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Category : Health & Wellbeing

Benefits of Tongue Scraping For Dental (And Overall) Health

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There’s been a flurry of articles recently about the ancient ayurvedic practice of oil pulling. Everyone from fashion blogs to CNN have been extolling the benefits oil pulling and recommending the best oil types with which to swish. Perhaps it is our newfound collective obsession with a holistic lifestyle (of which organic oils are an integral role) that had oil pulling become so on-trend. Not that I’m knocking it – I’ve tried it and found it beneficial, albeit gross.

An Alternative to Oil Pulling

There is however another ayurvedic practice that has not received the same love and attention that oil pulling has, but that has proven benefits to which I can personally attest. I’m writing this to set that record straight and shed some light on…tongue scraping.

Tongue Scraping? Sounds Painful…

It’s not. It is a quick, simple and extremely inexpensive practice (all you need is a $7 tongue cleaner!) that reaps many benefits. I call tongue scraping the “unsung hero of oral health.” I have been enthusiastically tongue scraping for years now, and I don’t see how anyone could try tongue scraping once, see the gunk you remove from your tongue, and not become an enthusiast as well. I therefore urge you to go out and start scraping today.

How About a Professional Opinion?

Kim Shamoun, a veteran registered dental hygienist and fellow tongue scraping zealot, says “I can’t live without tongue scraping. Without a doubt, it should be a part of our daily oral hygiene regimen. I stress to my patients, friends, family and strangers alike how important it really is. A tongue scraper is the one thing I would want with me on a deserted island…forget the lipstick!”

Why Else Would I Do Something that Sounds Like Medieval Torture?

We all know about, and to some extent suffer from, morning breath. (Am I the only one that performs a huge eye roll when movie lovebirds play kissy face immediately upon waking? No one is doing that IRL. Get a grip, directors.)

Well it just so happens that tongue scraping is one of the best defenses against halitosis, period! And if you scrape regularly, especially before bed, your morning breath will be drastically reduced. Why? Think about it: It’s called “oral hygiene”. So you brush your teeth, you floss your gums, but that big plush carpet that sits on the bottom of your mouth gets ignored. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Actually, the soft, spongy, bumpy texture of the tongue is the perfect little breeding ground for bacteria! What you scrape off your tongue is this bacteria along with various other toxins (ick). This bacteria is odor-causing, so the less bacteria, the less smell.

How Else Does a Dirty Mouth Affect Overall Health?

Taste. Housing our taste buds is the tongue’s best-known role. But when your tongue is coated in gunk, your taste buds have no chance to fully enjoy that wild mushroom risotto, molten chocolate cake or any other delicious morsel. And decreased taste actually leads to decreased…

Digestion. We all know that digestion begins in the mouth; saliva is filled with enzymes that start breaking down food. And, you know, there’s that chewing thing as well. The cleaner the mouth, the better you can taste your food (i.e., the more “mouth-watering” it is) the better your digestion is!

Plaque. The more soft plaque you have on your tongue, the more hard plaque will form on your teeth. This leads to – yup – bad breath, but also tooth decay!  As an aside, every time I go for my biannual teeth cleaning, my dentist compliments me on my home oral care. She’s actually told me “There’s really no plaque here for me to clean.” Thank you, tongue scraping!

Immunity. Among its other functions, the tongue is part our immune system. The more bacteria you remove from it, the less chance there is of that bacteria getting into your body and causing trouble, disease, etc.

Overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic (just one of many sources on this subject),  oral bacteria and poor oral hygiene are linked to several other diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even infertility. At less than a minute a day, tongue scraping is the ultimate ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure!

You Might Be Saying…

You may read this and say (perhaps a bit smugly), “I do clean my tongue, with my toothbrush!” Well, your heart’s in the right place, but you’ve got the wrong tool in your hand. “An ordinary toothbrush is not recommended; it does not remove the micro-organisms from the tongue properly” says Shamoun. Just as the malleable surface of your multi-bristled toothbrush is optimal for cleaning the hard surface of your teeth, you need a solid surface (like a stainless steel tongue scraper) to really clean the squishy surface of your tongue. A U-shaped tongue scraper is where it’s at. I really like Dr. Tung’s stainless steel tongue scrapers; Shamoun recommends Breath Rx.

A Tongue Scraping How-to Guide

As I said, it is quick and simple, though timing does matter. Ideally, you want to tongue scrape as soon upon waking as possible, before you’ve eaten anything, drank anything or brushed your teeth. Just open wide (you don’t want to hit your teeth with the scraper), stick your tongue out and, starting from the back, glide the scraper over your entire tongue. Rinse it after each scrape. Do this at least five times, and/or until your scrapes come up clean, meaning you’ve gotten all the gunk off! You may want to do it in the bathroom mirror over the sink at first, so you can make sure you are getting to the back of your tongue. Then, once you’re familiar with the feeling of that, you can do it sans mirror.

“The most posterior portion of the tongue collects the most buildup, so you really have to make sure you reach far back. The frequency should be a regular basis, morning and evening.” advises Shamoun.

I also tongue scrape at night, right before I brush my teeth before bed. I’m appalled to see what accumulates on my tongue in the course of the day, and appreciative to get rid of it!

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Holistic Methods for Improving Hair Health

improving hair health

What Causes Hair Loss After an Illness?

After a harrowing winter, it’s such a relief to finally step into the season of hazy spring days. However, if you happened to pick up a few nasty February flus, fevers and/or colds (like me!), you may find that your hair is shedding a bit more than usual. Why? Hair loss usually occurs 6-12 weeks after the offending event. From personal experience, I understand how utterly harrowing seeing extra hairs in the drain, comb and on your pillow can be, but this type of hair loss (called telogen effluvium) always stops and has the ability to reverse – provided you take steps to re-balance your body. In this article I’ll share a few useful tips on how to get your hair back on track.

Mindfulness for Improved Hair Health

Stress and emotional upset often present themselves physically: You may feel more tired than usual, achy or even sick. One of the many reasons for this is because stress can affect your hormone levels and how your body metabolises and absorbs nutrients. In the long run, this can lead to nutritional deficiencies and endocrine imbalances…and soon enough, hair loss.

Really, the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Although it may seem glaringly obvious, we often tend to forget to look after ourselves properly!

First, eat three nourishing and balanced meals a day – not processed foods that can lack essential vitamins and minerals – and two healthy snacks in-between. This will help sustain energy levels to your highly prolific hair cells. Secondly, take time out to unwind and reflect. Be it yoga, meditation, an art class, a stroll through Central Park or reading your favourite book on a park bench or a café, if it makes you feel relaxed, go for it.

“Hair Care” Means Scalp Care

Stress and illness can flare up dandruff, which is proven to worsen hair shedding. Avoid this unbecoming double whammy. Use a flaky/itchy scalp shampoo and toner daily, such as PK Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo and Scalp Toner, until irritation clears.

Blood Tests: Ferritin Levels and Hair Loss

If hair loss after an illness (or any hair loss for that matter) persists for longer than 6 weeks, I suggest you have blood tests done. You may even want to have them taken sooner if you are really worried. Your doctor will most likely do a full blood profile, but also make sure he/she checks your ferritin levels. This is a stored iron that helps to produce hair cell protein. Be sure to request it specifically, as your doctor may not automatically test for it.

While the reference range for ferritin levels varies between different laboratories, levels need to be at least 80 ug/L (micrograms per litre) for your hair to function optimally. Other figures to look out for are B12, Vitamin D, Serum Iron and thyroid function. Read more about Vitamin D rich foods and hair.

Take Action Early to Avoid Losing Hair

If you have recently been ill, or are currently under the weather, take a nutritional supplement to boost your immune system and help your body (and hair) recover. Look for a good all-round multi-vitamin and increase your protein intake at mealtimes. We suggest you include at least 120g (in weight) of any primary protein at breakfast and lunch. For example, 2 eggs, a 120g fillet of salmon, grilled chicken breast, or serving of steak.

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5 More Steps to Getting a Great Night’s Sleep: Sleep Strategies Part 2

5 sleep strategies to get you to sleep

If you’re still burning the midnight oil in spite of Tuesday’s tips, don’t worry! I have more sleep strategies to share!

Drown Yourself in White Noise

You may be reading this from a rural sanctuary, where you are lulled to sleep each night by a chorus of crickets. If so, good for you! But for my fellow city dwellers, you know the relentless noises of a metropolis can keep you up, and often even wake you from a sound sleep! A white noise machine (a loud fan works, too) will help drown out noises that would otherwise startle you awake or keep you awake. I prefer ones that sound like swooshing air, but you can download white noise apps for your phone or tablet that have several different sleep soundtracks. Choose the one that best entrances you!

Clear the Air

Invest in an air purifier with a negative ion setting. Purportedly, negative ions have myriad positive effects on us psychologically and physically. I can’t really speak to that, but I can say that breathing freely has made it infinitely easier for me to fall asleep – and I’m not even a serious allergy sufferer. All the dirty little bits floating in the air around us can irritate even the stoutest of us, so an air purifier can benefit everyone. For serious allergy sufferers, I would say it’s close to a necessity. It really does purify the air – I was shocked at how “clean” my room smelled within a few hours of switching it on! I keep my house clean as a whistle, so I didn’t realize it didn’t smell as fresh as possible until the air purifier made it smell like my dentist’s office. Added bonus? It doubles as white noise machine!

Rescue Sleep Spray

I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Bach’s flower remedy products. Rescue Sleep is made specifically to help you- you guessed it- fall asleep. And it works! Just two sprays on your tongue are all you need – like a bedtime Binaca. Dr. Bach’s products are totally natural, safe and non-habit forming.

STILL Awake?!

You may need to call in the big guns. Valerian root tea is always very effective at knocking me out. But caveat emptor! While Valerian root tea definitely puts me to sleep, it also makes me totally loopy and woozy, so I only use it when I really need to sleep, and once I’ve done everything I need to do that requires clarity of thought or grace of movement. It also has a very strong, almost pungent smell that some people may find too displeasing to tolerate. A supplement I’ve had success with is L-Theanine. I have taken 1-2 150 mg. capsules about 30 minutes before bed. It doesn’t knock me out or make me feel cuckoo, there is just an absence of the usual flashing beeping mental dashboard that keeps me up at night. Caveat emptor: I wouldn’t use this for a prolonged period of times or several days in a row. It seems to put your bowels to sleep – if you know what I mean. I hope these sleep strategies help you get your well-deserved good night sleep so you can look and feel your very best. If you’ve employed any of these sleep strategies, please let us know how they worked for you! And don’t forget…

Fake It Till You Make It

While you’re waiting for one (or all) of these strategies to kick in, you can grab some of my favorite skin care products that approximate the effects of a good night’s sleep. These creams and serums leave me looking dewy and glowing – even when my sleep has been scarce.

Claire McCormack Twitter & Instagram: @clairemcmack

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8 Sleeping Strategies to Get A Great Night’s Sleep

travel beauty blog 8 sleeping strategies

There is No Substitute for Sleep

You can’t scroll through your Twitter feed these days without reading an article extolling the scientifically-proven esthetic benefits of a good night’s sleep. We get it! Not even our most beloved creams and serums can recreate what eight solid hours does for our faces. I resent these articles, because like Firefly pose and the perfect cat eye, easily falling asleep is a challenge for me. I also go to bed each night next to a husband who falls asleep so immediately upon getting in bed, I swear he’s hiding an anesthesiologist in the closet. While my husband is snoring up a storm, the wheels in my brain feel like they’re vying for first place in the Tour de France. I feel compelled to ponder the meaning of life, my kids’ educational trajectory and how to get that ink stain out of my favorite Phillip Lim bag. Oy. This is nothing new, either. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.

Sleep Strategies

Since “accepting the things I cannot change” has never been my forte, I have accumulated several sleep strategies that I think beat counting sheep any day of the week. In the name of looking and feeling beautiful, I share them here with you now. Whether you are battling a temporary bout of insomnia, or are regularly reading at 2 AM, I hope these tactics help deliver you to La La Land.

Commit to a Bedtime Beauty Routine

We’ve all done it – fallen asleep with our makeup on. I have only ever done this out of sheer exhaustion – feeling like I couldn’t possibly stand at the sink for those extra two minutes and wash my face. But what gets me into bed quicker actually ends up keeping me awake longer. Washing my face at night is a matter of integrity for me, so when I don’t do it, I lie there thinking I should have and worrying that I’ll end up in the morning with a huge zit.

Also, when I don’t wash my face, I don’t use any of my fabulous creams and serums that I know make me wake up all dewy and glowing. So an essential step to a good night’s sleep is going to bed with a clean face. For emergency situations, I keep cleansing wipes on my nightstand so I can still do a quick clean, no matter what. After my face is clean, I apply my skin care with a delicate and relaxing touch. I especially like to take a moment to massage my oft-tense temples. Face clean and conscience clear, I find it much easier to fall asleep.

Dim All the Lights

Donna knew what she was singing about! I dim the lights all over the house at least 1 hour before bed. I started doing this once I had kids, as a way to signal to them that it’s wind down time. I’ve found that it works wonders for me as well. My husband and I actually start talking more quietly once we dim the lights! And who needs hundreds of watts to put on PJs anyway?

After 9 PM, I put all dimmers at half-mast so my brain starts to slow down. If you’re reading in bed (I always am), grab a small book light or dim the screen on your tablet to a pale glow.

Permanent Midnight

Once you’re ready to fall asleep, you need total darkness in the bedroom. Physiologically, this helps your body produce melatonin, which then makes us drowsy. I have blackout shades on my bedroom windows. I’ll admit – Elle Decor worthy they are not. BUT, they go right next to the window pane, so they’re easily hidden by a more stylish window treatment.

Next, move any electronics with little charging lights OUT of the bedroom. That orange light on your MacBook may seem like an insignificant speck during the day, but in an otherwise dark room, it can give off quite a stimulating glow. Move anything giving off even a little light to another room while you’re sleeping.

Upadate: I have found the most amazing product that is basically like blackout shades for your eyeballs. This Binchotan Charcoal Eye Mask puts me in the deepest, most restorative sleep I can ever remember experiencing. This is a must-have for any insomniac, party animal and/or anyone that stares at screens for most of the day. (That pretty much covers everyone, right?)

Stay tuned for Part II on Thursday…

Claire McCormack Twitter & Instagram: @clairemcmack

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Simplify Your Relationship with Complex Carbohydrates

best foods for healthy hair

Many people I know have quite a tempestuous relationship with carbohydrates. In some, their eyes glaze over in reminiscent bliss. Others save their carb allowance for an indulgent Sunday, while a select few simply run away screaming. More often than not, there are wheels of debate turning. Bread or no bread? Salad or potatoes? Fast day or free day? Well, the reality is that your body – and ESPECIALLY your hair cells – need carbohydrates to function.

Carbohydrates Are a Source of Energy

Carbohydrates provide you with energy, and as the 2nd fastest growing cells in your body, your hair cells need a lot of energy to grow (and keep growing). Hair is also a non-essential tissue, so your brain will never send nutrients its way if another part of your body is lacking. Carbohydrates also give your body the fuel to use proteins in cell repair and growth. Lack of dietary carbs can cause increased hair shedding and hair failing to grow past a certain length – as well as general tiredness.

All Carbs Are Not Created Equal

Now, I’m not suggesting you charge for the nearest cookie jar (which is fine in moderation). What I’m talking about is complex carbohydrates. These contain particular sugar molecules called polysaccharides, which provide a slow-release of energy to the body. They don’t give you that sugar high and the crash that often occurs after eating sweets (mono-saccharides). Great hair-healthy complex carbs include baked or boiled potatoes, rice, grains and whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta. What’s more, complex carbs not only provide energy, but depending on which one you choose also contain fiber, hair essential B vitamins and other important vitamins & minerals! Include a varied selection of complex carbs in your diet for maximum benefit.

Watch The Clock

Here at Philip Kingsley we suggest you also snack on a complex carb between meals if longer than four hours pass. Energy to your hair cells drops after this time, which could lead to shedding. If you’re traveling, make sure you have a healthy complex carbohydrate snack on hand so you don’t cave in and eat candy at the airport.

Feed Your Scalp

While complex carbs will help hair growth from the inside out, don’t forget to help your hair from the outside in as well! For an added boost to your hair growth, try using our Philip Kingsley Stimulating Scalp Mask once a week and our daily Scalp Toner.

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