By Dr. Mercola
Did you know that 1 in 7 American households experience food insecurity, not knowing whether they'll be able to eat on any given day? It's a massive problem, but one that communities across the country are beginning to tackle in earnest.
"Food Frontiers," co-produced by Leo Horrigan and Mike Milli, features several community-driven projects aimed at improving access to healthy foods in a number of innovative ways.
The film is part of Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Foodscape's online curriculum — an interactive site scheduled for release in August, which will teach high school students and teachers about the American food system and what can be done to improve it.
Improving Food Security and Food Quality Is a Community Effort
For example, in southern California a farm-to-school program has helped improve students' access to healthy food by making fresh local produce a staple in school district cafeterias.
In Virginia, a pediatrician has combined her medical practice with a commercial kitchen, and prescribes cooking classes for her patients and their parents.
In New York City, a nonprofit organization helps organize farmers markets in neighborhoods lacking access to fresh foods, and in Philadelphia, a Fresh Food Financing Initiative raised $190 million to build new grocery stores and upgrade existing ones.
This initiative was so successful at reviving and improving conditions in struggling Pennsylvania neighborhoods, 17 other states eventually went on to duplicate the effort.
The Importance of Food Distribution and Access
Having access to healthy food is an important consideration when you're trying to address rising obesity and diabetes rates, and according to Horrigan, the film can be a helpful teaching aid and a conversation starter.
"We hope this film will inspire people who may want to replicate the successful projects we examined," he says.
Farmers markets and other fresh food outlets are particularly important in low income neighborhoods, as lower income communities tend to have a higher risk of disease due to the poor quality of processed food typically sold in small convenience stores and gas stations.
The film also discusses the importance of healthy foods in the school system, and shows how farmers are working with schools to provide fresh produce.
As noted by Rodney Taylor, a food service director who led school start-up projects in Santa Monica and Riverside, California, children need to be taught healthy eating habits, and it all begins with what they see in the cafeteria.
Are there fresh veggies and fruit available, or is it all packaged, processed food? It's hard for kids to make the right choices when they don't know there's a difference between real food and processed food, and even more difficult if they're rarely or never exposed to fresh foods.
Nebraska Village Creates Student-Run Grocery Store
The grocery store in Cody, Nebraska, is a perfect example of a social enterprise — a business whose primary purpose is the common good. Cody is a tiny rural town of about 150 people, and, prior to 2013, residents had to travel more than 40 miles to the nearest food store.
The low number of residents made opening a grocery store financially unviable, but through brainstorming sessions with local teachers, a novel concept was developed.
The store is set up as a non-profit organization operated by the school, and high school students run the store during the day. The kids work for class credit, real-world work experience and general life skills. This way, salaries are kept to a minimum.
The kids only get paid for after-school hours and during school breaks. The small grocery has turned into a thriving success that benefits the entire community in a multitude of different ways. It was even featured on PBS NewsHour earlier this year.1
Farmers Markets Thrive in Low-Income New York City Neighborhoods
In New York City, the nonprofit organization Harvest Home develops farmers markets in low income neighborhoods. At present, they operate 19 farmers markets in 4 of the 5 city boroughs, serving about 250,000 customers each year.
Most of the neighborhoods served have a high incidence of diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes, and the customer base is lower-income people who normally cannot find fresh produce in their local grocery or convenience stores.
Many are immigrants, and Harvest Home realized that holding cooking demonstrations at the markets was a good way to educate people on how to use the produce sold at the market. It's a win-win for farmers and customers alike.
The market is also set up to accept food stamps, as a majority of customers are on assistance programs.
"Elected officials now have started to rally around supporting the markets, because they have seen the benefit to their constituents.
In 2009, the department of health came out with a new incentive program for SNAP, that for every $5 you spend at the market using SNAP, you get an additional $2 coupon.
That mechanism was to promote and incentivize people to come into the market and use their food stamps," Maritza Owens, CEO of Harvest Home says.
Teaching the Joy of Cooking
"People don't know how to properly feed themselves," Paige Balius, facilitator for Sustainable Food Center's The Happy Kitchen, says. "At worst, they outsource it to a restaurant. At best, they follow some fad diet advice they found in a magazine."
The fact of the matter is, if you're not cooking your own food, it's really difficult to eat healthy. The Happy Kitchen,2 located in Austin, Texas, started in the late 1990s. At that time, the organization ran farm stands in low-income neighborhoods.
In time, they realized people needed cooking lessons as much as they needed access to fresh produce, as many didn't know how to prepare whole foods from scratch. Many also don't understand the deep connection between your diet and your health. The cooking classes are held by volunteers from the community, many of whom have neither teaching nor culinary backgrounds. What they do have is a passion for healthy eating and cooking. And they teach you how to do it on a tight budget.
Pediatrician Serves Up Cooking Classes
Virginia pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando has also come to understand the deep need for cooking instruction. Many of her young patients suffer from gut problems, constipation and lack of bowel movement, and this is a direct cause of eating a fiber-less, highly refined processed food diet, she says.
She admits that 10 years ago she'd simply send them home with a laxative, but she eventually realized that this is not doing anything to fix the problem. She decided she really needed to give her patients and their parents the tools to improve their health through proper diet, and that includes the know-how of cooking with healthy ingredients.
From this realization grew "The Doctor Yum Project," which includes a teaching garden and a full kitchen, in addition to a doctor's office where the overall décor is focused on health and wellness, as opposed to disease and drugs.
Fernando holds regular cooking classes in her commercial kitchen, which is adjacent to her medical office, but she'll also bring families into the kitchen to expose them to various dietary concepts as part of their medical appointment. "If I do my job right on this side [the kitchen], I won't have to see them on the other side [the medical office] that much," she says, and that is her goal.
California Schools Join Forces With Farmers
American school lunches have become notorious for their poor quality. In most schools, none of the dishes are made in house, and most are notably lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. Overall, school lunches are the epitome of processed factory food, laden with sugar and synthetic ingredients. The seriousness of this situation is further deepened by the fact that many low-income children depend on their school lunch as the primary, and perhaps only, meal of the day.
Rodney Taylor, director of Nutrition Services for the Riverside Unified School District in California, is well-acquainted with hunger, and has made it a personal mission to make sure every single student in his district has access to wholesome food at school. "The experts tell us that if we do nothing, 1 in 3 children will develop diabetes in their lifetime. This is unacceptable to me, as we know that through diet alone, we can change that," he says.
After being approached by a local farmer over a decade ago, Taylor developed what has become an extremely successful farm-to-school program. Starting with just three farmers, the program has grown to nine different farms, which cooperate and coordinate their services via a food hub. Two years ago, Taylor's district committed to serving ONLY fresh produce, and they now use no canned, processed or frozen fruits or vegetables at all.
This switch also ends up addressing the issue brought forth by many naysayers — the fact that kids "won't eat" fresh fruits and vegetables even if it's served to them and therefore fresh foods are a waste of the school's money. "When that's all they're seeing [from the time] they come into kindergarten, they get used to eating it," Taylor says. "And it's going to make a whole generation of children healthier. How do we educate the whole child? I think it's a tragedy if we haven't taught him to be a lifelong healthy eater."
This program has also been a saving grace for the farmers. Many of the orange groves in this California area are over 100 years old, and as orange trees get older, they produce sweeter but smaller oranges. Their smaller size means commercial vendors don't want to buy them, because they want large oranges. As a result, orange growers were really struggling to stay afloat. The farm-to-school program is the perfect outlet for these perfectly healthy but commercially undesirable fruits.
There Are Many Ways to Build Sustainable Food Systems
Few things are more important these days than building a more sustainable food system, and as this film shows, there are countless ways of going about it. Best of all, it doesn't take huge numbers of people to make something happen. A handful of dedicated individuals can have a positive, long-term impact on an entire community.
This is particularly true for people who run food services for a school district. Here, a single person has the power to influence the daily diet — and hence the health — of tens or even hundreds of thousands of children.
Along with improving access to healthy foods, there's also a need for education. In generations past, cooking skills were passed from parent to child, but with the advent of processed foods, many lost these crucial survival skills. That's really what they are — if you cannot cook, you stand little chance of living a long and healthy life. Cooking real food is absolutely foundational for disease prevention and survival.
Where to Find Healthy Food
Fortunately, organic, locally grown foods are becoming easier to get a hold of between farmers markets, food hubs, and other community supported agriculture (CSA) venues. (Of course, you always have the option of growing your own, and that's ultimately your best option.)
Even raw milk is slowly becoming easier to find, and that's great news. If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund3 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.4 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com. Other organizations that can help you locate farm-fresh foods include the following:
EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce.
Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass-fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified-organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
How Home Gardeners Can Change the Local Food System
New Documentary “Ingredients” Looks at the Local Food Movement
By Dr. Mercola
When the sun starts warming the pavement and the temperature starts to rise, you may be tempted to go sockless in your shoes. It's a feeling of freedom and brings back memories of childhood.
Unfortunately, unless you take care of those shoes, it also breeds bacterial growth and a smell you can identify when you walk in the room. If smell were an indicator, your shoes could stand up and walk around all on their own.
How can you enjoy that sockless feeling without contributing to air pollution in your home?
The Foundation of Foot Odor
Shoes start to smell because they are in close proximity to smelly feet. One step to keeping your shoes smelling sweetly is to reduce your foot odor. The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis, and it can affect anyone.
The smell starts with sweat secreted from sweat glands on your feet. The functions of these glands are to keep your feet moist, skin supple and aid in temperature regulation. When you're hot or exercising, your feet sweat even more than usual.
Unlike other sweat glands on your body, the sweat glands in your feet secrete sweat all the time, and not just in response to heat or exercise.1
The smell begins when the sweat is broken down by bacteria and fungi living on your skin. As the sweat decomposes a noticeable cheesy odor is produced. This scent can become even more offensive when there is a buildup of bacteria and sweat, such as in your shoes.
Socks Prevent the Smell
Using socks prevents the smell because your socks absorb the sweat and the bacteria, protecting your shoes. When your feet are stuffed inside your shoes all day, bacteria, sweat and dirt are transferred to the insoles and fabric of the shoes.
When you replace your socks daily, you reduce the buildup of bacteria and decomposing sweat that line the insides of your favorite shoes.
Socks reduce the friction between your feet and your shoes, reducing the build-up of calluses on your feet. Socks also keep your feet from becoming dry and cracked, leaving openings in your skin that increase your risk of infection. Your socks will protect your feet from fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, as well.
A buildup of moisture can also lead to mold growth on your shoes. This will break down the integrity of the shoes far more quickly, resulting in shoes that no longer provide support and are ready to be retired.
But, there are ways to reduce the odor emanating from your shoes, while still not wearing socks or stockings in your favorite athletic shoes or flats.
The Smell of Athlete's Foot
The medical term for athlete's foot is tinea pedis. It develops from a fungal infection, most often between your toes. Symptoms may vary from person to person.
You may experience all possible symptoms, including severe discomfort, or just a couple. The fungus usually grows in a warm, moist, and dark environment. Symptoms may include:2
✓ Cracked and bleeding skin
✓ Scaling skin
✓ Burning skin
✓ Macerated skin, or skin breakdown
✓ Foot odor
Athlete's foot is sometimes associated with onychomycosis, or a fungal infection of the toenails. If you have diabetes, the infection may spread or you may develop a severe secondary infection. If you experience severe redness, pain, swelling or pus from your feet, you should see your doctor.3
Although generally harmless, it may also create a foul odor that is distinctively different from the usual source of smelly feet.
Care Tips to Keep Your Shoes Odor-Free
If you just have to go sockless in your shoes, there are a few precautions that may reduce the amount of odor your shoes produce over the summer months.
Remember the odor originates from bacteria and sweat transferred from your feet to your shoes. Each of these tips will either help reduce the growth of bacteria or make your shoes a hostile environment for bacterial and fungal growth.
1. Wash and Dry
It's simple. The cleaner and drier your feet and shoes remain, the more likely it is that your feet won't smell. Wash your feet with soap and water at least once daily.
Be sure they are thoroughly dry before you put your feet into shoes for the day. Although your feet will continue to secrete sweat, starting dry gives you a better chance of staying sweet-smelling.4
2. Kill the Bacteria
You can kill many of the scent-producing bacteria on your feet using either white vinegar or a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Place your fluid of choice in a spray bottle and spray the bottom of your feet after each shower.
Allow your skin to air dry for a couple of minutes before walking or using shoes. Make your hydrogen peroxide wash with 1 teaspoon of 3 percent peroxide to 8 ounces of water. White vinegar can be used straight out of the bottle.5
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties.6 You might spray your feet with white vinegar or hydrogen-peroxide solution after your shower and rub coconut oil on your feet just before bed. The oil helps to kill bacteria and softens your skin.
4. Stay Out of the Dark
Bacteria and fungi love dark, moist environments. After you take your shoes off for the day, keep them out of gym bags, dark shoe boxes and dark closets. Use a shoe rack to keep the tongue of the shoe up and air circulating through the shoe.
5. Silica Gel Packs
These are the little bead packets you find in a new box of shoes and inside bottles of vitamins. You can also purchase them in bulk. These packets are used to absorb moisture inside your shoes after you've worn them.
Put a couple of packets in each shoe and place them in a closed bag. If you leave the shoes open to air with the silica packets, they won't be as effective because they'll absorb moisture from the air as well as from inside your shoes.
Closed in a bag they'll be exposed only to the moisture in your shoes. Use caution or avoid this if you have your shoes near pets or young children.
6. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil may be mildly irritating to your skin and has not been tested on children or pregnant women.9 If you'd like to try tea tree oil, use it sparingly and not every day to reduce irritation you may experience.
Keeping your shoes dry is an important way of reducing the growth of bacteria and fungi. Stuff them with newspaper after you've washed the shoes or after a particularly sweaty day or workout. Switch out the newspaper every four hours until the paper is dry when you remove it.
Sunlight and fresh air are natural ways of drying out your shoes and getting rid of odors. Hang your athletic shoes by the tongue to keep the shoe open to air. Set dress flats or heels out on a chair or table in the sun. Watch the weather and get them inside before it rains.
Bacteria are sensitive to alcohol. Use isopropyl alcohol over the interior of the shoe. Isopropyl alcohol comes in strengths ranging from 70 percent to 99 percent, all of which will work for this purpose. Remember to avoid putting alcohol on the outside of your shoes because it can ruin the surface of the shoe. Leave the shoe in an area where it will get plenty of air circulation. You can do this up to once weekly to keep the bacterial growth in your shoes at a minimum.
10. Alternate Your Shoes
By alternating the days you wear shoes, you give them a longer period of time to dry out thoroughly, reducing the growth of bacteria. If athletic shoes are your foot apparel of choice, then keep two or three pairs in your closet so you can alternate them.
11. Replace With Charcoal-Containing Insoles
Your insoles absorb quite a bit of the sweat and bacteria from your feet. Replacing them periodically can reduce the amount of bacteria in your shoes. If odor control is a significant issue, even with the listed measures, you may think about replacing your insoles with insoles containing activated charcoal for odor control. However, these may irritate your skin, so wearing socks with them is advisable.
Bacteria require moisture to grow. Salt will pull water from the cells of the bacteria, causing those cells to die. Salt also interferes with the enzyme activity of the bacteria and weakens the molecular structure of the cell.10 Use kosher salt or sea salt, as regular table salt has finer grains that are more difficult to remove from your shoes. Spread 1 tablespoon of coarse-grain salt evenly over the insoles of your shoes. Let the shoes set for 12 to 24 hours before tapping the salt out of your shoes.
13. Powder, Soda, Starch or Litter
Another option to dry out the inside of your shoes is to stuff them with a combination of equal parts baking powder, baking soda and cornstarch in a coffee filter. Staple the filter together and stuff it in your shoe overnight. Kitty litter is another material designed to absorb fluids. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of kitty litter in a coffee filter, staple closed and place inside your shoes overnight.
Forget About These
While there are several things you can do to reduce foot and shoe odor, there are also some things you shouldn't do.
1. Masking the Smell With Perfume
Leave out the perfume. They will only mask the odor. Perfume and sweaty feet don't make for a good combination!
2. Foot Antiperspirants
Antiperspirants stop your feet from sweating, a completely unnatural option. You may be tempted to just use a spray to cut back on foot odor, but you'll also be adding chemicals to your body and eliminating the method your body uses to moisturize the skin on your feet.
Although this may reduce the odor in your shoes in the short run, freezing does not kill the odor-causing bacteria growing in your shoes.11 If you do choose to freeze, put your shoes in a resealable bag and place in the freezer for several hours.However, if they don't smell when you remove them from the freezer it may only take a day or two to re-establish the bacterial growth, whether you wear them or not. So if you're freezing, wear the shoes immediately before the odor returns.
When All Else Fails
When all else fails to reduce the stench wafting from your shoes, it's time to return to your socks. If you enjoy being sockless because you don't want socks to show over the top of your shoes, try low-rise socks. These usually sit below the level of athletic shoes and don't show at all.
Women have the option of wearing ped socks or ped hosiery in dress shoes, serving the same purpose of absorbing sweat and bacteria but without showing over the tops of dress shoes. Socks might not be your choice of apparel, but they will protect your feet from becoming dry and cracked or from developing calluses from rubbing against your shoes.
Feet: The Foundation for Fitness
High Heels, High Risk
What Is Aloe Oil?
By itself, aloe oil is not a true, pure oil. It is prepared by mixing the aloe vera plant with a fatty oil.1 This plant oil basically contains the properties of aloe, from which it is extracted. However, since it is combined with a carrier oil, its nutritional properties may be enhanced or reduced.
Most of the health benefits provided by aloe vera come from its water-retaining, fleshy leaves2 — specifically the nutrient-rich gel extracted from them. It is usually the leaves or gel that is used to create the oil.
Aloe vera is a perennial plant and thrives in hot, arid environments. More specifically, it is commonly found in North Africa, the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean region, Australia, and some areas in the United States.3
Historical records show that aloe vera was an important component in herbal medicine. For instance, the Ebers Papyrus from Ancient Egypt and De Materia Medica by Dioscorides mention the use of aloe vera. The Ancient Egyptians valued the plant as a treatment for infections, rashes, and burns, and referred to it as the "plant of immortality."
Other civilizations, such as the Arabs, Greeks, and Spaniards, used aloe vera to help reduce perspiration and eliminate body odor. Spanish missionaries often carried aloe vera with them to help treat the sick.4
Uses of Aloe Vera Oil
Aloe vera is commonly used by the cosmetic, food, and beverage industry. It is widely used in personal care products, such as lip balms, lotions, and other skincare treatments.
Of course, the aloe vera plant by itself is also a popular skincare agent. Some people use its gel to relieve itching, accelerate the healing of wounds, and as a moisturizing agent. Other uses of aloe vera oil include:5
- Massage oil, due to its ability to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Aromatherapy oil. Aromatherapists often mix aloe vera oil with other carrier oils in order to make use of its healing and rejuvenating activities.
- Haircare product. It can be used as a conditioner to treat dry scalp and dandruff.
- Treatment for insect bites. This plant oil can also be used to treat swelling and inflammation caused by insect bites from bees and wasps.
- Dental care product. Nutrients in aloe vera have been found to aid in the treatment of periodontal disease. Used as a massage oil for the gums and teeth, this oil can help reduce the risk of caries, plaque, and even gingivitis.
Composition of Aloe Oil
Many of the beneficial compounds of aloe vera gel are transferred to the oil during its production stage. Nutrients you can obtain from the gel and oil include:6
- Vitamins C, A (beta-carotene), E (alpha-tocopherol), B1, B2, and B6 (choline and folic acid)
- Minerals. The aloe vera plant is known to absorb nutrients from the soil. It can provide iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, manganese, sodium, and potassium
- Amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in aloe oil, as well as 7 out of 8 essential amino acids
- Anthraquinones, such as aloe emodin, aloin, and cinnamic acid ester. These have been shown to have antiviral effects
- Lipid compounds, such as arachidonic acid, gamma-linoleic acid, and other phytosterols
- Polysaccharides, which are carbohydrate molecules with beneficial properties. They have been associated with the treatment of tumors and cancer, diabetes, and immune function
Benefits of Aloe Oil
Because aloe oil contains the health properties of the original aloe vera plant, it possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antifungal, antioxidant, and astringent activity.
Like aloe vera gel, aloe oil is also known for its ability to promote skin health.7 It helps the skin heal from sunburn quickly due to its antioxidant properties. Using aloe vera to treat small cuts and wounds is also recommended.
Aloe oil is a good replacement for chemical moisturizers. The plant's long list of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, can keep your skin supple and firm. It may help prevent the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and stretch marks.
Aloe vera is also an effective haircare agent. Aside from treating dandruff and dry scalp, the plant can also promote hair growth and keep your locks strong. When added to tea tree oil, aloe oil can be useful against fungal scalp infections.
People with arthritis may also enjoy pain relief with aloe vera. Applying it topically on painful joints can help reduce inflammation.
How to Make Aloe Oil
Aloe vera oil is produced through the process of maceration extraction.10 The plant is soaked in a carrier oil heated to high temperatures. Once the plant's cell membranes have been ruptured, the hot oil then absorbs the nutrients and essence of the plant. After a while, the mixture is filtered in order to remove the plant components.
In the case of aloe vera, its stems and leaves containing the aloe gel are macerated. The product is similar to infused oil and is not 100 percent aloe vera. Even so, this essential oil is just as useful as its gel counterpart. One advantage the oil has over aloe vera gel is its longer shelf life — about 8 to 10 months.
Fortunately, you can create aloe oil at home. Here's a guide on how to make an aloe vera massage oil infusion from We Love Aloe:11
What You Need:
1. Mix the aloe vera gel (extract it properly if you use a fresh leaf) with the coconut oil in a bowl. The ratio of aloe vera gel to the coconut oil should be 1:1.
2. Add 2 to 3 drops of an essential oil of your choice to the aloe vera and coconut oil mixture and mix well.
Adding an essential oil will give your aloe massage oil an appealing aroma, which will help calm the mind and give your aloe oil more health benefits (which may vary depending on what oil you pick).
Suggested oils include rose, jasmine, peppermint, or even a citrus essential oil. The essential oil (or two) will help supplement and maximize the medicinal properties of Aloe Vera.
3. Heat the mixture in a pot on the stove burner on low heat for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Leave the aloe oil to cool before moving forward.
5. Once the aloe vera oil has cooled, you can start using the oil. Rub it on your body, arms, legs, back, or chest as a moisturizing agent or to relax.
6. Store the oil in a cool, dry place for approximately 2 weeks. You can also refrigerate the oil to preserve its ingredients, making their health benefits stay stronger for a longer period.
How Does Aloe Oil Work?
As mentioned, aloe vera oil contains most of the nutritional properties as aloe vera gel. It's safe for topical application as a skin moisturizer or a massage oil. Maximize its benefits by using the product right after you shower or bathe. Your damp skin will absorb the oil more effectively.
You may also add aloe vera oil to personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos, lip balms, toothpastes, and skin products. Experiment with different products, but it's advisable to first seek the help of a professional aromatherapist.
Is Aloe Oil Safe?
If you are to use aloe oil on your skin, it's best to be meticulous when choosing a product. Remember, your skin is very absorbent and will absorb everything applied unto it — including chemicals and artificial ingredients. Always check if the product is organic or not. This will give you an idea if the product contains dangerous substances and additives, which are likely added during the extraction process.
Some people recommend taking aloe vera juice, gel, and oil orally for their digestive benefits. Even if these products are proven safe for consumption, you should be cautious when ingesting them or seek professional advice. They can induce diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting in some people so please use caution.
To be on the safe side, don't ingest aloe vera oil, as it is not a pure oil. It is mixed with a carrier oil that may not be safe for consumption. This may increase the amounts of certain compounds, which may become toxic in large concentrations.
Side Effects of Aloe Oil
Always err on the side of caution when using aloe oil as it can cause allergic reactions on some people. To check for an allergic reaction to aloe, you may do a skin test, or apply a drop of oil on a small area of your skin. Aloe vera compounds can react with certain drugs, such as laxatives, diabetes medication, and diuretics.
Diarrhea induced by the plant can reduce your body's potassium levels, which can affect the potency of certain medications. As with any herbal oil, consult an experienced aromatherapy practitioner or physician before using aloe vera oil, especially when you're using any medication, and are pregnant or nursing.
By Dr. Mercola
Sleep is supposed to be a time for your body to recharge, a respite from the demands of the workaday world. Yet, according to the documentary Sleepless in America, 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, with many getting less than five hours of sleep per night.
For many, sleep isn't a respite at all but rather has turned into a source of great frustration and stress. If you've ever struggled with insomnia, you know the anxiety that can occur when the clock starts approaching bedtime.
Will you be able to fall asleep? Will you lie in bed, awake, for hours, only to fall asleep shortly before your alarm clock goes off? Though it may seem hopeless, let me assure you that sound sleep can be yours.
Oftentimes it only takes some simple tweaks to your bedtime routine and, ironically, to your habits during the day to make sound sleep a reality.
Lack of Sleep Can Leave You Functionally Drunk
Before I delve into how to improve your sleep, let's go over why it's so important to do so. You probably already know that sleep is important — and that you feel lousy after a night with barely any shuteye.
However, you may be surprised by the results of a recent University of Michigan study, which found even six hours of sleep a night is too little and may leave you functionally impaired, similar to being drunk. University of Michigan mathematician and study author Olivia Walch said:1
"It doesn't take that many days of not getting enough sleep before you're functionally drunk … Researchers have figured out that being overly tired can have that effect.
And what's terrifying at the same time is that people think they're performing tasks way better than they are. Your performance drops off but your perception of your performance doesn't."
Smartphone App Reveals Insights Into How the World Sleeps
In 2014, Walch and colleagues released a free app that recommends optimal lighting schedules for adjusting to new time zones (i.e., helping to reduce the effects of jet lag).
The app, called Entrain, asks users to input their sleep times, home time zone and typical lighting schedule, and it can also record hourly light and sleep schedules.
The researchers used data collected from the app to reveal trends in how people sleep around the world.2 Average sleep duration ranged from seven hours and 24 minutes for residents of Singapore to eight hours and 12 minutes for residents of the Netherlands.
This might not seem like a large discrepancy, but even 30 minutes of extra sleep can make a big difference in your health and ability to function. Other interesting facts revealed by the study included:3
- Middle-aged men got the least sleep and often slept less than seven to eight hours a night.
- Women tended to schedule more time for sleep and slept about 30 minutes more per night than men. Women tended to go to bed earlier and wake up later.
- People who spent time in the sunlight each day tended to go to sleep earlier and got more sleep than those who spend most of their day indoors.
Trends were also noted by age, which suggests your biological clock may influence your internal clock. In particular, the researchers noted that people's schedules dictated their bedtime but their internal clock governed their wake time.
Therefore, the best way to get more sleep is to go to bed earlier. Study co-author Daniel Forger, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan explained:
"Across the board, it appears that society governs bedtime and one's internal clock governs wake time, and a later bedtime is linked to a loss of sleep …
At the same time, we found a strong wake-time effect from users' biological clocks — not just their alarm clocks. These findings help to quantify the tug-of-war between solar and social timekeeping."
1 in 3 U.S. Adults Don't Get Enough Sleep
In February 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that one in three U.S. adults don't get enough sleep.4
In this case, "enough" sleep was defined as seven or more hours per night, but many adults may need closer to eight hours per night (and thus lack of sleep may affect even more than one in three adults).
What are the health risks of this reported sleep deprivation? Research has found that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in activity in genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.5
Poor or insufficient sleep was even found to be the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.6 Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
16 Chronological Daily Tips to Improve Your Sleep
If your sleep could use some improvements, try these 16 tips compiled by Reader's Digest.7 What makes them unique is that you do them starting in the morning and continue throughout the day and night.
By the time it's bedtime, you'll be ready to hit the hay. Here's the chronological list, starting with when you wake up and continuing until bedtime.
1. Open Your Shades
Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning stops production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and signals to your body that it's time to wake up. Outdoor sunlight is best, so you might even want to take a quick walk outside.
2. Make Your Bed
This is a psychological trick aimed at making your bedroom less cluttered — and therefore easier to relax in — come bedtime. You can also quickly put away any junk cluttering your nightstand and dresser.
Exercise leads to better sleep at night. Many people schedule their full workouts for morning, which makes it easier to also exercise while fasting (an added benefit). If you don't have time for a full workout, at least do some quick stretching or bodyweight exercises.
4. Take a Walk Outdoors After Lunch
Not only will this increase in physical activity help you sleep later, but taking your walk outdoors gives you more exposure to bright sunlight. Light intensity is measured in lux units, and on any given day, the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon.
Indoors, the typical average is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux units — about two orders of magnitude less. The brightness of the light matters, because your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night.
If you are in relative darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production. This, in turn, can have some rather significant ramifications for your health and sleep. I take a one-hour walk every day in the bright sunlight on the beach, so along with boosting my vitamin D, I also anchor my circadian rhythm at the same time and I rarely ever have trouble sleeping.
5. Cut Off Your Caffeine
If you're a coffee drinker, take your last caffeinated sip in the early afternoon (this applies to caffeinated soda, too). The caffeine can linger in your body for hours, blocking a brain chemical called adenosine that would otherwise help you to fall asleep.
6. Consider a Nap
According to Rubin Naiman, Ph. D. a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and a leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams, we're biologically programmed to nap during the daytime, typically in the middle of the afternoon.
The key is to avoid napping for too long, as this may disrupt your circadian rhythms, which would hurt your sleep instead of help it. The ideal nap time for adults appears to be around 20 minutes (any longer and you'll enter the deeper stages of sleep and may feel groggy when you wake up).
7. Exercise in the Early Evening (If You Haven't Already)
The importance of exercise for sleep cannot be overstated, so if you didn't fit in your workout in the morning, be sure to do so later. There is some debate over how close is too close to bedtime to exercise. For some people, exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake, but for others even late-night exercise seems to help (not hinder) sleep.
One poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 83 percent of people said they slept better when they exercised (even late at night) than when they did not, so even if it's late, you may still want to exercise.8 Let your body be your guide.
8. Take 15 Minutes to Unwind
If you're stressed, it's harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Taking 15 minutes (at least) each day to relax may help your sleep significantly. You may try listening to music, journaling, meditation, chatting with a neighbor or the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Do whatever works best for you.
9. Eat a Light Dinner and Stop Eating Three Hours Before Bed
If you eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime, your body will have to devote energy to digesting your food when it should be recharging during sleep. As part of Peak Fasting, I also recommend that you stop eating three hours before bed and don't have your first meal until 13 to 18 hours later.
10. At Sundown, Dim Your Lights (or Use Amber-Colored Glasses)
In the evening (around 8 p.m.), you'll want to dim your lights and turn off electronic devices. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. After sundown, shift to a low-wattage bulb with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination.
A salt lamp illuminated by a 5-watt bulb is an ideal solution that will not interfere with your melatonin production. If using a computer or smartphone, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux, which automatically alters the color temperature of your screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.
The easiest solution, which I recently started using myself, however, is to simply use amber-colored glasses that block blue light. I found an Uvex model (S1933X) on Amazon that costs less than $10 and works like a charm to eliminate virtually all blue light. This way you don't have to worry about installing programs on all your devices or buying special light bulbs for evening use. Once you have your glasses on, it doesn't matter what light sources you have on in your house.
11. Turn Down the Volume
In the evening hours, you'll also want to keep noise to a minimum. Noise louder than a normal conversation may stimulate your nervous system and keep you awake. You may want to use a fan or other form of white noise to drown out noise disturbances while you sleep. The exception is listening to soft, soothing music, such as classical, which may actually help you to sleep.9
12. Take a Warm Bath About 1.5 Hours Before Bed
Thermoregulation — your body's heat distribution system — is strongly linked to sleep cycles. When you sleep, your body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body's natural temperature drop.
This is also why taking a warm bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime may help you sleep; it increases your core body temperature, and when it abruptly drops when you get out of the bath, it signals your body that you are ready for sleep.
13. Adjust Your Bedroom Temperature
While there's no set consensus as to what temperature will help you sleep the best, in most cases any temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees F will interfere with your sleep.10 Some experts suggest 65 degrees F is ideal for sleep.
14. Sip a Cup of Chamomile Tea
Chamomile has sedative effects that may help with sleep, which is why chamomile tea is often sipped before bed. One study found that people with insomnia who took a chamomile supplement had improvements in daytime functioning and potential benefits on sleep measures as well.11 You may want to try sipping a cup prior to bedtime to see if it helps you sleep.
15. Get Ready for Bed
A nightly ritual of washing your face, brushing your teeth and getting into your pajamas signals to your mind and body that it's time for bed. Try to stick with the same hygiene ritual, at the same time, each night.
16. Sleep in Complete Darkness
Once you're ready to climb into bed, make sure your bedroom is pitch black. The slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body's clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades to achieve this and, if this isn't possible, wear an eye mask.
Taking these steps daily should help most people to improve their sleep. If you need more help, I suggest reading my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for 33 simple tips on improving your sleep. You'll likely find that small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to helping you achieve regular restful sleep.
Athletes Take Note: Sleeping More Can Give You a Competitive Edge
Do You Suffer Widespread Pain? It May Be Time to Address Your Sleep
By Dr. Mercola
Your foot is the foundation of your ability to move, walk, run, jump and stand. Each of your feet and ankles has 29 different bones, accounting for over 25 percent of the bones in your body. The American Podiatric Medical Association found that 77 percent of people over 18 years suffer from foot pain.1
Failure to walk and run with proper form and posture can result in tight muscles, changing the form and function of the joints in your foot. Flip flops, tight shoes and high heels can trigger changes in your foot structure leading to pain and deformity.
Simple exercises and proper footwear can make a big difference in the potential development or progression of bunions. By the time you reach age 50, your feet will likely have traveled 75,000 miles.2 No wonder so many people experience so much discomfort and pain.
What's a Bunion?
Bunions are an anatomical deformity possibly resulting from a congenital structural defect or may be initiated from poor foot function and tight musculature. Constricted muscles and tendons exert a strong force on the joints of your foot.
An area often exhibiting deformity from those forces is the joint between your big toe and your foot. This is where bunions commonly form. Bunions may also form on the other side of your foot, in the joint between your little toe and the long bones of your foot.
Thickened skin may also develop over the bump. This area may become swollen and inflamed, contributing to your pain and discomfort from bony changes.
When the bunion forms between the base of your big toe and the first metatarsal bone (long bone of your foot), it creates an imbalance in how your weight is distributed over your foot joints.
This increases the deformity and the discomfort. When the bunion forms between your little toe and the fifth metatarsal it's called a bunionette.
How Bunions Form
Although most bunions develop in adulthood, bunions may develop in adolescence as well. Among adolescents, they most frequently occur in girls between 10 and 15 years of age. Women are also at greater risk for developing a bunion or bunionette than men.3
There are several factors that increase your risk of developing a bunion. You have control over some of these factors, and others are a function of your bone structure and development.4
✓ Wearing high heels
✓ Wearing narrow shoes
✓ Foot injuries
✓ Feet don't develop properly before birth
✓ Uneven weight bearing, which makes a joint unstable
✓ Tight muscles and tendons
✓ Inherited foot type
Each of these factors places your foot in an unnatural position. Consistent use and weight bearing on your foot in a poor position may encourage your muscles to become less flexible. A lack of flexibility will increase your risk of a bunion deformity.
Dr. Georgeanne Botek, head of the section of Podiatry and medical director of Cleveland Clinic's Diabetic Foot Clinic, says, "Bunions often run in families but they can be the result of the way we walk or the shoes we wear."5
What You'll Feel
Before you experience symptoms, you'll often see the changes in your foot. A bump will begin to form on the outside of your foot just below your big toe or your little toe in the case of a bunionette. Once the bunion grows larger you may experience more symptoms including:6
✓ Pain over the skin where the bunion rubs on your shoes
✓ Pain and soreness over the bony area
✓ Numbness around the bunion
✓ Burning sensation
✓ Swelling at the joint where the bunion formed, especially after being on your feet
✓ Thicker skin over the base of the affected toe
✓ Redness over the skin from rubbing on your shoes or originating deeper from inflammation at the joint
✓ New corns or calluses on other toes as your weight is poorly distributed
✓ Movement restriction in the affected joint
These symptoms are frustrating, painful and restrict the type of footwear you may be comfortable wearing. Without treatment and care, your bunion may grow so large that even wide-toe shoes are not wide enough to accommodate the deformity.
What Are Your Options for Treatment?
There are several different options for treatment. Personally, I believe that surgery is the very last resort you should consider. Although a surgical procedure may affect the anatomical structure, it will not address the underlying condition that caused the bunion in the first place.
I have a bunion I've been treating for years. Treatments have reduced my pain and discomfort and almost stopped the progression of the changes to my foot.
Bunions are permanent unless you have them surgically corrected. However, with other less-invasive treatments, you can reduce the symptoms of pain and discomfort, slow or stop the progression and improve the flexibility of your foot and joints. Ohio podiatrist Dr. Dina Stock told the Cleveland Clinic:
"For many people it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes. Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot."7
7 Options for Treating Bunions at Home
Try these methods at home to reduce inflammation, improve the flexibility of your foot and reduce the stress over your bunion.8
1. Reduce the Pressure
By reducing the pressure over the bunion you may find relief from pain. Protect the bunion with moleskin or a gel-filled pad. Wear shoes that provide plenty of space in the toe box.
Shop at a store where the staff will measure your foot and fit you with the right size shoe. You might be surprised to learn that your real shoe size is not the one you've been buying for the last several years.
2. Increase Circulation
Whirlpools, warm socks, hot packs, ultrasound and massage can all increase the circulation to the area, helping to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
3. Reduce the Inflammation
Ice and curcumin or turmeric may help to reduce the inflammatory response in the bunion and reduce your pain.
4. Improve Flexibility
If you have a bunion, you may notice that the toe with the deformity is not as flexible as the same toe on the other foot. The large toe may become so inflexible you can only move it a couple of degrees. This inflexibility contributes to the development of a bunion.
It might be tempting to treat only the toe with the bunion, but you may not get the same results as when you treat your whole foot. It's a little like the domino effect. The way you bear weight over your feet affects how your knees, hips and lower back function.
Your big toe affects how the rest of your foot functions. When one area has problems it affects the areas around it. Watch the video below to see the proper stretches you can do at home to improve the flexibility of your whole foot.
5. Strengthen Your Muscles
Flexibility is important, and so are strong muscles. Your foot is the foundation of your daily activities and your athletic performance. Regular foot exercises, combined with improved flexibility, may improve how your foot functions and reduce the progression of your bunion.
Imbalances in the strength of the muscles in your foot affect proper walking and running form and limit full range of motion in your foot. Both factors increase your risk of injury and bunions.9 To strengthen the muscles in your foot:
✓ Pick up a washcloth or marbles with your toes to strengthen your arch.
✓ Draw the alphabet in the air with your big toe to strengthen your ankle.
✓ Stand on one foot (without holding onto anything) for 10 to 20 seconds. Balancing strengthens your whole foot and improves your overall balance.
✓ Roll a tennis ball or foam roller under your foot to stretch your plantar fascia. This is a tough tendon running from the ball of your foot to your heel.
✓ While barefoot, rise up on your toes, strengthening your calves and foot.
✓ Lift each toe individually from your big toe to your little toe, then put them back down in reverse order.
✓ While barefoot, put your weight on your heels and spread your toes on both feet as far as you can. Do this while maintaining your balance.
Wearing a night splint is another option that can help stretch the muscles around your big toe and improve your flexibility. As your toe is held in the correct position and the muscles become more flexible, the long bones in your foot are no longer being pulled out of alignment.
When study participants wore a splint at night and a shoe that's orthotic with a toe separator during the day, they experienced statistically significant pain relief.10 This particular study did not note any structural changes to the foot, but it only looked at results after three months of treatment. Bunions take years to develop and may require a similar amount of time to see significant reversal of bony deformity.
Do Orthotics Really Help?
Orthotic is the term used to describe a shoe insert designed to change the way your foot bears weight. Orthotics are sold over-the-counter or may be custom-molded to your foot by your podiatrist. Although orthotics are popular, and used by many athletes, not all experts are convinced they are useful.11
The basic function is to put your foot in a better position and take stress off of an injured area. However, giving your foot muscles a permanent vacation means your muscles will get weaker and less flexible.12 Orthotics decelerate the velocity of pronation and distribute the force of your footfall over a broader area, reducing the stress on any one part of your foot. Although helpful in the short term while an injury heals, they are not recommended for long-term use.13
Pick the Right Shoe
The shoes you choose have a direct bearing on the health of your feet. Even if you love your flip-flops, it might be time to give them up. As you walk in such shoes, your toes increase their gripping action, causing chronic tension in your toes in a flexed position that eventually alters your balance.14
The absolute right shoes for your feet might just be no shoes at all. When you surround your feet with padding and lifts to correct what shoe manufacturers perceive as defects in the way you walk, you place your foot in an unnatural position and create an imbalance in your feet and body. Thus, the muscles in your feet are not used correctly, changing the degree of strength and flexibility you should have.15
Of course, there are concerns with going barefoot. You probably can't go without shoes at work, and walking outside presents problems with sharp stones and other debris. However, when done properly, you can successfully enjoy time without shoes and, as a result, stronger feet and a reduced risk of bunions.
Spend most of your time at home out of shoes, practicing your "fox walk." Shoes encourage you to strike your heel on the ground first, while walking like a fox is easier on your joints, knees, hips and lower back. With knees bent, the ball of your foot strikes the floor first, rolling back to your heel. Your knees remain bent, without ever locking or being straight. It's virtually soundless and the way that children walk before they get into shoes.
If you have diabetes, which can lead to diminished sensation and ability to feel pain in your feet, then walking without protection on your feet is not recommended, even at home. Stepping on an errant pencil or sharp object may pierce the skin on your feet without your realizing it, increasing your risk of an infection.
You May Be Able to Prevent Bunions
It is much easier to prevent bunions than it is to correct them. Pay attention to the strength and flexibility of the muscles in your feet. Six-pack abs might be the cosmetic addition you want for your summer wardrobe, but they also play an important role in reducing back pain and protecting your abdominal organs.
The same is true for the muscles in your feet. By stretching and strengthening the muscles you may help prevent the development of an unwanted cosmetic change to your feet. Follow the recommended stretches and strengthening exercises, avoid wearing tight shoes or high heels, and go barefoot as much as possible while you're at home.
Feet: The Foundation for Fitness
High Heels, High Risk