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The number of fast food restaurants throughout the U.S. has doubled since the 1970s, but more and more Americans are thinking a lot harder about the foods they consume. If the increased emphasis on vegan diets, gluten-free meals, antioxidant-rich foods, and other specialty plans is anything to go by, most of us are looking for ways to improve our health and overall well-being.

That said, some of these trends are more rooted in marketing schemes than scientific evidence. And even more concerning is the fact that these supposedly health-conscious recommendations could actually end up hurting a vital part of your body: your teeth.

In 2017, roughly 127.5 million American adults visited a dentist. While you might brush and floss every day, there are essential dietary components of good oral health, too. Before you delve into the latest health food craze, you might want to double check to make sure it won't end up causing damage to your pearly whites. Here are just a few trends you might want to enjoy in moderation (or avoid altogether).

Juice Cleanses

In 2015, Americans consumed roughly 6.6 gallons of juice per capita. And while juice isn't necessarily bad in limited quantities, it does contain a lot of sugar without the fiber you'd get from eating whole fruit. What's more, there's really no evidence that a juice cleanse is good for long-term health; in some cases, this practice can be detrimental. Not only will your body naturally handle cleansing itself, but engaging in juice cleanses can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Highly acidic juices can soften your tooth enamel, as well. The same goes for apple cider vinegar, which is often seen as a cure-all for a number of conditions. These health trends really don't hold water, but if you do want to partake in them, you'll need to increase your dental care to compensate.

Non-Dairy Milk

According to recent research, 67% of millennial customers say they love ordering healthy options at restaurants -- and it stands to reason that this extends to cafes and coffee shops, as well. Although almond and soy milk may be a welcome alternative for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant, it's important to be careful when using non-dairy milk alternatives. Many of these options are actually sweetened, so you'll want to make sure you're buying the options that have no added sugar to promote better dental health. And if you're not into using dairy milk, you might be missing out on calcium. Although many non-dairy milks are calcium fortified (and almonds naturally contain calcium), you should aim to use milk alternatives that contain at least 120 milligrams of calcium per 3.4 fluid ounces to ensure your teeth stay strong. These changes might be subtle, but you may reap the benefits at your next dentist appointment.

Fresh Produce

Of course, your diet should contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. But you might want to alter your produce changes based on your proximity to a toothbrush. That's because, like it or not, many fruits and veggies can stain your tooth enamel. Beets, for example, have become a popular addition to restaurant menus in recent years, but they contain strong pigment that can certainly stain. Blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates are lauded for their health benefits, but they can result in staining, as well. The same can be said for tomatoes. You don't need to avoid these foods, but you may want to invest in an electric toothbrush and hydrate to keep your mouth cleansed of acids.

Charcoal Toothpaste

A good toothpaste can also help to fight staining, but not all products are created equal. Although charcoal toothpaste, for example, was all the rage last year for its supposed whitening properties, it may not be making a comeback anytime soon. That's because a recent study has revealed that charcoal toothpaste can actually cause permanent tooth discoloration and decay. According to researchers, the addition of activated charcoal in toothpastes has been proven to be nothing more than a "marketing gimmick," especially since these products have high levels of abrasives and most lack any fluoride whatsoever. Even more worrying is the fact that charcoal can end up absorbing essential nutrients the body needs -- and its whitening properties are virtually nonexistent, despite that 96% of charcoal toothpastes included in the study made whitening claims. If you fell victim to the plethora of Instagram influencers applauding these products, you'll want to discontinue using them and opt for a traditional toothpaste, instead.

Since oral health is a good indicator of overall wellness, it can really pay off to pay attention to our dental needs. Ultimately, it's way better to follow your doctor's or dentist's orders than to regard the internet as a reputable source of what your body really needs.

Approximately 40 million Americans, or 18.1% of the entire population, suffer from anxiety disorders. That's a startling statistic, although one that is understandable; nearly 80% of Americans suffer from debt, putting a lot of additional strain on day-to-day life.

Everyone has their own techniques and strategies to deal with the stresses and anxieties of their lives, but there are a few things that have been found to be universally calming. It's certainly true that many people need more than just additional relaxation in their lives, but discovering what soothes your stresses -- even if it's only in a minor way -- is absolutely worthwhile. Let's take a look at three easy-to-obtain sources of serenity.

Cannabidiol Oil

Cannabinoid products are being sold all across the nation. Cannabidiol (CBD) accounts for 40% of the plant's extract and has been considered a viable treatment option for those suffering from anxiety, cognition problems, movement disorders, and pain. Though science has yet to prove the legitimacy of these claims, 80% of users report that they've found CBD products to be "very or extremely effective."

CBD oil can be found in everything from soap to tea. One of its most popular uses is for anxiety; the phytocannabinoid targets 5-HT1A, a receptor for serotonin that is believed to play the strongest role in anxiety disorders.

Puzzles

Research has shown that puzzles activate our brains while relaxing us psychologically, putting our brains into a meditative state. Many people might be surprised by this fact, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it; when we focus on puzzles, we start paying attention to patterns.

"That's what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do -- to spot [patterns]," explains Neuroscientist Daniel Bor. "Once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world."

That out-of-control feeling contributes to most anxieties and stressors; by stimulating our ability to strategize, we feel more in control and therefore relaxed.

Plants

Recent studies have proven that having plants in an office space actually boosts productivity and employee satisfaction. It makes sense that the same effects would occur at home; the addition of just a few green houseplants can improve mood, concentration, and reduce stress levels. All you have to do is find species that work best for you. If you're terrible at caring for things, select a plant that needs little water and care, such as a succulent. If you're environmentally-conscious, opt for a bamboo plant -- the highly renewable resource grows to maturity in just three to five years.

There are many things you can do and changes you can make to help manage your anxiety and stress levels. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, give the above options a try; you'll never know if they make a difference unless you give them a chance.

The village of Rosemont is a pretty busy place of late, and during the summer months, things are heating up on the west side of I-294. Anchoring the expansion of the entertainment district to the other side of the Tri-State Tollway is Impact Field, which opened in 2018 for the inaugural season of Chicagoland's newest professional baseball team — The Chicago Dogs.

Until recently, we'd only driven by the park — happening to catch the post-game fireworks on a few occasions as we clipped by at a brisk pace. The modern ballpark benefits from its visibility, including the double-sided digital scoreboard that's absolutely unmissable for the millions of drivers who pass by annually.

During a recent media night (which also happened to be superhero night), we finally had a chance to check out everything that this new ball club — part of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball — has to offer, and for families, it's a lot. It's not only tremendous fun, but it's affordable, with single game tickets starting at just $9 for bleachers, and topping off at $25 for the Wintrust Home Plate Club.

Chicago Dogs Tickets

On a beautiful Friday night, The Chicago Dogs clobbered the Sioux City Explorers 9-2, but the game was just a piece of the overall experience. Fan engagement was high, and the laid-back vibe of the ballpark was evident from the get-go. From the moment you enter the main gates on the park's right field corner, it's apparent that this is a different type of ballpark. It's very open, with a 360-degree concourse that offers a great view that's free of obstructions.

dogs batting

For kids, there's activities in left field — inflatables that include are set up to give little ballplayers a taste of the action with pitching and batting. One of the most popular activities is one that really gets kids moving — a running contest that clocks kids' speed as they run from "third base" to home plate. 

Chicago Dogs

Throughout the park, families will find plenty of great food options — and for grownups, there's quite a few fine beverage options as well. Keep an eye out and you'll spot The Dogs' mascot, Squeeze, and his nefarious counterpart, Ketchup. A reminder, especially for those not in Chicago: #NoKetchup. Never, ever put ketchup on a hot dog — NEVER!

dogs ketchub

On Friday nights, kids run the bases post-game, and there's special events throughout the season, which runs through August. Check out the official site for schedule and tickets!

Chicago Dogs New Era cap

Bonus: The Chicago Dogs have a great merch store. Now, the merch isn't cheap, but it's completely worth it. We bought The Rock Daughters™ plush versions of Ketchup and Squeeze, while I couldn't resist the New Era fitted Chicago Dogs on-field cap. 

Facial hair has been "in" for the last few years, with both men and women favoring the distinguished-yet-slightly-unkempt hipster vibe. But some people have been totally left out of the trend due to their inability to grow luscious locks on their chinny-chin-chins. That is, until now. According to reports, thousands of British men are finally able to achieve the beastly beards of their dreams after using a popular balding medicine on their faces, rather than on the tops of their heads.

We often discuss the media messages women receive relating to physical appearance, but it seems that lots of men are also self-conscious about not being able to live up to certain ideals. Clean-shaven faces aren't necessarily "out," but there's certainly something special about a gentleman who can grow a beard. Men aren't the only ones embracing hairier crazes, either. Bold brows have been en vogue for a number of years, while many of the most popular 75 million pet dogs that reside in the U.S. are renowned for their thick coats. So it stands to reason that men who are physically unable to grow much more than peach fuzz might be a bit envious.

Their solution? A medication called minoxidil. It's used for hair loss, which is a condition that affects nearly 35 million men in the U.S. alone. Usually, it's applied to the head and is typically marketed as Regine; it stimulates blood flow to the hair follicles and widens the follicle itself to allow hair to grow longer and thicker than before. Originally, the medication was used to treat high blood pressure, but the unexpected side effect of hair growth prompted the company to market the drug as the answer to male pattern baldness. Since about 47% of hair loss sufferers reported they'd spend their life savings to have a full head of hair again, Regine was definitely in demand. Now, thousands of men in the UK are using it to grow fuller, more beautiful beards.

Adam Siddals, who co-founded a Facebook group dedicated to this very cause, began using the medication in 2016.

As he explained to the Daily Mail: "I had a very patchy jaw-strap, a bit more hair on the chin, a tiny bit under my neck and a very weak, straggly mustache... It really bothered me, I was insecure about my lack of facial hair. My friends always used to tease me for having no facial hair... It sounds silly but I felt I had to prove them wrong. I remind them all the time that they are the reason I started using minoxidil."

Siddals used the medication for two years before stopping in July of 2018. He experienced no undesirable side effects, but he cautions others to do their research and to discontinue use if they experience some of the more serious health concerns associated with the medication's use (such as dizziness, drowsiness, and heart palpitations). Although other users have experienced minor reactions like itchiness and redness, which might be worth being able to grow facial hair -- especially since the global skin care market, which will be worth $180 billion in 2024, likely has products that can alleviate any dry skin that occurs as a result.

Experts do point out that hairs will stop growing once use is discontinued, but Siddals says he hasn't noticed any change in the nine months since he stopped. And in his Facebook group, thousands of members have shared their before and after photos while providing ongoing encouragement for others.

While the medication won't work for those who simply have bare patches with no hair follicles to stimulate, Siddals's story has given thousands of Brits hope for their own facial hair. And even though reactions to the medication may differ from person to person, it's given a new lease on life to many men who might otherwise be destined for a lifetime of being referred to as "baby face."

Many people have a long list of projects in mind when they first buy their home, but these can get put off sometimes for a longer time than they originally plan. When you start looking at that long to-do list of home projects you've been waiting on, you might not necessarily know where to start. Larger renovations can take time, money, and a lot of serious effort, but before you get started, there are a few things you should know and take care of first.

Contact A Contractor

Even if you're planning on tackling the bulk of the work on your renovation yourself, it's important to have a professional weigh in. In 2017, approximately 8.4 million people were employed within the construction industry in the United States, so there are plenty of professionals you can reach out to near you. Having a professional opinion keeps you from taking on projects that are too big to handle. As about 35% of remodeling jobs involve the entire home, that professional opinion may be invaluable.

Know Your Restrictions

Not all renovations can happen the way you might initially plan on. Many areas have specific codes and regulations that could affect your plans for remodeling your home. Different jurisdictions, for example, may require residential fencing to be set two, four, six, or eight inches from the property line. These regulations aren't just at the state level, either. There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania alone, each with slightly different building requirements. Be sure to read up and research your restrictions before you start to avoid problems later on.

Set A Strict Budget

One of the most common problems people run into when they start renovating their house is that they run out of money to tackle all of the projects they initially had in mind. It can be easy to get carried away with spending, but do your best to stick to your initial budget for your home repairs and renovations. That way, you'll be able to take on all of the projects on your list, rather than getting stuck on one particular issue that ends up costing more than you expect.

Don't Trust TV

As entertaining as the many TV shows about home renovation can be, don't look to those shows as a reliable source of information for your own build. Many of these shows have special price points worked out with regular providers, meaning the costs you see might not always be the costs you pay. Additionally, episodes are edited for time, meaning you won't be seeing the full process from start to finish on TV.

Stay Safe

Most importantly, before you start on any major home renovations, make sure the space is as safe as possible. Put up any gates or barriers needed to keep young children and pets out of areas where they could get hurt, and stock up on any protective equipment you might need. No matter what happens with your renovation, you want to keep your home as safe as possible during the process.

Home renovations can be stressful, but taking these steps before you start can simplify the process. How do you plan to tackle your major home renovations in the future?

Monday, June 10 2019 22:15

5 Cool Tips To Stay Comfy This Summer

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Summer is finally here, and with the change of seasons comes changing temperatures. Depending on where you live, summer can get incredibly uncomfortable and hot, especially during the night when you're trying to sleep. Instead of sweating through the season, use these tips to stay cool in your home all summer long.

Invest In Insulation

Insulation isn't just useful during the winter to keep you warm. Having insulation with a higher R-value can help you stay cooler in the summer by keeping your cooled air inside your house, rather than letting it escape and wasting energy. The R-value is the measure of thermal resistance, which indicates the temperature difference when a unit of heat runs through it. Essentially, the higher the R-value, the better the insulation. If you're planning on tackling some home repair this summer, this is one area you might want to address.

Lower Temperatures With Lighting

Even if you don't necessarily notice it all the time, the lights in your house could be giving off just enough heat to cause a few additional problems during the summer months. To fix this issue, try switching to LED bulbs. Unlike incandescent bulbs, which release 90% of their energy as heat, LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat. You'll have brighter lighting throughout your home without having to worry as much about beating the heat.

Fantastic Fans

Ceiling fans can be a great way to reduce your energy bill while still keeping your home cool. Just make sure you've got yours spinning the right direction; some ceiling fans are able to switch directions to help with heating your home in the wintertime, so double check to see if you've changed it back. If you don't have a ceiling fan, consider investing in a separate fan for some of the warmer spaces in your house so you aren't over-exerting your A/C unit.

Smarter Sheets

Ever wake up in the middle of the night because it's just too hot in your room? You might want to switch out your sheets. Changing to a lighter, more breathable fabric like cotton for your linens in the summer can make sleeping in hot weather a bit more comfortable. You'll be able to sleep through the night without having to drive up the energy bill by cranking up the A/C.

Don't Forget Your Furry Friends

You and your family aren't the only ones feeling the heat during the summer. According to The American Pet Products Association, almost 85 million households have a pet. Be mindful of the heat when it comes to taking care of your pets. Some animals enjoy the hot weather, but if you're starting to feel the burn, chances are your dog with a fluffy coat is too. Keep extra water out for animals and help them find ways to stay cool.

With summer just around the corner, now is the time to get your home ready so you can stay comfy and cool all season long. How do you plan to cool off your home without running up your energy bill this season?

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