Contact Us


Healthy Living


Why Take ProBiotics?

If accepting tomatoes as an edible food source took over 200 years, this new concept of medical theory may take even longer. New leading-edge science is discovering that brain health and even brain disease are dictated by the bacteria in your GI tract. The balance of the good versus the bad bacteria could affect Autism, MS, depression, dementia, and obesity. One thing for sure is that balance is important. Antibiotic therapy can distort that balance by killing both good and bad bacteria in the but causing side effects such as yeast overgrowth. If taking an antibiotic, I would seriously be taking Probiotics to restore the good bacteria in the GI tract.​

Why You Should Look at Your Personal Care Products​

I’ve been blogging all year about different ways that you can detox your life and I’ve really been (and plan to continue) taking a full mind-body-spirit approach to detox, so we have been looking at different areas of our lives where we can make a difference. If you’ve been reading with us so far, you have been challenged to look atDecluttering Your HomeImproving Your SleepCleaning Up Your PlateDetoxing Your Home-- using all natural cleaning solutions. I would say that if you have made one improvement in each of these areas so far this year, it is likely beginning to make a big difference in your own well being. Let’s move on to this month’s topic, which is your personal care products.  I hope by now you all have figured out that I’m a realist-- meaning, I don’t believe that overnight you are going to go from the most chemical-laden personal care products to only using shea butter and skipping the antiperspirant.  But we’ve got to start somewhere if we are to continue on this lifelong journey of kicking out the chemicals. Did you know that the average female exposes themselves to 168 chemicals each day, just from their personal care products?  Think about it....shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, moisturizer, foundation, concealer, various makeup powders, mascara, deodorant/antiperspirant, perfume, lotion.  By the way, here is an article that discusses which chemicals you might want to be concerned about and why.I will be the first to tell you that when I started in the personal care industry, I really believed that the chemicals you put on your skin were not a big deal.  The concentrations were so low, and the molecules have to be so small to get absorbed across the skin (this is why some drugs can be used transdermally and some cannot), I assumed it was all well studied and thought out.  That, and the fact that I’d been using these chemicals for years and I was “fine”.    Then, I began studying hormone replacement therapy.  And do you know one of the most effective ways of delivering hormones?  Transdermally. Through the skin.  So many of the offensive chemicals in personal care products are “endocrine disruptors” because their chemical structures mimic hormones and they are small like hormones.  So, there went my theory about them not being absorbed well. Next, dosing.  It is true that the concentrations of these chemicals in your personal care products is low.  The problem is, that we don’t really know what dose of these chemicals is harmful long-term; just because something doesn’t cause you a problem today doesn’t mean it won’t contribute to a problem in the future.  Some of these chemicals accumulate in your body because they have very long half-lives (pharmacy trivia: How many half-lives does it take for something to be considered completely eliminated from your body? Answer at the end of the article).  Also in relation to dosing, doing hormone replacement therapy has taught me that it takes a very low dose of something used topically to get the same effect as an oral dose.  This is because when you take a chemical by mouth, your liver gets the first go at it metabolically speaking.  So most drugs are heavily metabolized in the liver and a bit of it gets in your blood stream and delivered to the tissues where it acts.  BUT, if you take a chemical topically (one that is small enough to be absorbed), that chemical goes straight into your bloodstream and your tissues before it makes it to the liver to be metabolized.  Anyone still with me?  That was my technical explanation for “A dab’ll do ya.” The point of all this information is this: Many of these chemicals are most definitely absorbed into your body, they are highly likely to accumulate in your body and they are highly likely to have long-term effects on your body.  If you want to get started with decreasing the chemicals in your personal care products you’ve got a few options.  The most expensive one is to go home and dump your makeup drawer and toss all the products in your shower, then go out and buy all new things!  Half of which you will be dissatisfied with and have to replace again!!!  Or, if you hate putting hard-earned money in the trash, you can start the next time you replace a product.  In my house, we made one simple swap to begin-- I switched from my traditional body wash to the Everyone Soap that we carry at The Pill Box Pharmacy.  Next, I switched to EO Deodorant-- it was a big deal because it is not an antiperspirant, but I wouldn’t have it any other way now.  So in this way, slowly but surely, I am replacing my products one by one.  I’m simplifying my beauty routine.  And, if you will indulge me for just a moment, I got an unexpected surprise when I started making these changes.  I’m starting to like myself more.  I honestly feel like all these years of putting on a bajillion products everyday has solidified in my mind that “I’m ugly”.  I have to cover up my smell, my blemishes, my wrinkles, myself.  Have you ever thought about how much time we, as women especially, spend covering up?  This is another topic, for another day, but I challenge you to think about it--- how many products do we need to love ourselves and to be valuable to the world?  I bet there is something you can do without, and you might just like yourself better for it. Oh yes, the trivia answer: 5 half lives  (so if a chemical has a half-life of 5 hours it would take 25 hours to be eliminated)​

Home Detox

Have you ever thought about how many chemicals you use in your home?  Or about what those chemicals might do to your body after years of use?  Most of us try not to think about it don’t we?  I’m guilty-- which is why I’ve put this article off all month. It’s easy to ignore the dangers of chemical overload in our homes because we don’t (typically) see the negative effects of it immediately.  However, I’m afraid we are all a bit like frogs in boiling water and that these chemicals are slowly but surely damaging us. I’m not going to exhaust you with a list of chemicals you should avoid, and I’m not going to alarm you with the potential ill-effects of those chemicals.  Those articles are easy to find if you enjoy fretting about it.  My goal today is to help you (and myself) to target some SUPER simple ways to replace those nasty chemicals. The first way I would recommend, is of course something we offer at The Pill Box Pharmacy.  We don’t just offer it because we want to sell you something, we offer it because we believe it is AWESOME!  The product is EO All-Purpose Cleaner-- and it is legitimately all-purpose.  Here is the list of potential uses directly from the company website:  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything else I need to clean!  Which is why I think this product is so cool-- because as much as I LOVE the idea of being together enough to have my own cleaning recipes prepared and stored in glass bottles with fancy essential oil mixtures and beautiful labels, it just doesn’t happen.  This stuff makes it super easy-- just mix with water, that’s all.  Also, it comes in a 32 oz. bottle for $10.99 so that replaces about 10 products with just one and a little goes a long way since you dilute it.  I’m impressed.  Are you on your way to the Pill Box yet to pick up a bottle? Alright-- other options, for those of you that actually ARE together enough for all the fancy things.  Here are a few great recipes: My favorite laundry soap recipe1 gallon container1/4 cup Super Washing Soda1/4 cup Baking Soda1/3 cup castile soap15 drops Lavender essential oil15 drops Lemon essential oil**You may substitute any essential oils that you prefer. Add 1/4 cup Super Washing Soda to container (or large bowl).  Add enough hot tap water to mix and dissolve.  Next, add the 1/4 cup of Baking Soda and stir until dissolved.  Then, add the 1/3 cup of castile soap and your essential oils to the mixture.  Bring to the final volume of 1 gallon with hot tap water and stir to mix.  Shake well before use as some of the powder may come out of solution. Countertop Cleaner1 cup water1 cup white vinegar1 tablespoon castile soap10 drops your favorite essential oil.Mix all ingredients in a glass spray bottle.  Cutting Board Cleaner1/2 lemon1 tablespoon coarse saltApply the salt to the cutting board, use the lemon to scrub. Microwave cleaner1 cup vinegarjuice of 1 lemonAdd ingredients to a cup or bowl.  Place in microwave and turn on for 2 minutes.  When finished, simply wipe down the inside of the microwave. 

Health Benefits of Gluten Free

We hope you will be as excited for today's article as we are!  We have invited Dr. Ashley Ramirez, Owner of Mason-Dixon Bakery and Bistro to share with us the benefits of a gluten-free lifestyle.  Ashley is a chemist who was diagnosed with Celiac disease during college and has since taken her love of chemistry to the kitchen to create delightful gluten-free foods.  Today she shares some helpful information to get you started on a gluten-free journey.  If you need help determining if gluten might be causing your health issues, feel free to comment below or contact us here at the pharmacy and we can help you. It seems like every year, there is a new “diet” that is promised to make us lose weight, have more energy and live a longer life. There has been the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet, the Atkins Diet, and more, each with their science to back their theory. Many will lump Gluten Free in with this category, but let’s talk about why gluten free is not a diet, but actually a lifestyle change that is necessary for some, and beneficial for all.  Gluten free, you see it everywhere now. In the grocery store, on the restaurant’s menu, on the book shelves of retail stores. It is the topic of many conversations and the term can strike fear into any dinner party host. Often this fear is due to a lack of understanding of     what gluten is,     how to cook without it and     why it is important.  Let’s start with the “what” part:  Gluten is a naturally occurring protein that occurs in many foods, including wheat, rye and barley. The gluten protein falls in the prolamin family of proteins, meaning that it has high proline content. (But wait, this is natural, so why is it bad??)     The problem lies in the fact that prolamins are very difficult for our body to digest. In fact, this set of proteins is one of the hardest proteins for our digestive enzymes to break down, and they interact with the intestinal lining, but more on this later.   Gluten is formed from the cross-linking of two sub proteins, the large aggregated glutenin proteins and the smaller, monomeric gliadin proteins. This crosslinked network is responsible for the viscoelastic properties of breads and pastries. When making bread in the presence of yeast, the fermentation process produces carbon dioxide, causing the bread to “rise”. This large protein structure, which makes up 75-85% of the total protein content of bread, allows the bread to rise without losing its structural integrity.   While bread, pasta and baked goods are the most familiar source of gluten in our diets, there are many more hidden uses of gluten in the food processing world. Gluten, unfortunately, is a very effective and inexpensive stabilizer, therefore making it the product of choice for processed foods. You can find gluten hiding in ketchups, sauces, ice creams, seasonings, lunch meats and more. It is also often used in the cosmetology industry as a stabilizer in make-ups, lotions and creams. Simply reading the food label in search of the term “wheat” does not work either. Gluten can be hidden under a number of other terms including: modified food starch, artificial flavors, caramel coloring or flavoring, maltodextrin, emulsifiers, stabilizers, dextrin and more, making it difficult to navigate the processed foods aisle.  So this brings us to our next topic of conversation, how do we cook without it:  By this point, you are probably thinking “Gluten is in everything! No wonder it works as a diet, you can’t eat anything!” Well, don’t worry, there is still plenty you can eat! We just have to rethink how we approach food. Let’s start with what is safe, and what is not:                   When cooking, if you stick with the “good foods” list, it will be easy to prepare delicious, gluten free foods. When you look at this list, it is easy to see the health benefits of eating gluten free. It forces us to remove commercialized, processed foods from our diet, and return to the basics of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.   Now, what about all of the gluten free products that fill the shelves of the grocery store? With the growth in popularity of gluten free dining, the commercial market has seized an opportunity to create another market. You can now find gluten free bread, pasta, cookies, pastries, sauces and more at the grocery store. This helps to add back a level of convenience to eating gluten free, but you have to be careful. Processed foods are processed foods, no matter whether they are gluten free or not. They contain preservatives, stabilizers and other chemical additives that are not natural to the body. They are often filled with the foods you will find on our “In Moderation” list above, and therefore should be used only in moderation.   I have put together a sample menu to get you jump started on your gluten free journey. At the end of this post, there is a list of resources, along with links to some of the recipes you see below! You will see as you look through the recipes that you will need to stock your pantry with a few new staple ingredients. Since we cannot use traditional baking flour, we blend a variety of different grains to produce new flour blends. White it can be a little overwhelming (and pricey) at first, once you get your pantry stocked, gluten free baking will become a breeze!     Now that you know what gluten is, and how to avoid it when cooking, let’s talk about the benefits of being gluten free and why it is important.  As we discussed in the first section, the gluten protein is very difficult for everyone to digest. For some people, an estimated 1-2% of the population, their bodies create antibodies against the gluten protein, creating an auto-immune response, known as Celiac Disease. An even larger portion of the population, up to 40%, is expected to have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.   When we think of our immune system, we generally think of our skin as our first line of defense. Our skin keeps the good things in and the bad things out. When we get a cut, though, our defense line is damaged and we are susceptible to letting bad things in. We keep the cut covered with a bandaid to try and help protect ourselves. What many people don’t realize, though, is that our gut is a second layer of skin. We could pull a string all the way from our mouth to our anus, without ever actually “entering” the body. The gut lining is what creates this layer of skin and separates the “inside” from the “outside”. But what happens when our gut gets a cut? This is termed “leaky gut” syndrome and it is expected to affect a large percentage of the population. When our gut gets a cut, it allows proteins to pass into the body before complete digestion, initiating an immune response. This causes our immune system to be over-active and leads to auto-immune diseases.   “There are actually 140 auto-immune diseases that we’ve identified, and the only scientifically agreed upon cause for autoimmune is gluten sensitivity.”  - Dr. Peter Osborne, gluten sensitivity expert  We can think of gluten as the razor blade to our gut. Gluten either passes the gut lining through the enterocytes, or by loosening the tight junctions between the enterocytes enough for it to pass. Further problems arise due to the damage to the gut lining, which allows more proteins to pass, intensifying the auto-immune repsonse.     We need to keep our immune system balanced in order to remain healthy. Both an over-reactive and an under-reactive immune system have consequences.   Gluten is known to be a leading contributor to leaky gut syndrome, causing an over-reactive immune system. So, the next time someone tells you that gluten free is the next big “fad” diet, you will know the truth behind the matter. Removing gluten from our diet isn’t something we do to lose weight, it is something we do to keep ourselves healthy and functioning at 100%.  If you are interested in learning more about gluten free, or need help getting started on your journey to health, please feel free to come see us at Mason Dixon. We are a dedicated gluten free restaurant and bakery in Huntsville, AL, serving breakfast and lunch 6 days a week. We focus on natural, non-processed, fresh baked foods that nourish the body. Our fresh baked sandwich breads and made to order breakfast and lunch options will bring a level of convenience to gluten free. Check out our website to learn more,  Written by: Dr. Ashley L. Ramirez  Owner, Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro 2358 Whitesburg Dr Huntsville AL 35801   Links to Recipes:  GF Apple Crisp with Oats  Irish Beef Stew  Banana Nut Bread  Asian Stir Fry with Chicken  Kale Soup with Sausage and Sweet Potato  Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs with Marinara  Paleo Shepherd’s Pie  Thai Chicken Wraps  Chicken Cobb Salad  Crustless Tomato Spinach Quiche  Ham and Sweet Potato Egg Muffins   Bacon Apple Chicken Burgers with Cranberry Sauce  Asian Inspired Chicken Wings  Paleo Chicken Pad Thai  Herb Crusted Pork Loin   Blogs to Resource:  Gluten Free Goddess:  The Paleo Mom:  Elana’s Pantry:  ​

5 Smart Swaps to Clean Up Your Plate​

Look, there is no shortage of information available these days about Clean Eating principles.  You can go Paleo, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Elimination, Primal, Bulletproof, Sugar Detox, etc. I eat this stuff up (the information, not the food), and spend an almost embarrassing amount of time researching ways to help my patients.  I find it immensely fascinating to unravel the details of someone’s story to find the key to unlock better health. But here’s the deal-- what is fascinating to my science-loving brain is sometimes overwhelming to someone who just wants an easy way to feel better. So, today I present you with 5 Smart Swaps to help you focus on cleaning up your diet.  If you pick one or two things on this list to start with you will be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. #1 - The Breakfast Swap This has been the single-most important thing that I have done over the years to maintain my weight.  I used to eat crackers and peanut butter, or toast, or bagels, or waffles for breakfast  And every evening would have to be spent on a treadmill and let me tell you, I was fighting a losing battle.  No matter how much I exercised the weight was slowly but surely creeping upwards.  Look at that list though!  It was almost all carbohydrates!  Now, my daily breakfast is the cult-favorite “Bulletproof Coffee” on Mondays through Fridays because I practice intermittent fasting during the week.  On the weekends I like to have eggs and bacon. On Sunday I even indulge in a Starbucks run.  Here is the list of effective breakfast options that I recommend to help you ditch those morning carbs and rev up your metabolism: Bulletproof coffee- it’s coffee, it’s butter (pronounced budd-ahh), it’s delicious.Eggs/Bacon/Sausage- seems indulgent but it’s fine without carbs.Protein Shake (can I recommend Vega One Nutritional Shake?  It’s gluten free/ soy free/dairy free and it’s amazing when prepped the right way.  You can pick it up at our pharmacy if you want to give it a try.) #2 - The Quality Swap So yes, I believe you should buy your meat and eggs from grass fed animals.  I have two reasons for this.  The first reason is the obvious, the quality is better-- the fats in grass fed animals are better for your cardiovascular health and are less inflammatory.  The second reason I recommend these is kind of weird, but when you are spending more money on quality meats, you tend to actually cook healthy dishes with them and not let it go to waste.  Make sense?  For example, if I buy grass fed beef, I already have a plan for how I’m going to cook it and when I’m going to eat it.  Which means I have a healthy plan for at least one meal...and my diet gets conquered one healthy meal at a time. #3 - The Sugar Swap Sugar is the #1 cause of obesity in America (ok, I don’t have an official reference for that stat, I made it up...but I’m pretty sure it is true).  We consume an unreal amount of sugar in the US.  Look for opportunities to swap out sugar for stevia-- which is a plant based, natural alternative to sugar.  Also, look for ways that you can decrease the overall amount of sugar you are consuming a little at a time. For instance, if you normally order sweet tea at a restaurant, order a half and half tea.  You won’t believe how sensitive your palate can become to sugar when you begin to decrease it. #4 - The Soda Swap You probably think I’m going to tell you to stop drinking sodas.  Well, in a perfect world that would be great, but I live in the real world and I know there are some of you that are just not going there (at least not yet).  So, I actually have 2 fantastic solutions.  The first is Zevia-- it is a soda sweetened with stevia.  It tastes a little different than a regular soda so you need some time to get used to it, but it is actually, genuinely good.  The second solution-- San Pelligrino, which is carbonated mineral water.  If you are like me and you need a fizz fix-- this is it.  Now, it is straight up flavor, no sweetener, but I find it to be delightful and I think you might also. #5 - The Snack Swap I love this tip, because it can almost feel like a cheat.  I buy dark chocolate in bulk, and there is a great brand called Lilly’s that is sweetened with Stevia!!!  I’m kind of like a squirrel, and I have little hidey-holes filled with dark chocolate in my office and at my house.  I wait until the kids go to bed and go get my stash.  The trick here is to eat a reasonable amount.  So, I have a rule of thumb-- no more than 9 gms of net carbs allowed per day from dark chocolate.  This usually means I can have 2 small dark chocolate snacks....which is about 1/4th of a bar of most dark chocolates, which is usually 1 square twice a day based on the way most dark chocolate bars are split.  Can you tell I’m a pharmacist?  I mean, do you know anyone else that measures and counts the carbs in their dark chocolate and then prescribes an allowed amount per day? I didn’t think so. So, there you have it. 5 Smart Swaps to help you clean up your diet.   ​



2422-J Danville Road SW
Decatur, AL 35603
Ph: 256.353.1121

2422-J Danville Rd SW
Decatur, AL 35603
Ph: 256.353.1121