Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Benefits of Taking Biotin

Written by a contributing writer

The Benefits of Taking Biotin

If you’ve taken the time to stroll through your local health and wellness store, or browsed through supplements online, you’ve likely come across biotin. This vitamin, also known as B7, is not only popular among health enthusiasts, but by biotin benefits are often touted by beauty professionals as well. That’s because this vitamin, naturally occurring in foods such as bananas, milk, and eggs, is known to have many benefits for your body, inside and out.

Beauty Benefits

1. Healthier Hair

Finding clumps of hair on your brush or on the shower floor is not typically something that is taken lightly by most. While breakage and hair loss can occur for many reasons such as stress, thyroid issues, genetics, menopause, childbirth, pregnancy, or fluctuation of hormones levels, low levels of biotin have also been linked to it. If this is the underlying cause for your shedding strands, biotin for hair may be just what you need. Because it promotes the production of the protein, keratin, you can look forward to increasing the chances of retaining, restoring, or even improving hair strength and thickness by adding this B vitamin to your diet.

2. Clearer Skin

Cradle cap, or seborrheic dermatitis, can be a challenging and unsightly skin condition to combat. Putting your best face forward can be difficult when insecurities arise from red rashes that can form as a result of a biotin deficiency. Because biotin deficiency is known to cause scaly rashes, rebalancing those levels with a supplement can help clear up skin issues with underlying biotin-linked causes. Biotin is also known to help other dermatological ailments such as dry skin, fungal infections, and acne.

3. Stronger Nails

Another symptom of a biotin deficiency is dry, brittle nails. Since nails also require the protein, keratin, in order to grow healthy and strong, it should be no surprise that a deficiency can wreak havoc on your hands. By maintaining biotin levels with supplements, nails can stay strong and resistant to splitting and chipping.

Health Benefits

1. Controlled Blood Sugar for Diabetics

Type 2 diabetes is widespread in the country. For the millions of people in the country suffering from this disease, learning various ways to alleviate the symptoms can be life-changing. When used in conjunction with chromium supplements, studies have suggested that biotin can help keep blood sugar levels at bay.

2. Improved Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the female body changes dramatically. One of the known changes is an increased breakdown of biotin in the body which can affect the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Because biotin deficiency has been linked to birth defects and problems with the well-being of mothers, it is worth discussing with a healthcare professional if you are pregnant or nursing. Since changes in biotin levels are seen in nearly half of pregnant women, it is considered a noteworthy issue for many.

3. Other Health Benefits

Even if you are taking biotin primarily for beauty benefits, you may be surprised to learn how this B7 is also used for a variety of physical and mental health conditions. Biotin has been linked to treatments for glucose intolerance, macronutrient metabolism, heart disease, adrenal fatigue, cognitive decline, thyroid imbalance, and muscle inflammation.

How to Take It

Many people have peace of mind knowing that biotin is a naturally-occurring vitamin found in many everyday foods. These foods include whole grains, cauliflower, raspberries, cheese, liver, eggs, avocado, and other healthy choices. However, depending on factors such as your age and nutritional needs, your recommended daily dose of biotin will vary. Even though some may worry about not having access to all food sources, have difficulty accurately estimating the proper dosage, or have aversions to certain ingredients, biotin is available in many topical and oral forms, including easy-to-use capsules that can fit your lifestyle.

Unique Ways To Gift a Leather Bracelet

Written by a contributing writer

Forget the traditional way of giving jewelry. Gift giving is an art, and choosing the gift is just half the fun. Delight your loved ones by giving them personalized leather bracelets in unique ways. Here are four fun ways to think outside of the box the next time you gift a bracelet.

Unique Packaging

Whoever said packaging doesn’t matter has yet to experience the delight of opening a uniquely packaged gift. Surprise your loved one by hiding the bracelet in a box wrapped in old newspapers or magazines. He or she is sure to admire the unconventional — and environmentally friendly — wrapping paper. Expired calendars also make beautiful and sturdy gift paper, so hold on to these at the end of the year. Creative packaging adds an extra pinch of joy to an already lovely surprise.

Unpredictable Timing

On special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, people are used to receiving their presents at the same time. Break the pattern and surprise them by presenting them with their bracelets unexpectedly. For example, instead of waiting for the birthday party, gift the bracelet before the event. Your loved one is sure to appreciate the spontaneity.

Hide and Seek

Scavenger hunts aren’t just for kids! Whether the present is for a child or an adult, sprinkle more fun on the moment by hiding his or her present. Or you might want to let the recipient stumble upon the gift during his or her day-to-day routine. Leave the bracelet in plain sight with a note attached and anticipate sounds of glee from your loved one.

A Surprise Within a Surprise

One gift is better than two. Leather bracelets are the perfect size for hiding within larger gifts. Sneak the bracelet into a pocket of a new jacket or hide it in a decorative jar filled with candy and gift paper.
Pick any of these endearing methods and relish in the gift delivery experience. You and your loved ones will remember these moments for years to come.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Good Things that Came Out of My Gastritis

 (My first gastritis post can be found here. Gastritis hacks post can be found here.)

If you know me personally, you may know that I am one to always try to find the silver lining in things. Does that mean that I never complain? No. Does that mean that I never have rough spots in life where I am down? No. But when all is said and done I tried to find the good in every situation.

Although it sounds pretty simple and isn't at all life-threatening, gastritis was one of those rough patches that was really hard for me. I physically just felt bad. Not sick. But bad. Getting the diagnosis and figuring out what exactly was wrong with me was hard enough. But not being able to eat and feeling weak and short of breath all the time was awful. Especially as I was trying to continue on with my daily life and take care of my son.

But! Now that I am I on the other side of the hump, I can see that there are a few good things that have come out of my gastritis.

1. I am actually aware of what I am eating and putting into my body.

Before I was diagnosed with gastritis, I never looked at the ingredients in food items. I was super careful about looking at ingredients on skin care items, but as far as what I was eating... If it looked good, I ate it without thinking twice. I've been very lucky that I don't really have any severe food allergies. So I never HAD to check ingredients before even though I probably should have.

Having gastritis means following the gastritis diet. And I followed it very strictly in the beginning. (It's only recently that I've been able to veer away from that strict diet now and then.) So that meant looking at the ingredients and making sure there was no dairy or anything acidic hidden in the food that I was about to consume. I also learned that dairy products and citric acid are two very common ingredients and in things you wouldn't ever expect.

I seem to have gotten used to looking at the ingredients of everything I eat because now I do it without thinking.

2. My diet is comprised of more fruits and vegetables.

Although I've always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, my diet before gastritis was heavy in dairy and carbs. Once I learned I had to cut dairy out of my diet, I knew I had to fill it with something else. At first, I ate mainly carbs because that's all my body could digest. But that left me feeling yuck most of the time. I slowly began filling the space dairy left behind with bananas, watermelon, sweet potatoes, green beans, and Brussel sprouts. Because there wasn't much choice in the matter, and this is how I had to eat to feel okay, it became a habit. And now my diet is still mostly fruits and vegetables.

3. I kicked my caffeine addiction. For the second time.

Caffeine is a big No-No when it comes to gastritis. And this was one of the things that I was so upset about cutting out of my daily life. I was knowingly addicted to caffeine. To the point that when we go to the store to buy hurricane supplies, I make sure to buy plenty of instant coffee so that I can still have coffee even if the power goes out. (And so I won't have to go through caffeine withdrawal during a hurricane.)

I had kicked my caffeine habit in my early twenties. And I remember the withdrawal being horrendous. But then I started working at an accounting company during tax season and my caffeine addiction was reignited. I had come to terms with the fact that I would probably be addicted to caffeine for the rest of my life. Because I just didn't want to go through that withdrawal again. But, again, I didn't have much of a choice. After all, I choose feeling like I can breathe over drinking caffeine. I was able to wean myself off of caffeine this time so that my withdrawal wasn't as bad. And now I no longer need to make sure I have a cup of coffee in the morning to survive.

4. I'm a tad better about getting enough sleep.

I am an insomniac. A night owl. I always have been. I like to stay up late and I'm not a fan of waking up early. Because I had to kick my caffeine addiction, I could no longer use those cups of coffee as a crutch to get me through the day due to my lack of sleep. I now had to either get through the day feeling every bit of that exhaustion or be a bit more responsible when it came to making sure my body had enough rest. Sometimes that meant going to bed earlier. And sometimes that meant choosing to take a nap over completing a task. It forced me to listen to my body and put my body's health first. Which, if you live in the United States, isn't usually the priority that we are taught. Work is usually the priority, not health.

Now that doesn't mean that I walk around fully rested all day every day. I'm still a night owl. I'm still an insomniac. I still have nights when I just can't fall asleep. But now instead of pouring myself a third or fourth cup of coffee, I lay down during the day (even if for just a few minutes) or make an effort to go to bed a little bit earlier.

5. I have a healthier relationship with food.

I have always been the girl that doesn't hold back when it comes to eating. Yes, I'll have dessert. Yes, I want some of those loaded cheese fries. Yes, I'll order the hamburger and milkshake. But the problem wasn't that I often chose junk food when out or at an event. It's okay to indulge from time to time. It was that in my head the food MADE the event. So if an event didn't have good food, to me the event wasn't great.

Anytime there is any kind of special event, whether it was a birthday or graduation or a big family party or a gathering with friends, I was most excited about the food aspect. And that's not a very healthy mindset. Food can be a highlight of an event. But it shouldn't always be THE highlight of an event.

Having gastritis meant, for me, that now food was just there to give me nutrients when I was hungry.  And to also keep hunger away so it didn't trigger a migraine. There were a lot of things that I couldn't indulge in. And making something that I could indulge in took so much time, effort, and preparation that it often times wasn't worth it. So food stopped being the star of every event. And started being what it should have always been, a way for my body to get nutrients.

6. I stopped overusing NSAIDs.

I've had migraine since my teens. And before Imitrex was commonly prescribed, the only relief I got was from NSAIDs- Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin. I know I overused both of those medications. Because when you have a migraine, relief cannot come soon enough.

My doctor and I believe this is how my gastritis came about...Years and years of regularly using ibuprofen and aspirin. During the last several years I used BC powder. Which is basically ground up aspirin and caffeine. It's effective but horrible for your stomach. And I often took it on an empty stomach or with coffee (which is very acidic). And though I always waited four to six hours before taking my next dose. I know that I was taking more aspirin than the typical person since I got migraines multiple times a week. And headaches almost every single day.

But now my stomach can no longer tolerate aspirin or ibuprofen. I did find the source of why my migraines were so frequent and so bad (it was my birth control). I'd discontinued the use of that birth control right before my gastritis even really started. So I no longer get headaches every day and my migraines are much less frequent. But I still get them. And when I do, I take the medication that was prescribed to me instead of trying to treat it myself first with NSAIDs.

7. I drink much more water.

I basically can't really drink anything else regularly. Soda, most teas, most fruit juices, and coffee are out - at least when it comes to daily/regular consumption. So that leaves me with water. I also drink more water because filling my stomach with it can dilute the stomach acid and thus relieve any irritation that my own stomach acid is causing to me.  So now I almost always carry a water bottle with me and I am rarely dehydrated.

I know how absolutely draining and disheartening everything can feel at the first onset of chronic gastritis. But it DOES get better. And you will figure out a new normal that isn't just oatmeal and bananas. It will take time, but you'll get there. It helps to try to find the positives. So here are some of mine. And once you too are past those rough beginning stages, maybe you'll be able to tell me the good that came from your gastritis as well. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Sweet Way to Make Even the Most Ordinary Day Special

Written by a contributing writer 

When you want to start the day with a feeling that life is just a little bit spectacular, one of the most delicious ways to do that is by enjoying treats like the fine pastries Schaumburg has to offer or pastries from your favorite local bakery. There's nothing quite as lovely as starting the day, whether before work at a cafe or at home with loved ones, with a delicious sip of coffee followed by a bite of one of your favorite flaky pastries.

Baked Goods Make The Day Good

As the saying goes, the way to a loved one's heart is through their stomach, which is why wonderful pastries are always a great surprise gift idea. It's been shown that offices that bring surprise gifts of appreciation to their employees, like a tray of bagels and cream cheese or a plate of scrumptious bear claws and frosted cinnamon danishes, create an amazing loyalty in their employees. Bringing in an assortment of pastries for that last minute office meeting will make the conference that much more enjoyable, due to the good feelings a gift of tasty goodies is sure to bring on.

Keep It Fresh

If you are planning to surprise the gang with an assortment of tasty items from your favorite bakery, be sure to pick them up on the way so everything is fresh. Though day old pastries can still be delicious, the truth is that nothing really beats the taste of a croissant that's come straight from the oven and into that pink pastry box. The incredible flavor of a fresh almond croissant will make all the difference when it comes time to close that deal at the end of the meeting. Baked goods will also light up a lot of smiles when out of town guests come to stay in your home. Treat everyone to a wonderful breakfast of fresh pastries, and watch them light up with smiles that just won't stop.