5 Tips for Healthier Nails

Healthy fingernails are a sign of wellness and beauty. There are several ways to get healthier fingernails.

1. Try a Biotin Supplement

Most people who eat a varied, healthy, and balanced diet do not need dietary supplements to ensure healthy nails. However, some people naturally have weak nails, or they lack proper nutrition, which contributes to fragility.

Vitamin B7, biotin, is an essential nutrient in milk, eggs, bananas, and other foods. The vitamin is crucial to hair and nail health. If a person has a deficiency, their hair may thin, and their nails might become brittle and weak.

A biotin supplement can help people with a deficiency, but it may also help those with naturally weak nails. Some studies suggest biotin helps promote nail growth and health.

2. Take a Break From Manicures and Polish

Many people enjoy manicures and dressing their nails up with polish. While healthy nails can often handle the abuse and coverage, it is still a good idea to let them breathe every so often.

Overworking your nails can cause damage, and it may weaken their integrity. There is nothing wrong with having an occasional manicure, but when a manicurist shapes and works your nails too much, you can open yourself up to greater infection risks.

Also, choose an acetone-free nail polish remover, and avoid acrylic nails. Using harsh chemicals or applying false nails can weaken the nail's structure and lead to infections.

3. Moisturize Your Cuticles

People often underestimate the importance of nail cuticles. Cuticles work like caulk around a shower; they keep damaging bacteria and other elements away from the nail bed.

Many people trim their cuticles or push them down. Being too aggressive with your cuticles can damage them. Damaging a cuticle can open your nails and fingers up to infection. Signs of infection include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Pus

Also, do not believe that visiting a professional manicurist to have your cuticles trimmed eliminates the risk of infection. Even professionals can make mistakes.

4. Practice Good Nail Hygiene

If you want healthy and strong nails, it is best to maintain good nail hygiene. Keep nails trimmed and clean.

In the past, long nails were fashionable. Unfortunately, long nails are also more prone to breakage and infection than shorter nails.

Today, shorter, more natural nails are in fashion, which is better for your health. Keeping your nails trimmed reduces the risks of snagging or breaking. It also helps keep the underside of the nail cleaner.

A nail brush allows you to clean between the nail and nail bed without aggressively opening or widening the gap. You do not need to scrub vigorously. Gently scrubbing back and forth with the brush will clean your nails without an increased risk of injury or infection.

5. Wear Gloves and Take Infections Seriously

Whenever you are working with your hands, wear gloves. Gloves protect against the elements and guard against dirt, grime, and accompanying bacteria. However, even the most diligent individual might experience an infection.

If you get a nail infection, seek treatment. Nail infections can spread if not corrected. Also, some people are at a greater risk of severe infections because of medications or health conditions.

Nail hygiene matters to overall well-being. For more advice on healthy nails, contact a local dermatologist.

Using Light Therapy To Treat Wintertime Blues

While there are many reasons to love the fall and winter, primarily holidays and presents, the seasonal shift can lead to emotional problems. The lack of sunlight in the winter months is tied to seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

The symptoms of SAD tend to follow the changes of the seasons. Most people who experience the conditions begin experiencing mood swings and fatigue that start in the fall, continue through the winter, and end in early spring.

The treatments for SAD range from psychotherapy to medications to light therapy or phototherapy. Phototherapy is the first line of defense against SAD, and it involves special light boxes that mimic the sun.

The problem is not all sun lamps are effective for phototherapy, so you should speak to your doctor before purchasing one. However, if you would like to narrow down your search before talking to your doctor, there are several things you should consider.

1. Specifications

Sun lamps should be comfortable to sit in front of for a minimum of 20 minutes per day. Therefore, you might want to opt for a glare-free light or one that can be placed on a downward angle to reduce or eliminate eye strain. 

Additionally, you will want a lamp that generates a minimum of 10,000 lux, approximately 20 times greater than most indoor lights and lamps. It would be best if you also looked for a sun lamp that produces a cool-white fluorescent light.

2. Safety

While a sun lamp can help combat SAD, you want a light that filters out UV light. Do not go by website descriptions alone. Make sure the box specifies the lamp is UV-free. UV light can damage the skin and the eyes.

Lamps used to treat skin conditions are not the same as those meant to treat SAD. Lamps for mood disorders are much brighter, so make sure the light is intended for seasonal affective disorder.

3. Size

On average, you want to find a sun lamp with a light surface between 12 and 15 inches. Typically, the larger the surface, the higher the output. Larger lamps can also provide users with more versatility, allowing them to move further away from the light while maintaining the benefits.

Smaller lights are still effective, but you often need to use them more often. Small lamps are also easier to travel with, making them ideal for people who travel and experience jet lag.

4. Preference

When selecting a lamp for light therapy, you will want to consider your personal needs. For instance, will you be using the lamp while working or after getting off a long flight? Knowing how you will use the light will help you identify specific models.

5. Recommendation

One of the best sun lamps on the market is the Carex Day-Light Classic Plus light therapy lamp. The surface area is large, 15.5 by 13.5 inches, and it is a 10,000 lux light. Additionally, the stand is adjustable, and the light can be placed in a downward position to prevent glare. At just over $100, the lamp sits in the middle of the pack.

SAD is a legitimate condition that occurs because of seasonal changes. A sun lamp can help prevent some of the many symptoms of the winter blues, including boosting your energy. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask if a sun lamp would be a worthwhile purchase.

Do you experience the winter blues? If so, how do you cope? 

The Possible Causes of Premature Graying

Many men and women stress finding gray hairs; they assume it is a sign of poor health or aging. When the gray starts to appear earlier than expected, it can throw people into an absolute panic but is that the appropriate response. 

There are many reasons your hair might turn gray “prematurely,” but more often than not, it is a natural progression, with several professionals suggesting that by the time you turn 50, half your hair is gray. Obviously, those opinions are not all-inclusive, but they point to an interesting factor: going gray is normal, even predictable, so why do people fear it instead of embracing it. Whether out of existential dread or concerns about public perception, going gray prematurely is likely the result of one or a combination of factors.

1. Genetics

Genetics plays a significant role in when and how your hair will turn gray. Look into your family history; when did your mother’s or father’s hair turn gray? What about siblings, cousins, aunts, or uncles? If most people in your family have turned gray early, the odds are that your hair will follow suit. However, there is a chance that your risk of inheriting premature gray hair is unlikely, in which case, there might be another culprit.

2. Lifestyle

What is your lifestyle like? Are you sedentary or active? Do you have a fulfilling personal life? Your lifestyle can affect your hair, but to what extent is still unknown. While people have speculated for years that stress plays a significant role in premature graying, there is little to no evidence corroborating the assumption.

3. Diet

Diet can be a crucial player in when your hair turns gray and even how healthy it is. Your hair depends on several cellular and biological processes that, in turn, depend on several vital nutrients. If you are not getting enough nutritional value from your food, you may see adverse effects on your hair. For instance, vitamins B-12, A, C, D, and E are essential to hair health. If you are deficient in any of these nutrients, you can experience hair loss or other signs of premature aging, like graying hair.

4. Smoking

One of the worst things you can do for hair health is smoke. Unlike stress, smoking has been proven to have a connection to graying hair, especially among those 30 and younger. If you are concerned with premature graying, avoid smoking cigarettes and avoid secondhand smoke inhalation.

5. Medical Condition

While not the most likely cause of early graying, certain medical conditions can lead to the development of gray hair. Pituitary and thyroid gland problems are two conditions that might be connected to graying hair, but it should be noted that such results are incredibly rare. 

Premature graying is most often a result of genetics, but depending on your lifestyle, diet, and habits, the aging or transformation of your hair might be reversible. However, if genetic or permanent, do not assume you need to cover it up. Gray hair is a natural part of aging and is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. 

Do you fear gray hair, or do you embrace the change?

6 Natural Ways To Alleviate Symptoms of Menopause

For most women, menopause will begin in their late 40s or early 50s, lasting for a few years. While not all women will experience severe menopausal symptoms, nearly two-thirds will. The symptoms include:

  • Irritability 
  • Mood swings 
  • Night sweats 
  • Tiredness 
  • Hot flashes

If that wasn’t enough, menopausal women have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Because of the increased risks and predictable symptoms, most women look for relief from their doctors. However, not all women want to turn to prescriptions or OTC medicines to help combat symptoms. Thankfully, there are several natural ways to reduce the severity of menopause.

1. Diet and Weight Management 

Menopause leads to several hormonal changes that can weaken bones, meaning calcium and vitamin D are crucial nutrients during menopausal years. While there are many sources of both essential nutrients, some of the most beneficial are: 

  • Natural sunlight  
  • Leafy greens (Kale, spinach, collard greens) 
  • Calcium-fortified foods 
  • Oily fish 
  • Eggs 
  • Cod liver oil

While menopause commonly leads to weight gain because of hormonal changes, genetics, aging, and lifestyle choices, excess body fat around the waist increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Aside from reducing severe health risks, women who lose at least 10% of their body weight can eliminate uncomfortable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.

2. Exercise 

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. While it might not have any effect on hot flashes, several studies suggest the positive impact of consistent workouts, including: 

  • Improved energy 
  • Better sleep 
  • Decreased stress 
  • Healthier joints 
  • Improved metabolism 
  • Reduced risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, anxiety

3. Hydration

A common side effect of menopause is dryness and dehydration; the assumed cause is decreasing estrogen levels. Menopausal women should consume at least eight to 12 glasses of water per day to reduce the likelihood of dehydration, dryness, and bloating.  

Drinking enough water can also help with weight management and loss. When you drink enough water, you are more likely to feel fuller longer. Additionally, water can increase your metabolism.

4. Trigger Foods

Some women might be surprised to learn that certain foods can trigger adverse menopausal side effects, such as mood swings, night sweats, and hot flashes. While there are several common triggers, including alcohol, caffeine, spicy and sugary foods, every woman is different. 

It would be best if you kept a symptom diary to track your trigger foods. Write down everything you eat and how you feel after the meal. You want to keep track for several weeks to determine likely food triggers.

5. Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, meaning foods rich in these compounds can help balance hormones during menopause. Women in many Asian countries consume diets rich in phytoestrogens, and many experts credit that to why women in such countries rarely experience hot flashes. 

The phytoestrogen content can vary by food and processing method. Some of the foods with the highest phytoestrogen content include: 

  • Soybeans 
  • Soy products 
  • Tofu 
  • Flaxseeds 
  • Tempeh 
  • Linseeds 
  • Beans 
  • Sesame seeds

6. Supplements

While the evidence is limited, many women stand by the use of natural supplements for treating menopausal symptoms. Some of the most popular supplements include: 

  • Black cohosh 
  • Phytoestrogens 
  • Probiotics 
  • Prebiotics 
  • DHEA-S 
  • Kava 
  • Dong Quai 
  • Evening primrose oil

Menopause is a natural part of life, but its symptoms can be challenging. By making a few lifestyle and dietary changes, you can curb the severity of symptoms. However, you should always consult your doctor before making any drastic life choices. 

How do you cope with the symptoms of menopause?

6 Techniques To Get Rid of Brain Fog And Stay Calm All Day

clear fog

There are lots of things you can do to enjoy a serene and positive morning. Try these six calming techniques to improve your mental focus, boost your energy levels and make each morning a lot brighter.

Perform Gentle Stretches

Stretching is a great way to alleviate tense muscles. Interestingly, exercise also helps you get rid of stress. Here’s how to do a simple shoulder stretch using a chair:

  1. Move forward to the edge of the chair (but make sure you still have stability).
  2. Place your arms behind you and lock your fingers around the back of the chair.
  3. Lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Hold this position for 15–30 seconds, or whatever is comfortable.

As you activate your muscles, it purges excess stress hormones and releases calming endorphins instead. These natural painkillers even improve your flexibility and reduce inflammation.

Play Relaxing Music

Slow, gentle music has tremendous power to release anxiety naturally. A soft piano melody or beauty acoustic guitar arrangement can evoke positive emotions and make you think of a gorgeous meadow with flowers. This has a physical effect on your stress hormones, releasing a neurochemical called dopamine that gives you a sensation of happiness and euphoria.

Try Easy Aromatherapy

You don’t have to visit a spa to enjoy the soothing power of scents. Aromatherapy can be as easy as placing fresh flowers on your bedside table. Candles and oil diffusers are also popular. Choose a scent that brings to mind positive memories. For some people, lavender, basil and eucalyptus have this effect. Smelling a fresh lemon can help lower your stress, too.

Do a Few Deep Breathing Exercises

Shallow breathing makes your brain think you’re not getting enough oxygen. This triggers a stress response that speeds up your heart rate. The solution? Take a moment each morning to breathe deeply. Here’s how:

  1. Lie on your back in a comfortable position or sit in a chair with your neck resting against the back of the chair.
  2. Close your lips and inhale deeply through your nostrils.
  3. Some people find it relaxing to place their hands on their chest or belly. It depends on your personal preferences.
  4. As you breathe deeply, you should feel the lower part of your chest expand as it fills with air.
  5. Slowly exhale from your mouth, blowing gently outwards.

Filling your lungs with oxygen in this way can naturally start to slow your pulse and make you feel more relaxed. It’s as if you’re letting go of stress with each breath.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

Certain foods give your brain a nutrient boost. If you’re feeling brain fog frequently, you may be missing essential vitamins. Now’s the perfect time to fall in love with avocado toast for breakfast. Avocados are packed with healthy fats, antioxidants and potassium for increasing mental performance. Walnuts and blueberries are also stellar choices.

Focus on Happy Memories

The emotions you feel are usually directly related to what you think about. If you wake up in the morning with anxiety, try not to dwell on worries. Of course, to get rid of these negative feelings, you need to replace them with something positive. A happy memory with loved ones is the perfect choice.

Before you know it, you’ve forgotten about stress and you’re ready to start the day on with a smile on your face. Some people enjoy reading a favorite book or inspirational quotes in the morning for the same reason.

6 Foods That Are Toxic to Pets (Cats, Too)

Toxic Foods for Pets

I have a couple of cats at home, but I love dogs, too. Sometimes I like to show my love by sharing a treat, such as hard-boiled eggs, turkey or bananas. However, there are many human foods that you should never give a cat or dog. Avoid these six dangerous foods when cuddling with your cat or dog:

1. Caffeine

The reason chocolate is bad for pets is that it contains caffeine. Pets are extremely sensitive to caffeine. It can overload their hearts, kidneys and nervous system, causing high fever, coma or organ failure. Never give dogs, cats, ferrets or other pets any foods with caffeine:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Energy drinks

If you catch your pet lapping up a little bit of coffee, don’t panic. The small amount of caffeine will probably just make them sick, not seriously ill. On the other hand, chocolate and dark chocolate have a huge amount of caffeine, so you’ll want to call a veterinarian immediately.

2. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins may seem perfect for dog treats, but don’t let the small size fool you. Something in grapes causes rapid kidney failure in dogs. Just one or two raisins can be enough to trigger a severe reaction.

Scientists still don’t know what chemical compound is responsible, but it’s very dangerous for all canines. The jury is out on felines, but most vets recommend not giving grapes and raisins to cats just to play it safe.

3. Alcohol

No pet should ever drink any kind of alcohol. Just like with caffeine, animals react much more strongly to alcohol than humans do. This includes beer and wine, too. The small organs in most pets aren’t equipped to deal with intoxication, so their heart rate may slow dangerously or they may lose consciousness. With enough alcohol, even large dogs will stop breathing.

4. Garlic and Onions

Cats are more sensitive to garlic than dogs, but dogs can still have problems if they eat enough of it. Any part of the onion family (green onions, too) can hurt your pet’s red blood cells, causing anemia and muscle weakness. Garlic powder is especially toxic since it’s a concentrated form.

5. Nuts

Most nuts are high in specific fats that lead to pancreas inflammation in dogs. Macadamia nuts are the worst for canines, causing shaking, fever and vomiting. You don’t have to panic if your dog just eats a few peanuts or almonds. But if you find them raiding a whole jar of nuts, call the vet immediately.

6. Artificial Sweetener

Be careful if you want to give your pet cookies, gum or other packaged sweets. Many of these products contain artificial sweeteners. Even small doses of a sweetener called Xylitol can trigger liver failure in virtually all pets.

How can you tell if your pet has been affected? Dogs and cats experience a strange loss of balance, like they were drunk. They may seem unusually tired or lethargic. Actually, any time a pet acts really strange (except for catnip) I think it’s a good idea to call the vet.

It’s hard to resist giving an affectionate pet treats. Just make sure not to choose any of the items on this list. This can literally save your pet’s life. Go with crunchy carrots and tasty bananas instead.

EBMT: Advances in Weight Loss Procedures

Obesity is an epidemic, and it is one with few options — medication, lifestyle modifications, and bariatric surgery — until recently. For many patients, lifestyle alterations and drugs are not enough for lasting change. While bariatric options are capable solutions, most patients struggle to meet surgical requirements, and even if they do, they opt out of surgery because of fear and anxiety.

Thankfully, because of recent medical advancements, overweight patients have options outside of lifestyle interventions and invasive surgeries. Endoscopic bariatric and metabolic therapies provide a necessary median between dietary changes and surgical options.

EBMT procedures present fewer risks than traditional bariatric surgeries and are outpatient procedures. The process involves the insertion of a small, flexible scope through the patient's mouth and requires reducing their stomach volume and possible alterations to the digestive tract. The reduced risks and minimal invasiveness mean an entirely new patient pool can receive treatment for obesity and other metabolic diseases.

The Rise of Noninvasive Procedures and Customization

While not a widespread practice at the moment, EBMT procedures are growing in popularity. One of the few institutions currently providing various EBMT services in the Midwest is the University of Michigan's Michigan Medicine program.

According to the program's head, it is a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, using nutritionists, gastrointestinal psychologists, medical bariatrician, and bariatric surgeons. Each medical professional plays a role in developing a personalized plan for each patient, integrating their personal goals and expectations.

The Michigan Medicine program and others like it aim to provide noninvasive options for patients in need and customized solutions to improve the odds of a successful outcome. Unfortunately, because the methods are still new, many insurance providers do not cover EBMT procedures, meaning patients should consider the costs and work with a financial counselor to review options.

Types of EBMT Procedures

There are three popular options for EBMT procedures: intragastric balloon therapy, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, and aspiration therapy. Intragastric balloon therapy is for patients with a BMI of 30 to 40. During the procedure, a bariatric surgeon endoscopically inserts fluid or gas-filled balloons through the patient's mouth and into their stomach during a 30-minute procedure. The balloons decrease the available space in the stomach, limiting food consumption. This procedure is reversible, and balloons require removal after six months.

An endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is intended for patients with a BMI of more than 30. While it is compared to the traditional surgical sleeve gastrectomy, this procedure is minimally invasive and incisionless with a low complication rate. It is an excellent option for nonsurgical candidates and provides the possibility of sustained weight loss.

Finally, aspiration therapy is for those patients with a BMI of 35 to 55 and involves the placement of a tube device and drain. A surgeon places the device through a small incision endoscopically into the stomach, leaving a port valve outside the body. The patient will aspirate or open the drain up to three times per day, 30 minutes after each meal. The valve allows up to 30% of a meal to evacuate the system over 10 minutes. The evacuated contents can be discarded.

Aspiration therapy requires medical monitoring, but it can provide an option for long-term weight loss. Patients will need to maintain hygiene and cleanliness practices to reduce the risk of infection or other issues.

Despite the continued obesity epidemic, medical procedures constantly evolve to help combat the problem and offer a solution to qualified candidates. Have you heard of any other new treatments or procedures for weight loss or management?

3 Holistic Remedies for Arthritis

If you have arthritis, you’re not alone. Almost 25% of adults in America have arthritis according to the CDC. That’s over 54 million people! While medication may be one method for easing the pain of arthritis, taking an approach that focuses on the entire person can bring relief as well. Here are three holistic ways to deal with joint inflammation and the overall discomfort of arthritis.

Eat Well

There are two types of arthritis:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease where the body essentially attacks its own joints

  • Osteoarthritis, which is the natural wearing-away of a joint’s cartilage

Studies have found that eating a diet full of fruits, veggies and unprocessed foods can help with both. Many fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation, thereby easing your arthritis symptoms, as well as other aches and pains you may experience.

Turmeric is another antioxidant all-star you should incorporate into your diet if you have arthritis. A common ingredient in Indian food, the mild (and delicious!) spice contains curcumin, a chemical that also has anti-inflammatory oomph. It’s a versatile flavor that can easily be added to veggies, rice, soups, smoothies and your morning eggs. (Personally, I prefer to take my turmeric via a hot, soothing cup of ginger turmeric tea.) It’s also available in a supplement form at most pharmacies.

Eating right is perhaps the best change you can make to ease arthritis aches and pains. What’s more, a colorful diet full of whole foods is just plain good for you. Ditching salty, preservative-packed meals and empty, sugary calories will help not only your joints but also your waistline and your energy. Losing weight and being more active? Two more practices that will aid in your fight against arthritis and make you feel better overall.

Meditate

Stress is an enabler. When you’re anxious and overwhelmed, the state of agitation can make your joints go wild — and not in a good way. Reduce your stress, and your joints will settle down.

Ready to start meditating? You might try out one of the several well-reviewed meditation apps available for your phone or tablet. Two of the most popular of these, Calm and Headspace, also offer sleep aids, so you can make sure you get plenty of rest.

If meditation isn’t up your alley, consider yoga, tai chi or simply incorporating a few deep-breathing exercises into your daily routine. Progressive muscle relaxation is also an excellent tool for loosening up your joints and easing anxiety.

As with eating right, lowering your stress level is good for so much more than just your arthritis. Being more relaxed is great for your memory, focus, energy and overall mental and physical health.

Try Acupuncture

This may be the most “out there” suggestion on the list, but don’t scroll past this paragraph just yet. Yes, acupuncture involves sticking teeny-tiny needles at specific points on your body, but it’s also one of the oldest remedies for pain in the world. In other words, it works.

The needles boost your body’s energy via meridians, which are basically energy’s superhighway throughout your body. When your energy is out of whack — a state called qi — an acupuncture treatment helps get everything back on track.

This ancient Chinese remedy has been practiced for centuries and can relieve stress from RA and OA as well as other forms of persistent pain. One of my oldest friends swears by acupuncture as a balm for her chronic back pain, for example. Another tempered the aches, pains and general discomfort of chemotherapy with regular acupuncture sessions.

Arthritis doesn’t have to rule your life. If your current treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, give one of these holistic approaches a try. Your joints are only a few cogs in the marvelous machine that is your body. By taking a holistic route, you may just find that improving your overall health has a huge positive impact on your arthritis.

4 Surprising Places Where Germs May Be Lurking In Your Home

In an effort to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have become particularly preoccupied with germs and their whereabouts. From sanitizing grocery cart handles to vigorously scrubbing the common areas in the breakroom to religiously cleansing frequently used door handles, you may find yourself going above and beyond in your attempts to keep COVID — and other germs — at bay. While your efforts are not for naught, they may be slightly ill-focused. Because, while germs are everywhere, they’re most likely propagating in areas to which you’re not paying attention — many of which are in your very own home.

Though obvious places in your home require daily scrubbing, there are several others that you may only clean once or twice a week, if that. Unfortunately, these are likely areas that accumulate the most bacteria. Read on to discover four surprising hot spots for germs in your home.

1. The Kitchen Sink

The National Sanitation Foundation found that places in which food is stored and prepared had more fecal matter and other forms of bacteria than any other place in the home. And a hotspot for germs in the kitchen is your sink.

From the sponge to the faucet to the basin itself, everything about your sink is disgusting if not frequently sanitized. While this may be alarming, the good news is that it’s easy to do something about all that grossness. Below are a few easy tips for keeping your kitchen safe and sanitary:

  • Wipe down the sink basin and other surfaces with disinfectant wipes daily.
  • Microwave sponges daily and replace them biweekly.
  • Replace dishtowels frequently.
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.

2. The Vacuum

From the brushes to the bags to the handles, vacuums are meals-on-wheels for bacteria. Not only do you suck up all the yuck in your home with this contraption and then just leave it to feed on itself but also, when you start it, it emits bacteria-infested dust particles back into the air. The easy fix: Clean all parts of your vacuum frequently and empty the bag after each use.

3. The Home Office and Living Room

As frequently used areas of the home, these rooms are bound to collect germs. However, specifically focus on the most commonly used items in each, such as the remote control and your computer keyboard. One study found that the majority of keyboards contained enough bacteria to be considered “health hazards,” while video game controllers and remotes often contain staph. Use disinfectant wipes on these items and other commonly touched surfaces daily and wash your hands before and after touching certain household items.

4. Toothbrush Holder  

Research shows that the dirtiest item in your home is the dish sponge or rag. Coming in second, however, is your toothbrush holder.

According to studies, an average of 3,318,477 microorganisms live on every 10 square centimeters of your toothbrush holder. If your toothbrush holder is dish waster safe, pop it in the dishwasher twice a week, and your toothbrush along with it. If it’s not, use hot water and soap or disinfectant wipes to sanitize it.

Now that you’re officially grossed out, there is some good news. As much as 99% of the bacteria you encounter on a daily basis is harmless. Though you should use the information shared here to inform your cleaning efforts, don’t let it scare you out of living comfortably in your home. Practice good hygiene and clean surfaces regularly and you should be fine.

My Favorite Healthy Fall Recipes

Fall is upon us, and with it comes the urge to cook all the rich foods a person can dream up. Whether you prefer your pie stuffed with pumpkin, chicken and gravy, or tamale filling, there has got to be something healthier, yet still comforting, that you can make at home, right? Of course there is. You can even use fresh, seasonal foods for cooking up a healthy fall meal.

Cool-weather salads

Most people think of salad as a summer food. That's understandable because so many green vegetables are in season during the warmest part of the year. However, many greens, including spinach and kale, keep growing until the beginning of winter. You can also use that famous fall vegetable, Brussels sprouts, as a salad base. The trick is to chop the sprouts into thin strips first. Once you have the base, add some more autumn classics, such as cranberries or pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds, chopped apples, and a strong, salty cheese like Parmesan or feta.

One-pan Dinners

The fact that you're staying away from unhealthy casseroles and pot pies doesn't mean you can't have any one-pot dinners in your autumn dinner rotation. When you're trying to keep it simple, think in terms of substituting vegetables for noodles and other grains. Doing that will lower the net carbs in your favorite recipes without sacrificing the overall flavor profile.

Another good choice is an egg-based pie, such as a frittata or quiche. Make your quiche crustless or use a riced cauliflower base. To make the filling, whip the eggs with heavy cream and all the roasted or sauteed vegetables you can find—Bake in a medium oven for around 20 minutes, or until the egg mixture is set. If eggs aren't your thing, try a low-carb chili recipe or broccoli and cauliflower au gratin.

Low-carb Desserts

When you search for fall dessert recipes, you find page after page of treats filled with sugar and fat. Fortunately, you can adapt some of these recipes to be lower in sugar and overall carbs. Start by replacing the all-purpose flour with almond or coconut flour. For the sugar, use an alternative, such as monk fruit.

If you don't feel like figuring out the substitutions for yourself, look for keto desserts. Many keto recipes have already been adapted to reduce the sugar and carb content; others simply take a different approach to dessert. For example, all you need for a yummy, crust-free pumpkin pie is canned pumpkin, gelatin, butter, and sweetener, as well as a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Dissolve the gelatin in hot water, add melted butter and all the rest of the ingredients, and then chill until set.

If you don't care about staying away from carbs but do want to steer clear of added sugar, a simple dessert of berries and cream may be your best bet. To fancy it up a bit, stew some fruit, whether berries, peaches, apples, or pears, in a bit of water and cinnamon, and serve over biscuits or with cream.

Warming comfort foods don't have to be out of reach just because you want to eat healthy. Use these recipes to keep you eating what's in season even as the weather changes. Now it's your turn: What would you add to this list? How do you keep eating healthy even after summer is over?