improve your skin, you might want to consider boosting your blood circulation, as it will definitely benefit it!

How the Cardiovascular System Works

The cardiovascular system is essentially made up of the heart and the blood vessels that pump blood to the farthest parts of your body. There are basically two types of vessels:

  •         Arteries, which carry blood away from the heart;
  •         Veins, which bring it back.

Now, basically, the heart is a pump that gets oxygenated blood to our organs. Then, de-oxygenated blood returns to the lungs to get its refill of oxygen. This all happens through the pulmonary circulation (in which the blood is oxygenated) and the systemic circulation (in which the blood goes to the rest of the body to deliver the oxygen).Infographic on blood circulation in the body

That way, all the cells get their necessary fill of oxygen.

The Importance of Good Blood Circulation

Good blood flow is essential to our body, and any problem with it will, in some way or the other, reflect on our general health.

Circulation is pivotal in transporting nutrients to cells and transporting waste from them. That means that it is extremely important for nourishment and detoxification. It is also important for maintaining the body’s pH balance and stabilizing its temperature.

Poor circulation can cause a number of issues – swelling in extremities, numbness and tingling, cold hands and feet, cramps, fatigue, digestive issues, skin problems, and even memory loss and problems with concentration.

That is why boosting your blood circulation will not only have benefits for your skin, but for your general health, as well.

And here’s how to do it!

Start with Exercise

This should be a no-brainer, really.

Basically, in order to increase circulation, you simply need to get the “old ticker” ticking faster.

That’s where exercise steps in.

When your heart contracts at a higher rate, naturally, blood will flow faster and improve your general circulation.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should immediately hit the gym and start working strenuously on your pectorals (although that is an option, too!). Simple exercises will do.

In this day and age, it can be difficult to find the time to exercise and we tend to spend a lot of it sitting behind desks. But, that is not good for our overall health. And, as many other parts of our body, our cardiovascular system gets “lazy,” as well.

That is why any movement is – good movement.

Even walks are exceptionally valuable to getting your blood pumping, especially if that’s not something you tend to do on a regular basis. Just 20-30 minutes of brisk walks will do the trick. You don’t even have to do it every day, every other day will suffice. Walking even strengthens your heart and muscles. You can even do all sorts of exercises with your family and it will be incredibly beneficial for your circulation and, thus, your skin.

Also, another good exercise to boost your blood circulation is, in fact – yoga! Stretching, headstands and many other yoga poses, paired with deep breaths, do wonders for your blood flow! Just make sure you do it regularly and you’ll notice changes in your overall health, as well as your skin, in no time! If you choose to go outdoors to exercise, then you’ll also have the added benefit of the sun rays, that is, vitamin D, which is vital for your skin.

Some other types of exercise that can improve your blood flow and, with it, your skin, include aerobics and weight lifting. If you’re unaccustomed to exercise, start slow and work your way up! It never fails to get results!

Dry Brush

Dry brushing basically includes massaging your body with a dry, stiff-bristled brush. And there are truly many benefits to dry brushing. This is mainly done to get rid of flaky skin typical of wintertime and to increase circulation. It also unclogs pores while exfoliating and stimulates the nervous system. That way, you get the added benefit of being energized.

It is best to use a natural stiff-bristled brush with a long handle to reach your back. However, when you’re choosing your brush, make sure to choose the one that will be most adequate for your skin. Some people have more sensitive skin than others and brushing with a brush that is too stiff might cause more harm than benefit.

Brush just before you shower for best effect. After brushing, you’ll be able to wash off the dead skin cells and the flaky skin. Just make sure to use a good soap or shower gel and, remember, after showering, make sure to apply lotion.

The most common way of dry brushing is to go from your feet upwards. Use long strokes to brush from your feet towards your torso. Don’t apply too much pressure, especially not where the skin is sensitive, such as your breasts or abdomen.

In general, you want to be gentle when dry brushing, as the brush will “do its thing” mostly. If you’re too rough, you can cause irritation and even bleeding.

It goes without saying that you should never brush already damaged skin. This includes scrapes, sores, cuts, burns (and yes, even sunburnt skin should not be dry brushed). Also, if you have any areas that are inflamed or already irritated, don’t go over them with the dry brush. The same goes for your face – it’s off limits!

Indulge in Cold Showers

Yes, it may not be something you can try when it’s freezing out. However, take advantage of the warmer days that are coming soon and take as many cold showers as you can.

Cold water aids circulation because it tells your blood to go faster to maintain the average body temperature. In a way, a cold shower “shocks” your body, getting your heart to pump faster.

Another great side-effect of that is that you will also feel more energized.

And that is also the reason why many people prefer cold showers in the morning.

In addition, a cold shower tightens your cuticles and pores, which makes your skin look smoother and your hair more shiny.

If you’re unaccustomed to cold water early on, go with lukewarm and work your way down, so to speak. That way you can gradually get used to the feel of cold water against your skin. You can also alternate between hot and cold showers. Simply shower with hot water for one or two minutes, and then immediately switch to cold water. Do this four or five times to flush out the skin and oxygenate it.

However, if you’re feeling too overwhelmed with such abrupt shifts in temperature, then this switching is not for you. But don’t worry, you can shower with cold water and your skin will still have incredible benefits!

Try a Face Massage

A regular massage is the best way to improve your skin. This goes especially for a face massage. It boosts blood and lymph circulation, thus enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

A good face massage also relieves stress and helps with PMS symptoms, if you needed any more convincing.

When you massage your face, make sure that your movements are gentle, that they’re not too harsh, as you can irritate the skin that way, and that is the opposite of what you’re going for. Remember, gentle movements are quite sufficient to get the blood pumping for healthier skin.

Before you massage your face, do the following:

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and an antibacterial soap.
  2. It’s also a good idea to steam your face first.
  3. Then, you should cleanse your face before you start massaging.

These steps will prepare your skin for a great, almost professional massage you’re going to give yourself.

Now, there are various types of massages for your face, but your skin will benefit most from the most common massage there is. It’s easy and you can do it any time of day (or night, whenever you have time!). Here’s how:

  1. Massage your lymph area. With the tips of your fingers, massage under your ears down to your throat and up along your jawline.
  2. Using wide circular motion, massage the side of your jaw, past your mouth, and over your cheekbones. It’s good to always push skin up and out. Never push your skin down, as it can cause it to sag.
  3. Then you should massage your forehead, using both hands. Start massaging your temples and move towards the middle of your forehead.
  4. Using gentle strokes, massage around the eyes to deal with puffy eyes.

You should massage each part of your face for about a minute for the best effect.

Ionize with Clay Masks 

You may not have known this, but certain types of clay can boost your blood circulation. For instance, bentonite has negatively charged ions. When you put it on your skin, it attracts positively charged ions, like environmental pollutants and some bacteria.

That’s what makes your blood rush to the surface, causing a temporary redness of your face. But not to worry, together with all those pollutants that need to be flushed out, it also causes a rush of endorphins.

Woman applying clay mask on skin

That is why you should definitely indulge in a clay mask from time to time. It’s easy to use, and the benefits are really multiple!

Try LED Therapy

LED light therapy was initially invented to accelerate the healing of wounds and scars after surgery. However, as in most things in life, there was another, quite lucky coincidence – the rejuvenation of healthy skin.

When the light energy is the appropriate wavelength, cells convert it into ATP, i.e. the fuel cells in the dermis layer use to do their job. These are called the fibroblast cells and their job is to produce collagen and elastin.

And collagen and elastin are the two greatest things for skin in the entire universe.

Collagen gives the skin its fullness, while elastin is in charge of, you’ve guessed it, the elasticity of the skin.

With the help of the LED light therapy, the fibroblast cells “work overtime” and the main result here is – rejuvenated skin.

According to experts that deal in LED light therapy, it doesn’t have any contra-indications. It can be used with all skin types and conditions, and, it’s even safe for your eyes.

Also, because it was initially discovered in order to treat wounds, one of its main uses is increasing circulation. That is, it increases the body’s healing processes, which later, you’ve guessed it, improves the health of your skin!

Check Your Diet

If this proverb were really true, most of us would likely be giant slices of pizza running around our pizza towns, going about our pizza life.

But, thankfully, the proverb is simply meant to point to the fact that our dietary choices are actually incredibly important for our overall health.

And, you may not have thought about this, but what we eat is vital for our blood circulation.

For instance, trans fats and processed sugar are, you might have guessed it, truly awful when it comes to blood flow. And, another thing you can reduce if you don’t want your circulation to suffer is salt.

However, the following foods are super healthy for blood flow and you should eat them on a regular basis:

Whole garlic and garlic cloves on a wooden chopping board

  1. Onion and garlic. We figured we should put the best news first, as it’s a well-known fact that these two friends are the soul of every dish.
  2. Citrus fruits. As you may know, citrus fruits are full of antioxidants and they reduce stiffness in the arteries, thus improving circulation.
  3. Leafy greens. They dilate blood vessels, which allows your blood to flow more easily.
  4. Various types of spices. This includes cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, etc.
  5. Tomatoes. They act similarly as leafy greens, as they open up your blood vessels.

These foods are also great for your overall immune system, so you might benefit from eating them in numerous ways.

Woman looking stressed and bored at work

6 Easy Focus Shifters for a Healthier Mind

There are times when you’re faced with a problem or a period in your life that you cannot deal with. When your mind feels like it’s stuck in a bog, and there’s no way out

That’s why it is very important to know when to press pause. To stop. To refocus.

And how are you to do that?

Well, by shifting your focus.

When you shift your focus, you are able to postpone thinking about the problem that causes you stress. As a direct result your stress levels decrease, helping you cope with the hurdles on your path. When you have done that, when you’ve managed to relax, that’s when you’re capable of dealing with the practical side of things. 

So, here are some ways of shifting your focus that will help you in the long run.

Take A Creative Break

Did you know that stepping back for a while can actually increase your chances of finding the answer to your problem? 

As the old saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest from the tree. It’s blocking your view and your path to the solution. It’s stopping you mentally, as well as physically.

So take a break from the issue you’re currently having and engage your mind in a different way.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas:

  • Organize the bookcase that you haven’t come round to
  • Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom 
  • Take a nap. Research shows that taking a nap is a foolproof way of rebooting your brain
  • Solve a different kind problem, like a crossword puzzle or Sudoku

Many people would call this the art of procrastination, but people neglect how it can be useful, as well. While you’re letting your brain gallivant across unimportant things (except the sitcom! That is incredibly important!), you’re actually allowing it to rest.

The point is to do something mind-engaging that you enjoy. To restart your brain while you have fun. To drag it out of the bog long enough to see that the sun is shining and the bog is not the place for it.

Make A Phone Call 

This is a super easy way to shift your attention to something else. It’s quick and immediately effective. In fact, people do it all the time. But instead of calling your friends and loved ones every once in a while to catch up, why not send them a text whenever you need a break?

Not only will this help you re-focus your attention, but it will also have the added benefit of keeping your friends and loved ones regularly in your life.

Are you unsure of what to say in your text or call?

It doesn’t have to be anything long or specific. Just ask them about their day, how their work is going, and have they seen that last episode of Game of Thrones?

Sure winner, really.

Help Someone Else

Sometimes it’s necessary to get out of our own heads and into helping someone else. Not only does this engage our attention in a completely different direction, but it also gives us some perspective. As it turns out, we’re not the only people with problems after all.

So how should you go about helping someone else?

It can be as easy as turning to your co-worker and ask if they need any help. If you’re aware of the projects they’re working on, offer some ideas or suggestions. You can also offer to make them a cup of coffee, or pack some lunch on your way out.

If you don’t feel like reaching out to a co-worker, why not think about those in your immediate social circle? Is your husband trying to find a gluten-free cookie brand that he doesn’t hate? Try researching some reviews online to see what other options are available. Is your best friend looking for a good book to read? Make a list of five different books you think she’ll enjoy, and send the list to her. She’ll appreciate it!

List the Positives

Negativity has a huge impact on our lives. And yes, some people are naturally more prone to think negatively.

It’s a glass-half-empty type of thing.

But in order to shift your focus, you have to shift the driving force of your thoughts.

Out with the negativity, in with the positivity!

While you’re looking at a problem or, even, your life, on a grand scale, stop and focus on the positive things. 

What are the positive things? Well, start by thinking about what good this particular problem can bring in the future, what you will have learnt and what you’re yet to learn. 

If that fails, there are other foolproof ways of shifting your focus to more optimistic dimensions. Consider focusing on these:

  • Your strengths – is it your sensitivity? your social skills? or maybe it’s your ambitious approach in new projects?
  • Your achievements – this may be closing a sales account sooner than expected, reaching your own financial savings goals, or just finishing three different chores on Sunday
  • The things you love – your dog, your sister, your husband, your kids and the thick forest near your home are all fodder for optimistic thought
  • Your environment – the technology you’re using, the bird outside, the change of seasons

Optimism can aid you significantly, as you will learn. It will lead to greater success, better overall health and, of course, decrease your stress levels.

By focusing on positive thoughts, you can actually live longerIf that’s not a good enough reason to switch to positivity, well, we don’t know what is.

Get Out and Exercise

Not to get all Latin on you, but ancient Romans did know a thing or two about life. Well, we can only imagine, since so many proverbs remain. And there is one particular wisdom that is incredibly useful when trying to shift focus.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

See? Even the ancient Romans knew that a healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind, its support and enabler. And just like a house is wobbly without a proper foundation, your mind will also suffer without a healthy body.

And one way to change that is to exercise.

Exercising on a regular basis has so many benefits that it is difficult to list them all. And not just when it comes to the physical part.

It is known to reduce stress, to alleviate anxiety symptoms, and even aid with depression. When your body changes and becomes something you consider good, that will also lead to increased self-esteem that can pour into other spheres of life. Truly, the effects of exercising are gargantuan in the long run.

But, did you know that it can also help you at the precise moment you need it?

Let’s go back to the beginning. We mentioned some menial tasks, or even some harder ones, used to relax and shift your focus. Well, exercise can do that, as well. Only here, you also have the added benefit of endorphins making you feel good.

Infographic on endorphins

Once you’re faced with an overwhelming task or an overwhelming period in your life, one of the ways you can shift your focus is to exercise. It doesn’t have to be for too long. You don’t have to slave away at the gym, building muscles. You simply need to dedicate some time to your body.

And your body will show that it’s grateful by providing your mind with solutions and changed perspectives and, simply, contentedness.

Two things come to the fore when you exercise to shift your focus:

  • You step away from the situation, which is, as it has been established, a good thing.
  • You are improving both the state of your body and your mind.

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck, the best idea might be to go for a run or to the gym. Just for a little while, just for a little respite for your mind. Once you return to the problem, your mind will be rested and your body delightfully relaxed.

Act Like It’s Thanksgiving Every Day

No matter what you may think, this is not a utopian idea. And no, it does not include inviting all of your family around to feast every day. Although, that does sound like a nice idea.

In a matter of speaking, Thanksgiving Day is beneficial because it reminds us that we have something to be grateful for. It reminds us to give thanks for having those things. And that is not something we do often.

So, teach yourself to be grateful.

Turning every day into Thanksgiving Day means reminding yourself that life, in all its complexities, is actually an amalgam of many things. Yes, there will be times when there are more bad things. But, there will also be times when you will feel like jumping from joy.

Employ this technique when faced with a hurdle. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, remind yourself that this is just another moment in a sea of moments of varying quality. You’re swimming through a bad one right now, but the good one is just around the corner.

Happy smiling woman looking grateful, with her hands clasped together

Being thankful doesn’t have much to do with anything momentous. It can include something incredibly small, but big to you. You may be grateful that your kid said their first word. You may be grateful that you have a supportive family that helps you achieve your dreams. Or, also, you may be grateful simply because the bus came on time today.

If you want, you can do this on a regular basis. Pick three things that you are grateful for each day and, soon enough, you will see the difference.

Giving thanks gives way to smiles, which gives way to a happier you. And a happier you will be more adept at solving whatever hurdle life has presented before you.

So, change your focus. Clear your goggles.

See the reality of life and its astonishing nature. And that will surely lead to a healthy mind.

Woman feels sick while eating lunch

What’s the Difference Between Wheat and Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten-free and wheat-free diets have become increasingly popular lately, and it is estimated that around 15% of the population is actually intolerant to gluten.

Why have these dietary requirements become so prevalent all of a sudden?

For a number of reasons, such as:

  • Better awareness and diagnostics mean that doctors are recognizing these dietary requirements more
  • Modern varieties of wheat are completely different from the varieties that our ancestors used to grow
  • People are now consuming more and more wheat-based products, many of which haven’t been prepared in a healthy way

So, is a gluten-intolerance and a wheat-intolerance the same thing?

Definitely not. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some big differences between the two…

What Exactly Are Gluten and Wheat?

Let’s begin by going back to basics and taking a closer look at what gluten and wheat actually are…

Wheat is a cereal grain that is milled into a flour and then used to make a variety of different foods, such as:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Cakes
  • Snack foods
  • Sauces

Gluten is a composite protein within the wheat, but can also be found in barley and rye.

Therefore, while all foods that contain wheat also contain gluten, gluten can come from sources other than wheat too.

Infographic on the content of gluten in different foods

What is a Wheat Intolerance?

A wheat intolerance, which is also referred to as a wheat sensitivity, refers to the body creating an inflammatory response when it comes across the proteins (including gluten) contained in wheat.

Symptoms don’t necessarily manifest immediately after the wheat has been eaten…

It can sometimes take up to 72 hours for symptoms to arise, and this can be diagnosing a wheat intolerance slightly tricky.

Wondering what the symptoms of a wheat intolerance are?

They vary between individuals, but often include:

  • Digestive problems – such as bloating, stomach pains or IBS
  • Skin problems – such as acne, eczema and rashes 
  • Neurological problems – such as migraines and headaches
  • Fatigue – a noticeable lethargy and lack of energy
  • Psychological problems – such as depression and anxiety

Is Wheat Intolerance the Same As Wheat Allergy?

A wheat intolerance is an inflammatory response, while a wheat allergy is a real allergy.

If you have a wheat allergy, you will likely experience the symptoms of this either immediately after consuming wheat, or just a few hours after.

Symptoms include:

  • Skin irritations
  • A blocked nose
  • Watering eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylactic shock

As you can see, the symptoms range from quite mild to life-threatening

Fortunately, true wheat allergies are extremely rare. They are most commonly found in children, but most kids grow out of this once they reach the age of five. In some cases, the allergy does continue on into adulthood.

Wondering if wheat allergies are triggered by the gluten within wheat?

They can be, but there are around 30 other potential allergens within wheat too. This means that a wheat allergy could be caused by any of these.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Many people think that a gluten intolerance is the same as an allergy, but this isn’t the case…

While a gluten intolerance is a physical condition, it takes place in the gut.

What causes it?

Sometimes gluten isn’t digested properly, meaning that undigested proteins enter into the intestines.

This triggers your body into treating them just like a foreign invader. This results in an irritated gut lining, as well as flattened microvilli.

What are microvilli?

They are compounds that increase the surface area of each cell, enabling them to better absorb nutrients. When these end up flattened against the wall of your intestines, your body becomes unable to properly absorb the nutrients within the food that you eat.

Symptoms of a gluten intolerance include:

A gluten intolerance is often referred to as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

What About Gluten Allergies?

Have you heard people mention gluten allergies before?

Well, let’s get one thing straight…

There’s no such thing as a gluten allergy. It is definitely not an official medical condition.

Instead, people sometimes use the phrase gluten allergy to refer to a gluten intolerance, or even to Celiac disease.

Where Does Celiac Disease Come Into All of This?

Just like a wheat allergy, Celiac disease is an official medical condition.

What exactly is it?

It is an autoimmune disorder that arises when a person who suffers from the condition eats wheat. Their body basically creates an immune response that causes it to attack its small intestines, which then damage the microvilli that line the gut.

As you know, the microvilli are essential for the body to properly absorb nutrients, meaning that those with undiagnosed Celiac disease could potentially suffer from some serious health problems in the long run.

Infographic on celiac disease

Wondering how common Celiac disease is?

It is believed that Celiac disease affects about one in every one hundred people worldwide. However, one in eight of these people do not realize that they have it, or have not been officially diagnosed, which would be extremely problematic for them in the future.

What causes Celiac disease?

It’s hereditary, meaning that it would be in your genes and there’s not really much you can do about that.

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately not, at least not yet.

The main treatment for the disease is a gluten-free diet, which will be discussed more further down.

Diagnosing Wheat and Gluten Intolerances

As you can see, the differences between all of the intolerances and allergies mentioned above can be a little confusing.

Think you may be suffering from one?

The best way to find out for sure is by seeing your doctor, so that proper diagnostic tests can be run.

Wondering how these conditions are actually tested for?

It depends on your systems, but it usually goes as follows:

  • Diagnosing Celiac disease – this is usually the first step when dealing with any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. This involves a blood screening, as well as a biopsy of the small intestine. Your doctor will also likely want to see whether your symptoms reduce or disappear if you follow a gluten-free diet for a while
  • Diagnosing a wheat allergy – this is carried out in the same way that other food allergies are diagnosed, with a skin prick test or RAST. You may also need to undergo blind pacebo tests that make use of wheat
  • Diagnosing a gluten intolerance/ NCGS – Celiac disease and a wheat allergy, along with other disorders that could be causing your symptoms, would first be ruled out. You would then likely need to try following a gluten-free diet for a while to see if this helps. If it does, then this may be enough to diagnose you with a gluten intolerance 

All three of these conditions are medically recognized. However, there isn’t a cure, meaning that this is where gluten-free and wheat-free diets come in…

Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Diets

With the only way to treat the above conditions being a specialized diet, and with all of the above conditions on the rise, it comes as no surprise that both gluten-free and wheat-free diets have become so prevalent.

A wheat-free diet does not contain any wheat, but can still contain rye and barley.

On the other hand, a gluten-free diet does not contain wheat, rye, barley, or anything else that contains gluten.

Does that mean that a person who requires a wheat-free diet could safely eat a gluten-free diet?

Not necessarily…

As mentioned earlier, there are around 30 potential allergens that have been identified in wheat, and gluten is only one of these. All of those other wheat-based compounds could still be used to create certain gluten-free foods, so long as the gluten itself is not used.

It works the other way too – a person requiring a gluten-free diet wouldn’t be safe eating a wheat-free diet. Those diets may still contain rye and barley, or even just the gluten from them, and this would trigger a reaction.

Don’t suffer from a wheat or gluten intolerance or allergy, but want to know whether you can still eat a gluten-free or wheat-free diet?

With these diets becoming quite trendy, so many people believe that they are the healthy way to go. They end up following a gluten-free diet, even though they don’t necessarily need to.

Although this isn’t necessarily dangerous, there are a few reasons as to why you may want to think twice about this:

  • Whole wheat is a great source of dietary fiber, and the average American is already deficient in fiber. Yes, it’s possible to get this fiber from other sources, but you would need to put more effort into this
  • Many bread and cereal products are fortified with important vitamins that are difficult to get elsewhere, such as the B vitamins. However, gluten-free and wheat-free products don’t tend to be fortified with these, meaning that you may need to turn to a dietary supplement
  • Truly being gluten-free can be extremely difficult. Gluten is found in so many foods, from flavorings to vitamins to soy sauce, and even in toothpaste and certain medications. You may have to make quite a few lifestyle choices to go down this route
  • Even though these diets are not necessarily any better for you, they will still likely end up costing quite a bit more than your regular diet

If you are just trying to eat in a healthier way, there are plenty of other ways in which you could do this so much better than following a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. 

Ancient Wheat Varieties

Many experts believe that wheat itself isn’t the problem when it comes to the health conditions mentioned above.

Wheat has been feeding humans for more than 10,000 years, so something must have changed!

Well, there could be some logic behind this thinking…

The wheat varieties grown today are so different from the varieties of wheat that our ancestors used to grow. Ancient wheat is genetically different and has less chromosomes, and this makes it easier for the human body to digest. Ancient varieties have also been found to cause a lower immune reaction than today’s wheat.

While those with Celiac disease would still need to avoid these ancient wheat varieties, those with a gluten intolerance may potentially be able to slowly introduce these varieties into their diet.

Even if you don’t suffer from a gluten or wheat intolerance, ancient wheat varieties could still benefit you, as they have been proven to be far more nutritious. They contain higher levels of minerals, including selenium, zinc and copper, than modern wheat, making it no surprise that so many people now suffer from deficiencies in those minerals. 

Why have the wheat varieties grown by humans changed so much over the years?

It happened quite recently, in the 60’s, with today’s wheat mostly being a form of dwarf wheat. This wheat is basically a cash crop when it comes to the high yields they provide, and this is something that ancient wheat has a hard time competing with.

Can’t find any breads available that have been made from ancient grains?

You can always buy the grains yourself, and then make your own bread.

Key grains to keep an eye out for include:

  • Einkorn – one of the oldest of wheat varieties with the simplest genetic structure
  • Emmer – also known as farro, emmer can be harder to find
  • Spelt – can also sometimes be referred to as farro, and is quite similar to wheat in terms of flavor and gluten content
  • Kamut – originated in Egypt, kamut is quite low in gluten, and has a beautiful buttery flavor 

With gluten and wheat intolerances becoming so much more common, it is always useful to understand the differences between these conditions. If you think you may be suffering from any of their symptoms, it would definitely be worthwhile to pay a visit to your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed.

Focused woman writing in journal, on sofa at home

How Journalling Improves Your Mental Health

While many people keep a diary in their teenage years, this is a habit that so many tend to lose as they progress into adulthood. Although this may be a habit that you have never thought twice about since, journalling can really make a huge difference to your mental health. 

What is Journalling?

Journalling has been going on since ancient times, with the first known journals dating back to Japan in the 10th century. 

To put it simply…

Journalling is the practice of recording your thoughts, emotions and reactions to different events and situations. It differs slightly to keeping a diary, in the sense that a diary is more of a record of daily occurrences, whereas a journal is more about reflecting on life in order to gain some clarity. 

The advantages of journalling have been recognized by many famous faces over the years, with everyone from Oscar Wilde to US presidents choosing to keep a journal. 

In the past couple of years, social media has brought journalling back into the spotlight. Everything from bullet journals and gratitude journals to digital journals and journalling apps (all of which will be discussed in more detail further on) are becoming more popular, but why exactly is this? 

The Mental Health Benefits of Journalling

When you take a look at all of the many mental health benefits that journalling can bring, it is easy to see why this practice is now becoming increasingly popular. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two mental health conditions that can really take their toll on a person’s overall health. 

Chronic stress, along with the anxiety that this causes, can lead to: 

  • High blood sugar and blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks 
  • Depression 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Fertility problems

People are constantly looking for ways in which they can manage their stress and anxiety levels, and journalling is a great place to start. 

How does journalling help with stress and anxiety?

Well, research has found that journalling enables people to release their worries and anxieties from their mind, rather than suppressing them or dwelling on them.

Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, but it also frees up the mind and allows it to properly focus on the task at hand. 

This works for dealing with your thoughts and feelings about stressful events that have happened in the past, as well as for stressful situations that are coming up in the future. 

It is also a great way to help you to avoid particular stress triggers in the future. 

How? 

By writing them down, you will be able to better identify exactly what it is that is causing your stress, meaning that you can then take steps in the future to avoid those triggers. 

Reduces the Symptoms of Depression

Around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives, making this a very prevalent illness that needs to be dealt with as early on as possible. 

Wondering how journalling helps a person to deal with depression? 

In a number of ways, such as: 

  • Perspective and control – getting your thoughts on to paper is a great way to look at a situation from a different perspective. It is also quite empowering, and due to the way in which it will make your problems seem more manageable, you will then feel as though you have a better sense of control over your life 
  • Increases awareness – you may not realize at first what it is that is making you feel depressed, but journalling can help you to identify this, bringing subconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface. This then makes it easier to deal with your triggers 
  • Tracking depression triggers – if you take note of your symptoms each and every day in your journal, it won’t be long before you begin to notice a pattern in the triggers that exacerbate your depression symptoms. This then makes it easier to avoid them in the future and keep your symptoms at a low 
  • Gratitude – regularly reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for you in your life can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay

There have been a number of studies carried out on the connection between journalling and depression. 

What did they discover? 

That those who were suffering from depressive disorders experienced a significant decline in their symptoms after journalling for just a few days, with these effects continuing on for the four weeks in which the participants were required to keep a journal.

Improves Memory

As mentioned above, journalling is such an effective way to reduce stress and clear your mind of all of the negative thoughts and emotions that are running through it. 

How is this linked to your memory?

Because freeing your mind of all of that negative clutter enables your working memory to function much better. It means that your brain does not have to use its cognitive energy focusing on stress or worries, and can instead use this to create memories. 

The fact that writing your experiences down on paper also helps to improve the way in which your memory retention works is an added bonus! 

Combats Sleep Deprivation

The quality of your sleep and the state of your mental health are so closely related. 

Sleep deprivation not only has a negative effect on your mental health, but mental health issues can also lead to sleep deprivation, resulting in quite the vicious cycle.

How does journalling help with this? 

Research shows that those who spend just five minutes before bed journalling are able to relax and fall asleep much faster than those who do not.

Think this sounds like an easy way to tackle your sleep deprivation? 

There’s one thing that you need to know if you want to use journalling to help with this…

Rather than journalling about what went on during the day, the improvements in your sleep patterns will only really come about if you journal about tasks that you still need to accomplish. In other words, writing a to-do list for the next day will bring about better results than writing about tasks you have already completed. 

Why? 

Because all of your to-do tasks are the ones that will keep your brain active in the evenings. Writing these down, and therefore offloading them, will then put your mind at ease, enabling your brain and body to fall asleep so much easier. 

The Different Methods of Journalling

Ready to give journalling a try? 

As mentioned earlier, there are now so many different ways in which you can do this, whether you prefer to go old school with pen and paper, or opt for something more high-tech and digital. 

It goes without saying that a blank notebook and a pen is all you really need to start journalling. 

However, if you need some extra help getting started, then you may want to look into some of the other journal types out there that provide all of the inspiration you need to really get your thoughts on paper. 

There are many journals out there that already contain journalling prompts, and these can sometimes make it easier to get started in terms of actually writing something down. 

Want something more high tech than pen and paper? 

There are several digital journalling tools and apps out there to choose from. 

Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Ohlife – this free service will send you an email each day, asking how your day went. All you need to do is hit the reply button and type out a reply, which can be as short or long as you want. Send your email and then log on to your account to see all of your past replies 
  • Grid Diary – this program will send you eight question prompts a day, laying out your answers in an easy-to-view grid-like format 
  • Five Minute Journal – this app will send you timed prompts, asking you to list different things, whether this may be three things that you are appreciative of or five things that happened that day. This app was developed around psychology research, and is a great one for reflection 
  • Day One – offers a wide variety of features, from being able to add metadata and music information to the way in which you can customize it to send multiple prompts at certain times of each day 
  • Momento – Momento not only gives you the opportunity to jot down your thoughts and memories, but it also draws together all of the information you have posted each day on each of your social networks

What Should You Write About?

If you go for a journal or app that offers up writing prompts each day, then this makes it easy to know exactly what you should be writing about. 

However, going with just a blank notebook and a pen, or even a blank page on your computer, can sometimes leave you with writer’s block. 

So, how do you decide what to actually write about? 

Well, as mentioned earlier, if you want to use journalling as a way to help improve your sleep, then try to jot down a quick to-do list of your upcoming tasks the next day. 

However, in order to gain all of the other mental health benefits mentioned above, you need to delve a little deeper when journalling…

Here are some ideas of what to write about: 

  • Your accomplishments, no matter how small these may seem 
  • Five things that you are grateful for 
  • A recollection of the events that occurred that day 
  • Reflections, meaning sentences that begin with “I want”, “I think” and “I feel”
  • How things are going at work and in your personal life 
  • A bucket list 

Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or punctuation when journalling. You need to be able to write freely from your mind, without having to worry about any of those things. 

If you don’t really enjoy writing, a bullet journal may be a better option for you. 

What is a bullet journal? 

If you do an online search for this, you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed. So, to put it simply, a bullet journal is basically just like a normal journal, except that you write things down in bullet points and lists rather than sentences and paragraphs.

This is referred to as rapid logging, and you would make use of different symbols to categorize your notes. 

It may seem complicated, but this method of journalling can actually be extremely helpful when it comes to improving your mental health. 

Making Journalling a Habit

Many people make the decision to start journalling, and go out and buy themselves an inspiring new notebook or journal, as well as some new pens, to get them started. 

While it may go well for the first day or so, turning journalling into an actual habit can be tricky. 

One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your journal near your bed. Set aside just five minutes each night before you go to bed for journalling. Doing this first thing in the morning can also be a great way to start your day. 

Alternatively, if you would like to let loose and freely write for longer, set aside 20 minutes of journalling time three times a week. If you consciously set days and times for journalling, this will make it much easier to incorporate the habit into your existing lifestyle. 

Keep doing this for a while and it won’t be long before journalling becomes a natural habit! 

As you can see, not only can journalling be so useful when it comes to improving your mental health, but it is also such a fun and creative practice to make use of. Even if you think that journalling may not be for you, give it a try for a week or two, as you will likely witness its benefits for yourself by then.  

Is Your Makeup Affecting Your Skin?

Do you wear makeup on a regular basis? 

If so, have you ever stopped to think about the effect that your makeup could be having on your skin? 

While makeup in general, when used correctly, does not really cause any severe skin issues, it can still affect your skin in a number of ways, and this is something well worth knowing more about. 

Allergic Reactions

One of the most common problems that people have with makeup products is that they can often lead to allergic reactions. 

When it comes to these reactions caused by makeup, they can usually be categorized into one of the following: 

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis – this is when you experience an itching or burning sensation, and tends to only affect the outer layer of the skin 
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis – this is a deeper and “truer” allergic reaction, resulting in the allergens triggering an immune response from deep within your skin. This usually shows up as swelling, itching, or even as blisters 

Think you’re safe because you haven’t yet experienced an allergic reaction to any of the makeup products you use? 

Think again…

Both forms of contact dermatitis can arise after years of using the same product. The reactions can be caused by repeated exposure, so you can never be certain that you will not experience a form of contact dermatitis from your makeup.

What should you do if you ever experience an allergic reaction from your makeup? 

Immediately stop using the product, and look for a cream or treatment that contains plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients. A cool compress held against the affected area can also help, but, if your reaction is quite severe, you may need to visit a doctor for some medication. 

You are probably wondering…

Is there any way to prevent these allergic reactions from occurring in the first place? 

Unfortunately, there are so many common allergens often used in makeup products, and this makes prevention quite challenging. 

However, avoiding as many of those allergens as you can can definitely make a difference, especially for those who are prone to allergic reactions. 

Toxic Ingredients

As mentioned above, many makeup products contain allergens and other toxic ingredients that are definitely no good for your skin. Not only can they lead to poor skin health, but they can also have more serious repercussions for your overall health too. 

The list of these ingredients can seem almost endless, but here are a few of the most common ones to avoid: 

  • Parabens – this group of preservatives has earned itself quite a bad rep lately, and for good reason too. Parabens interfere with the way in which your natural hormones function, affecting everything from reproduction to the immune system to the growth of cancer cells 
  • Butylated Compounds – often referred to as BHT or BHA, these ingredients are preservatives that are found in a wide range of makeup products. Not only do they cause skin allergies, but they also mimic estrogen in the body, disrupting hormonal functions while promoting the growth of cancerous tumors 
  • Lead – the use of lead in many different products, such as paint, has been banned, due to the fact that it has been proven to be a harmful neurotoxin. However, many makeup color additives have been contaminated with lead, which can cause havoc to your skin and health. Try using products that have been produced in small batches, and make use of natural color pigments, instead, as this helps to minimize the chance of coming across lead contamination 
  • Fragrance – since cosmetic brands claim that their fragrance formulas are trade secrets, they are not required to disclose the ingredients used to create each fragrance. This means that there are usually hundreds of different chemicals hidden under this label, and these are some of the most common causes of skin reactions

When purchasing a new makeup product, be sure to check the ingredients list to ensure that none of the common allergens mentioned above have been used. 

Acne Cosmetica

If you have noticed an increase in breakouts whenever you wear makeup

This could mean that you are suffering from acne cosmetica. 

Never heard of this condition before? 

It is actually an extremely common type of acne, and is caused when cosmetic products build up inside hair follicles. This leads to clogged pores, resulting in a breakout.

Infographic on clogged pores

How do you know which of your makeup products is causing your acne cosmetica? 

Well, take a look at where your breakouts tend to occur. If they tend to accumulate around the eyes, then the culprit is likely to be one of your eye makeup products. On the other hand, if they are spread quite evenly across your face, take a closer look at your foundation. 

Once you know which product it is that is causing your breakouts, you can stop using it. 

Wondering why these cosmetic products cause acne in the first place? 

It is usually down to the oils that have been used within the product’s formula. 

One way to avoid purchasing makeup products that could potentially lead to breakouts is…

By looking for products that have been labelled as non-comedogenic. This means that their ingredient will not clog up your pores. 

Common pore-clogging ingredients that are often used in makeup products include: 

  • Cocoa butter 
  • Grapeseed oil 
  • Coal tar 
  • Coconut oil 
  • Lanolic acid 
  • Linseed oil 
  • D & C red dyes

Another tip would be to make sure that the skin care products you use are also water-based, rather than oil-based. Adding excess oils to your skin before applying your makeup will only exacerbate the problem. 

Bacterial Infections

Many people don’t realize that the use of makeup can sometimes lead to bacterial infections on the skin. 

How? 

In a couple of ways…

Firstly, cosmetic companies are not required to display expiration dates on their products, although a few still do. While this may be the case, it can be difficult to ascertain when a makeup product has expired, especially when it still seems to be working after a couple of years. 

However, even though it may seem as though that forgotten-about product is still doing its job, what you won’t be able to see is all of the bacteria that is now living in that product. 

To avoid unnecessarily infecting your face with bacteria, follow these guidelines when it comes to throwing out expired makeup products: 

  • Liquid Foundation – 2 years 
  • Powder – 2 years
  • Blush – 2 years 
  • Lipstick – 1 year 
  • Eyeliner – 1 year 
  • Eyeshadow  Powders – 2 years 
  • Concealer – 2 years 
  • Eyebrow Pencils – 1 year 
  • Lip Liners – 1 year 
  • Mascara – 6 months

Of course, those shelf life guidelines will be even shorter if you don’t store your makeup products correctly…

Make sure that you tightly screw on any caps and lids once you are done using them, to prevent the products from drying out and to also prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. Keep your products away from extreme temperatures too, as this will only have an effect on their consistency. 

Don’t forget, the tools that you use to apply your makeup, from brushes to sponges, can carry bacteria too. These need to be regularly cleaned in order to prevent bacterial skin infections. 

How often should you be cleaning them? 

Ideally, give them a quick clean after each use, and then a deeper clean every couple of weeks, or at least once a month. Brush cleaners are available for this, or you can simply use some warm water and a gentle soap. 

Accelerated Skin Aging

While makeup itself does not cause accelerated skin aging, failing to remove it before you go to bed at night definitely does. 

How are the two connected?

Well, each and every day, your body produces thousands of free radicals. These are basically unstable molecules within the body that go around attacking healthy cells, and this includes your skin cells.

Free radicals are created by exposing the body to so many different environmental factors, from the sun’s UV rays to pollution, making them pretty much impossible to avoid. 

What does this have to do with your makeup? 

Well, your makeup actually holds on to free radicals. When you remove your makeup at night, you are clearing away those free radicals along with it. However, failing to remove your makeup means that the free radicals end up causing even more damage than usual to your skin. 

Leaving your makeup on at night can lead to: 

  • A breakdown in the collagen and elastin in your skin 
  • An increase in fine lines and wrinkles 
  • A rough skin texture 
  • Skin dullness 

Of course, leaving your makeup on at night also means that there is more chance of your pores becoming clogged, resulting in breakouts. 

When it comes to removing your makeup…

A simple swipe of a cleansing wipe simply will not do. 

Although these wipes may be super convenient, they only end up smearing your makeup across your face, along with the dirt, oil and dead skin cells that were also on your skin. 

While a cleansing wipe is better than nothing on those evenings when you are just too exhausted to properly cleanse your face, you would be far better off with a proper cleanser for all of the other nights.

When using a proper cleanser, make sure that you massage this into dry skin, rather than damp. 

Why? 

Because damp skin means that the water that is already on your skin will end up diluting the cleanser, meaning that it will not do as good a job of removing every single makeup particle. Instead, massage it into dry skin for about 30 seconds, before adding a bit of warm water and continuing to massage for another 30 seconds or so. 

After that, rinse the cleanser off and follow up with the rest of your skin care routine. Make sure to never leave your skin bare after cleansing, as it is quite vulnerable at this time and will be prone to dryness and sensitivities. 

One more thing to keep in mind when removing your makeup…

Make sure that you are extremely gentle when handling your skin. It may be tempting to tug at parts of your skin, such as your eyes when removing mascara, but avoid doing this. The skin on your face is so thin and delicate, and any extra tugging and tension will only lead to an increase in facial sagging and fine lines. This is especially the case when dealing with the fragile skin around the eyes. 

Dry Skin

Not only can certain makeup products exacerbate dry skin, but they can sometimes even cause this in the first place. 

How? 

Well, if you have dry skin, then this means that your skin has a lack of natural oils. These help to prevent moisture from evaporating out of the skin. 

Certain makeup products, such as powders, actually absorb the oils on your skin. If you already have a lack of these oils, then losing the little that you do have means that you will quickly experience the symptoms of dryness. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of hydrating powdered makeup formulas available now. You could also try applying a moisturizer onto your skin and then waiting for a few minutes before applying the powder over the top of that. Not only will this keep your skin more hydrated, but it will also give your makeup a fresher and dewier finish. 

In general, creamy makeup formulas tend to be better than powders for those who have dry skin. The creams will be so much more moisturizing and nourishing, and there is little chance that they will cause your skin to dry out. 

For most people out there, wearing makeup will not really cause any skin problems. However, it is always good to be aware of the potential side effects, so that you can recognize the symptoms and deal with them as soon as they start to appear. 

Smiling woman looking at herself in the mirror

8 Signs You’re Not Cleansing Your Skin Properly

With how busy life gets and the number of tasks and responsibilities that keep piling up, it is easy to neglect skin care habits that take some of our time.

There are days where we don’t have the energy to go through even a 5 step cleansing routine and go straight to bed. You probably experience a phase wherein some days you would forget to take off your makeup because you were super exhausted from work and the morning after your skin will feel sticky and greasy. Gross right? As a college student or a working adult, you can definitely relate. 

However,  you will realize the time that costs you a few minutes every morning and every night are an investment making your skin retain its youth. Doing otherwise may sentence you to suffer some consequences such as these: 

1.    Breaking Out

Although acne is a skin condition that both the rich and poor experiences, there is an underlying stigma making people who have it feel insecure and uncomfortable with their looks. Though somehow, having the hormonal misfortune of triggering acne is inevitable, there are some preventive and remedial measures we can take. 

What Happens to Your Skin?

Before going into detail on how to cure and prevent acne, it is best to learn about this skin condition for us to have a better picture. 

The cause of acne is very simple. The pores are like the vents that help our skin to breathe. It helps our skin by disposing some of our bodies’ excess in the form of oil. Pimples then are formed when oil gets clogged in our pores. 

Furthermore, these residues clogged in the pores may be infected by airborne bacteria brought by exposure to external agents such as dust. The bacteria that infects pimples and triggers acne is called Propionibacterium acnes. 

Infographic on clogged pores

Causes of Acne

One prevalent cause of acne is a hormonal imbalance. The main factors that come into play are the hormones known as androgen in adolescents and estrogen in adults. As the level of androgen rises, oil glands under the skin grow. Enlarged oil glands produce more sebum. Excessive sebum causes clogged pores and bacteria.  This hormonal imbalance can be traced from internal bodily processes caused by:

    • Medications and prescription drugs
    • Stress
    • Hormonal changes in adolescence
    • Greasy cosmetics
    • Menstruation
    • Dehydration

What to Do to Prevent Acne?

Types of acne vary. Of course, severe acne will require more intensive medication. But for mild to moderate condition, there are easy and practical ways to go about your everyday skincare routine:

  • Wash your face twice a day: It is best to use warm water, and mild cleansing products made for acne. Try to avoid antibacterial soaps because these products tend to make the skin coarse and dry.
  • DO NOT pop your pimples: Although it is very tempting to do so, please refrain from popping because these will leave marks on your face that may be permanent scars. 
  • Be very selective of your cosmetics: Choose the makeup that is suitable for your sensitive skin type. Also, do not put too much makeup on your face especially when you are still recovering from acne. Chemicals in them may clog the pores and trigger more pimples. 

2.    Your Skin is Super Dry 

The roughness of the skin is due to the low amount of natural oils and lubricants that should keep the skin soft and smooth. Although, this condition is most common among the elderly, dry skin can be triggered by various environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Development of Cracks and Dry Patches

The epidermis, the outer layer of our skin, is made up of lipids and proteins. They prevent skin dehydration and retain moisture. Thus, deficiency of proteins and lipids makes the moisture evaporate quickly leading to rashes and cracks on the skin. 

Xerosis (dry skin) is very common especially during hot weathers. However, leaving it untreated may lead to bacterial infections and severe skin diseases.

How to Treat Dry Skin?

Although in the offset of developing dry skin is usually mild, it is important to take caution to treat this skin condition as soon as possible. Here are some essential tips for your skin care routine:

  • Do not over wash your face.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps and cleansers.
  • Do not over exfoliate.
  • Religiously use lotions and moisturizers especially when going out. 

3.   Your Skin is Too Oily

People with this condition will likely develop acne. For the most part, having persistent oily skin has to do with stress, hormones, and genetics. Having oily skin is practically harmless, but it may sabotage your fresh look and makeup effort when you go out.  

Common Symptoms

Other than the obvious fact that the face looks shinier more frequently than most people, there are a few telltales of having excessive oil production in your pores:

  • Prevalence of whiteheads and blackheads
  • Persistent development of pimples
  • Skin looks rough and thick

These signs may also be caused by various factors such as frequent exposure to heat and humidity which makes your pores get used to producing more oil to hydrate the skin. In time, even in cold places, oil glands may switch to autopilot and generate unnecessary oil. 

How Do I Manage Excessive Facial Oil?

As having oily skin is inevitable for people who are born with it, proper skin care handling might as well be the key to look fresh as much as you can. This includes the right routine with the right products that should be done on an everyday basis:

  • Consider using a toner. A toner is always best used after washing your face for deeper cleansing. Toners have soothing properties for the skin such as natural astringents. For oily skin, the best products to use are those with witch hazel contents. 
  • Facials masks. The facial masks are good deterrents for oily skin. They contain minerals that can absorb oils, sebum levels, and shininess without causing irritation. 
  • Use moisturizers regularly. Some people steer clear of moisturizers because they think these will make their skin greasier. On the contrary, moisturizers are very important in preventing oiliness. As it was mentioned earlier, oil glands tend to produce more oil when dehydrated. Moisturizers act as an external aid to prevent dehydration striking a balance in the body’s processes. 

4.    Redness of Skin

Swollen and reddish skin is often a symptom of acne, seborrhea, and rosacea. It is usually caused by irritation due to too much exposure to dust and the sun. Facial redness comes with itching and rough skin texture that can be very painful.

Things You Don’t Know Causing This Skin Condition

Although facial redness can be the side effect of other diseases such as lupus and eczema, there are certain practices and pet peeves that can trigger this type of irritation:

  • Drinking too much alcohol. Although our faces turn reddish when we are drunk, frequent and excessive amount of alcohol in the body makes small blood vessels to widen in your skin and causes capillaries to break leading to irritation.
  • Using low-quality cosmetics. Beauty products do not need to be expensive to be considered of high quality. Be very selective in buying your beauty cosmetics what use is a great deal if it irritates and damages your skin?
  • Skipping your daily cleansing routine. We are inevitably exposed to airborne chemical agents that are harmful to our skin. These may build up in our skin and cause irritation. Yes, it is tempting to go straight to bed after a hard day’s work, but you should not neglect washing up. It will make your skin look better, and you will be refreshed and get a better good night’s sleep.

5.    Burning and Stinging

Pain receptors are our bodies’ signal to tell us that there is something wrong. These sensations in our skin may entail damage or allergic reactions to external agents we have been exposed to. The same as facial redness, burning and stinging may also be side effects of various skin diseases or irritation from harsh skincare products. 

How to Soothe Your Skin 

To be able to get to the bottom of this, you should first figure out what is causing this irritation. Whether it is allergies or the use of harsh skin care products, it’s better to consult first your doctor or dermatologist for you to know proper remedial and preventive measures that are suitable for your condition. In the meantime, before you visit your doctor, try to:

  • avoid scratching damaged areas (no matter how itchy it may get);
  • use unfamiliar skin products; and
  • always wash the areas properly with mild cleansers only.

6.    Presence of Milia

Milia is a type of acne that is caused by skin disorders such as bullous lichen planus and bullous pemphigoid. These tiny white bumps are nothing to worry about because usually, they disappear after a few days. But of course, it would be better to sport a smooth, flawless skin. 

Types of Milia

There are four types of milia. These are practically the same kinds. The only difference is where in the body does it appear.

  • Primary Milia: The most common and typically appears on the face.
  • Secondary Milia: This can appear anywhere in the body.
  • Eruptive milia: This appears as small white bumps in the neck and head.
  • Milia en Plaque– This is the rarest type, and it appears near the ear and upper eyelids.

Milia are practically harmless but if you notice any abnormalities such as the unlikely size and prevalence to your body, be sure to pay a visit to your doctor right away. 

7.    Peeling

Peeling is caused by other skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and essentially dry skin. It is also called exfoliative dermatitis when the peeling has spread in a large portion of your body. This may cause discomforts such as itchiness and bruises.  Skin can also be rough, patchy and affected areas may be swollen.

Some Effective Remedies

Organic home remedies are always one of the best ways to medicate mild skin condition. Although as much as it is fun to play beauty guru in the kitchen, consult your doctors before trying anything new to treat your skin. 

However, if you do not have time to make organic facial masks, here are some tips that will be useful to heal and prevent peeling:

  • Use lukewarm water in your bath to open up your pores.
  • Use a gentle exfoliator as a facial cleanser.
  • Use soft towels to dry your skin.
  • Apply topical anti-inflammatory cream with aloe vera after cleansing your face.

8.    Signs of Aging

These are those wrinkles and fine lines that will eventually grace our facial features. Having these earlier can be side effects of stress, hormones, genetics and also dry and coarse skin.

Aging, of course, is inevitable and every second that passes makes our bodies older by the moment. It is not a skin condition, but this is what most of us try to delay its telltales. To do so, we must be very particular not just in our skin care routine, but also in our day to day activities. 

Essentials in Fighting the Signs of Aging

Preventing wrinkles and fine lines to show does not only take topical moisturizers and night creams. This goal requires a good and healthy lifestyle. Because what we do to our bodies manifests through how we display ourselves and looking younger means looking healthier and happier. Therefore, here are some tips that you definitely have to live by to achieve that younger looking skin:

Follow these tips and make it part of your daily routine and in no time, you may be surprised to look five years younger!

Taking care of your skin is both a lifestyle and a sacred commitment to your body. It does not only entail your morning and evening cleansing routine but also your diet and day to day activities.  So before skipping that sunscreen, ditching the evening routine to go to bed and neglecting to wash your face because you are already super late for work, think about the consequences that may show in your skin.

Remember, wanting to look good is not vanity, it is simply our right to feel confident with our bodies. So, do things that make you look your best and be kind to your skin, always. 

Smiling woman enjoying coffee indoors on a winter day

10 Scents to Warm Your Winter Mood

Has the winter cold been getting to you? 

Try turning to some of these warming scents to lift your winter mood back up…

Ginger

A plant native to Asia, ginger is a spice that has long since been recognized for its medicinal properties, and these qualities are reflected in its essential oils too. 

The oil is created from distilling the root of the plant, which is the same part of the plant that is eaten. This gives the oil a hot and spicy aroma, making it perfect for the cold days of winter. 

Ginger is also such an energizing scent, and will help to keep your spirits high. This is so important in the winter, at a time when loneliness and depression are more common. 

Wondering how strong the scent of this oil is? 

That all depends on the quality of the oil, as well as how the plant was distilled. The better the quality, the stronger the scent. With that being said, even the strongest scented ginger essential oils can still be relatively light, especially when compared to the aroma of the root when it has been freshly sliced. 

What’s the best way to make use of ginger essential oil? 

An aromatherapy diffuser is the easiest way to enjoy the distinct scent of ginger, especially since this means that you can easily create your own essential oil blend.

Ginger works especially well with citrus oils, as this gives it a sweeter scent. Sweet orange oil, which will be discussed further down, is a great choice. 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon essential oil comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, and is known for its warm and sweet aroma. 

It also brings with it a number of health benefits that are particularly important in the winter months, such as: 

  • Preventing colds and coughs 
  • Relieving pain 
  • Fighting off infections 
  • Boosting circulation 
  • Reducing stress 
  • Improving digestion

This is a great oil to use in a diffuser, because its earthy and spicy scent is one that tends to linger around in a room for hours.

One thing to know about cinnamon essential oil is that it features quite a strong scent, and it can often be overpowering when used on its own. Try mixing the cinnamon with sweet orange, jojoba or bergamot oil for a softer and more delicate fragrance. 

Juniper Berry

With a sweet, woody and crisp aroma, juniper berry is known for being quite a stimulating scent. If you drink gin, then you will recognize the scent immediately, as these berries are what give gin its unique flavor. 

This is a cleansing and purifying oil, and was used for years by Native Americans as a way to clean the air. It will give your immune system a boost, which is always helpful in the winter months. 

In addition to cleansing, the scent of juniper berry is also a relaxing one, making it great at calming the mind and body while inducing sleep. 

Try mixing this refreshing oil with one of the following to maximize its effects:

  • Grapefruit 
  • Sweet fennel 
  • Cypress

Sweet Orange

Sweet orange is such a versatile essential oil, with its uplifting scent able to quickly disperse through a room. Although it is often referred to as just orange oil, make sure that you are not purchasing bitter orange oil instead, as this oil has different qualities. 

Sweet orange oil is cheerful and happy, making it perfect for a gloomy winter’s day. It is commonly used in aromatherapy as a way to encourage feelings of warmth and happiness, as well as for detoxification purposes. 

Unlike most other essential oils, which are extracted through steam distilling, sweet orange oil is usually cold pressed, with the oil coming from the rind of the fruit. While there are steam distilled versions available, a cold-pressed sweet orange oil is the one to go for. 

Why? 

Because the heat produced by the steam in the distillation process degrades the content of citral within the oil, which is an important compound when it comes to the oil’s therapeutic properties. 

Are you allergic to citrus fruits? 

If so, sweet orange oil is not one that you should be using. Even if you are just diffusing the oil into the air, it could still cause irritations or allergic reactions. 

Clove Bud 

Cloves are a spice that come from a tree native to Southeast Asia.

There are three types of essential oils that can be created from cloves, and these are:

  • Clove leaf oil
  • Clove bud oil
  • Clove stem oil

Which one is best?

Many would say clove bud oil. This is because of the fact that the leaves and the stems of the plant contain a much more potent chemical composition, which can often result in those oils causing irritations.

When it comes to medicinal uses, clove oil is known for its anesthetic, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, and is a popular remedy when it comes to soothing toothaches, mouth infections and even bad breath.

What about its scent?

Warm and spicy, clove essential oils are able to help with common winter ailments, including colds, coughs and sinusitis. It can also help with digestive problems, such as nausea, making it quite the therapeutic oil.

Not only that, but clove oil increases blood circulation, which can go a long way in boosting heart health during the winter.

All of these properties come down to the eugenol content within the oil, which makes up around 90% of the oil. This is what gives the oil its warming and stimulating qualities.

Want to create a clove oil blend?

Clove oil works well with other spicy oils, such as cinnamon, as well as citrus and floral oils.

Nutmeg

Sweet, warm and slightly woody, nutmeg essential oil comes from the seeds of the Myristica fragrans tree, which is an evergreen tree that is native to Asia. 

Its scent is quite a well-rounded one, being spicy and light but deep and musky at the same time. 

When used aromatically, this oil has the ability to boost circulation, which is so important in the winter. 

Why? 

Because the cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, which means that your circulation is reduced. Your heart then has to pump so much harder in order to get your blood flowing around your body, which can put a lot of strain on it.

The stimulating scent of nutmeg is also known for being able to improve cognitive function. It clears away feelings of stress and exhaustion, while improving concentration and productivity. 

Want to create your own unique blend with nutmeg? 

Try mixing it with some of the following essential oils: 

  • Black pepper 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Clove 
  • Rosemary 
  • Clary sage 
  • Coriander 
  • Frankincense 

Cedarwood

Distilled from the bark of the cedarwood tree, cedarwood essential oil has such a pleasing aroma, which is why it is incorporated into so many different perfumes. 

However, in addition to its distinctly woody and sweet scent, cedarwood essential oil brings with it a few other benefits…

One of these is the way in which it can help the respiratory system. Being a natural sedative, cedarwood can help to soothe certain respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic coughing. 

Its sedative properties also mean that this oil is effective at relaxing the body and inducing sleep. 

How does it do this?

Its aroma triggers the body to release serotonin, which the brain then converts into melatonin. This extra melatonin is what will give you a long and restful sleep. 

The serotonin also helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improving and stabilizing your mood. 

Not only are all of these qualities reasons as to why cedarwood is so often used in perfumes, but it also blends really well with other scents too, making it so versatile. 

If you would like to create your own cedarwood blend, try mixing the oil with one of the following: 

  • Lavender oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Citrus oils 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t use cedarwood essential oil?

Yes, if you are pregnant. 

Why? 

Because of the way in which it can induce menstruation, which can be dangerous during a pregnancy.

Cardamom

A plant belonging to the ginger family, cardamom is a spice that comes from the seed pods of the plant. Not only is it used for cooking all over the world, but the scent of the oil is perfect for the winter months. 

The oil has quite a bold and punchy fragrance, with notes of sweetness, spiciness and nuttiness all at the same time. It exudes an air of mystery and exoticism, which is partly what gives it its energizing and uplifting qualities. 

While its scent may seem strong and potent, cardamom is actually quite a gentle essential oil. Its fragrance stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain, which not only give it a relaxing effect, but also helps to prevent nausea, especially from chemotherapy or pregnancy.

This oil is also able to soothe the mind, reducing depression and exhaustion while increasing concentration and focus. It is known for being able to provide motivation, which many find themselves in need of during the winter. 

Although cardamom is such a beneficial oil, many find its scent to be too spice-like. 

If this is the case for you, try mixing cardamom essential oil with one of the following to tone its scent down a bit: 

  • Ginger essential oil 
  • Fennel essential oil 
  • Chamomile essential oil 

Vanilla

The sweet scent of vanilla is instantly recognizable, and so many find this fragrance extremely comforting. 

This isn’t a coincidence either…

Vanilla essential oil is known for being able to lift the mood and promote feelings of happiness. It provides a calming effect to the brain, countering any anxiety and restlessness. It does this to such a great extent that it has been used by hospitals for decades to keep patients calm and prevent claustrophobia before an MRI scan.

Essential oil with vanilla sticks

Vanilla is also able to lower blood pressure and encourage a restful sleep, which is why this is an oil often used in the evenings. 

For those who find that their sex drive tends to take a dive in the winter months, vanilla can help with this too. 

How? 

Thanks to its aphrodisiac effects. The scent of the oil is able to increase levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body, encouraging physical intimacy. 

When purchasing vanilla essential oil, there is one important thing to keep in mind…

Many vanilla oils have been created synthetically. This is understandable when you consider the fact that vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world to produce. 

Why is it so expensive? 

Because it is a difficult one to grow, and the drying, curing and extracting process is also extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive. 

With that being said, synthetic versions of the oil only contain a tiny concentration of vanillin, which is the compound that gives the oil its therapeutic effects, as well as its distinct scent. 

While it may be quite costly to purchase a natural vanilla oil, this is definitely worth it if you want to experience the spice’s true health benefits. 

Scotch Pine

Distilled from the pine needles of the Pinus sylvestnis tree, Scotch pine oil is woody, earthy and fresh, as well as incredibly warming. 

This is a cleansing and clearing oil, not only in terms of air quality but also when it comes to a cluttered mind. It is often used before a meditation session, as it uplifts the mood and clears away negative thoughts. 

It is also able to help reduce feelings of fatigue, which is something that many experience on a dreary winter’s day. 

If you do decide to purchase Scotch pine oil, keep in mind that it contains around 90% monoterpenes. This means that the oil degrades easily when it comes into contact with heat or light, so you are best off storing your oil in the refrigerator. 

There are hundreds of essential oils out there, but some are definitely better suited than others to the winter months. These ten warming oils are perfect for the colder season, and will leave you better equipped to deal with all that the winter throws at you. 

Botanical skincare with ingredients

The Best Botanical Ingredients for Smooth, Glowing Skin

While botanicals may have become quite the skin care buzzword lately, these natural ingredients have been used on the skin for decades. Botanical extracts are derived from plants, whether it be the flower, fruit or leaves, and this gives each one some truly powerful and unique properties. 

Wondering which botanical ingredients you should be adding in to your skin care routine? Here are 10 of the best.

Grape Seed

Derived from the seeds of grapes, grape seed tends to appear as either an extract or an oil in skin care products, and can also be taken as oral supplements.

Whichever one you go for, this botanical has some incredible skin-boosting properties, such as:

  • Contains potent antioxidants – not only does grape seed contain vitamins C and E, but it is also high in plant compounds known as OPCs. These have been shown to have 20 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E, along with 50 times that of vitamin C
  • Anti-aging benefits – when applied to the skin, grape seed bonds with collagen to strengthen it. This then makes a huge difference to smoothness, wrinkles and elasticity
  • Reduces sun damage – when applied to the skin before sun exposure, grape seed is able to help protect against the sun’s UV rays, boosting the way in which a sunscreen works. Some studies also suggest that grape seed can even protect against cancer
  • Softens and moisturizes the skin – grape seed is a rich moisturizer, but is also extremely gentle

Aloe Vera

You have likely heard of, or even used, aloe vera before, but did you know that this plant contains more healing compounds than most of the other plants out there?

This is why aloe vera is often referred to as the miracle plant, as there are so many different issues that this botanical can treat. 

Dripping aloe vera juice into a clear jar

When it comes to the skin, aloe vera is most commonly used for its calming and soothing properties, which is why you will often find it formulated into products for sensitive skin. 

In addition to this, aloe vera has a few other benefits, such as: 

  • Speeds up wound healing – due to its anti-microbial properties. This is also why the gel is a common treatment for sunburn 
  • Hydrates the skin – aloe vera has the ability to store huge amounts of water, as this helps the plant from drying out in the desert. These water-storing abilities translate to the skin as intense doses of moisture and hydration 
  • Packed with antioxidants – aloe vera contains a number of nutrients, and many of these are powerful antioxidants that can help to treat skin cell damage while preventing premature aging 
  • Can treat acne – this is thanks to the plant’s anti-microbial properties, as well as the way in which it can calm inflammation 
  • Has anti-aging effects – many of its nutrients, including vitamins C and E, are key when it comes to keeping the skin looking youthful

No matter your skin type, and whether you are suffering from acne, psoriasis, or anything else, aloe vera is a botanical that can probably help. 

Witch Hazel

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, then you have probably already heard of, or even used, witch hazel before.

The botanical itself comes from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel shrub, a plant that is native to North America.

Why is it such a popular acne treatment?

Because, firstly, witch hazel is an anti-inflammatory. This means that not only can it reduce acne breakouts, but it can also treat other inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Witch hazel is also an astringent.

What does this mean?

That it causes the tissues in your skin to contract, resulting in the opening of your pores shrinking. This then prevents oil, bacteria and everything else from settling into your pores and causing breakouts.

If all of that wasn’t enough, witch hazel is also packed with tannins. These are plant compounds that boast antioxidant properties, meaning that they are able to neutralize free radicals in the skin. Research shows that tannins are also able to act as an effective barrier on the surface of the skin, preventing unwanted particles from entering into the skin’s layers.

Chamomile

A plant that produces small flowers that look similar to daisies, chamomile has long since been used for its healing properties. 

Cup of chamomile in water surrounded by loose chamomile flowers

As you probably know, chamomile tea is often consumed for its calming effects, and these are the same benefits that your skin will experience when this extract is applied topically. 

In a way, the skin effects of chamomile are quite similar to that of aloe vera, with chamomile also being an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich and skin-soothing ingredient. 

Just like aloe vera, chamomile is great for healing the skin, and is also often used for treating burns. It is also hydrating and gentle, making it ideal for all skin types, even for babies. 

Green Tea

While all of the teas are fantastic for your skin, green tea is just that little bit more powerful, making this the tea to go for. 

Studies show that green tea contains the most potent of all the antioxidants known to mankind. Known as EGCG, this antioxidant not only has anti-cancer properties, but is also a fantastic anti-aging compound. 

Green tea is also highly anti-inflammatory. This is due to the polyphenols, known as catechins, within the extract. 

If you’ve got acne, green tea can help with this too since it is an antibacterial agent, while those with dry skin will love the hydrating properties of this botanical. 

Do you suffer from puffy eyes and dark circles? 

Green tea contains tannins that are able to shrink blood vessels, reducing puffiness and redness, which is why this ingredient is often used in eye creams and serums.

Rose

Roses are quite an amazing plant, and so many parts of this plant are beneficial when it comes to the skin. 

These are just a few of the products that can be made with roses: 

  • Rose water – a great cleanser and toner 
  • Rosehip oil – incredibly hydrating and moisturizing 
  • Rose extract – gentle but potent 

No matter which type of rose product you choose, they all share similar properties, such as: 

  • Antibacterial – this makes rose an effective cleansing agent, especially for those who suffer from acne 
  • Anti-inflammatory – roses are fantastic for reducing redness and swelling while calming the skin 
  • Antioxidants – roses are packed with antioxidants, including especially high levels of vitamin C 
  • Astringent – roses have astringent properties, meaning that they are able to tighten up the pore openings 
  • Moisturizing – roses contain an array of natural oils that help to soften and condition the skin 

As you already know, roses also have a beautifully distinct scent. For this reason, many skin care companies choose to use this botanical instead of a fragrance in their products. 

Marine Algae

Often referred to as the superfood of the sea, algae, along with seaweed and kelp, is fantastic for the skin. This is something that is becoming more and more widely known, with over 40% of millennials in the USA already using a skin care product containing marine algae.

Marine algae floating freely in the ocean

So, what makes algae so effective?

To begin with, algae is one of the most nutrient-dense crops in the world. These are just a few of the nutrients that can be found in marine algae: 

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D and E 
  • Minerals including copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, zinc, iodine, calcium and phosphorus 
  • Amino acids and proteins 
  • Peptides 

What does all of this do for your skin? 

Quite a bit, such as protecting against cell damage, hydrating the skin, nourishing the skin with antioxidants and providing the skin with plenty of anti-aging compounds. 

There are many different types of marine algae out there, and while they all share some similarities, they also each have their own distinct properties. 

Jojoba

Jojoba is a plant that is native to North America, and the oil that is derived from it is already an extremely popular skin care botanical. 

Why? 

Well, most importantly, the structure of jojoba oil mimics that of the sebum that is naturally produced by the skin. This means that jojoba is an oil that can even be used by those with oily skin. Rather than exacerbating oiliness, jojoba oil tricks the skin into thinking that it has produced enough oil, resulting in its sebum production slowing down.

Thanks to its unique structure, jojoba oil also has the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin than other oils, meaning that it can bring about more significant changes. 

What does it actually do once it is in the skin? 

A number of things, such as: 

  • Antibacterial properties – able to kill bacteria and fungi on the surface of the skin 
  • High in antioxidants – can fight free radicals, while its vitamin E helps to heal the skin 
  • Noncomedogenic – this means that it won’t clog up your pores 
  • Anti-aging benefits – jojoba oil can help to increase the rate at which your body produces collagen 
  • Speeds up wound healing – the oil encourages skin cells to bind back together again after they have been damaged and separated 
  • Anti-inflammatory – calms and soothes the skin, making it especially effective for eczema and psoriasis 

Jojoba oil is extremely gentle and safe, meaning that not only can it be used by all skin types, but it can even be used on the more sensitive parts of the skin, such as around the eyes. 

Oats

While oats may not be as exotic as some of the other ingredients on this list, this botanical has some amazing skin-boosting properties. 

You probably already know that oats are a great ingredient to use if you need to soothe and calm your skin. This is due to the botanical’s anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, both of which are so effective when it comes to treating conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dry skin and itching. 

It is also packed with antioxidants, proteins and lipids, all of which help to protect the skin from damage while encouraging skin cell healing. 

Wondering if you can just apply the oatmeal in your kitchen to your skin? 

Technically, yes, but this won’t have much of an impact. The oat extracts contained in skin care products consist of molecules that are small enough to be absorbed by the skin, and this is something that won’t happen with standard oatmeal. 

Pomegranate

Pomegranates have been around for over 3000 years, with ancient cultures being well familiar with the health benefits that this juicy fruit can bring. 

Loose pomegranate surrounding a small vial of pomegranate extract

When it comes to the skin, pomegranate has a number of effects, including: 

  • High in antioxidants – research shows that pomegranate is very capable of protecting skin cells from damage. It also contains ellagic acid, which increases the rate at which the body produces its own antioxidants 
  • UV protection – while it shouldn’t replace your sunscreen, studies show that pomegranate is quite effective when it comes to protecting the skin from UV damage and sunburn 
  • Anti-inflammatory properties – this is down to the omega-5 punicic acid in pomegranates 
  • Anti-aging benefits – pomegranate is able to boost skin cell regeneration, as well as circulation, both of which keep the skin looking youthful 
  • Moisturizing properties – not only is pomegranate highly moisturizing, but the skin absorbs it easily, and it does not leave a greasy feeling behind
  • Packed with vitamins and minerals – these include everything from vitamins C and K to potassium, iron and zinc 

As more and more people are recognizing the benefits of botanicals, these ingredients can now be found in such a wide range of skin care products. They are able to help with so many different skin concerns, making it well worth incorporating more botanicals into your skin care routine whenever possible. 

Woman recycling her trash in coloured bins

10 Ways to Live an Eco-Conscious Life

Many people veer away from the idea of an eco-friendly lifestyle, fearing that this would require them to give up all of their creature comforts. 

However, this is not at all the case…

Take a look at these 10 small changes that you can make in your life to make your lifestyle more eco-conscious. 

Cut Back on Your Meat Consumption

The meat industry has been so devastating for the environment, and continues to cause so much damage. 

As you likely already know, humans could do with more space on the planet, yet 83% of the world’s agricultural land is dedicated to livestock production, even though this only delivers around 18% of the population’s calories. only delivers around 18% of the population’s calories.

Not only that, but the livestock industry produces large amounts of dangerous greenhouse gases, contributing to the planet’s pollution problem. 

Are you a big meat eater? 

If your answer is yes, then the idea of cutting back on your meat consumption is not likely to sound very appealing. 

But did you know that this could benefit your health too, in addition to helping the planet? 

All you need to do is start small, phasing out the meat portion in one or two meals a week. There are so many meat alternatives available now, as well as delicious vegetarian recipes, giving you plenty of other exciting options. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Everybody has a carbon footprint, and while this term has been thrown about quite a lot lately, do you know what it actually means? 

Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment that you have contributed to. This carbon dioxide has such a detrimental effect on global warming, and if everybody sought to reduce their carbon footprint by just a small amount, this would make a huge difference to the environment. 

So, how do you go about reducing your carbon footprint? 

Here are a few easy steps that you can take: 

  • Buy local – from food to clothes, buying locally grown or made products whenever possible will cut back on the amount of carbon dioxide it takes to bring you your goods 
  • Make use of public transport – if more people used buses and trains, carbon dioxide emissions would be significantly reduced 
  • Cut back on flying – if you are a frequent flyer, try cutting back on this, saving your flights for when they are really necessary instead 

Go Organic

Let’s begin by making one thing clear…

If a food item is organic, this doesn’t mean that it is completely free from pesticides and other chemicals. Organic farmers are still allowed to use these, although to a much smaller extent. 

That being said, organic food is noticeably lower in harmful chemical residues. Not only is that beneficial to your health, but it also means that less of those chemicals have been released into the environment in order to grow the food that you eat.

Don’t like the high price tags that often accompany organic produce? 

Due to the fact that organic food is more labor-intensive to grow, and also sometimes produces smaller yields, prices are usually much higher than non-organic alternatives. 

While you may not want to completely overhaul every item you buy and swap these for their organic versions, there are certain foods out there that end up so much more contaminated than others, making it worthwhile to at least buy the organic versions of those. 

These are some of the items worth going organic for: 

  • Soft fruits – strawberries, raspberries and more have been tested, and over one-third of all samples contained at least 10 different pesticide residues, with one containing 22 
  • Spinach – this popular leafy green is almost guaranteed to contain pesticide residue, unless you go organic 
  • Applesaround 80% of tested apples contain traces of a pesticide that is banned in Europe
  • Tomatoes – these tend to be particularly prone to absorbing pesticides, with smaller tomatoes being more vulnerable 
  • Celery – this is quite a porous vegetable, meaning that it quickly absorbs chemicals. Samples have shown 13 different pesticides contained within these crunchy stems 
  • Potatoes – research shows that potatoes contain more pesticides by weight than any other food 
  • Milk – organic milk means that the cow hasn’t been fed any hormones, making the milk much healthier for you

When it comes to the other foods you eat, many of these, such as onions and garlic, will contain tougher external skin. This helps to protect them from absorbing so many pesticides. While they will still contain chemicals, the foods listed above are the ones to focus on if you are only planning on going partly organic. 

Switch to a Renewable Energy Supplier

There are now so many energy suppliers out there that offer 100% renewable energy sources for your home. 

Where does this renewable energy come from? 

The sources are varied, and include solar panels, wind turbines and hydro power.

Illustration of finite versus renewable sources of energy

Each one will have its pros and cons, and their viability will also depend on where you live, as well as how much energy you use. 

Not only is renewable energy so much better for the environment, but it could also save you some money. 

How? 

Well, firstly, renewable energy is cheaper. Secondly, many countries offer tax incentives for those who make use of renewable energy sources, giving you even more savings. 

If you are new to renewable energy, many companies offer free consultations where they will come to your house and give you advice on the best renewable sources for you, making this well worth enquiring about. 

Swap Instead of Shop

There are times when nothing can beat the satisfying feeling that comes from a day of retail therapy, but all of this consumerism is not doing the environment any favors. 

The clothes that you buy contribute to your carbon footprint, and the rise of cheaper clothing means that more and more items are now ending up in landfills, instead of being repurposed and reused. 

This is where clothing swaps come in…

They might not sound very glamorous, but they are a great way to get yourself some new clothes without having a negative environmental impact. 

Wondering where to find these clothing swaps? 

Many cities are now home to a swap shop, where you can bring in your unwanted items in exchange for tokens, which you can then use to purchase other items in the shop. There are many swap shops that are dedicated to other types of goods, excluding clothes, such as books, DVDs and more. 

Can’t find a swap shop near you? 

You can always gather together a group of people and arrange your own swaps. Simply have everyone bring in a certain number of items, and then let the swapping begin! Any leftover goods can be donated to charity shops, ensuring that there is no wastage. 

Start Composting

Home compost bins have been growing in popularity in recent years, and for good reason too. 

While some of the waste that you throw out, such as food waste, will break down in a landfill, the way in which it does so causes the release of harmful methane gases. 

A compost bin enables these natural items to break down safely, while cutting back on the amount of waste you send to a landfill. It also helps to make you more aware of how much plastic and other synthetic materials you are using, since you won’t be able to place these into your compost bin. 

An added benefit to home composting is the compost that you end up with once the process is done. This really is the very best stuff for your garden, and will be so much more superior to any compost you could buy in a bag. Even if you aren’t a keen gardener, you will likely have friends or neighbors that are, and who would be extremely appreciative for your homemade compost.

Reusables Instead of Disposables

Disposable products really have taken over recently, and there is no denying that they can definitely make life easier and more convenient. 

While this may be the case, have you ever thought of all the waste you are creating through the disposable products that you use? 

There are so many disposable products out there that could easily be replaced with reusable versions. 

Here are a few ideas of changes you could make around your home: 

  • Ink cartridges can be refilled 
  • Batteries can be recharged 
  • Reusable coffee filters 
  • Reusable razor blades 
  • Reusable food storage containers 

Yes, it may take more effort on your part to reuse products instead of simply reaching for a new one, but the environment will definitely thank you. 

Work From Home

While not everybody’s job enables them to work from home all the time, there are many jobs out there where this is possible at least once a week or so. 

How does this help the environment? 

Well, research shows that if one million people worked from home one day a week, this would cut back on three million tons of carbon dioxide being released into the environment each year. 

Not only that, but the lack of stress you will experience from not having to go through your daily commute will do your health plenty of good too. 

Not sure if your company allows employees to work from home? 

It’s always worth asking to find out, especially when you have such good eco-friendly reasons behind your request! 

Cut Back on Plastic

You likely use plastic in just about every part of your life, and all of this plastic soon ends up in landfills around the world.

Why is this bad?

Because plastic doesn’t break down properly, and also releases harmful chemicals into the ground, which then make their way into nearby water sources, contaminating surrounding ecosystems.

There are many other ways in which plastic is damaging to the environment, such as with all of the wildlife that ends up entangled in discarded plastic bags, or the animals that mistake the bags for food and eat them.

It does take quite a bit of dedication to really cut back on plastic usage…

Begin by looking at the food you buy. Many items are unnecessarily packaged in layers of plastic, but there are likely to be loose and unpackaged versions of these items available too.

Plastic bag usage is something that can be easily cut back on. Simply start using reusable bags instead, keeping these in your home, car, office and anywhere else that makes them easily accessible for when you need them.

Bottled water is another big problem, but, again, is easy to overcome. Simply stop buying bottled water!

Don’t like the taste of your tap water?

It may be worthwhile purchasing a water filter to filter out any chemicals that have been used in the water system.

Automatic Car Washes

Do you wash your car yourself, or do you take it through a car wash? 

People who wash their cars themselves likely think that this is much better for the environment, but this is actually the opposite from the truth…

When you wash your car yourself, you end up using 10 gallons of water every minute. On the other hand, if you put your car through an automatic car wash, this uses up around 15 to 30 gallons of water in total. 

This means that unless you are able to wash your car yourself in under three minutes, you would save a significant amount of water by taking your car through an automatic car wash instead. 

Each of these ten steps are quite easy to implement, and while they may not seem like huge changes, they definitely make your lifestyle so much more eco-friendly. From using renewable energy sources to cutting back on waste, following these steps will reduce the amount of damage that you are personally causing to the environment.  

Whole garlic and garlic cloves on a wooden chopping board

8 Foods for a Stronger Immune System

You have probably heard the term “immune system” so many times throughout your life, but do you know what your immune system actually is? 

Your immune system consists of a network made up of organs, tissues and cells, and these protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious compounds. 

Do you suffer from recurrent infections, digestive problems, inflammation or an autoimmune disease? 

If your answer is yes…

Then this means that your immune system is weak, and would really benefit from a boost.

Around 70% to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why the food you eat will have a direct impact on how your immune system functions. To really strengthen and support your immune system, here are eight foods that you should try to incorporate into your diet. 

Garlic

Just about every type of cuisine in the world makes use of garlic, and it has long since been used as a method of fighting off infections.

How exactly is it able to do this?

Well, garlic contains a compound known as alliin. When a garlic clove is crushed, or even chewed, the alliin within it turns to allicin.

The allicin within garlic contains sulfur, and this is what gives garlic its distinctive smell. It is also the reason as to why garlic smells its strongest after it has been crushed, compared to when it is a whole clove.

However, allicin is quite an unstable compound, meaning that it doesn’t stick around for too long.

What happens to it?

It turns into other compounds that contain sulphur, and these are what give garlic its medicinal properties.

There is plenty of research out there that shows how garlic is not only able to prevent you from falling sick in the first place, but also affects how quickly you recover when you do fall sick.

Those who consume more garlic will not only have a lower risk of catching a cold or developing an infection, but they will also feel better so much faster.

Of course, in order for the allicin in the garlic to work properly, you need to make sure that you always crush garlic and leave it to stand for ten minutes before you use it. This will enable the allicin to convert into medicinal compounds.

Wondering how much garlic you need to eat in order to experience its immune benefits?

As much as possible! But at least one clove per meal would be ideal.

Blueberries

Blueberries may be small, but they are actually packed with a number of important nutrients, all of which really support the immune system. 

There is one compound in particular that blueberries contain that set them apart from the other superfoods out there…

This compound is known as pterostilbene. When consumed, it boosts the way in which the CAMP gene functions. The CAMP gene, which stands for cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, is responsible for creating specific proteins that protect the body from bacterial infections.

In addition to pterostilbene, blueberries also contain high levels of: 

  • Vitamin A 
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants 

Infographic on the benefits of blueberries

Can’t stand the taste of blueberries? 

Other dark berries, such as red grapes, cranberries and mulberries, also contain pterostilbene, although in smaller quantities. 

Cinnamon

Now that the festive season is approaching, cinnamon is a spice that you will likely encounter more frequently, and, in addition to adding a distinct flavor and scent to foods, this spice is also a powerful immune booster.

When consumed, cinnamon is able to increase the amount of T regulatory immune cells, also called Tregs, within the body.

What do Tregs do?

They basically control the way in which the immune system responds to foreign invaders, as well as those that are coming from the body itself. This not only helps to prevent autoimmune diseases, but also strengthens the immune system, enabling it to better protect itself against infections.

Of course, there is one downside to cinnamon…

The majority of popular recipes and dishes featuring this spice tend to be laden with calories and other unhealthy ingredients, all of which will only put a damper on your immune system.

Looking for a healthy way to cook with cinnamon?

Give some of these ideas a try:

  • Cinnamon French toast
  • Cinnamon chicken curry
  • Honey-cinnamon roasted chickpeas
  • Baked cinnamon apple chips
  • Cinnamon muffins
  • Cinnamon almond butter

You may need to get creative when it comes to using more of this spice, but the benefits that cinnamon brings really makes this worthwhile.

Turmeric

You have probably already heard of turmeric being called a superfood lately, with this ingredient becoming increasingly popular in recent years.

Why?

Because a number of studies have now been carried out that prove its many benefits, one of which is the way in which it boosts the immune system. 

How does it do this?

It all comes down to a compound called curcumin, which is what gives turmeric its vibrant yellow color.

While curcumin is mostly known for its anti-inflammatory properties, research shows that curcumin is also able to enhance antibody responses within the body, strengthening the immune system.

However, there is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to consuming turmeric…

Turmeric in its raw form is not easily absorbed by the body. In order to maximize its impact, turmeric should be gently cooked, and mixed with an oil, as well as black pepper.

Why?

The oil helps to carry the curcumin while the black pepper significantly increases its bioavailability.

Turmeric golden paste is a great way to consume the herb, as the recipe takes into account all of the above, and can be cooked up in less than ten minutes. This can then be taken on its own a few times a day, or mixed into your meals.

Turmeric paste in small clay bowls surrounded by turmeric powder

Wondering if you can just take a curcumin supplement instead?

Yes, but you likely won’t experience the same impacts when it comes to the benefits of this. Eating whole foods always tends to be more beneficial for the body, as not only will you be consuming the curcumin, but also the many other medicinal properties that the turmeric contains.

Kefir

Just like some of the other immune-boosting foods on this list, kefir has become quite popular lately. 

What is it? 

It’s a fermented drink made from milk, almost like a thinner and lighter version of yogurt. However, while yogurt contains just a couple of strains of beneficial bacteria, kefir can contain ten times this amount. 

Kefir brings with it a number of different health benefits, and, when it comes to the immune system, these include:

So, where can you get kefir from? 

One option is to purchase it, and you will usually find it at health food stores, with more grocery stores now stocking it too. 

However, there is a downside to this…

In order to be sold commercially, kefir needs to be processed. Even if this is minimal, the heat used ends up destroying a significant amount of the beneficial bacteria within the drink. 

For the very best results, you would be best off making kefir at home. There are several how-to guides out there that will walk you through this easy process.

Green Tea

Just about every type of tea is extremely beneficial for the body, but green tea is especially powerful when it comes to strengthening the immune system. 

Why? 

Because it contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, also known as EGCG. This is an extremely powerful antioxidant that has been proven to significantly enhance immune function. 

Wondering why black tea doesn’t contain this antioxidant, since both teas come from the same plant? 

Well, tea leaves for black tea are fermented, whereas tea leaves for green tea are steamed. The fermentation process for black tea destroys a large amount of the EGCG within the leaves, whereas the steaming process preserves this antioxidant. 

Not only that, but green tea also contains L-theanine. This is an amino acid that boosts the way in which your body’s T-cells are able to fight germs. 

Don’t like the taste of green tea? 

Many people find green tea to be too bitter. 

Here are a few tips to counter that: 

  • Use hot, rather than boiling, water, since boiling water brings out the bitter flavors of the tea
  • Add in a small amount of honey to sweeten the tea
  • Add in a few drops of fresh lemon juice to enhance the perfume and reduce the bitterness of the tea 
  • Mix a couple of sprigs of mint in with your leaves before topping with water, which is a common practice in Morocco 
  • Drink it iced, rather than hot, as this reduces its bitterness
  • Purchase a high quality green tea  

Dark Chocolate

Love chocolate? 

Then you will be happy to know that dark chocolate is fantastic for strengthening the immune system. 

Of course, this means that the chocolate needs to contain at least 70% cacao, as this ensures that there are high levels of flavonoids within the chocolate.

What are flavonoids? 

They’re antioxidants that do a number of different things within the body, including increasing the amount of antibodies that the body produces. This then gives the immune system a huge boost. 

Thinking you can eat copious amounts of dark chocolate now that it’s been proven that this is a beneficial food? 

Unfortunately not. You still need to moderate how much dark chocolate you eat, since this food is still high in saturated fat and calories. 

If you know that you shouldn’t be consuming any extra calories on any given day, you could always give some dark chocolate a sniff instead, so long as you can resist the temptation to eat it! 

This may seem cruel, but it’s actually beneficial. 

Wondering how?  

Research shows that even the smell of dark chocolate can trigger the body to produce double the amount of antibodies in just 20 minutes. In the study carried out, this boost in immunity lasted for over three hours, although it did decrease as time went on.

Citrus Fruits

Whenever you’ve had a cold, people have likely advised you to eat oranges, or drink warm lemon water. 

Ever wondered why? 

It’s all down to the vitamin C content in citrus fruits, which amp up the body’s production of white blood cells. 

What do white blood cells do? 

They are cells within the immune system that protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious diseases. These cells flow through the blood all over your body, fighting against bacteria, viruses and other unwanted compounds. 

Vitamin C is extremely important when it comes to creating these. 

Since the body doesn’t produce vitamin C itself, it can be easy to become deficient in the vitamin, meaning that your white blood cell count declines. This weakens your immune system, meaning that you will fall sick faster, and take longer to recover. 

So, in addition to oranges and lemons, what other citrus fruits are there? 

Here are some of the most popular: 

  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Mandarins
  • Pomelo
  • Yuzu

Need another reason to eat more citrus fruits? 

Well, in addition to boosting the immune system, citrus fruits also: 

  • Improve heart health 
  • Protect against, and fight against, cancer 
  • Protect the brain 
  • Reduce the risk of kidney stones 

Wondering if you can just drink the juice instead of eating the whole fruits? 

While citrus fruit juices do contain plenty of nutrients, they are also extremely high in sugar. This can end up causing more harm than good when it comes to your overall health. 

When it comes to keeping your body healthy, your focus should always be on your immune system. In order to keep it strong and working optimally, your diet is so important, so make sure that you are incorporating immune-boosting foods into each meal.