[HEALTH & WELLNESS] Is it time for a GUT check?

IMG_5436Is your gut in balance? As we continue to research about the skin and proper skin care, we came across the term “leaky gut syndrome”. We found significant correlations between gut health and various skin and overall health conditions.

What is leaky gut syndrome? It’s when the lining of the intestinal walls are damaged, allowing undigested food and toxins to seep into the bloodstream, and the body begins to attack the foreign entities that invade it. Symptoms of this condition could include inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Celiac disease, food allergies, ulcers, Thyroid conditions, eczema, and other health and skin-related issues. This condition can be brought on by poor diet, medications, stress, and genetic predisposition.

Eating a balanced and healthy diet of mostly colorful fruits and vegetables, drinking sufficient amounts of water to flush toxins from our bodies, and making sure the flora (the microbiome – the community of microorganisms) in our gut is in balance are crucial. Proper gut health is critical in allowing our bodies to digest and absorb the nutrients and minerals necessary to maintain a healthy body and could alleviate some of the ailments that affect it.

So, how can we balance our gut microbiota? Including more probiotic foods into our diet such as miso, apple cider vinegar, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, Kombucha, and yogurt can help. Reducing and limiting the intake of alcohol, processed foods and sugars are also critical. If your immune system is compromised, it’s best to choose organic produce to limit exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Repairing the gut can take some time depending on how damaged it may be. Yet, healing and rebalancing the gut is important so that our bodies can remain healthy. Perhaps it’s time for a gut check with your medical practitioner. Your body will thank you for it.

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Eczema [BEAUTY TIPS]

IMG_20140321_182708After several years of not knowing what the skin irritations were, it finally made sense. It felt like the pieces of a puzzle fell into place when a dermatologist made a proper diagnosis. It was eczema. An inflammatory skin condition that can be triggered by contact with environmental allergens, certain foods, and even stress.

With eczema, the affected areas on the body can become inflamed with dry, scaly red patches. And, symptoms can include unbearable itching! Scratching could feel great, but it’s best to refrain from scratching since that could break the skin, leading to infection and deeper scarring. If your skin is prone to hyper-pigmentation at the slightest blemish, you know how important it is to avoid scratching.

If you experience skin irritations and you’re unsure what it is, first and foremost, please consult a medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis. If the diagnosis is eczema and depending on the type of eczema, your physician may prescribe a hydrocortisone cream to relieve the inflammation, itchiness, and to help promote healing. For us, we used a topical medication that helped, but at the same time we researched preventative measures and natural remedies for the near and long term if it recurred.

While you may not be able to avoid eczema especially if it’s genetic, here are some at-home remedies that we found helpful in managing some forms of eczema, alleviating some symptoms, and to promote healing.

  • Stay hydrated. We’re often so busy that we forget to hydrate and our skin was screaming from the dryness! Well, we heard it loud and clear. So, drink ample amounts of water to stay hydrated from within. Alternatives to water are flavorful beverages like coconut water, chamomile tea and Rooibos Tea, which are hydrating and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Also, these beverage options are non-caffeinated so they’re perfect to drink throughout the day.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! With eczema, the skin cell barrier is compromised, so it’s difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Regular and frequent moisturizing can help keep moisture locked in and prevent the condition from reoccurring or worsening. After showering or bathing, pat the skin dry and moisturize immediately. We found it helpful to moisturize in the morning and evening before bedtime since our bodies lose moisture during sleep as well.
  • Exfoliate. The last thing you may want to do is exfoliate, yet this helps to get rid of the dry, dead skin cells so that moisturizers and treatments can more effectively absorb into the skin. A sponge or soft loofah may be ideal since you want to be gentle. In some cases, blister-like bumps can form in and around the affected areas so it’s even more important to get a proper medical diagnosis to rule out any bacterial or fungal infections since you wouldn’t want it to spread.
  • Stay calm. Stress can trigger eczema. Meditation, yoga, long walks, listening to your favorite songs, and engaging in your favorite activities can help to take your mind off of the itching and irritations and alleviate stress.
  • Use gentle all-natural body cleansers. Soaps and fragranced body washes can irritate and cause or worsen flare-ups. It’s best to choose fragrance-free body washes that also calm and add moisture to the skin.
  • Take a soothing bath. Draw a warm bath and sprinkle some oatmeal into the bath to enjoy a relaxing soak. Or, use a body wash with colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin. Avoid taking long hot showers which tend to dehydrate your skin so be cognizant of the water temperature and the length of your shower.
  • Monitor your diet. Certain foods can trigger skin irritations including nuts, shellfish, dairy, gluten, and sugar. We kept a daily food diary to identify potential food triggers. We had already significantly limited dairy and shellfish from our diet, so we focused on managing our sugar intake.

The most important take-away is to consult a medical practitioners for a proper diagnosis. While eczema and other skin conditions can feel embarrassing, remember, you’re not alone. According to the National Eczema Association, 3.6 million Americans suffer from some form of eczema. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants until the eczema and scarring eases are not the most fun especially during the heat of Summer, but remember it’s temporary. Identifying and addressing the triggers that can cause your outbreaks are important in managing flare-ups. Know the causes, symptoms, and treatments that work best for you and it will help you in the near and long term. So, remember to listen to your body, and your body will thank you for it.

OH SUGAR! [HEALTH & WELLNESS]

Immunity-Boosters Plate PhotoSugar. The sweetness that many palates crave is touted differently by others of late. During the last year, in our quest to maintain better health and wellness, we took a closer look at the foods that we were consuming. The foods that we were relying on to maintain our health. And, we noticed an ingredient that we didn’t expect to find in many of the foods. We noticed it over and over again. What was it? It was sugar. Sugar in it’s various forms…cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maple syrup, and agave. And, it was everywhere! From pasta sauces, to breads, to juices, to cereals.

Based on our research, we found that excessive consumption and buildup of sugar in our bodies could play a major role in various health-related issues including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammation, arthritis, thyroid conditions, dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. So, in our quest to ensure that we maintained our health, managed our sugar consumption, and consumption of inflammatory foods, we decided to significantly reduce all processed foods and foods that had added sugars from our diet. This included some pastas, pasta sauces, potato chips, granola bars, bagels, bottled juices, breads, and cereal. But there was more. It was more than the sugars that were listed on ingredient labels. We factored in natural and “hidden” sugars that were in whole and dried fruits, and carbohydrate-rich foods that our bodies convert into sugar such as corn, potatoes, peas, carrots, and others.

We decided to do this for 12 months, with the intention of reintroducing certain foods back into our diet afterwards. You may wonder as many did…”What did we eat?” In addition to increasing our intake of immunity-boosting foods like lemon, ginger and garlic, below are some of the foods on our “Eat More of” list.

1) Low-sugar, non-starchy foods:

    • Arugula root
    • Cabbage
    • Cilantro
    • Romaine lettuce
    • Mushrooms
    • Spinach
    • Cauliflower
    • Cucumber
    • Asparagus
    • Celery
    • Baby carrots
    • Artichokes
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cucumber
    • Garlic (raw)
    • Kale
    • Onions
    • Tomatoes
    • Zucchini

2) Fruits that were lower in sugar:

    • Avocado
    • Lemon
    • Lime
    • Olives

3) Unsweetened beverages:

    • Water
    • Coconut water
    • Almond milk
    • Coconut milk

4) Snacks:

    • Almonds
    • Cashews
    • Sesame seeds
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Veggie chips

Because we were opting for more fresh foods, this meant cooking more often which meant grocery shopping more often. Sometimes the most frustrating and time-consuming part of this process was having to deal with long grocery store check-out lines, but we remained determined. When pursuing this, we realized that this also meant a lifestyle change. This changed our daily routine especially when we had work events. Gone were the days when we timed our mornings so that we could squeeze every second of morning snooze with just enough time to shower, dress, and go (fellow sleep-lovers…you know how difficult this is!).

Instead, we woke up earlier to prepare our daily meals to make sure we had as much of what we needed for the day. Oftentimes, we cooked large meal portions enough to last the full week and we reheated the meals in the mornings so that we could bring breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages for the day. Needless to say, our shoulders felt the burden of carrying the meals in heavy glass Tupperware. But our solutions for our heavier loads…rolling back packs and lighter stainless steel food containers! During days when we did not have events, we would often eat lunch before leaving home and then return home after meetings and/or errands for dinner.

At times it seemed impossible to stick to our new diet especially during gatherings with friends and family due to the options available. Yet, we chose wiser options and we kept to our diet as much as possible.

At the conclusion of the 12-month period, we felt the difference in natural energy levels. And, we decided to keep many of the changes that we made to our diet, incorporating more color and variety in the produce that we chose to consume to make sure we had the proper nutrients and vitamins to nourish and replenish our bodies. And, the fresher the ingredients, the better. 2017 was a year of healthier discoveries for us. And, we met many friends and colleagues on this same journey which helped us stay on track. By doing so, our journey better prepared us for a healthier 2018!

Did you have a similar journey? Let us know. We thank you for being kind to your body.

Mindfulness [HEALTH & WELLNESS]

 

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With a new year, comes New Year’s resolutions. The majority of us make them, but the greatest efforts are in keeping them. Recently, we’ve been hearing a great deal about resolutions that involve “mindfulness”. Mindful eating. Being mindful to others. A focus on mindfulness in general.

We thought about what being “mindful” meant. What does it involve? What do we do to be more “mindful”? With mindful eating, it’s about being conscientious about what we’re putting in our bodies. Being aware of where our food comes from, how our foods are prepared and the ingredients that are used in producing them.

Being mindful of others, first and foremost, is being able to recognize that everyone is different. Their opinions, attitudes, and circumstances are different. Being mindful of others is about being compassionate and empathetic to others. To care about their well-being and to lend a helping hand when needed despite the differences.

Yet, while we’re often more mindful of others, with everything that goes on in our lives, we often forget to be mindful of our selves. To focus on our health and well-being. To recognize when our minds and bodies need a break, and to prioritize the people and the things that are most important in our lives that will improve our quality of life.

As we begin 2018, whatever your New Year’s resolutions may be, we hope that we can all be more mindful overall. We wish everyone well and we thank you for being kind to your body.

Are you a year-round allergy sufferer? [HEALTH & WELLNESS]

Incessant sneezing. Runny nose. Watery eyes. Asthmatic conditions. Itchy skin. Oh the signs and symptoms of allergies! With Spring on its way…this is the time we begin to brace ourselves for the onslaught of allergy-inducing culprits that oftentimes are pollen related.

But do you suffer from allergies year round? Could it be caused by dust and dust mites? Dust mites?! Those microscopic eight-legged creatures that dwell and accumulate in our beds, in our closets, in our furnishings, and in the warm and moist areas in our homes. They feed on dead skin flakes and their fecal matter, secretions and the mites can cause skin irritations and allergies.

So, what are some things we can do to mitigate our allergy symptoms year round? Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful to reduce allergens and to improve our overall health and wellbeing:

  • Invest in a HEPA air filter to better purify the air inside your home.
  • Vacuum furnishings, sofas and sofa cushions, carpeting, mattresses, and floors regularly. If possible, vacuum daily to rid your home of dirt, dust, bugs, pollen, and allergy-causing culprits. Seal and dispose of the vacuum bag and contents immediately when you’re done. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, whenever possible.
  • Use protective covers for your mattresses and pillows to keep allergens out so that you can breathe easier and get a better night’s sleep.
  • Wash bedding and clothing in hot water and dry in the hottest dryer setting possible.
  • Let the sun shine in to kill bugs but cleaning is still necessary to rid the home of allergens.

So, with some thorough cleaning, decluttering, and preventive measures, we hope these tips can help you breathe easier all year round.

Thank you for being kind to your body!

Join Us at West Elm on Broadway!

We’re excited to be partnering with West Elm on Broadway for a two-day LOCAL Showcase that features locally hand-picked and unique artisan products! Come shop our products at West Elm this Labor Day weekend. We look forward to seeing you there!

September 3rd – 4th, 2016
Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm

West Elm on Broadway
1870 Broadway (at 61st Street)
New York, NY 10023

West Elm @Broadway 2

Ahhhh….it’s our go-to under Eye Serum…

Ahhhh….it’s our go-to under Eye Serum that multitasks as our facial moisturizer! An intensive blend of mineral and vitamin-rich oils with an extra boost of vitamin E that can help to reduce wrinkles, calm puffiness, and minimize dark under eye circles. Essential anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and skin-healthy properties hydrate, soften, and promote clearer, younger-looking skin.

Shop online at www.NaturallySusans.com

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HEALTH & BEAUTY: Skin Care Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

IMG_1315Have you used apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a hair rinse? As a facial exfoliant? Or, as a toner? If so, then you know about some of the benefits of apple cider vinegar for your skin. It’s an all-natural, head-to-toe skin care product!

We’ve been touting the benefits of ACV, the fermented juice of crushed apples that contains vitamins, minerals and acetic and citric acids. It helps to balance the PH level of the skin to help promote skin cell renewal and proper function.

Here are some of the ways ACV can be used as part of your skin care regimen:

Hair rinse – An ACV rinse helps to detangle hair, revitalize shine, and cleanse your hair and scalp by removing residue and buildup from hair care products. It contains properties that naturally remove dirt and debris and has also been known to help manage dandruff. After shampooing, pour a mixture of one part water and one part ACV through hair, and then rinse with water.

Facial Toner – When the skin’s PH level is in balance, skin cells can regenerate, the skin can function properly, kill bacteria and manage excess oil. As a toner, mix one part ACV to two parts water (use more water if you’re skin tends to be more sensitive).  Dab a cotton ball into the mixture and smooth once or twice over face.

Facial Exfoliant – Weekly exfoliation is important to keep skin clear and smooth. ACV helps by removing pore-clogging dead skin cells that can cause breakouts. As a facial exfoliant, mix one part ACV to four parts water (use more water if you’re skin tends to be more sensitive).  Dab a cotton ball into the mixture and smooth over face in circular motion. Then rinse.

Skin Softener – Add some ACV into your bath for a soothing and skin-softening soak.

ACV can also be used to help soothe sunburn, aid in digestion, boost immunity, and whiten teeth. Remember, it’s best to dilute the ACV with water before consuming or applying onto the skin. And, look for raw, organic, unpasteurized, and unfiltered ACV that includes the sediment also referred to as “the mother”. That’s the good stuff!

Thanks again for being kind to your body! And, happy pampering!

We had to pinch ourselves!

It was a beautiful morning for our shoot with NY1 News for an upcoming Healthy Living Segment. Being interviewed by Kristen Shaughnessy was an amazing experience. With Karen Seiger, Inyanga Naturals, and Greecologies, filming took place at Greecologies back garden on Broome Street. Greecologies new cafe features housemade yogurt and fresh offerings. Stay tuned for more…

On Set with Kristen Shaughnessy of NY1

On Set with Kristen Shaughnessy of NY1

Kristen Shaughnessy of NY1

Kristen Shaughnessy of NY1

Karen Seiger of Markets of NYC

Karen Seiger of Markets of NYC

Naturally Susan's Skin Care Products

Naturally Susan’s Skin Care Products

Inyanga

Inyanga

Greecologies

Greecologies

Greecologies

Greecologies

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HEALTH & BEAUTY: The Benefits of Dark Chocolate

The Benefits of Dark ChocolateWhen February arrives, we think of chocolate! Maybe it’s because of Valentine’s Day? Actually…it’s probably because we’re always thinking of chocolate. But not just any type of chocolate. Dark chocolate!

Milk and white chocolate are higher in sugar and fillers, while dark chocolate typically has a higher cacao (cocoa) content that has been touted for its health benefits.

So, how can something that tastes so good be good for us? It’s all in the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant power of flavonoids. Dark chocolate with higher cacao content has been shown to have various health benefits that include the following:

  • reduce stress
  • enhance mood
  • lower cholesterol
  • increase cardiovascular blood flow

The higher cacao content does lend to a more bitter taste. Despite that, we still prefer dark chocolate with 65% to 90% cacao. The higher the better for our tastes. While tempting to start loading up on dark chocolate for its health benefits, remember to consult your medical practitioner to address any specific medical needs.

For us, we’ll continue to toast to our health with more dark chocolate. Cheers!