Red Cross Declares Louisiana Flooding Worst US Disaster Since Sandy

The American Red Cross is calling this week’s flooding in Louisiana the worst disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. At least 13 people were killed after historic rainfall submerged parts of Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. State officials say the destruction may result in the worst housing crisis in the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The federal government has declared the area a disaster zone and the Louisiana Governor’s Office has said at least 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.  In Livingston Parish, home to about 138,000 people, it is estimated 75 percent of the homes have been lost.

“Thousands of people in Louisiana have lost everything they own and need our help now,” said Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross’ vice president of disaster services operations and logistics.

“This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million — a number which may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.”

In one part of Livingston Parish, more than 31 inches of rain fell in 15 hours.  US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited flood-stricken areas a day after the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived.

Twenty parishes were under a federal disaster zone and more than a dozen were subject to overnight curfews. At least 14 people have been arrested for looting over the last two days in East Baton Rouge Parish and nine more were arrested for the same crime in nearby Livingston Parish, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

President Barack Obama had directed FEMA Director Craig Fugate to “utilize all resources available to assist in the response and recovery,” the White House said. Obama has declared at least 20 parishes as disaster areas.  The US Coast Guard, National Guard, local emergency responders and even neighbors have helped rescue more than 30,000 residents and 1,400 pets.

At least a dozen parishes were still under flood warnings as of Thursday, with scattered storms in the forecast, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.  “River levels are expected to continue to fall, but some will remain in flood stages at least through the weekend,”   “And given Louisiana’s topography, this recovery will be exceptionally slow.”


Health Benefits of Oregano

Oregano is commonly thought of as the “pizza spice” but it can be used in a variety of recipes.  It has tiny pungent leaves that provide a strong and distinct flavor.  Along with a wonderful flavor, this tiny herb provides amazing health benefits that are often overlooked.  Let’s explore the benefits it offers in such a small package.

Oregano contains high amounts of Omega-3s, iron, manganese, and antioxidants.  Omega-3s offer a wide range of health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and your blood fat (triglyceride) levels which lowers your risk of heart disease.  They also have an anti-inflammatory effect helpful to those suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cystic Fibrosis because they reduce joint pain and stiffness.  These same anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial to those with asthma.  Researchers have found that cultures that eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression as well.  Omega 3s are also important for visual and neurological development of infants.  Some research suggests that omega-3s may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and have a positive effect on gradual memory loss linked to aging.  It also lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke, helps prevent colon, breast, and prostate cancers as well as alleviates acne and psoriasis symptoms.

Iron is essential for proper growth and development of the human body.  One of the most important health benefits of iron is that it acts as a carrier of oxygen and helps transfer oxygen from one body cell to another. This is critical since oxygen is required by each and every body part to perform routine body functions.  It also helps with metabolizing proteins and in production of hemoglobin, enzymes and red blood cells.  It also plays a role in muscle health because it helps carry oxygen from hemoglobin and leaves it throughout muscle cells, which is necessary for the contraction of muscles.  It also plays a key role in strengthening the immune system by making it strong enough to fight off infections.  Other key benefits are its’ role in energy production, treatment of insomnia, and help in regulating body temperature.

Some of the health benefits of manganese include its’ beneficial role in ensuring healthy bone structure, bone metabolism, and helping to create essential enzymes for building bones. It also acts as a co-enzyme to assist metabolic activity in the human body, helps in the formation of connective tissues, ensures proper functioning of the thyroid gland and sex hormones, plays an important role in the absorption of calcium, helps in the regulation of blood sugar levels, and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

Antioxidants fight off free radical damage, oxidative damage plays a huge role in many diseases such as muscle and tissue degeneration, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  They also boost immune health, provide anti-inflammatory benefits, improve brain cell function, slows the signs of aging, support heart health and nervous system function, regulate blood pressure, improves cardiovascular health and provide energy.  They also prevent Alzheimer’s disease and reduce symptoms of diseases, such as pancreatitis, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Oregano is also a rich source of vitamin K which promotes bone growth, the maintenance of bone density, and the production of blood clotting proteins.  It also prevents cardiovascular disease, dementia, osteoporosis and cancer.  Vitamin K also promotes healthy brain function, a healthy digestive system, improves immune system function, regulates blood sugar level and speeds up wound healing.  A new 2014 study on vitamin K confirms that an abundant vitamin K intake can help you live longer.  In a group of more than 7,000 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease, people with the highest intake of vitamin K were 36% less likely to die from any cause at all, compared with those having the lowest intake.

Oregano also offers antifungal and antibacterial properties.  Oregano contains the two phytochemicals carvacol and thymol which are powerful antimicrobials.  Research has shown that the essential oils from oregano may kill the foodborne pathogen Listeria4 and the superbug MRSA.  This makes it a great and natural addition to hand soaps and disinfectants.  It also helps in destroy certain types of candida.

There is no doubting that this little herb offers a spectacular array of benefits and deserves a lot more credit than “the pizza spice”.

The Importance of Trace Minerals Part IX (Iron)

A trace mineral is any mineral that the body requires in small amounts to support numerous functions.  Iron is a trace mineral that is naturally present in many foods, added to some food products, and available as a dietary supplement.  The richest sources of iron are in lean meats and seafood.  Beef, pork, poultry, oysters and shrimp are high in iron though it is present in smaller amounts in salmon, tuna, lobster and crab as well.  Other dietary sources of iron include nuts, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and fortified grain products.  In the United States, about half of dietary iron comes from bread, cereal, and other grain products.

Iron is essential for the proper growth and development of the human body. The main health benefit of a diet high in iron is the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the principal carrier of oxygen throughout the body and gives the dark red color to blood.  It is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.  One of the most important health benefits of iron is that it acts as a carrier of oxygen and helps transfer oxygen from one body cell to another. This is a critical function of iron as oxygen is required by each and every body part to perform routine body functions.

It is a vital element for muscle health and is found in myoglobin, a muscle protein. Myoglobin carries oxygen from hemoglobin and diffuses it throughout muscle cells which are required for contraction of muscles. It also plays an important role in the eradication of different causes of fatigue.  Iron plays a key role in strengthening the immune system by making it strong enough to fight off infections. Iron builds concentration, treats insomnia, and regulates body temperature.  Our brain uses approximately 20% of the oxygen in our bloodstream and iron helps supply oxygen to blood making it very important for brain health.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron is between 8 -18 mg.  When the body’s iron levels become severely depleted, you may get anemia. Iron is also important in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia and helps cure general symptoms of anemia like fatigue, body weakness, headaches, and enhanced sensitivity to cold temperatures.   Other chronic ailments due to deficiency include renal failure anemia and predialysis anemia.  Symptoms of iron deficiency include extreme fatigue, pale skin, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, frequent infections, brittle nails, inflammation or soreness of your tongue, headache, and dizziness or lightheadedness.

Chronic iron deficiency can lead to more serious problems including a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen carried in your blood when you’re anemic. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure.  Other serious problems for pregnant women include premature births and low birth weight babies.  The condition is preventable in pregnant women who receive iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.  In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can lead to anemia as well as delayed growth and development.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines an intake of up to 45 milligrams of iron per day as safe. A severe overdose of iron occurs when the amount of iron is 50 to 100 times more than the recommended dietary dose. Such high levels of iron destroy cells in the gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting, bloody diarrhea and at times death.  According to researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute, there is a dramatic increase in the risk of liver cancer due to iron toxicity.  They also believe that excess accumulation of iron results in increased oxidative stress. The brain is especially sensitive to oxidative damage and such damage contributes to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  For these reasons, it is extremely important to only take iron supplements at the recommendation of your doctor.

Learning About Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the top layer of skin and is not due to a worm or parasite despite its name. The medical terms are tinea and dermatophytosis. Other names for ringworm are based on its location on the body – for example, ringworm on the feet is also called athlete’s foot and ring worm on the groin or inner thigh area is referred to as jock itch. It can be found on other areas of the body such as the toenails or fingernails, scalp, beard, hands, arms and legs. Symptoms typically appear between 4 and 14 days after the skin comes in contact with the fungi that cause ringworm.

It causes an itchy and scaly, crusted rash that may appear as round rings or red patches on the skin. The patches tend to have sharply defined edges that are redder around the outside with normal skin tone in the center. They may blister and ooze.

Other symptoms and signs of ringworm include patches of hair loss or scaling on the scalp, itching, and blister-like lesions. If ringworm affects your hair, you will have bald patches. If it affects your nails, they will become discolored, thick, and even crumble.
The fungi that cause this infection can live on skin, surfaces, and on household items such as clothing, towels, and bedding. It can even travel through the air making it highly contagious. Animals and humans can contract ringworm and symptoms for both are the same.

Ringworm can spread easily from one person to another. You can catch ringworm if you touch someone who has the infection, or if you come into contact with items contaminated by the fungus, such as combs, unwashed clothing, and shower or pool surfaces. You can also catch ringworm from pets that carry the fungus. Cats are common carriers. The fungus that causes ringworm thrive in warm, moist areas. It is more likely when you are often wet (such as from sweating) and from minor injuries to your skin, scalp, or nails.

Ringworm can easily transfer from animals to humans but by taking the following steps to protect yourself and your pet, you can avoid it from spreading through your household.

• Don’t share clothing, towels, blankets or bedding with a person or pet that has ringworm.
• Keep your skin clean and dry.
• Change underwear and socks every day.
• Apply over-the-counter antifungal or drying powders, lotions, or creams that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or similar ingredients.
• Don’t wear clothing that rubs against and irritates the area.
• Wash sheets and nightclothes every day while you are infected.

Skin medicine usually treats ringworm within 4 weeks. If your ringworm infection is severe or it does not respond well to self-care, it will usually respond quickly to antifungal pills. Your health care provider may prescribe pills to treat the fungus if you have a severe case of ringworm, ringworm that keeps coming back or that lasts for a long time or ringworm in your hair. You may need medicines such as ketoconazole, which are stronger than over-the-counter products. You may also need antibiotics to treat skin infections from strep or staph that are caused by scratching the area.

You should call your doctor right away if you have any signs of a bacterial infection, which can result from scratching. These signs include swelling, warm skin, sudden worsening in redness of the patches, red streaking, pus, drainage, and fever. Also contact your doctor if you have ringworm on your scalp or beard, your skin does not improve after 4 weeks of self-care or the rash spreads and you have diabetes or a weakened immune system due to disease or certain medications.

Combatting Jet-lag During Holiday Travel

The holiday season is upon us and many are planning on traveling to spend time with family in other states. With just a few days off, sometimes it can seem like your jet lagged the whole time and then find yourself on your return flight home. Jet lag occurs when our internal clock is disrupted by crossing time zones, disrupting our ability to sleep, leaving us fatigued and disoriented. Whether you are traveling by plane, train or automobile-it’s a disruption from what we’re used to. Here are a few tips to combat the jet lag that may help you not feel so tired for your holiday visits.

Mental Adjustment: Mentally adapting to your new time zone can help you avoid a lot of confusion. As soon as you take your seat on the plane, adjust your clock to the time zone you are traveling to and start to think according to the time zone of your destination. Mentally preparing yourself ahead of time will get you in the right frame of mind more quickly and help your body adjust to the differences.

Sleep Tips: Switching your internal clock ahead of time will help you adjust to the day/night of your destination. Shift your bedtime for you and your brood by an hour or two in the right direction starting at least three days before your trip. If you are traveling east, move your bedtime earlier, and if you are traveling west-push it back.

If you are able to sleep on planes you may want to book an overnight flight since it would keep you in rhythm with your regular schedule by allowing you to have dinner, sleep on the plane and arrive at your destination the next morning or afternoon.

Pack an eye mask and earplugs or earphones which might help you sleep on the plane and at the arrival destination. Eliminating distractions such as light and outside noise will help you get to sleep more quickly. Add some soothing sounds to your ipod to help drown out noise that will keep you awake.

Avoid drinking alcohol or other depressants before and during flights. They tend to make you drowsy and mess with your body’s ability to reset to a new sleeping pattern. While these may help you to sleep on the plane, if your flight is short or your new time zone plans won’t allow you to continue to sleep-it may just make you more disoriented while navigating through the airport or drive home.

The impulse to reach for a coffee when you are tired may seem irresistible, but it will actually prolong the jet lag feeling. It is recommended to avoid caffeine for up to 12 hours before your flight as caffeine may keep you awake in the present but will ultimately disrupt your sleep cycles.

When you finally arrive at your destination, it is OK to take a short daytime nap after arrival but anything over 30 minutes will disrupt your nighttime sleep and make it harder for your body clock to adjust.

Traveling Diet: Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your flight will keep your body hydrated. It is recommended that you drink at least two 8-ounce glasses just before departure and one 8-ounce glass every hour while in the air. The air up there is dry so it’s especially important that you drink plenty of water, even if you think you are not thirsty. Dehydration adds to fatigue so staying hydrated will help you feel better. Beverages with electrolytes, like Gatorade are great to keep you hydrated. And again, avoiding beverages that dehydrate you like coffee, tea and alcohol are recommended.

The Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet is said to help travelers avoid jet lag by changing their diets four days leading up to an international trip. The diet works by alternating days of high protein and carb-heavy meals (otherwise known as feasting days) with light fasting days of salads and soups; while avoiding caffeine and alcohol before a flight. It may not be for everyone but is highly acclaimed to help adjust when travelling internationally.

Eat more lightly than you are accustomed to before, during, and after your flight, as high-fat and high-carb foods can make it harder to sleep. While you may find that you are more prone to sleep after a big meal, choose that meal wisely or it could have the opposite effect. Lean proteins including low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey and fish are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which tends to increase serotonin levels. On the flipside, avoid high-fat cheeses, chicken wings or deep-fried foods. These take longer to digest and can keep you awake.

Arrival Tips: If your arrival time is at night and sleep is an option, a bath can ease sore muscles from travel and help you relax and wind down. The drop in your body temperature when you get out of a bath may also make you sleepy as well. Trying to sleep in sync with your new time zone will help you adjust to it internally the sooner you start.

If sleep is not an option upon arrival, taking a walk after landing might not only re-energize your body and wake up your muscles after a long flight, but a sunny day will also give your body a dose of the best all-natural energy: sunlight.

Hopefully some or all of these tips help you to enjoy just a little bit more time with your loved ones this holiday travel season!

Exploring Probiotics

Probiotics are generally considered safe mainly because they’re already present in a normal digestive system. Theoretically, there’s a risk for people with impaired immune function. While they are found in yogurt, in the United States, most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which do not undergo the testing and approval process that drugs do. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they’re safe before they’re marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. But there’s no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you’re taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. Discuss them with your doctor before taking them to be sure they are safe and which ones would be most beneficial for your needs.

In order to be an effective probiotic, the strains must be live at the time of consumption and must survive the stomach acidity and biliary salts in order to reach the intestines. It is also important that the probiotic strains are capable of adhering to the gut wall lining, so that they can in turn multiply and colonize the gut with good bacteria. It is important to know that most probiotic supplements lose potency. There are many strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria that will boost your digestive health and overall health. When you are looking for a good probiotic supplement, you should choose one that contains a mix of a number of different probiotic strains in order to reap the most benefits from it. Some of the exceptionally powerful strains of probiotic bacteria that will specifically enhance digestion include are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri , Bifidobacteria bifidum and Bifidobacteria longum.

Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most widely used strain that is important for maintaining the integrity of your intestinal walls so you can enjoy maximum absorption of nutrients, and it supports a healthy immune system. It also helps prevent vaginal infections, replaces “friendly” intestinal bacteria destroyed by antibiotics, treats chronic constipation, lowers your risk of pollen allergies, treats high cholesterol, prevents childhood eczema, improves digestion, suppresses disease causing bacteria, improves lactose tolerance for those that are lactose intolerant, treats irritable bowel syndrome and treats inflammatory bowel disease.

Lactobacillus fermentum is a strain that has been found to be antimicrobial and antioxidative. It helps neutralize toxic products made during digestion and promotes a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. It can also reduce cholesterol as well as treat urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, Lyme disease, inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease, IBS, urinary tract infections, fever blisters, canker sores, acne, eczema and hives.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus is able to survive the acid and bile of the stomach and intestine and is claimed to colonize the digestive tract and to balance intestinal microflora. It is used to treat diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, anxiety and weight loss.

Lactobacillus reuteri is used in the treatment of digestive problems and colic in infants, promotes dental health, boosts the immune system, helps build a resistance to pathogens like Salmonella and some strains of E. Coli.

Bifidobacteria bifidum is widely known for its ability to build up the immune system, lower cholesterol levels, lessens the chance of allergies, aid in digestion and helps to prevent the effects of tumors in colon cancer. It has also been very effective as a remedy for vaginitis, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and yeast infections.

Bifidobacteria longum is used for many conditions affecting the intestines, including preventing diarrhea in infants and children; as well as traveler’s diarrhea in adults. Some people take bifidobacteria to restore “good bacteria” in the gut that have been killed or removed by diarrhea, radiation, chemotherapy, antibiotics, or other causes.

While there are many more strains of probiotics and some benefits are shared-there are some that hold specific benefits for certain ailments, which is why it is best to do your research and consult your doctor prior to taking any probiotic to ensure you are taking the right strain for your needs.

Dangers Of Vitamin And Mineral Overdose Part II

On our quest to be healthy, sometimes we don’t realize that too much of a good thing can be bad. Forty-four percent of Americans take vitamins and dietary supplements daily and as many as 84% of Americans consider vitamins and supplements to be safe. This is a perception that increases their risk for vitamin toxicity since more than 60,000 instances of vitamin toxicity are reported annually to US poison control centers. Taking vitamin or mineral supplements without consulting a doctor can leave us with other more serious health issues. Taking a standard multivitamin combined with a healthy diet is perfectly safe but when we combine those with additional vitamin or mineral supplements- we may be increasing our risk of serious illnesses and side effects. Let’s explore what is too much and the side effects that an overdose can cause.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B3 is between 14-16 milligrams and it is water soluble so it is not stored in the body. Deficiencies are rare because of the abundant food sources that contain vitamin B3 (niacin). Many people supplement this because it can lower your cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease but this should always be done at the instruction of a doctor. Doses of 35 mg or more daily cause blood-vessel dilation, which can result in tingling, itching, and flushing of the face, neck, and chest — a condition called niacin flush which is uncomfortable but not dangerous. Other side effects include hair loss, dry skin, liver toxicity, heart palpitations, joint pain, muscle cell damage, glucose intolerance, headache, seizures, mental changes and fainting. High doses could pose risks such as liver damage, gastrointestinal problems including vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea. Long term vitamin B3 overdose toxicity has also been shown to cause gout.

The RDA of vitamin B6 is 1.3 – 1.7 mg and it is water soluble so it is not stored in the body so toxic levels are hard to obtain unless a dietary supplement is taken. Vitamin B-6 supplements had been recommended in large doses for treatment of health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), improved cognitive function and for the reduction of homocysteine (a protein that is often elevated when a person is at a high risk for heart disease or dementia). Doses of one to six grams for more than one year can lead to a range of minor to debilitating symptoms. Some symptoms of toxicity include muscle spasms, muscle cramps, headaches, severe fatigue, mood changes, skin lesions, light sensitivity and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and heartburn. While these symptoms can be reversed with discontinued supplementation, long term dosages of 100 mg or more can lead to permanent nerve damage including loss of bodily functions.

The RDA of vitamin E is 15 mg and because it is fat soluble, it is stored in the liver. While vitamin E has been recommended for a wide range of reasons including prevention of eye disorders, improving skin elasticity, controlling diabetes and cancer prevention-taking too much can be dangerous. Researchers hypothesize that cumulative free-radical damage to neurons over time contributes to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. High doses of vitamin E from supplements may also cause serious bleeding in the brain known as a hemorrhagic stroke. The tolerable upper limit of vitamin E for adults is 1,000 milligrams, or 1,500 international units, per day, but your doctor will determine what a safe upper limit is for you.

Manganese is essential for healthy bone structure and prevention of osteoporosis. While there is no RDA for it, it is said to be LIKELY safe in amounts up to 11 mg per day. More than 11 mg per day might not be safe and can cause serious side effects, including symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease, such as shaking (tremors). People who have trouble getting rid of manganese from the body, such as people with liver disease, may experience side effects when taking less than 11 mg per day.

While there are many reasons and benefits of supplementing specific vitamins and minerals, it is important to know what the safe daily intake for each is. Consult your doctor prior to implementing dietary supplements into your daily routine.