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healthy living

International Cold Remedies

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International Cold Remedies

"A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold" ~ Ogden Nash

This is a re-post from 2009, but since I'm sick again, here are some ideas of how families all over the world are trying to fight the cold.

Sore throat, stuffy nose, dizzy head, aching body - anyone here who hasn't had a cold before? Lucky you! There's a lot to be said about prevention, but unless you're a hermit on some tropical island - strike that. The cold virus is going to get you, sooner or later, no matter where you are, no matter how much echinacea you ingest, no matter how many disinfectant wipes you're using. And when it hits you, what do you do?

If you're in Germany, you might be offered hot milk with honey. This is a sweet and tasty drink that might soothe your throat at first, but the dairy will likely build up phlegm and mucus in your bronchi, so you decide between short term relief and long term, well, substantial coughing. I have also heard about the sweat-inducing properties of a bottle of warm beer, but you might not want to give that to your kids. If it's a tickly throat that's bothering you, you can also try wiggling your finger in your ear (something about connecting nerves) or cutting up an onion and leaving by your bedside while you sleep. Smelly, but effective. As are nasal lavages, or letting saline solution flow in one nostril and out the other with the help of e.g. a Neti Pot. Clears your sinuses right up; doesn't have the overall pore-opening effect of steam-inhalations with mint oil.

Mexicans like brewing a tea out of oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and lemon peel, adding honey for sweetness. In Colombia, on the other hand, you might be offered orange juice with honey and melted butter.

Canadians seem to favor the mustard compress (mustard powder and water on a cloth) on the chest to help free the airwaves. Their US-American neighbors gargle with salt water or drink hot teas made from various onion, garlic, chili, honey and lemon mixtures. Chemical remedies are also easily available in the land of the free.

Hot cold-remedying liquids in Japan are very likely to contain ginger, green onion, and green tea. The more adventurous prefer sake and an egg. In India, you'll find cardamoms, cloves, basil, pepper, caraway seeds and cinnamon in your chai, and you may be offered to suck on licorice, too.

One of my all-time favorite cold remedies must be the Hot Toddy. Enjoyed in Ireland, Great Britain, and anywhere you have people of Irish or British descent, take a shot of whisky, add hot water, drop in a lemon wedge spiked with whole cloves, add honey or sugar to taste, and down the good stuff as hot as you can before going to bed.

For more organic hot cold-remedying drinks ideas, check out Natural News or eHow.

That's the whole trick, isn't it. Liquids for hydration, vitamins (lemons, oranges, garlic, onion) for speedy cell renewal and extracting mucus, and good old-fashioned rest. Not too many alcoholic liquids, but you get the idea. My ex-boss in Spain used to say, "use the chemical hammer (cold medicine) and it'll last seven days, go to bed and sweat it out and you'll be rid of it in a week." I think I'm going to go for a mixture of the two to get rid of the latest bout of the sniffles I'm battling right now. :-)

Hope these lines find you fit and healthy, or have given you some ideas how soon to be healthy again. If symptoms persist, do see your doctor, and if you have a family recipe sure to cure the common cold, please post it below! Til next week, have a good one.

Image by Sammy JayJay, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


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Going... Going... Gone Vegan!

Back in February I watched some alarming videos about the food industry and how genetic engineering, portion sizes, and food processing have changed over the last few decades. This post is a follow-up to describe why we've taken the plunge and been fat-free non-processed vegan since March.

Let me state for the record that I grew up next to a dairy farm, and if I had to draw you a map of my favorite meaty dishes from all over Europe and the Americas, it would look like this: It is true, as a German, I have had my fair share of Schnitzel and Currywurst. And you can bet your sweet tooth that my weekend breakfasts in Scotland involved rashers, not to mention the odd bacon-butty with HP's brown sauce on the go if I was late for class. I don't remember eating much meat in London, but that's because I was poor and London was expensive. Not sure if there's an "economic vegetarian" to the list, but I digress.

Barcelona was a lot more about the sea food, like gambas al ajillo, dorada a la sal, or any variation including melt-in-your-mouth chicken thighs on paella - all of them doused in litres of olive oil. In the Canary Islands we had a barbecue at least once a month, and my mother-in-law is the Queen of Bistec - the thinly pounded, well oiled and begarlicked version of Schnitzel. The tacos in Mexico had perfectly seasoned carne asada machacada on them, and let's not even talk about the menudo.

Where was I?

Ah yes, trying to make a point that I do believe humans have teeth that can gnaw meat off a bone for a reason. I grew up as I'm sure many of you did having to drink the milk and eat the meat. In fact, when I told my parents I no longer do that, they started fearing for my health. Right after seriously questioning my sanity.

Plenty of meat-eaters live long, healthy, productive lives and never have any problems. Going vegan is a lifestyle choice (unless you have lactose intolerance or other allergies, of course) and just because there's plenty of evidence linking meat and dairy to serious health issues right now, doesn't mean science won't find something wrong with veganism eventually. After reading up on some of the most prevalent objections, however, I've decided it can't hurt.

In very simplified terms, we now get our protein needs filled from broccoli, brown rice, and other plant-based sources. Most vitamins are covered with fruit, vegetables, and salad: except B12, which you can get from fortified nutritional yeast. Those flakes taste great on pizza (instead of cheese) or over popcorn. To help the body absorb certain nutrients, we get our fats from olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds. As for variety, yeah, we repeat our favorite meals, but then again - that's what we did when they still contained meat as well.

Six weeks into the new diet, we had our blood chemistry checked by our physician: there were no deficiencies, and all areas like blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin were at optimum healthy levels.

I've been baking (something I didn't do before) and substituting butter with apple sauce. My favorite snack these days is a thick warm out of the oven slice of home-made bread with mile-high home-made hummus and a bunch of grapes.

Jack Canfield said, "99 % is a bitch, 100 % is a breeze" meaning it's easier to stick to something completely without making exceptions. The all-or-nothing approach worked best for me when I gave up cigarettes, and this time, too. Once we decided to go vegan, we finished the food we had in the house and then didn't buy any more chips, oil, or other processed, fat, meat or dairy-containing stuff. Having a cheesy pizza or tiramisu is simply no longer an option. We needed to re-read many labels to check for sneaky chemicals and dairy, but that's easily done.

The first few days I went through Coke Zero withdrawal headaches, but here's what makes it easier to stick to eating healthy: After about a week, you'll notice your digestion improving. I got compliments on my skin looking better after about a month. In other numbers, my husband lost 45 lbs in 3 months. I gained 4. This is where there may be a half a percent non-breezy: we found certified vegan dark chocolate and organic Sauvignon Blanc. What's a girl to do?

Yes, it is expensive to go to Whole Foods and buy organic, but since we no longer eat out and take our lunches to work, food expenses are the same as before. Food preparation takes a little more planning, but having one big cooking session with batches of grains or legumes done in a pressure cooker to then store them in the fridge or freezer until needed is easy-peasy. For recipe ideas, we use the Forks over Knives cookbook and

If you're considering going vegan but wondering if you could EVER live without ___ (fill in the blank), I say give it a try. Don't over-think it, just make the decision and see what happens. We walk past the stuff we used to by in the shops without a problem, not missing or craving anything.

Let's see how easy it will be to keep this up at the end of the year when we visit our families in Europe. I guess I'll be having more of the potatoes and sauerkraut in Germany, and a potaje de berros and grilled veggies in Spain. What do you think?

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Step 8 - Live healthily

I'm sorry folks, I just realised that the link back to the post I'm basing these steps on has somehow gotten messed up during the transition to this new blog. Should be back in working order now though! :-) What constitutes a healthy life? Does living healthily mean you have to give up all the fun? Are you aware of your body's needs?

Scientists have always been telling us what's good for us and what isn't. Admittedly, they've been proven wrong in the past, just think back to the days when smoking was considered unharmful and any type of fat was the slim body's enemy. However, right now they're saying things that seem to be born out of common sense more than having to please any sponsors.

For example, fruit and vegetables are good for you. Yes, the produce gets sprayed with pesticides and maybe those make their way into our bloodstream eventually, but there are more and more organic farms out there who will guarantee natural methods (now you only have to be able to afford it). Also, the daily steak should give way to more seafood in your diet. There is the issue of over-fishing in many seas and mercury levels in tuna that are high enough to discourage pregnant women and kids from eating too much of them, but information on safe amounts is available, e.g. . Other tips for healthy living include eating whole-grain versions instead of white bread, rice and pasta, adding reasonable amounts of healthy vegetable oils to your foods, drinking enough water every day and exercising on a regular basis. Last but not least, regular treats should be worked into the diet lest you feel deprived and devour the whole snacks and chocolate aisle at your local grocery store in a fit of the munchies.

I think we all agree that being overweight has become an important issue in our society. According to this article, it's the number one killer in the US, even though it's clearly preventable. The diet industry is worth I don't know how many billion dollars every year. How many people do you know whose new year's resolution it was to get fitter and lose a few pounds? Were you one of them? How committed are you, really, to making the necessary changes? We've been going on diets for ages, and still we hope for that one pill that'll make it all easier and melt away the pounds while we keep indulging in pizzas, junk food and rich desserts. Spending money on diet aids is a personal choice, but if you read the label, it'll most likely say "if combined with a balanced diet and exercise" or something similar. And you know what? It's probably that same balanced diet and exercise that'll be doing the pound-melting, not the pill.

Of course, being healthy doesn't all come down to your weight. I for one think that mental health is equally important, which is why I try to incorporate periods of study, reflection, meditation and tranquility into my life. Not always possible to do an hour of yoga, of course, but simple breathing exercises and remaining centered in the moment have been very helpful for me in stressful situations. What do you do to avoid emotional break-downs or fights?

At the end of the day, how you live your life is your choice. My two cents are, 1. get yourself informed about what it is you're putting into your bodies, because the effects food has on our systems are quite remarkable. "You are what you eat" has never been more true. There have been studies for awhile that link behavioural and mood issues to diet, especially in tantrum-prone children. Adult diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are other scary consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle. Note that I'm in no way advocating we all become Size 4 models, but yes, a healthy life to me is about feeling good, and that usually translates into looking good, too. And 2. find a balance, something that keeps you steady in the madness of it all. Meditation might work for you, or maybe you're more the kick-boxing type. Raised energy levels, higher self-esteem and a more optimistic outlook on life due to natural endorphins can all be results of walking briskly just about 20 minutes a day.

To sum up, there will always be ifs and buts no matter what you choose to eat. There will always be promises of magic cures that you may want to buy into, but you're more likely to achieve actual long-term satisfactory results by following a balanced diet combined with exercise. (Save the money for those pills and buy yourself a new outfit when you've shed the pounds the natural way.) And, there will always be scientists who may tell you something else tomorrow, so one of your best bets is to stay informed about what's going on. Making a change toward a healthy life might just be the most rewarding thing you do today, for yourself and the benefit of your loved ones.

Til next time! If you liked this post, please share it: add to Add to Blinkslist add to furl Digg it add to ma.gnolia Stumble It! add to simpy seed the vine TailRank post to facebook