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2018 Ultimate Holiday Gift Giving Guide (For Everyone On Your List!)

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I don’t know about you, but this time of year can be a little hectic for me! With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and several family birthdays, there is a lot to plan and a lot of gifts to wrap. We try to stick to experiences instead of stuff as much as possible (here are some of my best ideas), especially with our own kids, but also usually give one physical gift per family member.

Also, for extended family and close friends that we don’t live close enough to share experiences with, we send small gifts as well. I know it seems early, but I try to get my shopping done now so that I can savor and enjoy the holidays while knowing gifts are already wrapped!

This holiday gift guide is a compilation of the best gifts we’ve ever received and the ones that are favorites to give. As much as possible, all these gifts are eco-friendly and limit plastic whenever possible. They are also natural, organic, and health-promoting.

My Natural + Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Guide!

I’ve included my favorite gifts for every member of the family, age group, and interest level, so keep scrolling if you need ideas for a specific family member. They go in rough age order (adults down to babies) and then special interest gift ideas are below that (for the chef, the grandparents, white elephant gifts, etc).

Important: Please note that many of the links in this guide are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through these links, the price will be the same for you and I’ll receive a small commission that helps support my blog and my family. Many thanks!

Gifts for Mom (That She Won’t Just Pretend She Loves)

As a kid, we always got my mom new kitchen gear and equipment as gifts. I remember feeling a little guilty because my brother and I got toys and fun gifts, and I always thought she got the short end of the stick just getting kitchen items that she used for us. Then, I became a mom myself and developed a love for cooking, and now I get just as excited about new kitchen essentials. This list includes some of the best practical gifts for moms, as well as some pampering and relaxing ones!

  1. Amazon Prime Membership – Get free 2-day shipping on many items, plus free streaming music and movies.
  2. or Real Plans Membership – My biggest time saver – this plans all of my meals and shopping lists and can handle allergies, bulk prep day and more!
  3. Shiatsu Massage Pillow – Seriously rivals an actual massage for half the price!
  4. Hydroflask Water Bottle – The water bottle I use that keeps water cool (or hot) for days!
  5. Royally Flawless Facial Moisturizer – Amazing facial oil with the highest quality ingredients and no junk!
  6. RTIC Tumbler – Great for hot or cold drinks.
  7. Wake-up Light Gentle Alarm Clock – Wake up gently to gradual light and sound
  8. Himalayan Salt Lamp – Soothing warm orange glow at night from these beautiful lamps.
  9. Blue Blocker Glasses – I wear these after dark for better sleep (some studies show that avoiding blue light after dark helps melatonin levels).
  10. Sleep Master Sleep Mask – Great for travel – a sleep mask that is actually comfortable!
  11. 10,000 Lux Happy Light – Feel blue in the winter? I use this super-bright light to keep my cortisol levels healthy.
  12. Anything Le Creuset – Incredible (but pricey) dishes. I’ve been collecting a few pieces over the years and resisting the urge to buy it all!
  13. Microwaveable Slippers – Does someone you love always get cold? These slippers have microwaveable pads that stay warm.
  14. Dry Brush – Brushing isn’t just for hair and teeth. Brushing skin can help it stay smooth, supple, and may improve collagen.
  15. Low EMF Hair Dryer – Did you know that hairdryers produce a lot of EMFs?
  16. French Press Coffee Maker – Make wonderful coffee with this classic method.
  17. Instant Pot – Revolutionize dinner! This electric pressure cooker makes roasts in about an hour and turns tough cuts of meat into deliciously tender meals.
  18. Grown-up Coloring Book and Markers – Coloring isn’t for kids anymore and studies show it may reduce stress levels. Try a “grown-up coloring book.”
  19. Kokomo Cream Organic Deodorant – This natural deodorant smells like the tropics and lasts for months.
  20. A good book – Just off the top of my head… maybe The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox or The Wellness Mama Cookbook? 🙂 Ok, I’m biased, but it’s a great way to have all of the best recipes and health hacks on the site at your fingertips.
  21. Blackout Curtains – Even a little light can interfere with sleep quality. We use blackout curtains to keep our room really dark.
  22. Wine Bottle Tiki Torch – Upcycle old wine bottles with these adorable tiki-torch kits.

Gifts for Dad (No Ties or PJs on This List)

I’ve always had the most difficult time finding good gifts for the men in my life, especially my husband. He has incredibly high standards for products and prefers really high-quality items that last forever. These have been some of his favorite gifts in recent years and they might be perfect for the guys on your list too. (Also, check the lists below for more specific ideas for dads who travel a lot or who love the outdoors!)

  1. Magnetic Wrist Band – Holds nails and screws for the handyman!
  2. Fire Starter Kit – Useful tool to start fires without matches or a lighter.
  3. Blue Blocking Glasses -These glasses help reduce eye fatigue from computers and reduce blue light for better sleep.
  4. Lifestraw or Sawyer Water Filter – Survival water filter that fits in your pocket.
  5. Comfy Slippers – My husband loves these slippers he got a couple of years ago.
  6. Heat Proof BBQ Gloves – For the man who likes to grill, these gloves will protect his hands.
  7. Smart Wool Socks – Warm but not sweaty and they keep feet dry. Great for hiking or everyday use.
  8. Surefire Flashlight – High quality and super bright pocket flashlight.
  9. Wine Aerator – Pour wine through this to improve flavor.
  10. 30-day Lantern for Camping – A really long lasting lantern for the outdoorsman who loves to camp.
  11. Esse 3 Knife – Really high-quality multi-use knife.
  12. Saddleback Leather Wallet – This wallet has a 100-year warranty!! (yes, really!)
  13. Quality Shaving Kit OR Beard Oil– Great options for the clean-shaven or bearded man in your life!
  14. RTIC Insulated Tumbler – This insulated large mug keeps things cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12.
  15. Hydroflask Insulated Water Bottle – Insulated water bottle that keeps water cold for days.
  16. Backjoy Seat – Does your guy sit a lot? This may help improve posture and alleviate tension in the back.
  17. Defender Phone Case or Tablet Case – Protect him from EMFs when using electronics.
  18. Tactical Pen – More than just a pen, it works in all conditions and can break a car window if a person is trapped.
  19. ENO Hammock – Portable hammock that fits in a small bag and is great for travel and camping.
  20. Tactical Backpack – For the outdoorsman, this bag holds everything he could need.
  21. Tool Pen – Available in hex and mini-tools for easy use.
  22. Whiskey Stones – Freeze these rocks to use in place of ice in drinks “on the rocks.”

Gifts for Older Kids & Teens

My older kids have gotten harder to shop for, but these gifts all got their seal of approval!

  1. Buddha Board – A relaxing way to paint with just water (it evaporates and you can paint again).
  2. Leather Journal – A beautiful leather journal for sketching or journaling.
  3. Japanese Puzzle Box – These beautiful puzzle boxes are a unique way for older kids to keep valuable items safe and fun to learn.
  4. Rubix Cube (or Giant Rubix Cube) – The 1980s called, but we told it we are keeping the Rubix Cube. Older kids love learning to solve this.
  5. Star Wars Legos – Popular among big kids and teens with dozens to choose from.
  6. Build Your Own Programmable Robot Kit – A favorite with my oldest. Build a robot and program it!
  7. Grown-Up Coloring Books – Coloring isn’t just for little kids anymore. These “adult coloring books” are very detailed and studies show that coloring is relaxing.
  8. Boogie Board – Reusable board that encourages doodling and drawing.
  9. Kindle Fire – An affordable tablet with a lot of capabilities.
  10. Runaway Alarm Clock – Does your teen have trouble waking up? This alarm clock runs away and keeps making noise until caught!
  11. Natural Makeup Brushes – If your teen is old enough to wear makeup, these natural brushes are great!
  12. Power Cube Wall Adapter – Surge protector and charges multiple devices at once.
  13. Collapsible Duffel Bag – Great bag for short trips that collapses to a tiny size.
  14. Minnetonka Chrissy Boots (for teenage girls) – Super comfy boots!
  15. Cash inside a Money Maze Puzzle Box – Give money so they can get what they like, but make it fun by hiding it inside this puzzle cube.
  16. No Crease Ponytail Holders – These are really popular right now. They are gentle on hair and don’t leave a crease!
  17. Travel Hammock – Have an outdoorsy teen? These travel hammocks collapse small and are awesome.
  18. Pocket Strings Guitar – A fun way to learn guitar! Fits easily in a backpack.

Gift Ideas for Younger Kids

There are certainly the most options to choose from when looking for gifts for children, but I’ve found that many are lower-quality plastic items that break easily and release harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals into the home or that only facilitate one activity. These are a few of the gifts I’ve found in recent years that have survived the durability test of our house and that the children have enjoyed the most:

  1. Gym 1 Indoor Doorway Gym – Our kids’ favorite Christmas gift of all time. It is a gym that mounts in a door frame and they use it every day.
  2. Snap Circuits – Really neat kit that lets kids learn about electricity by building different types of basic machines like a fan, a radio, etc.
  3. Art Kit – A favorite among our girls. This kit contains markers, paints, colored pencils, and more.
  4. Seedling Wooden People kit – Kids can create mini wooden people.
  5. Mini Trampoline for Indoor Play – We’ve had a trampoline in our house for years and it is great for cold or rainy days. Rebounding (bouncing) is also great for adults!
  6. Wooden Twig Colored Pencils – Wooden colored pencils made from twigs. Good size for younger kids just learning to write and draw.
  7. Wooden People and Craft Supplies – Our kids loved making their own little wooden dolls with these.
  8. Plasma Car – Our little kids love these and they are great for kids of all sizes.
  9. Natural Paints – Made from natural earth pigments.
  10. Design Your Own Superhero Cape – A fun activity that encourages creativity and is great for imaginative play.
  11. Microscope Kit – My oldest loved looking at hair, dirt, and all kind of other things in this microscope.
  12. Crayon Rocks – Portable and fun for littles who still have trouble with regular crayons.
  13. Or Beeswax Crayons – Triangular crayons made of natural beeswax.
  14. Doll House – Fits Barbie size dolls and other smaller dolls.
  15. Stainless Steel Play Kitchen Pots and Pans – My daughters play kitchen with these for hours!
  16. Beginner Piano Keyboard (and free Hoffman Academy Lessons) – These are a great way to get the kids started with music.
  17. Boogie Board – A reusable writing tablet that encourages creativity.
  18. Sun Art – Fun educational craft idea that kids love.
  19. Kendama Game – Fun interactive game that encourages movement.

Gifts for Babies (and Expecting Parents)

There are literally thousands of options for gifts for babies, but many of them contain endocrine disrupting plastics or will just never get used. With over a decade of parenting and six kids, these are the gifts, toys, and gear that made the cut for us.

  1. Pregnancy Affirmation Cards – I love these sweet cards that encourage pregnant moms!
  2. Organic Mattress Cover – Protect baby from mold and allergens in mattresses.
  3. Organic Cotton Crib Sheet – Soft organic sheet for crib.
  4. Organic Muslin Swaddling Blankets – My favorite blankets that are perfect for swaddling or nursing.
  5. Snot Sucker – Not as gross as it sounds and a lifesaver if baby is sick!
  6. Baby Bouncer – This bouncer actually bounces! Rock with a foot to keep baby asleep.
  7. Food Grade Silicone Fruit Teethers – A favorite with my 9-month-old!
  8. Hape Wooden Toys – I love these high-quality wooden toys!
  9. Ergo Organic Baby Carrier – A great organic baby carrier that is comfortable for mom or dad too!
  10. Sophie the Giraffe – This teething toy has a passionate following with the under-one-year crowd!
  11. Fleece Newborn Booties – Babies always manage to lose socks, but these stay on and keep toes warm!
  12. Manhattan Toys Rattle and Clutching Toy – Little ones love this engaging wooden toy.
  13. Natural Rubber Orthodontic Pacifier – For babies who will take a pacifier, try this natural rubber option.
  14. Baltic Amber Teething Necklace – May help soothe teething pain.
  15. Manhattan Toys Circle Toy – A beautiful and fun toy that baby love to play with.
  16. Natural Rubber Teething Toy – The only toy my baby prefers to my finger when teething gets bad.
  17. Organic Cotton Teether – An organic cotton and wood teething toy option.
  18. Shea Moisture Baby Wash and Lotion – Fabulous smelling baby wash and lotion without the junk!
  19. Animalz Wooden Animal Toys – Adorable and durable wooden animal toys.

Gifts for the Chef or Foodie

Does someone in your life love to cook (or eat)? These gifts make spending time in the kitchen so much fun!

  1. Stainless Steel Coffee Percolator – No plastic, no junk, just awesome coffee that stays warm for hours in this all-stainless percolator.
  2. Blendtec or Vitamix – both are amazing blenders that will last for years!
  3. Stainless Steel Immersion Blender – Great for sauces, smoothies, blending things in a pot or pan and so much more.
  4. Yogurt Maker – Homemade yogurt tastes so much better than store bought and is simple to make.
  5. Ice Cream Maker – Make any kind of ice cream: dairy-free, sugar-free, etc.
  6. Lead-free Crock Pot – A great slow cooker with a lead-free crock.
  7. Instant Pot – This electric pressure cooker has almost replaced our slow cooker and I use it at least three times a week.
  8. Crinkle Cutter – So the kids can help cut food for meals.
  9. Stainless Steel Bowls – Great for mixing, serving, and storage.
  10. Spiral Slicer – Make vegetables into noodles with this spiral slicer.
  11. Stainless Steel Straws – Replace disposable straws forever with these steel straws.
  12. Huck Towels – Similar to the towels they use in emergency rooms… these towels are super absorbent, great for cleaning and easy to wash.
  13. Mason Jars + Cuppow Lids + Sprouting Lids – Use mason jars for cups and the opportunities are endless.
  14. Kombucha Brewing Supplies – Do you drink kombucha? If so, do you make your own? It is so much better and the flavors are endless.
  15. Dehydrator – Preserve foods with a stainless steel dehydrator.
  16. Xtrema Cookware – Scratch-proof ceramic pans.
  17. Bamboo Utensils – These inexpensive bamboo utensils are great for cooking.
  18. Stainless Steel Large Baking Dish – These have been a lifesaver when cooking for large get-togethers with family and friends.
  19. Glass Electric Tea Kettle – Make tea in seconds with this glass electric tea kettle.
  20. Salt Block for Cooking – I love cooking fish, meat and even baked goods on a salt block for amazing flavor.
  21. Premium Milk Frother – If you want to spring for an unusual (and more pricey) gift, this milk frother makes coffee shop worthy froth for coffee.
  22. Organic Spice Set – These super high-quality organic spices (from my favorite olive oil makers) are beautifully packaged and come in ready-made blends like Smoky, Tex-Mex, Savory, Taco, Bagel, and more to make flavorful cooking easy.

Gift Ideas for the Grandparents

Our parents both live nearby and are involved in our kids’ lives. I always struggle with what to get them that somehow says “thanks for everything you did for me all of those years and thanks for being just as awesome with my kids.” We usually give them something handmade from the grandkids, but these are some other ideas that have been a hit. (Some of these are also ideas for this year, so Mom, if you’re reading this … don’t read past here. 😉 )

  1. Amazon Prime Membership – What my parents are getting this year (don’t tell them!). This gives them free 2-day shipping on many items and free streaming of many movie and music.
  2. Photo Frame – This photo frame was a hit a few years ago with our parents. No fancy motion detectors, wi-fi, bluetooth or anything else that can stop working.
  3. Kindle Fire – My brother got my mom a Kindle a couple of years ago and she uses it quite a bit.
  4. Terracotta Plant Waterer – Perhaps not the most fancy of gifts, but very practical for anyone with house plants (I just ordered some). It upcycles a glass bottle to water a plant for weeks.
  5. Wine Subscription – If your parents are wine-drinkers, they will love this wine subscription box of organic biodynamic wines.
  6. Royally Flawless Face Oil – Ditch all the overpriced anti-aging creams out there. This oil uses high-quality ingredients for real results.
  7. Shiatsu Massage Pillow – I got this for my mom last Christmas and she uses it all the time.
  8. Glass Electric Tea Kettle – For tea-drinkers, this electric glass tea kettle makes tea available almost on demand.
  9. Instant Pot – The grandparents love it for all the reasons we love it- faster and more nutritious meals!
  10. The Grandparent Book Journal – A sweet way to encourage kids and grandparents to spend time together and a beautiful keepsake of family history.
  11. Or anything on the lists above that they will love!

“Just in Case” Gifts

These inexpensive gifts are great to have on hand for when someone drops by with a gift or to take to party hosts. I keep several of these wrapped to give when someone brings a gift by unexpectedly:

  1. Electric Wine Bottle Opener – A fun way to open up a bottle of wine.
  2. RTIC Tumbler – Great for keeping drinks hot or cold while on the go.
  3. Bottle of Wine – We have a subscription to these delicious biodynamic wines, so I always have an extra bottle on hand.
  4. Grocery Bag Carrying Handles – They make carrying all those bags of groceries a lot easier!
  5. Bag of Organic Coffee – Who doesn’t love coffee, especially when it’s organic and fair trade?
  6. Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Iced Coffee Pot/Maker – I’m a big fan of cold brew coffee and this is a great way to make it.
  7. Car Diffuser – Keep the car smelling great all year long!
  8. Mason Jar Solar Light – Add some beautiful ambiance to any room with these solar lights.
  9. Mason Jar with Drinking Lid – Ditch the plastic and drink out of old-school mason jars!

Funny Gifts for Dirty Santa and Gift Exchanges

These are some of my favorite funny gift ideas for dirty santa or white elephant gift exchanges. Sure to get lots of laughs!

  1. Toilet Light – For those night time bathroom trips.
  2. Nap Sack Prank Box – Take a nap anywhere with this hood.
  3. Prank Pack Crib Dribbler – A fun prank for baby someone with a baby.
  4. iDrive Prank Pack – This is just hilarious!
  5. You Parked Like An Idiot” Cards – I think my husband would actually use these!
  6. Slipper Genie Mopping Slipper – This might actually get my kids to help sweep the floor more often.
  7. The Obsessive Chef Cutting Board – For the OCD chef.
  8. Pooping Pooch Calendar – Yep, it’s exactly what you picture… perfect (or awful?!) for the dog lover in your family!
  9. Banana Slicer – If you’re going to eat bananas, why not slice it correctly?
  10. Cards Against Humanity – These are incredibly irreverent, but will have you on the floor laughing for hours.
  11. Maybe Swearing Will Help Coloring Book and Markers – For the potty mouth (or clean mouth?) in your life 🙂

Family Gifts & Outdoor Fun Gifts

If you’re like us and often choose family gifts that the whole family can enjoy (or enjoy better health because of), you might love these options. This list also includes outdoor activity gifts that we use and love.

  1. Sauna – This is one gift that will have long-lasting health benefits. It isn’t an inexpensive gift, but one that family can enjoy all year.
  2. Joovv Light – Like the sauna, this gift also brings the benefit of boosting health. Red light therapy is well-studied for its skin and mitochondria benefits and this is one of my favorite parts of my daily routine.
  3. Rapid Release – Like a chiropractor and a massage therapist built into one. This device is designed to release muscle tension and it works! I love this thing.
  4. Myobuddy – A percussive heated massager that targets muscle and fascia. A lot of people use this for cellulite, I just use it for relaxation and fascia massage.
  5. Wholetones Music Subscription – Uses soothing music with targeted sound frequencies to induce health benefits like stress reduction, focus, sleep… and yes, it works even for kids! I love this one too because it isn’t a physical item to store around the house.
  6. Organic & Natural Mattresses – This was our gift to each other one year and we love our mattress. We have an Intellibed and love it, but My Green Mattress is also a great option and not as pricey.
  7. Natural Cookware – I got some of this cookware for Christmas years ago and have been using it since then!
  8. Matching Organic Jammies –  Switching to organic PJs is one way to reduce chemical exposure from clothing by half and these organic jammies are our favorites.
  9. A Year of Wine – I love wine, but most wine is contaminated with chemicals and additives. Hubby and I give each other natural wine from Dry Farm Wines.
  10. Trampoline – Not just for kids when you consider the lymphatic benefits of jumping!
  11. Swing – Our kids love this backyard swing and they can all fit on it!
  12. Slackline – Like a balance beam and trampoline in one. It encourages balance and coordinating and is hours of fun.
  13. Ninjaline – Like monkey bars but tougher. A lot of people use these for Ninja Warrior training, but our kids just think it is fun!

Natural Beauty & Home Gifts (Ones to Buy or DIY)

Home & Beauty to DIY

I love receiving homemade gifts and making them for others. I have hundreds of DIY recipes and tutorials on the blog, but the ones on this list make the best gifts. These are especially perfect for stocking stuffers!

If you aren’t into the DIY options, here are some great store-bought alternatives:

  1. Lotion Bars – If you’d like lotion bars similar to my recipes, but that you don’t have to make yourself, check out Made On, a small, family-owned company that makes all kinds of lotion bars, soaps, natural baby products, and hair products that are up to my standards. If you use the code WELLNESSMAMA, you’ll get a 15% discount on your order!
  2. Alitura Skincare – Alitura uses organic botanicals and superfood ingredients to nourish the skin. This is serious skincare with the works: clay masks, intensive moisturizers, derma rollers, and more. Use the code WELLNESS for 20% off!
  3. Toups Organics (Makeup & Beauty) – Heather of Mommypotamus introduced me to this line and they have an incredible line of clean cosmetics, lotions, and even a baking-soda free deodorant for sensitive types.
  4. Crunchy Betty Facial Serum & Natural Deodorant: Mentioned before, but I can’t say enough about them.
  5. Branch Basics Cleaners – I know I’d be happy to find some all-natural cleaning products (I don’t have to make) under the Christmas tree.
  6. Vibrant Blue Oils – Wildcrafted and organic essential oil blends made to support specific health conditions. Use the code WELLNESSMAMA10 to get 10% off through December 31st.
  7. Magnesium Oil – Spray on for relaxation, detox support, even deodorant!
  8. Homebiotic Spray – Like a probiotic for your home, this freshens air by targeting the source of bad smells… bacteria and mold.
  9. Genexa OTC Medicines – So much of what goes in children’s medicine is just flavors, dyes, preservatives, and fillers. Genexa is the first to come up with a line of over the counter and homeopathic medications completely free of all unnecessary additives. I give these to my kids for colds, coughs, fevers, or even just a bad night of sleep, and they’ve worked great for us.
  10. Kid-Safe Essential Oil Roll-Ons – For sleep, headaches, cold relief, and more, without having to worry about negative side effects.

There’s probably a lot more that could be added to this list, but these are my current favorites. If you still haven’t found the perfect gift on this list, Heather shares all of her favorite natural gifts here.

What is on your Christmas list this year? What are you getting for friends and family?

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Health

Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Health

Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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