Why Your Hand Sanitizer Doesn’t Stop the Flu (And Might Make You Sick)

Hand Sanitizer

Despite my longtime annoyance with Purell-toting moms, once I had my own children I found myself–to my horror–becoming something of a germaphobe. When my sons are sick, we all suffer–they miss school, I can’t work, and no one sleeps. I’m judicious with the use of fever reducers and painkillers (here’s why), so some level of misery is inevitable. And in New York City, it’s hard to ignore how much exposure the kids have to germy surfaces, especially as babies (when mine can typically be found gumming the nearest subway pole). So, while you won’t see me with Purell in the sandbox, I have been known to surreptitiously spritz my kids’ hands with a natural sanitizer before they eat their snacks, hoping no onlookers are judging me.

Are Antibacterial Products Toxic?

Most antibacterial products are decidedly toxic. Triclosan is the most popular ingredient in antibacterial hand- and dish-soaps, and lots of research has shown it to be an endocrine disruptor, with some studies suggesting it may also be harmful to the immune system. Worse, bacteria that’s been exposed to triclosan is likely to become resistant to antibiotics, leading to the emergence of so-called superbugs. And get this: triclosan only works against bacteria—not viruses! And while obviously we want to protect our kids from salmonella, I suspect many of us use sanitizing soaps, wipes, and sprays with the hopes of staving of influenza and other miserable viruses.

The good news is that triclosan will not be found in any leave-on sanitizers (like Purell, which uses alcohol to do it’s germ-killing job). The bad news is that products like Purell have other problematic ingredients, like retinyl palmitate, which may create free radicals when exposed to sunlight, and propylene glycol, which is linked to cancer and reproductive damage. Any scented hand sanitizer likely contains hormone-disrupting phthalates, and while the ethanol (alcohol) isn’t so bad in itself, it enhances the penetration of the other ingredients.

Do Hand Sanitizers Prevent Illness?

If you’re thinking that the risks of small amounts of these ingredients is worth the benefits of sparing your family from nasty illnesses, this may change your mind: while alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill flu and other viruses in a lab setting, in actual practice they seem to be pretty ineffective. Most studies show no reduced risk of infection with the use of hand sanitizers, perhaps because most upper respiratory infections (like the flu) are more likely to be spread via airborne droplets—from sneezing and coughing–than from touching germy surfaces.

The Bottom Line on Hand Sanitizers

There is very good reason to wash your hands after using the bathroom (obviously) and before eating. Studies have consistently shown soap and water to be more effective than hand sanitizers at removing germs from hands. Need another reason? Sudsing up removes a host of environmental toxins—from flame retardants to heavy metals to pesticides—that you and your children have likely touched while going about your day. My kids definitely know to wash their hands whenever they come home after a long day out and about in the city, and before they prepare or eat food. I continue to carry a natural hand sanitizer in my bag for times when we can’t get to a bar of soap before they eat, but I’ve relaxed enough to let my 4-year-old hold onto the subway pole, even if another kid has just sneezed all over it.

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014| 0 Comments

Spaghetti Squash With Cherry Tomatoes and Kale


Spaghetti Squash

By Be Well Health Coach Amanda Carney

Tis the season for squash, and if you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, now is the time!  With it’s pasta-like strands and delicious flavor, spaghetti squash makes for a wonderful alternative to pasta.

You Will Need:

  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 5 medium cloves of garlic, minced (or less for a less intense garlic flavor)
  • 1 quart of cherry tomatoes
  • A sprinkle of red pepper flake
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh pepper


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

First, slice your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.  Drizzle with a little olive oil along with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper.  Place squash face down on a lined baking sheet (I prefer using parchment paper) and cook for about 45 minutes – until tender.

While the squash is baking, get your kale and tomatoes ready.  Rinse tomatoes and chop into halves or quarters.  Rinse kale.  Using your hands, rip leaves from the stems and tear into small pieces.  Set everything aside.

Next, place a few tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flake in a pan over medium heat.  Simmer for a few minutes (until garlic begins to brown) and then add tomatoes and kale.  Cook for a few more minutes until tomatoes are tender and kale begins to soften.

When squash is done cooking, remove it from the oven and let cool a few minutes so you can handle it without burning yourself. Using a fork, scrape out the insides of squash, which will come apart in strands.  Place strands in a bowl and mix with kale and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt and black pepper to taste.


Posted by on Oct 22, 2014| 0 Comments

6 Healthy Lifestyle Apps

Lifestyle Apps

By Be Well Health Coach Jackie Damboragian

Here at Be Well we love anything that makes living a healthy lifestyle easier. Apps are a great way to do just that! Here are 6 of my favorite healthy lifestyle apps.


We often recommend this app to clients that have a hard time relieving stress. This meditation app makes it easy to fit a ten minute meditation into your day.  Beginners may find it particularly helpful because it’s guided, which can be a really accessible way to learn more about the practice of meditation.

Pocket Yoga

If you travel a lot, or have a super busy schedule, this app can be a great tool in helping you sneak yoga into your day! It offers various experience levels and class length options.

EWG Shoppers Guide

Eating organic and high quality fruits and veggies is your safest, healthiest bet. However, organic foods aren’t always available. This great app shares a list of “The Clean 15” (the least pesticide ridden fruits and veggies, which are ok when non-organic) and “The Dirty Dozen” (fruits and veggies that are heavily pesticide ridden and should only be purchased organic). Use this app to help you navigate the supermarket!

EWG Skin Deep

It is estimated that 60% of what we put on our body is absorbed into our bloodstream. What does this mean? It means we need to be really careful what we use in our body care routine – products such as hair care, moisturizer, soap, face wash and more should be clean and green! This amazing app rates products toxicity level so that you know how healthy or dangerous various products may be. For many products you can simply scan the barcode or you can enter the brand and product name and the rating will pop up. The lower the number, the better it is for you!


In a new neighborhood, city or town and looking for some healthy drinks and eats?! Greenhopping has you covered. Greenhopping focuses “on showcasing the entire exclusively natural, organic, healthy, and farm-fresh-to-table style restaurants in each city.”

Nike + Running

This fitness app can be a great way to stay motivated by keeping track of your mileage, speed and progress. You can set and achieve training and race goals, create or join running challenges, share your runs on social media and more.

Posted by on Oct 21, 2014| 0 Comments

4 Reasons Why Agave is Not a Health Food

Agave Plant

Millions of people have their vices, and for many it’s that available-without-prescription drug known as sugar. Its destructive and addictive abundance has helped make more than two-thirds of American adults either overweight or obese, not to mention saddling them with life-altering problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. Its disease-promoting effects are proof that sugar is anything but sweet. Excess sugar, in all its guises, causes so much illness and suffering. I cannot stress enough how important it is to kick it and all sweeteners as well. And trust me, I know how challenging it is – I once had a sweet tooth too!

Back when I still felt I “needed” the sweet taste, I, like many others, looked for healthier alternatives, as in sweeteners found in nature not in the lab. I made the switch to agave nectar – and I wasn’t alone. Its popularity spread – it’s gluten-free! diabetic-friendly! vegan-friendly! – and seemingly overnight a billion dollar industry was born. Fast-forward a few years, and unfortunately, the stuff has revealed itself to be a classic case of ‘too good to be true,’ not the free pass everyone thought it was. So if you’ve been feasting on agave thinking it’s a health food, here’s your wake up call, and four reasons why you don’t need agave nectar:

1. It’s Tarted-up Junk Food, Marketed as a Health Food

Agave. It’s an exotic name that conjures up images of the azure skies and painted desert landscapes of Mexico, where much of it is grown. The ‘nectar’ (such a delicious word!) of this exotic plant is sweet and golden like honey, blending easily into just about everything you wish to sweeten. Problem is, it’s also a smoking pile of marketing hooey. As appealing as this dream-like image may be, in reality agave nectar little more than a high-fructose syrup, as nasty to your health as its corn-based cousin – and possibly even more damaging.

2. If You Like Your Sweeteners With Chemicals, You’ve Come to the Right Place

Along with the agave nectar mystique, there’s this little problem of processing. While many people envision sap flowing down the plant and farmers tapping the stalks they way they do maple trees, there’s no old-timey tapping going on here. Instead, the leaves are cut away, the juice is expressed from the remaining root base bulb, heated (concentrating the sugars) and then filtered into a syrupy, fructose concentrate. Along the way, most producers will treat the syrup with caustic chemicals, enzymes and acids to clean, tint, clarify and preserve the liquid. So, if you think you’re sweetening with some groovy, raw, pure, unfettered, close-to-the-earth sweetener, more likely, you’re not.

3. It Won’t Spike Blood Sugar BUT Worse, It Drives Insulin Resistance!

Among the reasons agave nectar took off was that it is gluten-free and a seemingly more natural sugar substitute for most vegan and paleo types. And doesn’t trigger blood sugar spikes, making it technically OK for diabetics. But all that should go out the window (along with your bottle of agave) when you take into account the fact that processed agave nectar can be anywhere from 55% to 90% fructose, whereas plain old sugar comes in at 50%. Keep in mind that does not mean one is healthier than the other – both are lousy choices. And while marketers continue to hammer home the happy-sounding news that fructose doesn’t spike blood sugar, the reality is that it gets sent straight to the liver where excessive amounts can trigger insulin resistance, a true health nightmare. Eat too much fructose – particularly in the form of agave nectar, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. – for too long and you’ll be on the road to diabetes and a host of other chronic diseases. My advice? Pull off the processed high-fructose highway long before your engine starts to sputter.

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Posted by on Oct 20, 2014| 1 Comments

Fodmaps Diet Simplified

Fodmaps Diet
By Be Well Health Coach Kerry Bajaj

When we see patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, we often start by doing a Cleanse and using lots of probiotics to balance the bacteria in the gut. However, if their symptoms persist, one thing we might encourage the patient to explore is following a low-FODMAPs diet.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest. According to Chris Kresser, “they are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria.”

Who is This Diet Good For?

This is a good diet for people with IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diahhrea and constipation.

How Long Should I Stay on the Diet?

You should stay on the diet for 2 weeks. Then you can test certain foods and see if your symptoms return.

What are the Key Foods to Avoid?

Here is a list of the key FODMAPs foods to avoid. You’ll notice that many of these foods are traditionally thought of as healthy, and they are. It just may be the case that certain people have trouble digesting them.

Fruits to Avoid:

Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Cherry, Mango, Nectarine, Peach, Pear, Plum, Watermelon. Dried fruit and fruit juice.
High in fructose/ polyols.

Sweeteners to Avoid:

Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Sugar Alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol).
High in fructose/ polyols.

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Posted by on Oct 17, 2014| 1 Comments

How to Care for Red, Sensitive Skin


The American Academy of Dermatology says that sensitive skin affects millions of people, causing uncomfortable and embarrassing issues. A 2011 study found that out of 994 subjects questioned, nearly 45 percent declared having sensitive or very sensitive skin. Troublesome symptoms included dryness, combination skin, dermatological disorders, and higher skin reactivity to cosmetics and environmental factors.

Caring for red, sensitive skin can be frustrating. It’s fragile and reactive, and seems to react to most everything we put on it. Here’s more about what causes it, how you can prevent it, and how you can treat a flare-up.

How Redness Plagues Our Skin

Sometimes we may experience temporary redness caused by too much sun or a bit of flushing in an embarrassing moment. Those who see redness more often, however, may be suffering from rosacea, a common skin disease that affects about 13 million Americans.

Symptoms may include:

  • General redness
  • Swelling
  • Bumps
  • Pimples
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Inflammation
  • Episodes of flushing and redness on the face and neck
  • Skin thickening

To Prevent It

We don’t know yet for sure what causes rosacea, but it seems to run in families, and is usually more prevalent in people with fair skin. To reduce flare-ups, try the following tips:

  • Avoid harsh and drying soaps—use moisturizing, nourishing cleansers that are fragrance-free
  • Wash gently—avoid harsh scrubbing and sharp exfoliating agents
  • Use sunscreen everyday—choose a safe, non-chemical option like zinc oxide. Meanwhile, avoid sun exposure as much as possible.
  • Avoid dietary triggers like hot beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, and large, hot meals.
  • Get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet—they naturally help reduce inflammation. Salmon, anchovies, walnuts, flaxseed, and mackerel are all good sources.
  • Avoid rough treatments like microdermabrasion and acidic products like alpha-hydroxy acids as they can exacerbate inflammation and stinging.

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Posted by on Oct 16, 2014| 0 Comments

Be Well Kitchen:
Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad Recipe

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped, plus more for garnish


1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.    Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet; toast in oven until lightly toasted and fragrant, approximately 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3.    Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Rinse quinoa and add quinoa to the pot; return to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook until quinoa is tender approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

4.    Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium heat. Toss Vidalia onions, zucchini and squash with olive oil, sea salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer zucchini mixture onto the hot grill in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until tender. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl with the cooked quinoa and remaining honey, chili powder, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and cilantro. Gently toss to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

5.    Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014| 0 Comments

5 Tips for a Healthier Gut

Artichoke and Leek
By Be Well Health Coach Laura Kraber

Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates declared that “all disease begins in the gut.” Yet it is only recently that modern medicine has begun to document the crucial role of the microbiome – the billions of microbes that live within us. Comprising over 70% of the immune system, recent research reveals the myriad ways in which intestinal health is aligned with overall health.

The gut is important for a multitude of reasons – nutrient absorption, symptom-free digestion, immune system support, skin conditions and even obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, preventing “leaky gut” guards against food sensitivities and allergies and potentially protects against autoimmune diseases.

As one of the prime innovators of gut health, probiotics help to re-balance gut flora and are an obvious supplement to add to your daily regimen. Here are five more steps you can take to support your gut health.

1.    Avoid Gut Irritants

Antibiotics top the list for impairing gut health, but other offenders include NSAIDs, birth control pills, alcohol, coffee, gluten, processed foods and stress. All of these can wreak havoc on our gut, undoing all the good work that a healthy diet and probiotic supplementation provide.

2.    Eat Prebiotic Foods

Plant fibers and the fructooligosaccharides found in onions, leeks, celery, artichokes, beans and asparagus, feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and nourish the gut.

3.    Drink Bone Broth

Full of gut-healing nutrients collagen and gelatin, bone broth has justifiably been a staple of the human diet for thousands of years. Learn how to make your own bone broth and incorporate it into your diet.

4.    Consume Fermented Foods and Beverages

Fermented drinks such as beet kvass and kombucha or foods including unpasteurized sauerkraut or kimchee contain billions of bacteria that nourish the gut and diversify your bacterial flora.

5.    Do a Cleanse

A cleanse is a great way to support the gut. A good cleanse should contain plenty of fiber to help “scrub” the colon as well as herbs to help kill off the bad bacteria and support healthy liver function. The Be Well Cleanse contains an antimicrobial herbal blend targeting gut health, which, in conjunction with the dietary program is a great starting place for gut-healing.

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014| 0 Comments

Banish the Blues: 5 Ways to Combat Computer and Tablet Blue-Light Sleep Disruption

Blue Light

Over the years, I’ve written frequently about how to sleep better, but for many people their ability to turn in earlier and totally tune out – as in lights out, blinds drawn and electronics off – seems to be declining. Blame demanding jobs where constant connection is virtually required, going to bed with an Ipad, or parents who need to hit the computer after the kids are tucked in. Whatever the reason, turning off the screens few hours before bed is becoming the impossible dream.

Problem is, all this exposure to light long after darkness falls messes with our circadian rhythms and interferes with the production and secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep, supports immune function and lots more to keep you healthy. And while it may not seem like a big deal, over time all that sleep disruption and missed melatonin can put you at a much higher risk for metabolic syndrome, skin cancer, breast cancer, depression and a host of other health issues, so this is a lot bigger than just being a little tired.

Tablets and smart phones glow bright with blue light which fools our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and interferes with the release of sleep-inducing melatonin. So, when you’re parked in front of a screen at 10 pm, you’re probably going to have a tough time falling asleep an hour later when it’s time to turn in. If you’re not able to create a regular, electronic sundown, which I strongly advise you do, then at least change the way, you deal with blue light. Here are a few ways you can start taming the blue light beast:

1. Know the Enemy

Blue light during the day is quite useful, signaling to your body that it’s time to be awake, alert and go about your business. By night however, those alertness-triggering effects are considerably less welcome. How to gain the upper hand? Cut your exposure at night. Big sources of blue light? Computer screens, tablet screens, smartphone screens, TV screens and unfortunately, most energy-efficient lighting.

2. Level the Playing Field

At night the bright blue light of an Iphone or tablet will jack you up, wake your sleepy brain and get those neurons firing at a time when your body needs to be doing exactly the opposite. So the first step is to turn the brightness down as low as possible on all electronic devices after dark. With the brightness turned down, at the very least, you’ll be beaming less blue light directly into your eyes, particularly during the dark winter months when we’re more likely to spend hours indoors entertaining ourselves with screen-centric activities. Also consider adding blue light blocking screens to your desktop computer and tablet as well. Another way to cut the blue light? Consider switching some of the light bulbs in the house, particularly those in the bedroom, to sleep-supportive, amber or yellow bulbs, which transmit virtually no blue light and simulate a more restful candlelight glow. If you must use a night-light, switch that bulb as well to an amber one. If you’re looking for blue-light products you can start by taking a look at, Lowbluelights.com  which offers hundreds of items that can help.

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Posted by on Oct 13, 2014| 0 Comments

5 Tips To Successfully Navigate Your Grocery Store


By Be Well Health Coach Amanda Carney

Chances are, the foods you are choosing at the grocery store are making up a good portion of your diet, which means you should be doing your best to make your shopping experience a successful and healthy one!  Use these 5 tips to get the most out of your shopping experience and successfully navigate your grocery store with ease.

1. Plan Ahead

Grocery stores are filled with items packaged and advertised to make you want them, and if you show up without a plan, there is a good chance you will leave with some of these products.  To avoid overstocking your cart and choosing unhealthy food options, plan ahead by creating a detailed shopping list based on what you want to eat throughout the week (making a weekly menu can be really helpful).  Check out some of our favorite recipes for menu ideas.

2. Choose Real Foods

Leafy greens.  Raw nuts and seeds.  Organic meats.  These are real foods that come directly from nature. There is little to no processing involved, which allows you to reap all the benefits mother nature intended you to receive.  When choosing foods to put in your cart, consider how far they have come from nature; could you find them growing in a garden?  Or did they likely come from a processing plant?

3. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods often come with packaging and are not found growing in nature.  These foods usually contain harmful oils, nasty preservatives and hidden sugars (among other things) that do NOT do your body good.  Looking to the ingredient list is a great way to identify – and avoid – processed foods.

4. Read Ingredient Lists

Forget the white box of “nutrition facts” on the back of packaged products and look straight to the ingredient list!  This is where you can learn if a food product is wholesome or harmful, helping you to decide if you should include it in your cart or put it back on the shelf. Notice a long list of ingredients with words that are unrecognizable?  Put it back!  If your grandma wouldn’t recognize the ingredients then you shouldn’t be eating it!  Instead, choose products with short ingredient lists that contain all recognizable ingredients.

5. Stay on the Perimeter

The freshest foods (like produce and meats) are kept on the perimeter of the store, leaving all the processed junk in the middle aisles.  Avoid temptation all together and stick to the perimeter, only traveling to the inner aisles for specific items.

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014| 0 Comments