Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Day To My American Friends

Thanksgiving Day traditionally kicks off the 'holiday season' in the United States. It is often regarded as the Day of the Turkey
                                                           Roasted Turkey
The day was set in stone by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941. FDR changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (because there are sometimes five Thursdays in the month).
While Britons think of it as a warm-up for the Yuletide period, many Americans think it of it as just as important as Christmas
In fact, more people in the US celebrate Thanksgiving than do Christmas. Thanksgiving Day is secular holiday in a country that officially separates church and state so this probably makes sense.

What is the history of Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the religious refugees from England known popularly as the Pilgrims invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season.
                    The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899)
The previous year's harvests had failed and in the winter of 1620 half of the pilgrims had starved to death.
Luckily for the rest, members of the local Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, beans and squash (the Three Sisters); catch fish, and collect seafood.

So why do Americans eat Turkey on Thanksgiving Day?

There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving, but it's clear that Turkey was not on the menu. The three-day feast included goose, lobster, cod and deer.
Pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote a letter about that now-famous meal in 1621 which mentioned a turkey hunt before the dinner.
Another theory says the choice of turkey was inspired by Queen Elizabeth I who was eating dinner when she heard that Spanish ships had sunk on their way to attack England.
Queenie was so thrilled with the news she ordered another goose be served. Some claim early US settlers roasted turkeys as they were inspired by her actions.
Others say that as wild turkeys are native to North America, they were a natural choice for early settlers.

Who set the date of Thanksgiving Day?

'The National Thanksgiving Proclamation' was the first formal proclamation of Thanksgiving in America. The first President of the United States George Washington made this proclamation on October 3, 1789.
Then in 1846, author Sarah Josepha Hale waged a one-woman campaign for Thanksgiving to be recognised as a truly national holiday.

Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale conspired to fix Thankgiving Day across the US
In the US the day had previously been celebrated only in New England and was largely unknown in the American South. All the other states scheduled their own Thanksgiving holidays at different times, some as early as October and others as late as January.
Hale's advocacy for the national holiday lasted 17 years and four presidencies before the letter she wrote to Lincoln was successful. In 1863 at the height of the Civil War he supported legislation which established a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
Lincoln perhaps wanted the date to tie in with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620. Although we now use the Gregorian calendar. In 1621 the date would have been November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar.
So Hale finally got her wish. She is perhaps now better known, though, for writing the nursery rhyme 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
So on thanksgiving day, three things happen across the United States - 
1.     Presidential Turkey Pardon
Go in peace (not in pieces): President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey during the 68th annual presentation of the turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House
2.     Football

3.     The Annual Macy's Parade

So, here's wishing all Americans a Happy Thanksgiving Day and a healthy appetite to enjoy the turkey meal

Original Article:    American Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Key To Happiness

Here’s How To Increase Your Happiness In Just One Week

The key to happiness may be as simple as logging off Facebook for a week, a new Danish study has found.
Researchers at The Happiness Institute tested how social media affected users’ general happiness. 
A total of 1,095 Facebook users were asked to evaluate their overall life satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 10 based on different factors, such as how happy they were, how much they enjoyed life, whether they felt worried or sad, and if they were enthusiastic or decisive. 
Ninety-four percent confessed to logging on to Facebook at least once a day
After the evaluation, half of the group was asked to avoid going on Facebook for a week, while the other half was told to continue with their lives as normal.
A week later, the participants’ life satisfaction was once again measured. 
Results revealed those who hadn’t given up Facebook experienced a slight increase in their overall happiness, from an average happiness rating of 7.67 to 7.75. 
However, this group was also 55 percent more likely to feel stressed. The group that had given up social media, on the other hand, experienced a much more significant increase in happiness — their happiness rating jumped from 7.56 to 8.12.
Participants who gave up Facebook also experienced an increase in social activity and satisfaction with their social lives. 
And when they were asked about their moods on the last day of the experiment, they reported feeling happier and less sad than the group that had kept Facebook. 
Overall, the group without Facebook was 18 percent more likely to feel present and in the moment.  
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, said it’s not that Facebook is inherently bad, but rather the social media site might affect the way individuals perceive their lives. 
“Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like,” Wiking told The Local
“We take into account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality.”
Facebook acts as a “non-stop great news channel” and puts users at risk of seeing their own lives in a negative light. 
“It shouldn’t be used as the background for evaluating our own lives,” Wiking added. 
According to the researchers, this is because humans have an innate tendency to lose focus on what they actually need and instead focus on what others have. 
For example, the study found many of the volunteers responded negatively to other people’s Facebook posts when they included the hashtags #AMAZING, #HAPPY, or  #SUCCESS.
Another recent study found happiness in adults aged 30 and over is on the decline, and it pointed to social media as a main culprit in this downward trend
While young adults may thrive in today’s technological culture, which rewards attention seeking behavior, older adults clearly don’t experience the same effects. 
As a result, happiness in American adults aged 30 and over is lower than it was 40 years ago.
Source: Wiking M, Tromholt M, Lundby M, Andsbjerg K. The Facebook Experiment: Does Social Media Affect The Quality Of Our Lives? The Happiness Institute. 2015.

9 Things You Should Never Buy Again

 Commercialism is all around us. We're pressured to buy, encouraged to think we need to, and often the products we buy are designed with obsolesce and dependency in mind. It can be a never ending cycle of wastefulness if we let it.

These are a few items that we think you can skip!

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are largely unnecessary and contain harmful hormone disrupting chemicals, which can be especially harmful to children.

Instead of masking odors, consider trapping them! Use boxes or jars (you can make them really cute with a bit of twine, or ribbon and poke holes in the lid) around the home to absorb odors.

Soap With "Microbeads"

Found in everything from hand soaps to facial cleaners, toothpastes to moisturizers — these microbeads are marketed to us under the idea that they'll help scrub away grime, gently exfoliate, and more.

The truth is that they aren't good for our skin and they're even worse for the environment. The small nature of these microbeads makes them especially hazardous to marine life as they flow from our drains to the ocean, where they are impossible to remove.

Single-Use Mop Pads

They sound convenient, but at what cost? For the price of a couple of packs you can purchase a handful of reusable cloths that will fit onto the same pad.

If your brand doesn't offer reusable cloth pads you might have a look at Etsy or even preemie sized prefold diapers!

Bottled Water

Unless you’re on-the-go and in a pinch, bottled water is a waste of resources and money.

Most bottled water is nothing more than municipal tap water - filtered at best.

You can save a lot by investing in a reusable water bottle. I recommend stainless steel or glass for the best flavor, and also because they won't leach toxins into your water like plastics can.

Cleaning Products

Traditional cleaning products are not only filled with caustic chemicals, they also leave residues on the surfaces in your home.

Making your own cleaning supplies is surprisingly easy and effective.

My favorite method is a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water, plus a few drops of my favorite essential oil.

Disposable Diapers

Gone are the days of your grandma’s rubber pants, stagnant diaper pails, and complicated folding methods.

Today’s cloth diapers are trendy, highly functional, and easy to use and care for.

Not only that but they'll save you a lot of money (up to $1500 per child!) and will help you greatly reduce your child's exposure to toxins, all while reducing your carbon footprint!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

9 Causes Of Low Sperm Count

For Men – 9 Things You Do Every Day That Lowers Your Sperm Count

Put down the Bacon! And the iPhone! And all the other things he loves that harm his fertility.

Remember when we all thought Mountain Dew affected a guy’s sperm count? Luckily, those days are gone … and we’re hoping no one actually used the soda as a form of birth control.

But, there still are some very ordinary things that do influence a man’s fertility.

From the unhealthy habits, such as drinking, to the stranger ones, like putting on sunscreen, we’re counting down the things he loves doing that are decreasing his sperm production.

1. Wearing Sunscreen

Lathering up before a day in the sun may actually be protecting him against skin cancer but it’s also potentially impairing his fertility.

A brand new study from Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) found that chemicals commonly found in sunscreen can impair male fertility by 30 percent.

When the skin absorbs chemicals which filter out UV rays, like BP-2 or 3OH-BP, it can interfere with his hormones.

Researchers say men concerned about fertility should wash off
sunscreen when they head indoors.

2. Eating Processed Meat

Trying to conceive? He may want to re-think those BLTs he’s been scarfing down every day.

A new study found that processed meat, like sausage or bacon, can significantly harm sperm quality.

I know, I know, he’s probably thinking, take my eyes but not the bacon, but the Harvard University researchers found that men who ate half a portion of processed meat a day had 5.5 percent ‘normal’ shaped sperm cells, compared to 7.2 percent who ate less.

Instead, they found that fish are possibly the secret to better sperm. Bacon, egg and halibut sandwich, anyone?

3. Watching TV

Another reason he should hand over that remote?

The couch isn’t doing much for his health, as you may have guessed. But, it’s not just his physique and motivation that are at risk as he kicks his feet up on the sofa and inhales a bag of Doritos.

A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that men who watch a lot of TV have fewer sperm than men who exercise
moderately or vigorously each week.

Couch potatoes who viewed more than 20 hours of television a week had 44 percent lower sperm count than men who watched almost no television.

Time to get moving, fellas.

4. Drinking

Turns out, the beer belly isn’t the only bad side effect from his favorite beverage.

Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, which in turn leads to decreased sperm quality and production.

Moderation is key with drinking —
and hopefully he stops doing it on the couch watching TV, too.

5. Not Having s*x

While we just ruled out some of his favorite activities, he will probably be more apt to help remedy this sperm-zapper.

While some have said “saving sperm” until a woman is most fertile could help couples who are trying to conceive, it actually has no
benefit and can make matters worse.

For guys with low sperm counts, abstaining from even one day of s*x can decrease their production even further, according to researchers at Soroka University Medical Centre in Israel.

Abstaining from s*x also causes sperm to change in shape, a sign that the sperm is going stale.

6. Stressing

Stress is bad for numerous emotional and physical reasons, but his fertility is at risk too.

Whether he’s anxious about work or even having a low sperm count, severe or prolonged stress can interfere with testosterone
production. We know some fun stress-busters for you and you guy. 

Wink, wink.

Avoid These Fruits If You Have Diabetes

Fruit is Not Forbidden But Some Fruit Choices are Better Than Others

If you have diabetes, chance are someone has said that you are not allowed to eat fruit.

But, because fruit is a carbohydrate, fruit will affect your blood sugar and you cannot eat unlimited amounts. And certain fruits may cause your blood sugars to spike at a quicker pace than others.

The tricky part about eating with diabetes is that everyone responds to food differently.
While one person may be able to eat apples without any issue, someone else may find that apples cause their blood sugars to spike. 

Testing your blood sugars before and after eating fruit can help you to determine which fruits are best for you.

Other ways to keep blood sugars controlled while enjoying fruit is to think about the context in which you eat it.

You'll have a better chance at keeping your blood sugars controlled if you avoid juice altogether,
limit your fruit servings to no more than 2-3 per day (1 serving = 15 g of carbohydrate),
pair your fruit with protein or include it into your meal as part of your carbohydrate choice,
and avoid fruits that are very ripe.

The more ripe a fruit is the higher its glycemic index, which means it will raise your blood sugar more than a food with a low glycemic index.

In addition to juice, there are certain fruits that make my do-not-eat list.

These fruits have been placed on this list either because they have a higher glycemic index or because most people overeat them, which results in higher blood sugar.

1.      Grape
One small grape contains 1 gram of carbohydrate, which means that fifteen grapes is considered one serving of fruit.

Odds are that if you are eating grapes, you are eating way more than fifteen.
To avoid overeating, its best to either count them and put them into a small bowl, or avoid temptation and choose to eat a fruit such as berries. 

You can eat 1 1/4 cup of strawberries for the same amount of carbohydrate as fifteen grapes.

2.      Cherries
Most people don't stop eating cherries at just a handful, which is why eating cherries will usually result in blood sugar spikes.

Similar to grapes, 1 cherry contains 1 gram of carbohydrate.

If you find that yourself snacking on a big bowl of cherries, it's probably best to avoid them altogether. 

3.      Pineapple
Fresh pineapple is delicious and sweet, especially when it is very ripe, which makes it a high glycemic index food.

Depending on how you slice it, the thickness and width can change the amount of carbohydrates and make it easy to overeat too.

If you must eat pineapple, stick to a 1/2 cup serving (pineapple cut into chunks) and aim to eat it with a meal or a protein rich food such as low-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese.

4.      Mango
Ever eat an entire mango in one sitting - you are not alone.

Depending on the size, an entire mango will cost you about 30 grams of carbohydrate and about 26 grams of sugar.

If you do eat mango, make sure to limit your portion to 1/2 and aim to eat it when it's a bit more firm.

As the mango softens, it becomes more ripe and its glycemic index - the rate at which it can increase blood sugar - will rise.

5.      Banana
You may have heard that banana's are too sweet. It's not that bananas are actually sweeter than other fruit choices.

Rather, 1 medium banana contains the same amount of carbohydrate in two servings of another fruit choice, such as one small piece of fruit or 3/4 cup of blueberries.

If you must eat a banana, stick to 1/2 and place the other half in the refrigerator for a later time.

6.      Dried Fruit
Dried fruit, especially varieties that have been coated in yogurt, chocolate or sugar contains a large amount of carbohydrates for a small portion.

Two tablespoons of raisins has the same amount of carbohydrate as 1 cup of raspberries or 1 small piece of fruit.

Replace dried fruit with fresh fruit to add volume to your meal plan and reduce the sugar content.

7.      Fruit Juice

Think about how many oranges it takes to make 1 cup of juice - many more than one.

One 8 oz cup of orange juice contains 30 grams of carbohydrate, 30 grams of sugar and no fiber.

The body doesn't have to do a great deal of work to break down the sugar in juice, therefore it is metabolized quickly and raises blood sugars within minutes.

Juice can also tack on extra calories without affecting your satiety and therefore can prevent weight loss and even promote weight gain.

Swap fruit juice for whole fruit, and limit your portions to no more than 2-3 per day.

Original Article:


American Diabetes Association. Glycemic Index and Diabetes. Accessed on-line. August 24, 2015:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Piles (haemorrhoids) – basics, symptoms and treatment

What are haemorrhoids?

Haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in or around the anus and rectum. The haemorrhoidal veins are located in the lowest part of the rectum and the anus. Sometimes they swell so that the vein walls become stretched, thin, and irritated by passing bowel movements. Haemorrhoids are classified into two general categories: internal and external.
Internal haemorrhoids lie far enough inside the rectum that you can't see or feel them. They don't usually hurt because there are few pain-sensing nerves in the rectum. Bleeding may be the only sign that they are there. Sometimes internal haemorrhoids prolapse, or enlarge and protrude outside the anal sphincter. If so, you may be able to see or feel them as moist, pink pads of skin that are pinker than the surrounding area. Prolapsed haemorrhoids may hurt because they become irritated by rubbing from clothing and sitting. They usually recede into the rectum on their own; if they don't, they can be gently pushed back into place.
External haemorrhoids lie within the anus and are often uncomfortable. If an external haemorrhoid prolapses to the outside (usually in the course of passing a stool), you can see and feel it. Blood clots sometimes form within prolapsed external haemorrhoids, causing an extremely painful condition called a thrombosis. If an external haemorrhoid becomes thrombosed, it can look rather frightening, turning purple or blue, and could possibly bleed. Despite their appearance, thrombosed haemorrhoids are usually not serious and will resolve themselves in about a week. If the pain is unbearable, the thrombosed haemorrhoid can be removed with surgery, which stops the pain.
Anal bleeding and pain of any sort is alarming and should be evaluated; it can indicate a life-threatening condition, such as colorectal cancer. Haemorrhoids are the main cause of anal bleeding and are rarely dangerous, but a definite diagnosis from your doctor is essential.

What causes haemorrhoids?

Anyone at any age can be affected by haemorrhoids. They are very common, with about 50% of people experiencing them at some time in their life. However, they are usually more common in elderly people and during pregnancy. Researchers are not certain what causes haemorrhoids. "Weak" veins - leading to haemorrhoids and other varicose veins - may be inherited.
It's likely that extreme abdominal pressure causes the veins to swell and become susceptible to irritation. The pressure can be caused by obesity, pregnancy, standing or sitting for long periods, straining on the toilet, coughing, sneezing,vomiting, and holding your breath while straining to do physical labour.
Diet has a pivotal role in causing - and preventing - haemorrhoids. People who consistently eat a high- fibre diet are less likely to get haemorrhoids, but those who prefer a diet high in processed foods are at greater risk of haemorrhoids. A low-fibre diet or inadequate fluid intake can cause constipation, which can contribute to haemorrhoids in two ways: it promotes straining on the toilet and it also aggravates the haemorrhoids by producing hard stools that further irritate the swollen veins

What are the symptoms of piles?

The symptoms of haemorrhoids include:
  • Bright red bleeding from the anus. Blood may streak the bowel movement or the toilet paper.
  • Tenderness or pain during bowel movements.
  • Painful swelling or a lump near the anus.
  • Anal itching.
  • mucus anal discharge.

Seek medical advice if:

  • You have rectal bleeding for the first time, even if you believe you have haemorrhoids. Colon polypscolitisCrohn's disease, and colorectal cancer can also cause rectal bleeding. An accurate diagnosis is essential.
  • You have been diagnosed with haemorrhoids, and you have rectal bleeding that is chronic (daily or weekly) or more profuse than just streaking. Though rare, excessive haemorrhoidal bleeding can cause anaemia.

How do I know if I have piles?

First, your doctor will look at the anal area. He or she will likely also insert a lubricated gloved finger and may insert an anoscope (a hollow, lighted tube for viewing the lower few inches of the rectum) or a proctoscope (which works like an anoscope, but provides a more thorough rectal examination) into the back passage.

More procedures may be needed to identify internal haemorrhoids or rule out other conditions that may cause anal bleeding, such as anal fissure, colitis, Crohn's disease, and colorectal cancer.

To see further into the anal canal (into the lower, or sigmoid, colon), sigmoidoscopy may be used, or the entire colon may be viewed with colonoscopy. For both procedures, a lighted, flexible viewing tube is inserted into the rectum. A barium X-ray can show the entire colon's interior. First a barium enema is given and then X-rays are taken of the lower gastrointestinal tract.

What are the treatments for piles?

There are treatments for piles available from pharmacies or through a GP.

Creams, ointments and suppositories can help relieve swelling and inflammation symptoms in the short-term. A GP may recommend corticosteroid cream for severe inflammation.

Warm (but not hot) sitz baths are a traditional therapy for piles: sit in about 8 cm of warm water for 15 minutes, several times a day, especially after a bowel movement.

Painkillers, such as paracetamol, can help relieve pain caused by piles. Products with local anaesthetic may be prescribed to treat painful haemorrhoids.

If you are constipated, a GP may recommend using a laxative.

However, these treatments do not get rid of the haemorrhoids themselves.

If you are pregnant, discuss any treatment, including dietary changes, with your doctor before proceeding.

If symptoms persist, your doctor may suggest one of the following procedures. Many can be performed as a day-case:

Injection or sclerotherapy. An internal haemorrhoid can be injected with a solution that creates a scar and closes off the haemorrhoid. The injection will only hurt a little.

Banding. Prolapsed haemorrhoids are often removed using rubber-band ligation. A special tool secures a tiny rubber band around the haemorrhoid, shutting off its blood supply almost instantly. Within a week, the haemorrhoid shrivels and falls off.

Coagulation or cauterisation. Using either an electric probe, a laser beam, or an infrared light, a tiny burn painlessly seals the end of the haemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink. This is most useful for prolapsed haemorrhoids.

Surgery. For large internal haemorrhoids or extremely uncomfortable external haemorrhoids (such as thrombosed haemorrhoids that are too painful to live with), your doctor may choose traditional surgery, called haemorrhoidectomy.
The success rate for haemorrhoid removal approaches 95%, but unless dietary and lifestyle changes are made, haemorrhoids may recur.