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In a recent New York Times article, a woman who was suffering from painfully dry sinuses thought “that’s gross” when recommended the use of a neti pot by her acupuncturist.

“I went out and bought a pretty little ceramic neti pot from Whole Foods,” she said. “I’ve used it every day since. Now, I can breathe again. It’s even gotten rid of the bags under my eyes.”

So, it must be official now.  Because not only are they writing it about it in the New York Times, but it was on Oprah!

Read the full article, titled Short, Stout, Has a Handle on Colds here, and my recent post here.

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Cold season is here!neti pot

I’m finally getting over a cold where the main symptoms are tiredness and foggy-head during the day, and congestion right when I get up.  Lots of gunk in my sinuses.

Neti pot to the rescue!

This is simply a pot that comes from the Ayurvedic medicine tradition, which facilitates nasal irrigation.  I first learned about it from my yoga teacher, who said she no longer has allergies after she used her neti pot every day for an year.  I don’t have allergies, so I use when I have a cold.

You pour warm (body-temperature) saline (salty) water from one nostril to the other, and the result is a nice cleansed feeling.  At least, that’s my experience.  OK, it does feel strange and there is the fear of the “drowning” feeling, but the first time I tried this, it was pretty easy to learn how to do it, and I felt GREAT afterward.

Look at a how-to-use video here.  I use sea salt.  And find that if the water is just a little too cold or hot, or if there’s not enough salt, it really stings.  So go ahead and adjust right away.  It SHOULD NOT sting at all.

So, try this natural and less expensive alternative to nasal congestion relief.  And also consider it as a general wellness tool; use before and after you take a airplane trip, or after you’ve been at a party where other guests have colds.

You can buy a version at Walgreen’s; I think they call it a nasal irrigation tool.  I like the prettier version (photo above), which is also not made of plastic.  You can buy online.

LOVE YOUR TOES! 

I say this to my clients and students often.  Why? Because our feet work so hard for us, and are often neglected, as so much swirls around our heads.  Love your toes and ground yourself.

If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your mind’s racing, spend some time rubbing, squeezing and massaging your toes and feet before you go to sleep.  Do this yourself, or ask your partner to do this for you.  Even a few minutes will feel wonderful.

I haven’t liked my toes or my feet much; my feet are flat and not cute in the dance shoes that I wish I could wear.  But that changed with yoga.  Now I spend a lot of time looking at my toes, and they’re kind of cute! 

So, one way I love my toes is to dress them up once in a while with nail polish.  But I’ve been reluctant to do this too much because the nail polish and nail polish removers are gross.  They smell like chemicals and unhealthy.  Forget about going into a nail salon! 

I finally did something about this. 

Yesterday, I bought non-toxic biodegradable nailpolish remover ($9.99) and a water-based nail polish–desert sunset color ($8.99) from Sun Coat.  (Bought at Real Food Co. in San Francisco, on Polk Street.)  No chemical solvents such as toluene, acetates and alcohol; no pthalates; no formaldehyde.  And no smell!  The conventional nail polish I had on my toenails came off well.  I’ll say it again, No Smell!  I’ll paint my nails again later and will report back.  (My friend told me about another line of healthier nail polish: No Miss Nail Polish.)

PS: Back to a busy mind.  One way to deal with this is to turn it upside down.  Try legs-up-the-wall yoga pose.

You may wonder why I’m talking about paints in this blog, but since it’s dedicated to Everyday Wellness, and healthy and sustainable living, I think you’ll find this post is on-topic. Read on!

“Your breath is your friend.”

My clients and students hear this from me…often. I encourage them to pay attention to their breath, and make the intention of taking deep breaths as they practice self-acupressure or spend a few minutes to do an acupressure mini-meditation.

However, if the air you’re breathing is unhealthy, your breath is not your friend. That’s what I found a few days ago while helping my parents repaint their small apartment. A few hours after painting the ceiling, the paint smell started to get to me and I was starting to feel bad; I was worried about not being able to sleep in the apartment. Because the apartment is high up and it was windy, it wasn’t an option to sleep with the window open. We worked out that I could sleep in the bedroom that hadn’t been painted; fortunately, I felt fine in the morning.

The good news is that the day before, I also had the first-hand experience of a healthier paint option: a low odor, low VOC paint. GreenHomeGuide.com explains why this is healthier:

Levels of many common organic pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than they are outside, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most of these pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from paints, finishes, and other materials. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and perhaps even cancer. Given all that, it makes sense to limit exposure by choosing low- or no-VOC paints—especially in the bedroom, where we spend about one-third of each day.

So, the day before we painted the ceiling with “regular” paint, we used Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec low odor, low VOC paint for the walls. I’m a novice painter, so I can’t compare to other paints, but it was easy to apply two coats with a roller. The color was Simply White. (Unfortunately, the Eco Spec paint we wanted for the ceiling wasn’t available.)

That day and night, I barely noticed any odor and felt no discomfort, and slept in the room that had been painted. It really felt like a “healthy” option, especially for such a small space.

Here’s to beautiful living spaces that are also healthy, long-term.

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

It’s flu season, and there’s nothing like all the news about the flu outbreak in the San Quentin Prison this past week to motivate me to wash my hands. Often. And thoroughly.

This seems like such a small thing, but the when it comes down to it, a lot of Everday Wellness is about the basic everyday things we do. Wash our hands. Brush our teeth. Eat healthy foods. Laugh with friends. Take a walk–get some exercise.

happy handsSo, back to happy hands. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effective hand-washing involves washing your hands in warm water with soap by rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds. How long is that? Imagine singing–or actually sing out loud–“Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend. (Read more: CDC Clean Hands Campaign)

There’s a lot of talk about the pros and cons of anti-bacterial soap and anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. My personal recommendation is to use anti-bacterial hand sanitizers only when water and soap aren’t available, and to prefer thorough hand-washing with regular soap, rather than use anti-bacterial soaps. (Ideal Bite has tips on soaps and hand-sanitizers that offer more info.  ADDED 1/16/07: Here’s more on planet-friendly hand sanitizers.)

And if you need another reason to take the full 20 seconds to wash your hands, think of it as a 20-second acupressure massage. There are many acupressure points on your hand, so give an extra squeeze on each finger while you wash away unwelcome germs.

I have been p a t i e n t l y waiting for my shipment of dried dates. I called The Date People in August, to get on their list. I called in September. In October. In November. And today, ahhh, sweet bliss.

halawi datesAnd the sweetness is key, because I’ve been craving something sweet during this sugar-saturated social season. I’ve been following my friend Mary’s holiday-sweets strategy of keeping a mental list of all the tempting holiday goodies I haven’t indulged in, in anticipation of these wonderful dates: sun-filled packages of natural sweetness and nutrition.

These particular dates that landed at my door today, are from The Date People, who grow 300 trees on six acres in southern California, not far from the Mexico border. Sustainably and veganically grown according to their informative newsletter, which you can see on their website: www.datepeople.net. (760)359-3211

By the way, my 15 lb box of halawi dates cost only $41.50, plus shipping! (Pricing info is in their newsletter; last page. ) I repackage the dates into ziplock baggies (about 1 lb each) and freeze them. Do you have recipes using dates to share?

stayinghealthy.jpgSince I’ve been writing about seasonality, and we’re heading into the deep-dark-madness of the (artificially-created) “holiday” season, let’s talk about Staying Healthy with the Seasons. This classic integrative medicine nutrition/wellness book by Dr. Elson Haas gives a wonderful introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and to related nutrition and mind/body-balancing concepts.

A chapter on each season describes the related TCM Element, meridians (energy channels,) organ function from allopathic as well as Chinese medicine perspective, nutrition information, recipes… For example, on December 21, the winter season begins. In TCM, it’s the season of the Water Element and its associated Kidney and Bladder organs and energy meridians. The life force is store in the Kidney’s according to Chinese medicine; the Bladder energy channel runs from the head down the middle of the back, on both sides of the spine, down the legs and out through the pinky toe.

In winter, it’s easier to be less active and quiet. And it’s easy to get run down with over-activity from the demands of the holidays. Try to work in some stretches to keep your back supple; the keep your Bladder energy channel flowing. Simple twists. Cat-stretches.

One caveat about this book is that Dr. Haas is a strong proponent of cleansing diets. I did the Master Cleanse that he recommends, in the Spring, which is also Nature’s time of cleansing. It was a great experience (I did it for 6 days,) but I think it’s important for each person to decide what works for her/him. Also, Dr. Haas recommends the Master Cleanse at other times of year, but I would caution against doing such a fast during a cold season. Your caloric intake is lower than normal and it can be difficult to stay warm. At least, this was my experience.

Otherwise, I recommend this as an excellent resource book. And an excellent holiday gift; one that will continue to give throughout the year and over the years! Staying Healthy with the Seasons, by Elson M. Haas, M.D. (1981, Celestial Arts)