Monthly Archives: September 2012

Beat Fall Allergies – I So Need This!

Fall means apple cider, back to school, the fresh smell of fallen leaves—and the return of allergy season. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the public is allergic to ragweed, the most common culprit in fall seasonal allergies, and thanks to global warming, studies are finding that ragweed season is lasting as much as 15 days longer in some regions of the country. Rain, which washes pollen out of the air and so is generally welcomed by ragweed allergy sufferers, leads to the proliferation of mold, another seasonal allergy trigger.

Whether it’s ragweed, mold—or both—that gives you the allergy blues, here are five ways to prep yourself now, before fall allergens have a chance to make you miserable.

#1: Stock up on butterbur. If mold, but not ragweed, makes you teary-eyed, try butterbur tablets, a botanical remedy. The British Medical Journal published a study in 2002 finding that leaves and roots of the butterbur bush, native to Europe, northern Africa, and parts of Asia, worked just as effectively at reducing hay fever symptoms as cetirizine, the active ingredient in Zyrtec, without causing drowsiness. Butterbur belongs to the same family as ragweed, however, so people allergic to ragweed may actually get worse after taking it.

#2. Plant cover crops. Ragweed really is a weed; it flowers from mid-August to late October, before the first frost. One plant’s pollen can travel up to 400 miles, so it’s unlikely that you can avoid it completely. However, you can keep ragweed from taking root in your yard or garden by planting cover crops after you harvest your garden’s summer vegetables. Cover crops also keep your soil healthy for next spring’s planting season. Try clover, rye, buckwheat, or a mix of field peas and oats.

#3: Put dead leaves to use. Wet piles of fallen leaves are prime breeding grounds for leaf mold, and while leaf mold is valuable to your soil, it can send you into a frenzy of sneezing fits if you’re allergic. Clean up fallen leaves promptly, before they get wet and moldy; better yet, get someone who’s not allergic to do it. Pile up the leaves in an out-of-the-way place so you can use them for mulch next spring, or make a true compost heap to transform them into fertilizer for your garden and lawn. (Shred them so they’ll compost quickly; run them over with a lawn mower.) Keep your pile covered so any mold spores will stay put.

#4: Clean your filters. Staying indoors when pollen counts are high is the most effective way to cut down on both mold and ragweed reactions—but not if you’re pumping in pollen from outside. Take the time now to clean or change your air conditioner and furnace filters, since ragweed pollen persists long after the hot temps turn cold. You’ll cut down on pollen inside your house, and you’ll lower your energy bills; clean filters allow both your heating and cooling systems to run more efficiently. Which uses less fossil-fuel-powered energy, which generates fewer global-warming emissions, which may, eventually, mean a return to shorter ragweed seasons.

#5: Head to the beach. Humid beaches can be problematic for mold-allergy sufferers, but they can make a welcome respite for the ragweed-allergic, as the humidity levels generally keep pollen counts to a minimum. The National Allergy Bureau maintains a database of pollen counts online, so you can check allergen levels in both your hometown and beach or vacation destinations.



Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Health and Science


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Dim The Lights & Eat Less

Dim the lights, add some slow jams, and you could drop pounds. A new study in Psychological Reports found that you eat less in a restaurant with dim lighting and soft music than in one that’s bright and loud. Researchers tricked out part of a Hardee’s in Champaign, Illinois, by adding tablecloths, plants, and paintings, and softening the seating area with indirect lights and light music. Then, they studied people’s eating habits in both the modified and original sections by timing meal length and calculating calories consumed.

Turns out, customers in the renovated area ordered the same food (couldn’t kill the temptation of burgers and fries), but dined longer than those in the original section. The kicker: They also ate 18 percent less—about 175 fewer calories—and gave the whole experience higher marks. (Here are 7 Fast Foods Under 350 Calories.)

So what gives? Soft light and music mellow you out from your normally on-guard state throughout the day and signal your body to slow down, says lead researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. “The more relaxed you are, the slower you eat,” he adds. Wansink suspects that’s because slow eaters my end up with cold food or their mind catches up to their stomach in feeling full or the food isn’t good anymore.

If you can’t avoid the fast food joint, at least do it right: Find the darkest and quietest corner, Wansink says. At home, replicate the environment by swapping the lights above your kitchen table for some candles arranged around the meal and opting for some slow tunes rather than the TV. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that people who eat while watching the tube consume 288 more calories on average than those who don’t. Why? You’re distracted and it prevents your brain from realizing you’re full.

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Health and Science


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