Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gluten Dangers: How To Get Tested and What To Do Next

We’ve all been at that party with that one annoying person that asks if the rhubarb pie contains gluten. Having a gluten allergy seems like the newest fad, and an ailment people ascribe to themselves to seem more unique - however, it is a very real allergy that can aggravate serious diseases like celiac disease. Read to on to discover whether or not you should be tested.

Over 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. An estimated 99% of people who have gluten intolerance or celiac disease have never been diagnosed, and as much as 15% of the United States population is gluten-intolerant.

Signs and Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

Below is a handy guide to see if you match any of the descriptions attributed to a gluten allergy:

  • Digestive issues, like gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and even constipation - it really runs the gamet. Constipation is most apparent in children after eating gluten.
  • Keratosis Pilaris - commonly known as “chicken skin” on the backs of your arms. Why does this happen? It’s actually caused by a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency, in which gluten is damaging the gut.
  • Fatigue, brain “fog”, or feeling exhaustion after eating a meal with gluten in it.
  • Being diagnosed with a disease like Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus, Ulcerative colitis, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
  • Feeling dizzy or off-balance.
  • Migraines.
  • Hormone imbalances or infertility.
  • Being diagnosed with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. If you are diagnosed as such, it means your doctor cannot accurately pinpoint your pain or the root cause of your ailments.
  • Mood problems, like anxiety, depression, ADD, or mood swings.
  • Pain, inflammation or swelling in your joints like knees, fingers, or hips.

How to Test for Gluten Intolerance

The best way to determination if you have a gluten allergy (without going to the doctor), is to go on an elimination diet - nix gluten for 2 - 3 weeks and then reintroduce it. It’s important to remember that gluten is a huge protein, so it can take several months to a year to clear it from your system - thus, the longer you take to eliminate it from your diet before reintroduction, the better.

If you feel much better off gluten, or much worse when you reintroduce it, then gluten is probably not for you. Be sure to eliminate gluten completely from your diet - otherwise, this trick of the trade will not work.

How Can I Treat My Gluten Intolerance?

Again, eliminating gluten from your diet 100% means actually eliminating it 100% - don’t cheat! Even tiny amounts of gluten from medications or supplements can set off an allergic reaction. The 80/20 rule, or the “we don’t keep it in the house, we just eat it when we eat out,” is not an effective rule. And if you truly want to know without a doubt whether or not you have a gluten allergy, get tested at the doctor - it’s the only way to be sure!

N’ICE Lozenges are Gluten-Free

There are plenty of gluten-free foods on the market today, but what about when you have a cough, and need gluten-free cough drops, because you have completed eliminated 100% of it from your diet? That’s where N’ICE lozenges come in - they are absolutely, positively gluten-free, and diabetic-safe. You never have to worry if you are breaking any of your diet’s rules with N’ICE - we’ve got you and your cough covered and well on your way to wellness. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Types of Coughs and What They Mean

Occasional coughs are normal, especially during winter months. Usually, they’re nothing to worry about and will go away on their own. But how can you tell if it’s something serious? Our handy guide to figuring out what is a serious cough and what isn't, will tell you more:

Keep in mind that a cough is never “normal” 

It is always a sign that something is wrong. Excess mucus, stomach acid, smoke, or even a medication (like blood pressure drugs) could have irritated nerves in passages leading to the lungs. The cough you now have is trying to clear them.

Coughs vary in intensity, so it can be difficult to identify them. Simple colds sound like a dry barking or a wet hacking. But bronchitis, pneumonia, even GERD can sound the same. However, you do not need to go running to the doctor anytime you have a cough. You should only seek medical aid when your cough is lasting longer than eight weeks - then, it is considered chronic and probably won’t disappear on its own. That being said, it’s best to go to the doctor before a cough turns chronic. If you’ve had it for two weeks, doctors advise seeking medical attention. If a cough comes with fever, blood, green or yellow phlegm, chest pain or shortness of breath, get to your doctor ASAP.

Colds and Flu

Typically, all coughs due to a common cold will come and go without any other incident. If they keep you up all night, or vomiting all day, they can be a big pain. The best thing to do is to drink at least a quart of water a day. Fluids will keep you hydrated and your cough moist. Moist coughs are better than dry coughs, because they aren't as painful, and you can cough up whatever’s in your lungs more easily.

OTC cough suppressants are a terrible idea unless your cough is keeping you up at night. They suppress the cough, and keep the mucus in, which isn't good. If you do decide to take something, a mucolytic may help soothe the cough and make it extra moist, so you can actually get the mucus out. If your cough is mild, it’s best to let it go away on its own.

Chest pain or difficulty breathing? Go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

If your cough is severe, a physician may ask you to take a cocktail of cough suppressant and a painkiller for a few days, or an expectorant. While colored discharge may mean you have an infection, most doctors won’t prescribe antibiotics for a cold, since most are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

Post-nasal drips

These types of coughs are typically triggered by allergies, fumes, or upper respiratory infections. Sinuses produce fluids that drip down the throat, thus resulting a cough - your body doesn't want you to drown in your own fluids, after all. Decongestants like pseudoephedrine certainly help, as do antihistamines like diphenhydramine. Inhaled nasal steroids can treat hay fever, which typically causes a cough. If you have sinusitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to help your ailing body.


If you have bacterial pneumonia or bronchitis, it should be treated with antibiotics. If your pneumonia is located in your chest, it can cause severe pain and lung inflammation, known as pleurisy. Pain relievers should be helpful. It is not recommended to use cough suppressants; when you clear the lung of infected mucus by coughing, it helps to clear the infection.

Treatment is similar to that of the common cold, i.e., plenty of rest, fluids, pain relievers, and humidification. Expectorant cough medicines containing guaifenesin are good for those in pain with their cough.

It can be difficult to differentiate viral bronchitis from bacterial bronchitis; just know that the difference lies in whether or not antibiotics were prescribed. In certain asthmatic cases, green mucus can be produced that looks infected. Your doctor can look at the mucus under a microscope to see if it’s infected.

There are many different kinds of coughs that you should know how to properly identify, so that you do not take unnecessary antibiotics or cough suppressants that may do more harm than good. Be well!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The History of the Cough: What the Ancient Egyptians Did and Why It Works

Ancient Egyptian medicine sounds glamorous, but perhaps a bit archaic; however, their treatments often actually worked. Their ideas were pretty innovative for their time. By studying mummified Egyptian corpses and looking at medical journals recorded on papyrus, we can discern what remedies they used from many different diseases, and even the common cough.

Most Egyptians suffered during their short life spans. They often died from diseases, or from their physical condition weakening over the many contracted diseases they acquired. Diseases were spread by the close contact of people - households were contained as many as 20 people living in a tiny home. The intense, hot environment, and the presence of bugs, rats, and fleas only aiding in quickly spreading diseases.

That, combined with the fact that many cures were dangerous remedies in and of themselves, made for a generally low life expectancy and lives full of physical pain and abnormalities - it was no walk in the park.

But as the ancient Egyptians studied, they came up with new remedies, until they had a medical system set in place. In fact, their medical system came with the following: an oath (not unlike the Hippocratic one), literally thousands of medical texts (equipped with lists of cures, diseases, and symptoms), tools (scalpels, linen, and swabs), check-up procedures (pulse checks and interviews), and the much-needed and oft-used magic spells.

When magic spells couldn't cure the common cough (usually a respiratory problem caused by the sand), the ancient Egyptians used a mixture of herbs and honey - you could almost say it was the world’s first cough drop. The root cause of the cough wasn't known, but tuberculosis was common.

Egyptians also would roast a mouse to a cinder and grind it into a basin of milk. This was their cure for whooping cough. The mouse was a major ingredient in many remedies, but again - no one knows exactly way.

Common hibiscus was also used to treat coughs by placing extracts in the patients’ baths or in water used for steam inhalations. Raw garlic was given to asthmatics and to sufferers from bronchial-pulmonary complaints. Licorice was used to treat coughs and colds, since powdered licorice root is an effective expectorant. The sweet herb could also be combined with other herbs and used as a tea.

In our research, we could not find evidence of the Egyptians using menthol as an effective cure - but it was non-existent in ancient times. In the 21st century, menthol is a well-known organic compound that has been used in industries all over the world - including in the manufacturing of cough drops. Menthol is extracted from peppermint essential oil, and it’s where it derives its easily identifiable, pungent aroma.

While it wasn't available to the Egyptians, other cultures did use it in treating the symptoms of coughs, colds, and upper respiratory illnesses. Chewing the leaves will unlock the peppermint aroma, which also made it a good treatment for halitosis.

We don’t fry mice these days when we need to treat a cough, but we do utilize honey, tea, and cough drops, following in the footsteps of the Egyptians who used healthier means to potentially lengthen their life spans and soothe their sore throats.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What To Know About Whooping Cough

Whooping cough seems like an archaic illness. But recently, whooping cough (pronounced HOOP-ing cough) cases have brought many in to see the doctor. In the state of Washington alone last April, the cases reached epidemic levels. It’s no wonder, either, with a full 92% of adults no longer inoculated against the disease - many Americans don’t even realize that a new booster shot exists. And if said adults catch the disease, they can easily pass it along to newborns they come in contact with, who can die from it.

Most people don’t think about the consequences about contracting pertussis (whooping cough’s other name). When it becomes prevalent in a community, people often forget how to protect others - and themselves. When it is eradicated, all the preventative measures are soon forgotten. Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, states, “That’s really the case with so many vaccine preventable diseases — when we’re not seeing them every day we forget about them. But it’s really important that people know this one is spreading all around the country, that we have vaccines and that most adults haven’t gotten vaccinated yet and really do need to.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following facts you should know about whooping cough:

1. Getting properly vaccinated will protect you.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, can be prevented if you get vaccinated. Before pertussis vaccines became widely available in the United States in the 1940s, approximately 200,000 children would fall ill with whooping cough, and about 9,000 would die each year from it. These days, only 10,000 - 25,000 cases are reported, with only 10 - 20 resulting in deaths.

Pertussis vaccines are available to those of any age and highly recommended by physicians. Infants and kids should get five doses of DTaP for the best protection. Doses are given at 2, 4, and 6 months, at 15 - 18 months, and again at 4 - 6 years. Booster doses of Tdap is available and given to pre-teens at 11 or 12 years of age. If you are an adolescent or adult that did not get a dose of Tdap as a preteen, it is recommended that you get one dose. Getting Tdap is imperative for pregnant women and anyone caring for an infant. You can get the Tdap booster no matter when you got your tetanus shot - you don’t have to wait. You can also get it even if you were vaccinated as a child, or have been sick with whooping cough in the past.

2. You must protect infants

Getting pertussis is riskiest for babies - they can have severe complications from it and even die. Over half of the infants that get whooping cough (under 1 year of age) are hospitalized, and 1 or 2 in 100 dies.

Pregnant women must get vaccinated with Tdap during their third or late second trimester. When you get Tdap while pregnant, “maternal pertussis antibodies” will go to the newborn, which will most likely give it protection against whooping cough later in life.

3. There is no Lifetime Protection From Vaccine or Infection

If you've been sick with pertussis or have had a pertussis vaccine, that doesn't mean that you are protected now, years later, as an adult. The vaccines are great, but they’re not perfect. They offer high levels of protection within the first two years of being vaccinated, but protection decreases over time, which is known as a waning immunity. Natural infection may only protect you for a few years as well.

4. Vaccinations Do Prevent Severe Diseases

If you do get the vaccination and still get pertussis, you will be less likely to have a severe infection. For those who have been vaccinated, in many cases, the cough won’t last as long; cough fits, whooping, and vomiting after coughing doesn't happen as often, and less children will have sleep apnea, cyanosis, and throwing-up episodes.

5. Reported Cases are Growing

The overall trend, since the early 1980s, is an increase in whooping cough cases. Whooping cough is cyclical in nature, and it peaks in disease every 3 - 5 years. Over the past few decades, peaks have gotten higher and cases have been going up. The increased number of cases can be explained in several ways: increased awareness, better reporting, improved diagnostic tests, waning immunity, and greater bacteria circulation.

Overall, we are making scientific advances towards finding better ways to treat this disease and make awareness of it more prevalent in our society, so that we can fight it with faster, smarter, and more efficient tactics. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Benefits of Vitamin C

Ah, Vitamin C - one of the best, safest, and most effective nutrients for our bodies. It may not necessarily cure the common cold (though it does help), but it can prevent more serious maladies. Benefits of Vitamin C may include: protection against immune deficiencies, eye disease, prenatal problems - even skin wrinkling. Many researchers say that higher levels of Vitamin C in the blood are good nutrition markers for general health. It also aids in the health of our cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, and eyesight functions, as well as helps us live longer.

Vitamin C Helps - It’s a Fact

Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan, states that “the ideal dosage [of Vitamin C] may be higher than the recommended dietary allowance.” Moyad and his colleagues examined several studies, and most of them found that 500 daily milligrams of Vitamin C would, in fact, achieve health results - but that is much higher than the recommended daily allowance of 75 - 90 milligrams for adults. So, unless you, as an adult, eat a lot of fruits and veggies, you may need to take a Vitamin C supplement - Moyad recommends 500 milligrams per day, and additionally eating five servings of fruits and vegetables. He states, “"It is just not practical for most people to consume the required servings of fruits and vegetables needed on a consistent basis, whereas taking a once-daily supplement is safe, effective, and easy to do.” Moyad also says that as few as 10% - 20% of adults get the recommended nine servings of their fruits and vegetables each day.

However, there are cons (as well as pros) to taking a 500 milligram supplement - it may be a stomach irritant for some. Non-acidic supplements are best and are easy on your digestive tract. It’s even safe to take up to 2,000 milligrams of Vitamin C/day, so the 500 mark allows plenty of leeway.

Where Can I Find My C?

Orange juice or even a half cup of red pepper can meet your daily allowance, but so can these other Vitamin-C packed fruits and vegetables:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Broccoli
  • Red cabbage
  • Green pepper
  • Tomato
  • Kiwi

Vitamin C: Helps To Fight Just About Everything

The other ways in which Vitamin C can aid in your health are plentiful. It’s a great stress reducer, for one - a recent study showed that Vitamin C helped individuals with weakened immune systems, due to stress. Vitamin C is actually the first nutrient to go in alcoholics, smokers, and obese people, so it’s a good overall health marker.

While we did state that Vitamin C isn’t a common cold cure, it does help fight it and prevent more serious issues and complications that come with being ill - it can reduce the risk of pneumonia and lung infections.

The research on the correlation of Vitamin C and how it may prevent strokes can conflict at times, but the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with the highest concentration of the nutrient in their blood were at 42% lower stroke risk than those with the smallest concentrations.

Vitamin C affects skin cells inside and outside of the body, so it only stands to reason that it fights skin aging. Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at links between nutrient intakes and skin aging in 4,025 women aged 40 - 74. The study found that more Vitamin C meant less wrinkles, dry skin, and a better skin appearance.

The Miracle Nutrient

These are but a few of the conditions, maladies, and benefits that Vitamin C protects, treats, and provides. There are so many other health issues that Vitamin C takes down or treats - like increasing sperm count in smokers or treating Parkinson’s disease - that it almost seems like a miracle vitamin. As science moves forward with innovation and technology, perhaps Vitamin C will be a miracle nutrient - and finally kill the common cold once and for all.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Menthol and Eucalyptus Oil: Fact Vs. Fiction

Menthol and eucalyptus oil are thought to be natural remedies for just about anything that’s ailing you. Do these natural salves and medicines actually help in our modern age of

Breathe Easier With Menthol

Menthol used to be thought of as an “herbal medicine,” but is now widely recognized as a common cold treatment. It is a naturally cooling ingredient, typically found in cold treatment products like cough drops, and helps soothe sore throats.

Menthol was most likely originally described as an herbal medicine, because it is an organic compound that occurs naturally in mint. It can be extracted from the mint’s leaves by distillation, but is most commonly made synthetically and is often found in the form of peppermint oil.

Experimenting with how menthol could help ease colds began as early as 1885. Once people realized how useful it could be in a medicinal capacity, it was no longer considered simply an “herbal medicine,” but as a recognized “drug therapy.”

Menthol can have many uses - researchers have even looked into using menthol as a natural insecticide. Utilizing menthol in cold treatment can help reduce coughs. Menthol effectively “talks” to nose and throat cold receptors, and tells them to ease coughs. Studies show that, when exposed to an irritating mist, people will, of course, cough. But when they inhale menthol before being exposed to the mist, it significantly reduces the number of times they cough.

The strong aroma of menthol is very effective when it comes to clearing up coughs and colds; it gives relief to congestion in the nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs, which in turn can relieve respiratory disorders that often result from asthma and the common cold. This is why so many balms contain mint. Inhalers with mint in them are more effective and eco-friendly than those in aerosols. That being said, when asthma patients regularly use mint, it can be very beneficial.

Menthol is a natural stimulant - just smelling it can pump you up and get your brain highly functioning once more. If you’re feeling anxious, sluggish, fatigued, or depressed, mint can help. You can ingest it, apply it in a topical form, or inhale it as a vapor to get that needed boost. A popular tactic in staying healthy is to put a few drops of essential or menthol oil on your pillow at night so it can recharge your brain while you sleep.

Eucalyptus Oil: A Natural Remedy

Eucalyptus oil is another naturally occurring ingredient that can help soothe the common cold. The sweet-smelling oil is known for how it supports our respiratory systems, and has the following properties: anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, antibiotic, and anti-septic. It also comes in handy as a decongestant when you have a cough or cold - hence the respiratory support. By inhaling vapor from a few drops of eucalyptus oil, you’re helping your body break up the excess mucus. It cools and penetrates, so it helps ease muscular pain, sinusitis, arthritis, headaches - even bug bites (it even works as an insect repellant). It also aids in reducing swelling and increasing blood flow. It should be noted, however, that pregnant women and children under two years of age should not use eucalyptus oil. If applying the oil topically, it can be diluted with carrier oils like jojoba, olive, almond, or grapeseed.

Many people believe that eucalyptus oil can be used to better your health. They use it to create their own anti-bacterial cleaners, as an additive to laundry detergent, as a reliever for headaches and even fainting spells, and as bronchial and cough relief.

When it comes to menthol and eucalyptus oil, you can’t go wrong with either when trying to live a healthier life, or trying to ease cold or asthma symptoms. However, take care not to ingest too much menthol - keep everything in moderation, and you should be well on your way to getting better, faster.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sick While Pregnant: How to Get Rid of That Annoying Cough

You have enough to deal with while pregnant - sore breasts, stretch marks, nausea, nightly heartburn - so having a bad cough or cold can seem like the straw that will break your back. Luckily for you, N’ICE is providing you with a list of remedies to ease your cold and get you back to your glowy, if a bit tired, self:

  • Check with your obstetrician/gynecologist before taking any medicine while pregnant. You want to be sure that whatever you take will not harm your baby.
  • Always try a single medicine to tackle your symptoms, pregnant or not. You could accidentally take more medicine than you mean to. You should be able to find one medicine that can treat both a stuffy nose and a fever.
  • If you do have a fever, you can take acetaminophen. Just make sure you don’t double your dose - some medications may contain acetaminophen in addition to other ingredients. If you have painful aches or fevers, this drug is fine to take for pregnant women. Dr. Gideon Koren, senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and director of the Motherisk program (which advises pregnant women on safety in pregnancy), states, “Clearly, women have fever and the bad body feeling of a severe cold should be treated.”
  • Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin. Aspirin has been linked to delivery complications. Make sure you don’t use drugs like ibuprofen, especially in your last trimester.

Good medications to try while sick with a cold are:

  • Expectorants. These help loosen and get rid of phlegm. Anne Marie Picone Ford, a pharmacist in Moncton, N.B., says to “Look for a medication with Guaifenesin in it and that’s fine.”
  • Cough suppressants. Another powerful cough-fighting medicine is a cough suppressant, which tries to stop your cough from even occurring in the first place. While many cough syrups are safe for pregnant women to use, at times, cough suppressants are used simultaneously with other medication. You should check with your doctor before using any cough suppressants.
  • Decongestants. These cold aids come in many different forms - oral medicines, nasal drops or sprays, They were made to relieve stuffy heads and noses. But while pregnant, these medications should be used with care and only when absolutely necessary. Nose drops or sprays are best when you’re with child, but don’t overdo them. When your cold is at its worst, take a decongestant right before you go to bed, so that your airways are freed up while you sleep. The reason it’s best to use a nasal spray is that little of the medication will be absorbed in Mom’s circulation, so the risk to a baby is little to none.  
  • Humidifiers. The way a humidifier works is that it’ll raise a room’s moisture level, which makes it easier for you to breathe. So, using a humidifier at night works best to unclog your stuffed up nose. Pro tip: use a cool mist humidifier to avoid burns, especially since you may use this in your baby’s room as well (humidifiers are recommended for easing your kids’ cold symptoms). Propping up your pillows to relieve a cough helps as well - it stops postnasal drip.
  • Echinacea. Some do not think echinacea is effective, but some doctors, who have conducted studies in pregnant women, report that it is safe to use, and that many of the pregnant women said it even helped them.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also safe, but should, like everything else, be used in moderation - especially while pregnant.

The above tips should kick your cold to the curb, and get you - and your baby - feeling stronger and healthier everyday.