Archive | March, 2011

Boo for Bad breath!

31 Mar

We have all done it.  Cupped our hand from our mouth to our nostrils and huffed out.  Then breathed in deep.  And thought “Is it bad?  Can I tell if it is bad?  What if I can’t tell!”  The anxiety of the possibility of bad breath is just too much, and we cannot resist the temptation to see four ourselves if, indeed, we have bad breath!  But does this method work?  Can we smell our own bad breath?  Well, our nose is connected to our mouth, so probably not with this method.  We filter it out!  We are so kind to our own nose!  Isn’t that special?

I think we all remember one teacher from grade school with the condition.  They used to get right up close and personal, then whisper something discreetly.  Man, a kid could just pass out from that blast of bad breath sent in our direction!   Have we forgotten the juvenile nicknames for teachers possessing this affliction?  Who can forget  the 5th grade social studies teacher “Horse breath Hoffman”  (my apologies to all horse lovers to whom this unfortunate nickname might offend).  As a mother, I know that I have been guilty of bad breath too.  Driving carpool in the morning is not glamorous.  I am certain that helping a kid get buckled in after a nights sleep, a cup of coffee, and no time to get a toothbrush in my mouth had to just about make my kids eyes roll into the back of their head!  I guess none of us can escape bad breath every now and again.

Bad breath has a medical name.  It’s halitosis.  The word is as unpleasant as the condition.  What causes it?  Is it chronic?  Bad breath has many causes that range from offensive food to poor dental care.  Eating strong foods such as garlic and blue cheese can contribute to bad breath.  Bacteria growing on the back of the tongue is also a major cause for halitosis.  So is dehydration.  It is a fairly common problem and can be chronic, meaning it is constantly present.  Luckily it is preventable.

Good oral care helps rid our mouth of offensive breath.  Brush and floss often.  And don’t forget to brush your tongue too, all the way to the back of the tongue.  Yes, your gag reflex may kick in, but try to do it anyway!  Bacteria grows in our mouth, and good oral hygiene can get rid of halitosis causing bacteria.  Chewing gum can also help get rid of bad breath, in part because it stimulates saliva production.  Drinking more water and staying properly hydrated can also help prevent or get rid of halitosis.  The dentist is another great resource for helping get rid of bad breath.

So back to determining if we can smell our own bad breath.  We may not be able to do it by cupping our hand from our mouth to our nostril, but there may be another way.  Lick your wrist.  Wait a few seconds.   Smell it.  That may be a good indication of what your breath smells like.   So enjoy your garlic and blue cheese, drink some water, and lick the back of your hand!  Then sniffffffff!

 

 

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Bustin out the Beer!

19 Mar

Fact: I am of german descent.  Fact:  I am part Scottish too!  Fact: I like beer, especially a microbrew made from a small brewery.   And with spring and warm summer nights are coming up, lots of people will be drinking beer. Good thing beer is good for you!  Who knew?

Beer has been around for a long time.  It was a beverage of ancient Africa and Egypt.  Some beer that Egyptians made came from unbaked bread.  (Some beer today is known as a “sandwich” for that reason).   Beer pretty much stayed the same from the ancient times until the genius of Louis Pasteur in the mid 19th century.  What? Louis Pasteur and beer?  You bet!

Louis Pasteur, famous French chemist and biologist, contributed advancements in science with yeast and fermentation. Fermentation is a chemical process involving sugars turning into alcohol.  This was his contribution to beer and brewing.  We only know the french for their wine.  Now we can thank them for our beer too!  Anyway, Pasteur also discovered the relationship between heat and fermentation.  This led to pasteurization.  This method was used to preserve beer decades before it was applied to milk!  Thank you to the French scientists, but now we must thank the Germans as well.

Germans had been brewing beer for hundreds of years, but could not do so in the warm months because the beer would spoil. They began to brew only in the cold months and store their brewed beer in caves in the Alps.  The climate in the caves were cool, and they discovered in doing so that the beer did not spoil.  This was the fermentation process at work, but they did not know that at the time.  It was called the lager method.  They did not know why it worked, but it produced a better beer, so onward and upward!  Another advancement in the beer we love today.

I particularly enjoy microbrews and “craft” beers. The brew masters of smaller craft breweries play with the recipes and flavor a bit.  For a foodie like myself, beer can be every bit as much fun to match with food as fine wines.  Alterations in recipes and ingredients can provide interesting flavor variances, which is a lot of fun to taste.  Beer from small breweries can also be interesting to taste regionally.  In addition to local food, it can provide another way to sample local flavors to traveling.  There are dozens of variations of beer, maybe even hundreds, so it can really be a celebration of the palate to go beer tasting!

Believe it or not, beer does have health benefits.  Any alcohol, when consumed in moderation, will lower “bad” cholesterol , reduces the risk of blood clots, has been associated with lowering the risk of kidney stones and heart disease, and decreases the risk of other diseases.  Beer is made with natural ingredients including plant sources, so it is nutritional.  It is fat free and even contains some protein.  As far as vitamins and minerals go, beer has niacin, folate, calcium, potassium, and even fluoride!  So at your next dental cleaning, when the dentist compliments your excellent home mouth care, you can thank your local brewer! Bottoms up!

 

Sideline Support

15 Mar

I spent this past weekend like many parents…on the sidelines of my children’s sporting events.  Luckily, Mother Nature gave us a lovely surprise and the weather was sunny with mild temperatures.  It is a sacrifice sometimes to support our children by being at all of these events, but I have to admit, being around other parents so much offers friendship and support, so it is hard to mind being out there!

Sitting on the sidelines offers the opportunity to learn more about a sport than you ever wanted to know. I never even heard of Rugby when I was a kid, but it seems to be a very popular sport these days.  It is fun to hear the other parents discuss the game.  That offers the opportunity to learn about it without hurting my pride by admitting that I do not know as much about the sport as I should.  Yes indeed…I save my pride by eavesdropping!

Sure we cheer not only our children, but all of the children on, but we also cheer each other on without really realizing it.  Parenting is a tough job, and we certainly cannot go it alone.  Bouncing things off other parents can result in getting invaluable advice, finding new resources and expanding our resources.  It offers the opportunity to hear how other parents have faced and solved some common parenting challenges.  There can be a lot of comfort in hearing how other families have dealt with family problems and successes.  It’s also a safe environment to blow off a little steam and get some sympathy when we need it.

Wellness encompasses mind, body, and spirit.  We need to keep our body healthy, our mind moving, and our spirit growing.  Support from other parents, no matter how indirect, is imperative to wellness.  It can reduce anxiety and offer comfort.  This happens in many ways, but it certainly can occur on the sidelines too!

It seems that there are no topics that are off limits when parents have a tiny bit of free time between scores, games or matches.  It’s like our own little support group, and when parents get together, we are a force to be reckoned with!  Bored with the current meal plan and need a new recipe with a kick?  Well you’ve come to the right place!  Looking for cheap gas or a good mechanic?  We are on it!  Ever heard of dysgraphia, a specific learning disability?  Not only have we heard of it, we can direct you to the physical or occupational therapist with the tools to help any child!   We are our own 12 hour girdle!  The best 18 hour bra doesn’t offer the kind of support that parents can offer each other!

The lessons learned form organized sports benefit children at all stages of life.  It enhances friendships, teaches respect for coaches and teachers, allows children to learn how to follow rules,and offers physical benefits of increased activity.  It offers the parents the same thing, but in different ways.  So don’t fret about going to the games on the weekends.  Go enjoy being a part of a positive and supportive environment!

 

 

Java Junkie

13 Mar

I have to have my coffee in the morning.  I am not a morning person.   I have been trying for years to talk myself into being a morning person, but I still can’t quite get there.  The morning is beautiful, fresh, new.  I have visions of blue birds happily chirping (Walt Disney style), squirrels prancing through the yard excitedly gathering up nuts and seeds, and the bright happy morning sunshine welcoming me into a new day.  Then I remember…I have to leave my big comfy warm bed.  Ouch!  Coffee eases the pain.  But what about that darn caffeine?  Is it dehydrating me?  Am I hooked on it?

Caffeine is indeed a drug, and an addictive one.  It stimulates the central nervous system and can be a mild diuretic (it can stimulate urine production).  Up to 90% of americans have caffeine daily.  Coffee has caffeine, which is a bitter substance.  Thats why many of us sweeten our coffee.  Caffeine, because it is a stimulant, makes us feel more alert.  That is just what I need first thing in the morning to get going. But as a person committed to wellness, is it healthy?

Caffeine does have some health benefits.  Many studies have been conducted focusing on caffeine.  Some benefits of this drug, according to some studies, include reducing risk of developing Parkinson’s, colon cancer, gallstone development and diabetes.  Hey, if thats the case, pass that cup of joe! But it must have a dowside to it.  right?

Studies indicating that caffeine is harmful are more related to the quantity of caffeine consumed rather than pointing to the actual drug itself.  One to 2 cups of coffee a day really isn’t harmful.   1 to 2 pots a day may be.  And caffeine is hidden in many foods, such a chocolate and soda.  Knowing where caffeine is will help reduce intake, so it is important to read the labels and be aware of where it lurks.

I will continue to have my 1 to 2 cups of coffee in the morning.  I think of it as my little gift to my family!  I have a coffee maker with a timer on it, so I do not have to even speak to anyone or perform any labor prior to my first cup.  That is the way to go!

 

 

 

The Dirty Dozen

5 Mar

Lets face it.  We all have a food budget.  And we have to stick to it!  Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive and can be a budget buster, especially this time of year when many aren’t in season.  Especially if we try to buy organic produce, which always seems to be more expensive.   Are organic fruits and veggies worth the extra expense?  Yes, but if you can’t afford all organic, at least try to buy “The Dirty Dozen” organic.  What’s The Dirty Dozen?  No, I am not referring to that old 1960’s movie.  To improve your health by avoiding the Dirty Dozen, read on!

Pesticides are used by farmers to keep the pests off of their crops and to increase the yield of their farm.  Pesticides are widely used, and are still present on many fruits and vegetables when they hit the local markets.  It is pretty common when we come home from the market to rinse our fruits and vegetables off under the tap.  But is that enough to get the pesticide residue off our produce?  Not always.  So how do we reduce or avoid these pesticides?  Try to squeeze the organic “Dirty Dozen” into your budget.

There are twelve fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticide residue.  The “Dirty Dozen” are best bought organic so as to avoid these pesticides.  What are the dirty dozen?  They change periodically.  Here is a current list of foods that are worth the extra money for organics.

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Bell Peppers
  8. Spinach
  9. Kale
  10. Cherries
  11. Potatoes
  12. Grapes

Try to get this produce organically.  It is rough on the budget for sure, but it is worth it to reduce that nasty pesticide residue.  Better yet, try to get this produce at the local farmers market instead of the local grocery.  It is worth it to stretch your budget in the organic direction for the “Dirty Dozen”!

 

 

Wellness. What is it?

1 Mar

Wellness.  Valid concept or pop culture buzzword?  Fact or fiction?  Well, let’s look at that and start by delving into some definitions.  One I found defined wellness as the absence of disease.  I really don’t care for this definition.  It implies that if you have a disease such as diabetes, then you cannot be a person participating in a healthy lifestyle.  That certainly does not apply across the board.

Wellness can also be defined as a process involving the awareness of better health and actively working toward that goal.  Now thats better!  This sounds like a valid concept.  Something we can really sink our teeth into.  Lets break this down:

“A process”.  I like this because it sounds like a decision and an action.  It also implies something that is ongoing, which wellness is because it is the lifestyle choice.  Also, when involved in a process and you make a mistake, you can usually fix it.  It is somewhat pliable, which is favorable.  We can easily make a poor judgement call with our nutrition and wellness, and when that happens, it is important to recognize it and fix it.

“Involving the awareness of better health”.  Again I like this because it involves an active choice.  It also mentions awareness.  That also sounds active, which is at the heart of wellness.  Awareness sounds like it involves the brain and a heightened sense.  That sounds positive and I like that!  Better health is something that we can work toward no matter where we fall in the age bracket, so it can apply to everybody.  This is conducive to good mental health and a solid family life.  Something to constantly strive toward.  This sounds like a good tangible opportunity.  We can always be working toward better everything, including health.

“And actively working toward that goal”.  It’s no secret that I am a goal oriented individual.  Working toward a goal gives purpose.  Goals should be set constantly.  But it is critical to have realistic goals, goals that are attainable.  It is also crucial to put manageable steps into place to attain our goals.  That is what turns a dream into a goal and gets the wheels into motion to get there!  That is so exciting!

Lets look at that definition again.  Wellness can also be defined as a process involving the awareness of better health and actively working toward that goal.  When broken down, it really seems doable.  Desirable.  Realistic and attainable.  Baby steps work when we set a new goal up.  This is a goal that we can put one small step into place, master it, then build on it.  Start small, like replacing one sugary snack with one that is nutrient dense, like a fruit.  Or perhaps it is to start taking a 10 or 15 minute walk a day, with an eventual goal of 30-40 minutes a day.

Sabotage.  It is easy to sabotage ourselves when we make grand sweeping statements like “I am going to lose weight”.  That isn’t really an attainable goal.  We sabotage ourselves from the getgo without realizing it.  Instead, remember the baby steps and change the vernacular.  How about “I am going to increase my activity by walking 4 times a week and lose 2 -4 pounds this month”.  Now that is realistic and attainable.  Another goal may be to increase dietary fiber for better health.  Start with one small change, like switching to brown rice instead of white rice, wheat bread instead of white bread.  Those are small changes that can be achieved, build confidence, and build on.  Start taking baby steps toward wellness!  Here is a cool website for wellness: welcoa.org.  This website represents the Wellness Councils of America, an national nonprofit organization that promotes healthier lifestyles in worksites.  It has free resources too.  It is good information for wellness, especially when working.  Try it!  It can be your first baby step toward better health and wellness!