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Monday, August 3, 2015

Allergic Skin Reactions

Allergic Skin Reactions: Home Remedies

The skin is the body’s largest organ. A number of things can trigger local skin inflammation, or dermatitis, in sensitive people. In contact dermatitis, the offending agents come into direct contact with the skin. Examples include poison ivy, nickel jewelry, sheep’s lanolin, topical antibiotics, and ingredients in detergents and body-care products. Radiation administered to cancer patients can also cause dermatitis.

Some people have eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, a condition that tends to run in families, along with hay fever and asthma. Affected patches of skin are red, itchy, scaly, and thickened, and in some cases oozing and crusty. Allergens that provoke the inflammation may be difficult or impossible to identify. Hives is another skin condition often caused by an allergic reaction. Red, raised itchy patches of skin appear suddenly and may disappear as quickly as they came. Caused by a release of histamine in response to an allergen, hives can be triggered by just about anything—food, sun, dust mites, stress, medication, and more.
Treatment for any of these conditions depends upon the underlying cause. If your watch’s nickel backing left a red, crusty patch on your wrist, you’ll need to replace it. If you’re allergic to the antibiotic you’re taking, you may need to switch medications and remember to never take that antibiotic again (as the reaction could be more severe next time around). If you’re allergic to bee venom and are stung, you’ll need an epinephrine injection. If you are prone to hives, a simple antihistamine can often calm the allergic reaction. If you have eczema, your doctor will probably advise switching to hypoallergenic personal care products and laundry detergent, keeping your skin hydrated, and prescription anti-inflammatory creams for flare-ups.
In ancient China, healers considered eczema “asthma of the skin,” as many who suffered skin outbreaks also suffered asthma. Allergies were treated through acupuncture, herbs, and most important, by modifying the diet to increase foods that cool the body (fresh fruits and vegetables and green tea) and to reduce foods that heat the body (pumpkin, squash, onion, garlic, chilies, and ginger). In India, healers saw dermatitis as a mild form of leprosy and balanced three treatments: reducing stress, abstaining from dairy and fish, and using massage to increase circulation. Many of these treatments are still in use today.
1 part olive oil
1 part flaxseed oil
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part apple cider vinegar
Preparation and Use: Combine all the ingredients in a dressing shaker and shake vigorously ten times. Pour over salad and toss. You may think that eating oil will cause your skin to break out; in fact, oil is an anti-inflammatory. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are especially effective in retarding inflammatory reactions in cells.
2 to 3 cups (160 to 240 g) regular or colloidal oats
Preparation and Use: If using regular oats, pour them into a food processor, coffee grinder, or blender and blend to a powder. This turns them into colloidal oats. Pour the oats into warm, running bathwater. Disperse oats with your hand. (Alternatively, pour the oats into a sock, bag, or bandana to contain the particles and help with clean-up and place the sock in the bathwater.) Climb in and soak for at least 15 minutes. (Avoid using soap, which only dries and further irritates the skin.) After leaving the bath, pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Oats have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Applied topically, oats moisturize the skin and decrease itching. The gooeyness you feel when you squeeze the sock is caused by the complex carbohydrates in the oats.
Note: You can make a large batch of colloidal oats and store in a tightly sealed jar or tin in a cool, dry place.
¼ cup (55 ml) Aloe Vera gel
¼ cup (60 ml) high-quality oil (olive, almond, coconut, apricot, or grapeseed)
12 drops German chamomile essential oil
Preparation and Use: In a clean bowl, whisk together the aloe gel and oil. Blend in the German chamomile oil. Immediately after bathing or showering, while your skin is still damp, apply a generous amount to your skin with clean fingers. Allow a couple of minutes for the moisturizer to absorb before getting dressed.
         Aloe Vera gel is anti-inflammatory, soothing, and hydrating. Lab studies indicate that aloe can promote healing and may reduce inflammation in eczema.
         German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has chemicals that reduce inflammation and allergies. More specifically, the flavonoids quercetin and apigenin inhibit the release of histamine from immune cells called mast cells. Lab studies indicate that it improves eczemalike skin conditions. Essential oil of chamomile looks blue, due to a potent anti-inflammatory chemical called chamazulene.
Note: Store leftover moisturizer in a clean, dry jar and throw it away after two weeks when it’s time for a fresh recipe.
1 tablespoon (5 g) colloidal oatmeal
1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
Drops of water, as needed
Preparation and Use: In a small bowl, stir together the colloidal oatmeal and baking soda until blended. Gradually add just enough water to form a paste. Apply to irritated areas with clean fingers. Once dry, rinse it off with warm water. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities in oatmeal relieve itching. Baking soda neutralizes the acids that promote itchy skin.
1 part calamine lotion
1 part Aloe Vera gel
Preparation and Use: Mix the lotion and aloe gel in a clean bowl. Apply to affected areas with clean fingers, cotton swabs, or cotton balls. Allow the mixture to dry and then rinse off. The zinc oxide and ferric oxide in calamine lotion are antipruritic, or anti-itch, agents. Aloe Vera gel feels cool and adds anti-inflammatory relief. This is an effective, time-honoured recipe for the rash caused by poison ivy and poison oak.
1 quart (946 ml) water (or more if you have lots of jewelweed)
Armful of jewelweed
Preparation and Use: Bring the water to a boil in a big pot. Turn off the heat. Put the jewelweed in the pot, cover it, and let it steep for at least 30 minutes. Pour the mixture (a deep brown tea) into a gallon jar or into ice cube trays and freeze. Rub on the poison ivy rash as soon as you experience the first signs of itching. Urushiol, an oily resin in the sap of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, causes an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to it. Jewelweed has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It acts on urushiol to relieve the itching and blisters and halt the spread of the rash.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a tall, stemmed plant with orange and yellow trumpet-shaped flowers, usually found growing wild near streams and in deep shade in the woods. My family keeps a batch of this handy during poison ivy season. (Jewelweed can sometimes be found at nurseries, but don’t confuse it with the shade-tolerant garden annual Impatiens walleriana, also known as “Busy Lizzy.” That one will not help your poison ivy.) ~ BHS
½ cup (120 ml) olive or vegetable oil
3 drops lavender essential oil
Preparation and Use: Before bedtime, warm the oil in a saucepan until it feels soothing to the touch. Apply to your scalp. Put an old cloth or towel over your pillow and sleep. In the morning, use a mild shampoo to wash away the remaining oil. This natural moisturizer soothes the affected scalp.
1 cup (235 ml) water
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried sage
Preparation and Use: In a small pot, bring the water to a boil and then pour into a cup. Add the dried sage, cover, and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain and allow to cool to room temperature. Apply to the affected area with a clean cloth.
Allow the skin to dry before getting dressed. Do not rinse off the sage mixture. In a 2011 study in Japan, researchers used sage and rosemary, among other herbal extracts, on dermatitis lesions on mice and found that repeated applications significantly healed the skin lesions.
Stress can aggravate eczema. Yes! To help counteract a breakout and increasing irritation, take a long walk, bike, or swim; do the Stress Less exercise (see page 119) in a quiet room; or meditate.
All chamomiles have the same healing properties. No! Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a different species and chemically distinct. Although it has benefits of its own, it lacks German chamomile’s anti-inflammatory impact.
For an extra jolt of good-for-you oils, never consume cod liver oil. It contains too much vitamin A for your system and can even cause a bleeding disorder. Instead, opt for other sources of healthy oils. Add walnuts and avocados to salad. Add hemp seeds to cereal and smoothies. Eat oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc.) at least once a week. Or take a daily EPA/DHA capsule.
Brew a fresh pot of coffee and take a handful of the wet grounds. Rubbing them on your hands will soothe them and relieve inflammation.
Consult with your family physician for stronger over-the-counter or prescription medications.
You develop a rash around your eyes, mouth, genitals, or over much of your body from poison ivy or poison oak.
Skin inflammation worsens or becomes infected, as evidenced by increased redness, heat, and pus.

Fever or other signs of more serious illness accompany skin inflammation.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Treatment of Acne

                     About the time girls and boys enter puberty, acne may strike. Acne (acne vulgaris) goes by many names: zits, blackheads, pimples, bumps, blemishes, and more. Adolescence marks a time of hormonal surges, including an abundance of male hormones from the adrenal gland. Among other actions, these hormones increase the skin’s oil production. If the pores to the oils glands become clogged, localized inflammation and infection—redness, swelling, and pus—can result.
                      In ancient Greece and Egypt civilisations, sulphur was used to treat acne. Abundantly available, sulphur was prepared by early alchemists in the form of a cream to improve conditions such as acne and other skin ailments.
1 green tea bag
Preparation and Use: Brew a cup or small bowl of green tea. Let cool to the touch. Apply to the affected area with a clean cloth. Tea is astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. It is found that a 2 percent green tea lotion reduced acne.
2 drops pure tea tree or lavender essential oil
1 teaspoon (5 g) Aloe Vera gel
Preparation and Use: Blend the tea tree essential oil with the aloe gel. Dot the mixture on blemishes using a cotton swab or clean finger. Tea tree and lavender are both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Lavender smells nicer and can be applied without dilution. Aloe Vera is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. In addition, it reduces discomfort and speeds healing. Topical applications of 5 percent tea tree oil gel have been proven as effective as benzoyl peroxide (Oxy-5) and other commercially available products.
½ cup (120 ml) Witch Hazel
½ cup (115 g) Aloe Vera gel
20 drops Lavender essential oil
Preparation and Use: Place the ingredients in a clean spray bottle and shake until combined. Mist over your face. This is a soothing and reviving elixir. Witch hazel extract, which you can find in most drugstores, is an astringent. It can be used alone to gently clean the skin. It also tones the skin and decreases inflammation. This mixture stays good for one week.
½ cup (120 ml) water
2 tablespoons (28 ml) Apple Cider Vinegar
Preparation and Use: Pour the water and vinegar into a small, clean bowl. Stir to combine. With a cotton swab or cotton ball, dab the diluted vinegar on each blemish. (Use one swab or ball per blemish to keep infection from spreading.) The application may briefly sting, but that should soon stop. Apply in nights for best results. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is an antiseptic and helps regulate skin acidity.
Warning: Because undiluted vinegar may irritate the skin, always start with a 1:8 dilution of vinegar to water (e.g., 2 tablespoons [28 ml] of vinegar to 1 cup [235 ml] of water) and build up to 1:4 and, if possible, to vinegar only.
¼ cup (60 g) plain yogurt
1 tablespoon (20 g) honey
2 strawberries
Preparation and Use: In a small bowl, blend the yogurt and honey. Mash the strawberries and fold into the yogurt mixture. Pull back your hair and wash your face with warm water. Use a cotton ball to spread the mask onto your face. Recline for 10 minutes while the fruit and milk acids do their work. Wash with cool water and pat dry with a clean towel. Yogurt contains lactic acid and strawberries contain several fruit acids, primarily citric acid. These acids help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Honey is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
Note: Alternatively, dab on straight honey, allow it to dry, and then rinse.
1 fresh pineapple
Preparation and Use: Slice away the sides of the pineapple, separating the fruit from the rind. Set the fruit aside in a bowl. Rub the inside of the rind on your face. Mash a single slice of pineapple and rub it onto your face. Let the pineapple juices work for about 15 minutes—while you enjoy eating the fruit. Wash your face and pat it dry with a clean towel. Repeat weekly as needed. Pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain and fruit acids (mainly citric acid), which gently exfoliate the skin, unblock pores, and dry excess skin oil. (A number of over-the-counter anti-acne products contain a type of fruit acid called alpha-hydroxyl acid.)
Warning: Do not apply pineapple to your skin if you’re allergic to it. If you develop any redness or irritation, stop.
½ cup (28 g) fresh dandelion greens
½ cup (10 g) arugula
½ cup (20 g) radicchio
½ cup (25 g) endive
½ cup (150 g) fresh or canned artichoke hearts
Preparation and Use: Tear the greens into bite-size pieces. Slice the artichoke hearts. Mix all the ingredients together in a salad. Add other favourite vegetables but avoid adding ingredients with sugars, which may cause skin flare-ups. Be creative with this natural cleanser by trying greens you’ve never used before. Bitter foods stimulate the liver, the organ that breaks down hormones and many other chemicals so they can more easily be cleared from the body.
1 quart (946 ml) water
1 tablespoon (2 g) crushed dried calendula (also called pot marigold) flowers
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried elderflowers
3 drops lavender essential oil
Preparation and Use: Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Put the calendula flowers and elderflowers in a large, heatproof bowl and add the water, covering the flowers. Add the lavender oil and stir to combine. Lower your head over the bowl and cover it completely with a towel. Allow the steam to work for 15 minutes or until it abates. Rinse your face with cool water. Calendula and elderflower have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Note: You’ll find dried herbal flowers in bulk at most health food stores. Also, although calendula (Calendula officinalis) also goes by the common name of pot marigold, it is not the same as marigold (Tagetes erecta, T. patula, and other species). This herbal remedy can also be used as a soothing facial anytime you need it.
Myth: Masturbation causes acne. It doesn’t. Neither does how much or how little sex you have. Another is that acne vanishes at the end of adolescence. Although that’s true for many people, blemishes continue for some people into middle age. Another myth is that poor hygiene causes acne. That belief can drive people to scrub their face repeatedly, which only further irritates the skin.
Popping a pimple will help it heal. Hands off! Pimple popping makes the blemish look worse and can leave a scar.
Fact: Exercise is good for your skin. Yes! It improves circulation, making your skin healthy and vibrant. Rinse your face immediately after strenuous exercise because the salt and bacterial build-up can cause an outbreak if not washed away.
Eat whole grains, whole fruits, vegetables, and legumes—all complex carbohydrates that create a relatively slow, steady rise in blood sugar. Studies show eating foods that quickly elevate blood sugar (white bread, pasta, white rice, juices, and sweetened foods and beverages) increases acne. It is found that a low-glycaemic diet, which better controlled blood sugar, improved acne.
1.     Check your stress level. Severe acne is associated with psychological stress, though it’s hard to distinguish chicken from egg because acne can generate distress. It is known, however, and that taking medicine derived from the stress hormone cortisol (e.g., cortisone and prednisone) can trigger acne.
2.     Most doctors say diet has little bearing on acne. A few studies and anecdotal reports, however, link pimples with drinking milk and eating fried foods, potato chips, and sweets. To that reason, we recommend you eliminate junk foods, minimize dairy, and emphasize vegetables, fruits, and fish. Stick to lean cuts of poultry and meat. Notice whether a more wholesome diet improves your complexion.
3.     If you’re a woman, you might like to know that some studies show that extracts of chaste tree berries reduce premenstrual acne. You can find herbal extracts at natural food stores.

If the above gentle treatments don’t work, see your doctor.

Treating Sleep Disorder

How to deal with Sleep Disorder?

Most people don’t recognize the potential adverse effects on personal health and public safety. They struggle through the day, unaware that sleeping more might erase their persistent fatigue and malaise. It doesn’t help that relatively few doctors ask their patients about the quality and quantity of their sleep.
Many people also cling to the myth that they can train themselves to get by on less sleep or to work at night and sleep by day. Not so. The brain tightly orchestrates our sleep-wake cycle, as well as other daily, or circadian, rhythms. Humans are diurnal. Light syncs our nervous and hormonal systems. Few of us can fully adapt to working the night shift. The perils of sleep deprivation are serious and include the following:
1.                Excessive daytime sleepiness (your main warning sign you’re not getting enough sleep)
2.                Impaired mental function—spotty attention, concentration, memory, and alertness
3.                Impaired physical function—clumsiness, diminished reaction times, and diminished agility
4.                Accidents—due to impaired mental and physical function and falling asleep during a task
5.                Inability to deal with stress and a sleep deprivation- induced rise in stress hormones
6.                More pain, including tension headaches
7.                More inflammation, which can aggravate inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and arthritis
8.                Flagging social skills
9.                Irritability
10.          Increased risk of work burnout, depression, and anxiety
11.          Reduced alcohol tolerance (plus, sleep deprivation can impair your skills on par with alcohol intoxication)
12.          Weight gain (due to hormonal shifts and changes in behaviour)
13.          Poor blood sugar control; increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
14.          Diminished quality of life what can you do to feel more rested?
Make sure you allow plenty of time to sleep. Keep in mind that it often takes 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep. If you need 8 hours of sleep to feel good, allow yourself at least 8.5 hours in bed. Otherwise adopt what’s known as good “sleep hygiene.” This sort of housekeeping entails the following practices:
a.                      Establish regular hours to go to bed and wake up—seven days a week.
b.                     Keep naptimes short (no more than 30 minutes) and limit them to once a day.
c.                      Exercise daily, but avoid vigorous late-night exercise (stretching is fine).
d.                     Eat a light dinner, but consider a bedtime snack if you notice low blood sugar jolts you awake in the night.
e.                      Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and stop drinking entirely within a few hours of bedtime. (Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but disrupts sleep later in the night.)
f.                       Skip caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. (It takes an average of five hours to clear half of the caffeine from the blood.)
g.                     Nix the nicotine. (It’s a central nervous system stimulant.)
h.                     Use your bed only for sleep and sex (no working, bill-paying, or arguing).
i.                       Create a cosy sleep environment—quiet room, comfortable mattress, good pillows, enough covers to keep you warm but not sweaty, shades to block street lights and dark cloths over digital clocks, charging electronic devices, LED lights.
j.                       Establish a soothing bedtime routine (a warm bath, candlelight, music, pleasure reading, stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, or prayer).

If you feel irresistibly sleepy during the day, close your eyes. Research shows that power naps improve productivity. If you can’t, exercise briefly. A brisk walk outdoors can temporarily refresh you. Inhale a plant essential oil that’s associated with brain alertness, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, or rosemary. Caffeine definitely increases alertness. Choose beverages that naturally contain caffeine (green tea, black tea, or coffee), rather than sodas or energy drinks. To avoid insomnia, resist consuming them in the late afternoon or evening and also refrain from adding sugar to them. More sensitive people have to curtail caffeine intake after lunch.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Remedies for stress overload

Some tips for restoring your equanimity:

Stress overload fuels most of diseases afflicting modern humans. Even children and teens aren’t immune. A stressor is anything that activates a person’s stress response.
1.                Make a list of what’s going right.
2.                Write down three sources of stress you’re able and willing to change.
3.                Identify ways you have reasonable control over those situations. If the commute to work makes you feel hassled, would you feel more relaxed on public transportation? What if you left earlier or later? Can you work at home some days?
4.                Check in with your thoughts. Are they contributing needlessly to your sense of stress? How can you put a positive, but realistic, spin on them? If the inner chatter sounds like, “I’m so stressed. I can’t handle this. I’m freaking out,” stop. Try, “I have a lot to do. It will take time, but I can do it. Right now, I’m going to do this one task.”
5.                Exercise every day. Physical activity is a great way to let off steam. Solutions that eluded you at work or home may suddenly become clear.
6.                Learn to say no. For some of us that’s not easy. You may need to figure out why you feel so responsible. Give someone else a chance to rise to the occasion.
7.                Schedule time to unwind and to play. That’s not the same as television time. Learn to relax and enjoy yourself. You’ll be a better person for it. Sleep eight hours a night. If you don’t, you’ll add to your stress load. See the next chapter for tips.
8.                Treat yourself. Get a massage, practice yoga, take a dance class, and soak in a hot tub. If co-workers, friends, or others try to schedule things during those times, tell them you have an appointment.
9.                Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation activates the stress response.
10.          Eat a whole-foods diet. Junk food activates the stress response. Take time to leisurely prepare and savour a meal. Put flowers on the dinner table. Notice how much better this approach feels than gobbling a sandwich in the car or at your desk.
11.          Seek social support. Hug someone. When you do, you release an antistress, bonding hormone called oxytocin.
12.          Spend time in nature. You needn’t drive to a national park. City gardens and parks do just fine. Put a plant on your desk. Watch trees, birds, and squirrels outside your window. Gaze at the stars. Jump in a pile of leaves. Make a snow angel. Natural environments reduce stress and enhance overall well-being. Ready access to green spaces can buffer the negative health effects of stressful life events.
13.          Pet a friendly animal. Science shows it reduces stress.
14.          Manipulate your senses. Soften the lighting. Listen to soothing music. Wear fabrics that comfort you. Surround yourself with peaceful colors—green, blue, and pink. Infuse the air with calming plant essential oils (lavender, orange, jasmine, or any other scent that makes you feel relaxed and happy).
15.          Learn to meditate. Try mindfulness meditation (paying attention to the present moment) and recitation of a mantra (a repeated sound). Numerous studies show that regular meditation reduces perceptions of stress, decreases stress hormones, reduces the risk of many stress related diseases, and helps people become less reactive to potential stressors. You’ll find short meditation exercises throughout the book.
16.          Breathe. Slow, deep breathing immediately turns up your parasympathetic nervous system and dials down the sympathetic nervous system. Even though the autonomic nervous system is also called the involuntary nervous system, you do have some control over it.

17.          Stay optimistic. Believe that things will improve. Make that possible.

Effects of chronic stress

We often reward a harried, overworked lifestyle and regard the low-grade, chronic stress that comes with it as normal, even admirable. The truth is, however, that chronic stress overload can shorten your life and ruin your health. It strains every organ system, contributing to many diseases and aggravating others. It reveals the vulnerabilities to diseases. (Stress finds your Achilles’ heel.) Coping with stress in maladaptive ways, such as skipping meals, abusing alcohol, and becoming a workaholic, accelerates the
downward spiral.
Here’s an incomplete list of the potential downsides of chronic stress:
1.                Increased appetite (more people overeat than undereat when stressed), with a tendency to select sugary, fatty food
2.                Weight gain (preferential deposition of fat in the abdomen, which raises the risk of a number of diseases)
3.                Increased inflammation
4.                Depressed immune function (often manifesting as more colds and faster progression of hiv infection)
5.                Insomnia (which further drives up stress hormones)
6.                Irritability, moodiness, and, eventually, apathy
7.                Impaired learning, concentration, and memory
8.                Increased sensitivity to pain fatigue
9.                Dampened libido (sex drive), impaired erectile function, lower sperm counts, and irregular menstrual cycles
10.          Increased risk or aggravation of chronic diseases
11.          High blood pressure
12.          Heart disease
13.          Diabetes
14.          Metabolic syndrome (a constellation of signs indicating risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes)
15.          Peptic ulcers (stress contributes but doesn’t directly cause them)
16.          Irritable bowel syndrome
17.          Gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn)
18.          Anxiety
19.          Depression

20.          Allergic and autoimmune condition (stress contributes to inappropriate immune system responses)