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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Relieve Spring Allergies

Spring is finally here - birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and everyone’s allergies are acting up. If you can tell that it’s allergy season by your nose and not by the calendar, then you’re probably in need of some tips to get you through one of the more colorful - and pollen-y - seasons.

Allergies By the Numbers

Approximately 40 million people in the United States have indoor/outdoor allergies, more commonly known as seasonal allergies, hay fever, or, less commonly, “allergic rhinitis” - this is according to James Sublett, MD, FACCAI, who is a clinical professor and section chief of pediatric allergy at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and a managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Sublett explains that “allergies have a strong genetic component”; meaning, if your parents had allergies, you are more likely to have them as well. Allergies are developed when we’re just kids, but for some, they develop in adulthood - this is because exposure to environmental factors effectively “flips a switch,” and thus, some adults will develop allergies they never had before. A good example of us is diesel particulate exposure, which can trigger allergies. The result? Your immune system doesn’t know how to deal with it, and it creates a “runaway response.”

Allergy Triggers

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America state that the most common allergy triggers are:

  • Pet dander (including rodent dander)
  • Tree, grass, and weed pollen
  • Dust mite and cockroach allergens
  • Mold spores

While seasonal allergies can simply be annoying at times, asthma can be more serious and life-threatening - what’s even worse is that asthma can get triggered by allergies, though most people with allergies will not later develop asthma. However, if you have asthma, and your allergies are out-of-control, you may have more asthma attacks more often, which can be potentially dangerous.

How To Treat Pesky Allergies

Luckily for you, N’ICE compiled a list of ways to treat your allergy symptoms before they get the better of you this Spring:

Start early. Spring pollen comes out to play during spring much earlier than most would think. In many parts of the country, including the eastern seaboard and the Ohio Valley, pollen will begin dancing through the air as soon as the weather gets warm enough for trees to start showcasing their blooms. In the South, some people may even see pollen as early as mid-February, depending on what their winter was like. So, if you take medications to control your allergies, it’s best to start them mid-to-late February - not late March.

Know which OTC meds will help you get by. There are three major kinds of over-the-counter medicine that can help with spring allergies: topical nasal sprays, inhaled corticosteroids, and oral antihistamines or decongestants.

If your allergies are mild, nasal sprays, inhalants, and oral antihistamines are help tremendously - and they’re not addictive. Decongestants are not really recommended for allergies, though many people do use them. However, it should be noted that decongestants were created to treat colds - not allergy woes.

Sucking on cough drops helps, too - and with gluten-and-aspartame-free versions like N’ICE, you don’t have to worry about unnecessary additives causing weight gain or other health problems.

Control Where You Are. Staying indoors on a gorgeous day due to allergies is the worst. But, if you have to go outside for any reason, consider wearing a protective allergy face mask for activities like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or washing your car. A simple paper mask will do, but many hardware stores carry more hardcore versions, like respirator masks. You may feel silly wearing a mask outdoors when it isn’t Halloween, but it can help relieve your allergies.

These are but a few steps to make sure that your spring allergy season has less sneezing in it. Taking care of yourself, getting plenty of rest, and making sure to know the signs of allergy attacks, will put you well on your way to a happier season.

Monday, April 21, 2014

N'ICE: Gluten-Free and Aspartame-Free

The dangers of aspartame are often touted by experts and internet hacks alike. So how does one separate fact from fiction?

Aspartame: A Brief History

Before we can judge whether or not aspartame is truly dangerous, we must first look at its beginnings. Aspartame is the “technical” name for brands like Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. It was approved to be used on dry goods in 1981 and for carbonated drinks in 1983 - which is why Diet Coke is chock-full of it. Originally, it was approved for dry goods in 1974, but neuroscientist Dr. John W. Olney and James Turner, consumer attorney, objected to it as well as the investigations of G.D. Searle’s research practices - this caused the Food and Drug Administration (or, FDA) to place the approval of aspartame on hold. But in 1985, Monsanto bought G.D. Searle and made Searle Pharmaceuticals and The Nutrasweet Company into separate subsidiaries.

Negative Side Effects of Aspartame Consumption

According to the FDA, aspartame makes up 75% of all adverse reactions to food additives that are reported; some of the reactions are even deadly. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t - there are 90 different reported symptoms pertaining to aspartame, and we have listed only a few:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Weight gain
  • Rashes
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of taste
  • Memory loss
  • Vertigo
  • Tinnitus
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Tachycardia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Breathing difficulty

Researchers and physicians also note that chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by aspartame, like:

  • Brain tumors
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Mental retardation
  • Diabetes
  • Lymphoma
  • Birth defects
  • Fibromyalgia

There are plenty of reputable scientists, researchers, and doctors that shun aspartame, and nutritionists often advise avoidance of the sweetener, quoting unverified sources. For example, Dr. Janet Starr Hull, who has a doctorate in Nutrition, has an entire website dedicated to denouncing aspartame. She claims that aspartame safety news is a “business decision to discredit/discount the research results that aspartame DOES cause cancer, major nerve disorders, birth defects, and brain imbalances.” However, Dr. Hull also sells her own “aspartame detox kit,” as well as her own books - it seems she’s pulling a profit from aspartame fears as well.

Why It’s N’ICE To Be Gluten-and-Aspartame-Free

That’s not to say that the businesses that sell aspartame are necessarily good or evil, but it doesn’t appear to be a black-and-white issue. The good news is, with N’ICE products, you don’t have to worry about ingesting aspartame, because N’ICE lozenges are aspartame-and-gluten-free.

Gluten has been in the news lately - celebrities stay away from it to lose weight, but some people legitimately have gluten sensitivities - particularly those with celiac disease. When those with celiac disease ingest gluten, it can have a negative effect on their body; symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, brain fog, anemia, muscular disturbances, and joint or muscle pain. Some also have adverse skin reactions to gluten and develop rashes.  

Gluten and aspartame sound scary, but they can taste so good. Luckily, N’ICE has isomalt, a healthy sugar derivative, in its lozenges, so you don’t have to deal with a yucky, flat taste, when you are sick or feel a sore throat coming on. The lozenges are also safe to use for diabetics and come in a variety of flavors for a variety of people.