Chomp Not: The Lowdown on Chewing Gum

Maybe Singapore has it right.  It induces heavy fines for possession or use of chewing gum without a prescription.  That may be a tad severe, but I, personally, find it to be an undesirable view - watching and hearing someone smack and chomp on a piece of gum.  And, after learning some things and reviewing a few chewing gum labels lately to see what was there, the sound of it may turn you off, too.

Good Reasons to Stop Chewing Gum

Besides getting stuck on your shoe,  here are other ways chewing gum can annoy your body:

The ingredients are scary.  You may think you are doing a good thing, choosing sugar-free gum over sugar laden varieties, but I must break the bad news.  It is no better.  In fact, maybe worse. Here is why:

There is nothing sweet about artificial sweeteners and chewing gum is loaded with them;  A common ingredient in sugar-free gum is aspartame. It is metabolized inside your body and may cause serious neurological effects. It is FDA approved but many studies show it has been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors, and weight gain as well. Why take the risk?

Sucralose or Splenda, another common artificial sweetener used in chewing gum and FDA approved, (but based on only two human studies) has shown to reduce the absorption of other drugs, cause stomach distress, release toxins when used in baking and other harmful effects.

Other common preservatives listed in gum labels is BHA (butylated hydroxytoluene), a preservative linked to cancer and many other diseases.

There is no entrance fee.  The fact that chewing gum is not swallowed does not give it a pass as to the ingredients being absorbed as they enter through the walls of your mouth.  Some even claim it could be worse as the ingredients in gum enter your body quickly bypassing the digestive system that might filter some of these ingredients away.

Fake colors are not true.  The artificial colors in many gums, especially those for children, may lead to hyperactivity or magnify symptoms of attention deficit disorder, studies show. There is also some studies that indicate that certain food colors may lead to cancer as well.
Your digestion is adversely affected. Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can contribute to pain and bloating and exacerbate IBS symptoms.  Further, those artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, can lead to GI problems like cramping, gas and even diarrhea, too.

Gum can go to your head.  Recent studies have linked the chewing of any type of gum with migraine headaches in adolescents.

Excess smacking and chewing hurts the jaw.  Many complain that gum causes their jaw to click which could lead to disorders that  cause tightness of the jaw muscles.

Alternatives to Chewing Gum

One of the biggest reasons people chew gum is for its breath freshening properties. Besides brushing your teeth, here are a few other ways to freshen your breath rather than reaching for a stick of gum:

Nibble on an herb.  Parsley and mint and other garnishes are great natural breath fresheners and probably more effective in achieving the task over gum anyway.  Besides, they both contain a plethora of nutrients!

Sip away.  I wrote about the many benefits of lemon water here but if you keep your mouth hydrated, it chases away any bad breath you may acquire.

Pocket a few seeds.  Keep some fennel seeds in your pocket and chew on a few after a meal as an alternative to chewing gum to keep the breath nice.  It has the additional benefit of containing antibacterial properties.

So, what do you think of chewing gum? Is it something you do often? Or do you have other alternatives?

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Healthy Snacks: DIY Trail Mix Combos

Snacks. Do you partake? Those stomach growls - do they get your attention? Sometimes, we do need a bit of something to get our body to the next stop. I wrote about snacking here and how to do it right. Although frequent snacking may not be a good idea, there are situations that you may need to turn to snacking.

We can't always predict when that ravenous hunger and stomach pangs will strike. That traffic jam may have just gotten a whole lot longer, the game is going into its second overtime, you have to work late and no time for dinner - they all could pose unpredictable times.  So, for those occasions and other times you invent, here is a snack that you can create ahead of time to keep your energy boosted, hunger pangs diminished, and body fortified: trail mix.  Keep some in your child's backpack, your desk drawer, your tote bag or in your sports bag for when hunger calls.

Why make your own trail mix

Sure, there are lots of premade trail mixes on the market and some of them taste great, But, here are several reasons to make your own trail mix rather than buy the premade:
  • It is cheaper than the premade.
  • It won't contain unhealthily oils, over-salted foods, too much sugar or preservatives.
  • It is filling, nourishing, and satisfying.
  • You control what goes in it (unsalted nuts, low sugar, etc.) making it a lot healthier for you.
  • It is full of things you like and you don't have to pick through the bits you don't.
  • It is fresher and lasts a long time. 
  • It is easy to make.
  • It allows for creativity.


Creating Invitations: Mastering the Impromptu Gathering

Entertaining friends, whether planned for months or at the last minute, is such an act of generosity.  I always really appreciate it when someone is willing to make efforts to invite me over and include me in his or her home life. And, I like to give that gift to my friends and family as well. But, I probably don't do it enough.  After all, connecting with friends and family is a big part of leading a healthy lifestyle and it sure is one of the most fun parts of staying healthy! There is nothing better than sharing a laugh, lending a supportive ear, contemplating the meaning of life, or creating a memorable time with friends and family. Yup, nothing better.

So why is it we don't invite people over more? Could it be we are afraid they will judge our disorganized office space, our smelly dog or rambunctious children? Maybe. Or, perhaps we feel we have to have the perfect occasion, best tasting food, or just right everything else. All false. Our friends, our family? They all just want to connect with us more and what a better place to do it than in our own home?

How to Gather Your Friends for a Spontaneous Get-Together

Those last minute get-togethers at your place can really turn into some of the best of times. Although you really do not need to follow any of these tips here to round up your pals, maybe being ready to do it with these preparation tips may actually encourage you to do it more often and find yourself saying: "Hey, come on over. Yes, right now!"

Put the smelly dog outside.  If Fido is long overdue for a bath,  just throw him a bone and keep him outside if you feel he will offend. And, then wash him tomorrow! That goes for closing the door to your messy office, too. People are not judging you like you think they are.  They are there to see you, not your perfect house or lavender smelling dog.


10 Tricks to Help You Eat Right

It is pretty much impossible to call yourself health-minded without considering what you put in your mouth.  Eating right is certainly not the only segment of pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but it does play a substantial role. But wait, do you hear what I hear? The cries and stomping of the feet?
"Oh, but it is so much work!"
"Isn't it easier to go through the drive thru?"
"But, it takes so much thought and preparation."
"The effort and intention is exhausting."
"It is too expensive!"
"It might taste bad!"
Yes, there are elements of truth in some of those claims.  But, anything worthwhile pretty much does take effort.  And, frankly, you're worth it  And so are your children. I bet you can see the value in feeling better, looking better, having more energy and giving you and your family more time and more money in your pocket. After all, in the long run it is less expensive to eat right and pursue the best health because you won't be making time-consuming and expensive visits to the doctor.

It makes logical sense to me and if it does to you, too, I offer a few easy tips to help you keep those healthy eating habits a part of your daily life.

How to Make Eating Healthy Easier 

Read this list below and see if any could work for you:

Begin at the beginning.  Your start to the day can really set the intention for the day. Starting off right can usually mean ending right.  Start off badly, and all bets are off.  "Ah, I'll start tomorrow," you tell yourself after the plate of doughnuts. "What's one more day?"  But, those first choices of the day can begin with your first meal. Make it an easy one if you like with a healthy smoothie listed here or another choice hereThe point is eat healthy first meal.


Simple Steps to Your Best Eyesight

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again."
Sylvia Plath

"The eyes are the window of the soul."
 Traditional Proverb

"The eyes can do a thousand things that the fingers can't."
 Iranian Proverb

"The face is the portrait of the mind; the eyes, its informers."
 Latin Proverb

If our eyes do all that and more - lots more - we best take care of them! It really is not difficult to keep your eyes at their best with a few tactics and precautions. Some simple measures can do wonders for those doors into our soul. Read on to find out if you are taking care of those peeps the very best that you can.

How the Sun Can Hurt Your Eyes

I love sunlight and lots of it.  But the glare it gives off and the rays that it delivers can be blinding - literally. Sunglasses are a necessity for me. And, they should be a requirement for you, too. Here's why you should reach for your sunglasses and for more reasons than cutting the glare:

Those sun rays can knock out some damage.  Sunlight exposure, winter and summer and everything in between, damages the surface tissues of the eye as well as the retina and the lens. It can increase the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65.


Creating Flavor: Making Your Own Seasoning Salt

Eating healthy is a goal for many, but that is hard to keep up if the food does not taste good, right? Flavor is important! It is especially needed to keep to the healthy eating habits you are creating. Seasoning your food well is a great way to add flavor without diminishing the healthy elements.

I wrote about the simple and quick way of creating flavor with compounding butters and oils here as one flavoring technique. But, another quick way to add distinction without a lot of effort is to use seasoning salt.  But, those premixed seasoning salts? Most of them on the market shelves have some detrimental ingredients.

Why Toss The Premixed Seasoning Salt 

Here is why you should consider deleting premixed seasoning salt from your grocery list:

Some ingredients in them are not needed and harmful.  Preservatives, anti-caking agents and MSG in many pre-made seasoned salts are not chemicals our body needs and could be harmful. The levels of sodium and sugar in them can be  quite high as well.

They are made with undesirable refined salts.  Regular white table salt has been bleached, and who wants bleach in your seasoning salt?  I wrote about swapping out regular table salt to unrefined pink salt here and why you would want to consider that simple switch. Unrefined salts usually have less sodium as well.

The taste can fall flat. If on the store shelf for a long time, premixed salts can lose potency and flavor. Unless they are dated, you do not how long ago it was created. If the flavor is bland, you may end up using more than you should as well adding sodium levels to your food.


How To Make Your Coffee Habit a Healthier One

Java. Joe. Jitter Juice. Morning Jolt. Whatever you like to call it. Coffee is a liquid infusion that many enjoy worldwide.  I know, I enjoy a morning cup, and it is something I look forward to when I awake. And, on that really rare occasion when I order an ice cream cone? You got it.  Coffee ice cream it is!

Many health practitioners suggest eliminating coffee and other caffeinated beverages from our diet and it may be a smart move for many of us, but more studies are emerging that show that cup of joe just might carry some real merit.

How Coffee Might Be Good For Your Health

Although for some, it is not a good choice, recent studies have been published that show those that drink the most coffee may enjoy these benefits:

Java may lower your risk for several diseases.  With over 1.000 various phytochemicals, coffee provides an enormous range of disease deterrents.  For example, coffee can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes because studies are showing that coffee interferes with glucose synthesis and release in the body.  It is also being studied for its use as a cancer risk reducer.  Other diseases it may fend off include liver disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cardiovascular disease.

It helps dissolve stones.  Coffee could slightly reduce the risk of gallstones and lower your risk of kidney stones.


How a Band Aid Might Change Your Life

Sounding a bit melodramatic, am I? To say that a band aid changed my life?  Well, it did. It actually did!

Here's my story:  Almost a year ago, I suffered a large injury to the bottom of my foot. I was in New York City at the time and had to hail a cab to rush to the nearest urgent care. I will not elaborate on the injury details, but suffice to say, it was not pretty, the cab driver was horrified and it was quite painful.  It certainly put a damper on the rest of my time in the city with my family as well as the days that followed at home.

I received great care from the doctor in New York City, but when I got back home a few days later, my wound, and it was a large one, was healing slowly. It required a good amount of daily home care and the pain was getting worse.  I decided to see my own general practitioner to check on my progress. There, I was introduced to hydrocolloid dressings. This bandage, this dressing, this way of covering a wound, it changed my life, at least for the next few weeks anyway. Here is why:

Better Band Aids, Better Healing with No Scarring

Stocking up your first aid kit at the drugstore offers boxes upon boxes of band aid choices. Bandages are not so simple anymore. And, that is a good thing apparently as research proves there are better ways to cover that boo-boo and make it better, heal faster, and create a lot less scarring and other complications.

Some bandages help create a better environment for your wound healing. Here are some reasons to consider using hydrocolloid dressings to heal your next wound:

Your wound will heal much faster and better.  Hydrocolloid dressings create an environment that allows skin to form new skin cells where they do it best - in a moist climate. The principle of moist wound therapy is to create and maintain optimal conditions for your skin to heal faster and better with less chance of infection.  If you keep your wound covered with a hydrocolloid dressing, your skin cells will divide and migrate at an increased rate accelerating wound healing.

I watched it happen with my foot and it was fascinating.  Once I switched to that new dressing, it got so much better, so much faster.  I was up and around much quicker than the original doctor had predicted.


Travel Tips: Getting the Most Out of Your Adventure

Is exploring our planet and meeting its many inhabitants (human and otherwise) as important to you as it is to me?  Tasting and experiencing new foods, landscapes, languages and customs -- do you consider it all part of living a healthy lifestyle? I think so. Travel can be mentally expanding, stimulating and inspiring and provide a varied outlook to life. I wrote a bit about it here.

I also covered some practicalities of packing a great carry-on and avoiding jet lag but if traveling is important to you as it is for me and my family, I have compiled a few other tips that my family and I adopt when we embark on our travel adventures.

More Travel Tips

Consider some of these tips to make your travels run smoother and get the most our of your journey. Although most of these tips pertain to international travel, many of them can be applied to domestic travel as well.

Pack your healthy habits. Routines can be a bore, I know! Fully experience your destination, and that may include indulging sometimes. After all, isn't that part of the reason you are traveling -- to expose yourself to new ways?  But, if you veer too far to the left or right of your healthy eating or exercise regimens you can feel bloated, nauseated or worse and ruin your trip. Then, when you come back, it is a longer road ahead to get back on track or even button your pants. There may be several health habits you do at home that help you feel your best that you can easily incorporate into your travels. So, think about that and just keep your indulging in check is all.