Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hearty, Healthy, Easy and Delicious Lentil Soup

My dear friend Courtney is a fabulous cook and this lentil soup is one of her specialities. Over the years she's tweaked this recipe to perfection into a meal I won't ever get tired of. It's easy to make, doesn't require a ton of ingredients and best of all you're done in about 45 minutes. Thanks to the lentils its a great source of protein and hearty meal. Courtney's secret magic ingredient is the lemon - it adds so much to the flavor! This recipe is vegan and freezes beautifully - enjoy :)
Courtney's Lentil Soup
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 t curry powder (Penzey's Spices or Savory Spice Shop are my favorite spice sources)
1 large can diced plum (Roma) tomatoes, with juice
2 cups dried lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained (I buy a big bag of mixed lentils at Costco)
6 cups (48 fl oz/ 1.5 liters) of vegetable stock
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped spinach or kale
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and their juice, lentils, stock and lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the lemon slices and bay leaves.
Just before stirring stir in the spinach, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I usually freeze half of this, so I lightly sauté the greens separately and add just before serving).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Baby Cloth Wipes

"Why in the world haven't I always done it this way?!" I've asked myself this question countless times  ever since I've embraced a cleaner lifestyle. Perfect example is cloth baby wipes for my two year old daughter, Olivia. We love her cloth diapers (read my post all about cloth diapering here), but I really hesitated to change to reusable cloth wipes. Just like with the cloth diapers, it seemed kinda gross and my Huggies "Naturals" fit nicely inside my comfort zone. Now that we've switched I'll never go back.

I have always known that Huggies "Naturals", were green washers. While they're a little better than straight up Huggies wipes they still have cocamidopropyl betaine and phenoxyethanol which are just too long of words for my comfort. Read this article to learn more about their 2014 reformulation and why they're still far from "natural." I had tried better options like Seventh Generation, but they were either too thick, too thin, or stuck together funny. Couldn't find my perfect product, so I kept going back to the Huggie's Naturals, which I would buy at Costco for a steal. Then I read this article about hidden ingredients in baby wipes and knew it was time to get over my little hangup- everything from propylene glycol and parabens to artificial fragrance (phthalates) are put on precious tushes. 

It's been a smooth and easy transition. If you cloth diaper already (if you don't I highly recommend you try it), adding cloth wipes is a no-brainer. I just throw the used wipes in with her dirty diaper bag and wash along with the diapers every other day. If you use disposables I've read that Viva paper towels with the diaper spray work also.

My favorite source for discovering amazing homemade products is Etsy - I love it. In my search I luckily found Melissa at The Clementine Bee and bought 40 of her ultra soft organic cotton bamboo wipes. One side is bamboo/organic cotton terry cloth that is super soft yet a little grippy to help gently clean and the other side is a uber soft unbleached flannel to carefully finish the job. They are so soft, extremely well made and work so well. I love the different colored serged edges which have actually helped me teach Olivia her colors - she'll sort them by color and fold them when I do laundry. Melissa also provided me with a spray solution recipe, which works beautifully. I usually only need one wipe to clean (there have been several two or even three wipe diapers, but one typically does the job). Since I've started using this gentle and completely natural option Olivia has had ZERO problem with diaper rash - we're going on six months now.

Cloth Wipe Solution Recipe:
In a 16 ounce bottle combine:
• 1 oz Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby Mild Liquid Soap (or the lavender would work great as well)
• 1 oz of witch hazel (optional)
• 1/2 oz of olive oil or grapeseed oil (optional, but a great moisturizer)
• 5 drops Thieves oil (Thieves oil can be purchased, however it is a blend of 5 essential oils and you can also make your own.) Tea Tree oil would also work.

It's easy - you spray (make sure the sprayer is on spray and not stream), wipe, toss in your dirty bag and then you're done!

I use this glass 8oz spray bottle from Abundant Health and half the recipe - plastic and oils don't mesh (plus I hate plastic!). I'm a sucker for cobalt blue and you can't beat the $1.55 price tag. 
Like cloth diapering there is an initial small investment involved, but after that no more buying wipes. We do still keep a small stash of disposibles on hand for when we travel or Olivia visits my parents. I recently discovered Water Wipes and really like them - they score a zero on EWG and can be bought on Amazon but are more expensive than typical wipes.

Give it a try!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bath and shower filters

First off, I have to apologize to all readers that have beautiful designer bathrooms because you're going to really dislike this post. Bath and shower filters are hideously ugly - especially the weird bath balls (if anyone finds a decent looking one please let me know!) BUT, filtering is critical because of all the unbelievable harmful crap that is added to our tap water. Your skin is extremely absorptive and each shower we expose ourselves to about 25 gallons of water (double that amount for me…). Plus your body is made up of 60% water, so it is critical to make sure that the water you're bathing in is pure and free of chemicals.

Our Sprite High Output Shower Filter from Amazon, $59.99 - you attach your  shower head to the bottom
Suffer from dry or irritated skin? Eczema or psoriasis? Allergies, asthma or other respiratory problems? Brittle hair or itchy scalp? A shower and bath filter could help and this is ESPECIALLY a must try for children. 

Bathing in chlorinated water robs skin and hair of their natural protective oils causing scaling, itching and bacterial imbalances. Skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, and chronic dryness are all effected by the moisture content of the skin - makes perfect sense to me not to take a bath in what is contributing to your problem!!! Chlorine also kills most of the beneficial bacteria on the surface of your skin which destroys your body's natural defense against skin disorders.  

Chlorine is also BRUTAL on your hair since it strips it of natural oils. You know how summertime pool hair is brittle, dry and the color bleaches out? Pool levels and tap water levels aren't that different - the health department recommends between 1.0-3.0ppm  for swimming pools and the EPA allows 4.0ppm for municipal tap water. Imagine the difference it will make to eliminate!! Your hair will appear stronger, thicker and softer. If you color your hair, you'll notice the color lasts longer. The performance of your soaps, shampoo and conditioners will be enhanced because they aren't competing with the pitfalls of chlorine. No-brainer!!
 Our Sprite White Bath Ball Filter  from Amazon, $26.82 prime. Good news is they also come in silver and brass :)
When you take a hot bath chlorine is vaporized it converts to chloroform gas, which is a seriously potent irritant that causes the air passages to constrict. This can cause respiratory problems like asthma when inhaled. Chloramines in the water are also linked to cancer in adults (rectal and bladder) and an increased risk of heart disease. According to Global Healing Center,

These chlorine byproducts trigger the production of free radicals in the body, causing cell damage, and are highly carcinogenic. The Environmental Defense Fund warns that, “Although concentrations of these carcinogens (THMs) are low, it is precisely these low levels that cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States.”

We currently live in a one bathroom house, which was probably remodeled in the 80's so I don't really mind additional ugliness. Our plan is to tear down and have Ed build us a house in a few years which will include a whole home water filtration system (and more than one bathroom!). In the meantime these Sprite filters are working great for us - other popular brands include Culligan, Aquasana, and Berkey. Ed was able to install them quickly and easily. It does take a few minutes longer to fill the tub, but luckily our shower pressure wasn't compromised. My hair and skin are softer and I don't recall any itchy skin since installing it - looking forward to seeing the difference this winter. It is most noticeable though when you shower at a hotel or gym - the chlorine smell is so offensive all of a sudden! Olivia thankfully doesn't have any allergies or asthma, so I can't share any personal experiences - however there are tons of testimonials online of how filtering water has improved their conditions. 

Additional reading:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jessica's Perfect Muffin

Once you taste these muffins and review the spectacular ingredient list you'll agree that my friend Jessica is a culinary genius. After delivering her son Bowen she set out on a mission to create a delicious, nutrient packed lactation muffin - in doing so she also discovered a new baking talent! "More milk" cookies and muffins help increase nursing supply and include a trifecta of critical ingredients - oats, flaxseed and brewer's yeast. Jessica took this even further to make a high protein, fiber and gluten free recipe - THEY ARE DELICIOUS!!! During my pregnancy I've been eating on average 2 a day (sometimes more). However, this recipe isn't just for nursing moms - EVERYONE can benefit from these amazing ingredients. I don't think I have EVER seen a recipe when every single ingredient is recommended by Dr. Oz: 

  • Chia seeds: omega-3s, balance blood sugar, energy, anti-oxidants, allow you to bake with less fat, fiber, calcium
  • Almond meal: gluten free, high in protein, low in carbs and sugars, folic acid, Vitamin B, anti-oxidants
  • Flaxseed: omega-3s, contains lignans which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in by by altering the way your body metabolizes estrogens, FIBER!!!
  • Oats: cholesterol reducing dietary fiber, control blood glucose levels, cancer reducing phytochemicals, help reduce hypertension
  • Brewer's yeast: rich supply of protein, B-complex vitamins and minerals especially chromium and selenium
  • Coconut oil: energy boost, lauric acid which can help stave off infections, improve blood cholesterol, and weight loss
  • Cranberries: high in antioxidants which fight cancer, fight heart disease, anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cinnamon: lower cholesterol, cancer prevention, anti-bacterial, blood sugar regulation
  • Vanilla: anti-oxidant, liver protective abilities and anti-inflammatory
I plan to include one with Olivia's preschool lunches and am thrilled that she gobbles them up just like I do. I wish I was a better photographer because they deserve a better picture! 

Jessica's Cranberry Muffins

  • ¾ cup almond flour/ meal 
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed 
  • 1/8 cup Chia seeds (I buy in bulk at Costco - Trader Joe's is another great option)
  • 2 tsp brewers yeast (I bought mine at Whole Foods)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup juice (I prefer a combo of fresh squeezed pineapple and apple)
  • ½ cup all-fruit preserves (check out my low sugar strawberry spread recipe here)
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil (Costco is the best!) 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I buy organic at Whole Foods)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (we love the organic dried cranberries at Trader Joe's - Olivia calls them "big raisins" because they're so plump and juicy)

Wisk all the dry ingredients through the oats together in one bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients through the vanilla in another bowl.  Combine the dry and the wet ingredients and then add cranberries (frozen cranberries and liquid coconut oil DO NOT mix - turn into weird yogurt covered craisin looking things. This happened to me once when I didn't follow the recipe precisely…) Fill muffin cups 3/4 full - they rise a little but not like regular muffins. Bake 375 for about 15 minutes.  

ENJOY!!! (don't feel bad about eating more than one because they're so good for you!!)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Detoxifying Bathtime Rituals

Bathtub, take me away! I love love love my bath. Whenever I'm having a rotten day or am feeling sick a nice, long soak in the tub always makes me feel better - never fails. Add a little lavender essential oil and a glass of red wine = total bliss. I've recently incorporated a couple new elements to my routine that make my bath time even better and help your body detox at the same time: Dry Brushing and a weekly Epson Salt soak. You'll feel like you're at the spa minus the hefty price tag!

Your skin plays a vital role in ridding the body of toxins and is the largest "elimination" organ - some people actually consider it to be the body's "third kidney".  Up to a third of impurities in your body are excreted through your skin, which grossly can equate to about a pound a day. This is why sometimes you break out if you're doing a cleanse of any sort - your body is flushing all the built up crap out thru your pores, and on your face sometimes they release in the form of zits. If you suffer from rashes, hives, acne, itchiness, eczema or body odor it could be because your skin isn't able to properly release toxins. I will eventually write a deodorant post - but this is why antiperspirants are bad news; the toxins are forced to stay in and build up inside your body. There has been mounting evidence linking breast cancer to antiperspirants, which has been dismissed by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. I'm not risking it - best to let your pores breathe!!

A great way to help your skin eliminate waste is by dry brushing. According to the blog Healthy Living How To, dry brushing may benefit you by:
  • Regulates and increases blood circulation and lymph flow
  • Revitalizes and increases your skins ability to eliminate toxins out of the system
  • Rejuvenates the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin
  • Contributes to healthier muscle tone and diminishes appearance of cellulite (say no more!)
  • Gently removes dead layers of skin and other impurities
  • Stimulates the hormone and oil producing glands responsible for keeping your skin looking and feeling young, smooth and strong (those are my key words right there!)
I love having someone brush or wash my hair and get the same tingling sensation with dry brushing. Here's how you do it: before you get in the shower or bath and are still dry (hence the name dry brushing…), brush in gentle upwards, circular motions toward your heart.  Start at your feet and move up your legs, then move to your arms brushing toward your chest. Avoid your delicate décolletage and any irritated areas. There will be no pictures of me dry brushing, but the chart below really helps. Ideally brush for five minutes before you shower or bathe every day. There is no way I have time for that with a two year old, so I usually brush for a minute or so (I'm lucky to have 5 minutes in the shower at all!). 

Buy a brush with natural fiber bristles and a long handle - I bought the Yerba Prima Tampico brush on Amazon for only $7.80 (I bought a few for Christmas stocking stuffers - big hit!). It seems a little coarse and firm at first, but my skin quickly adjusted. If you have ultra sensitive skin I would recommend finding something gentler. Brusha Brusha Brusha!
Detox Bath Spa Treatment:
Once a week I like to take an extra long 30 minute or longer soak in HOT water - like as hot as I can stand it. This combination will draw out toxins, release stress-related hormones and help balance your pH levels. I add:
  • a cup of Epson salt (which I buy Dr. Teal's in bulk from Costco). Magnesium sulfate is the scientific name for Epson salt and it's pretty magical stuff. The magnesium and sulfates are easily absorbed through your skin and are popular for softening and exfoliating, relaxing and drawing out impurities, relieving migraines, colds and flu symptoms. The relaxation component is no joke - the magnesium actually binds to the serotonin in your brain for perfect stress relief.
  • about 10 drops of essential oil depending on what you want to focus on: lavender for relaxation, tea tree for colds, or eucalyptus for aches. The scent of lavender almost instantly relaxes me - I love it. I'm so sold on lavender that I've never tried adding eucalyptus or tea tree oil (melaleuca), but both have detoxifying properties.
  • about 1/2 cup of baking soda (which I also buy from Costco). Baking soda is a great detox from radiation type exposures like x-rays, cancer treatments, etc and also helps restore pH balance. It is very cleansing, has anti-fungal properties and will make your skin really soft.
  • 1/3 cup or so of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar, which will help make your body more alkaline. 
Even better if you have an amazing tub and view like this - heavenly!
I also recently read that adding ginger (sprinkled from your spice cabinet or by steeping ginger tea in the bath) will increase your body temperature making you sweat even more.

Enjoy for 30 minutes, although you might want to start out at only 20. Be careful getting out of the tub - you might be a little light headed. Also, you don't wanna eat right before or after - just drink lots of water to hydrate yourself during and after. I keep a glass of water by the tub, trust me you'll be sweating a ton! I'm not able to do this one right now because I'm pregnant, but look forward to adding it back once I'm done nursing. It's so worth the effort!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Eco-Friendly USA Mama Buying Club

One of my favorite Facebook groups and blogs I follow is the Eco-friendly baby/family products made in the USA site. Jess and Jolene, who run the site, are absolute warriors and sticklers for finding the cleanest, purest, most non-toxic products available in the market and they must be made in the USA. The site features 3 lists based on their research - approved, so-so/not the best, not the worst and greenwasher. Reference the products you use - you'll probably be surprised and it will definitely open your eyes to "green washers." So many companies use marketing terms like "natural" and "pure" yet their products are still full of junk - anything to make a buck. I use the site to determine safety and am usually comfortable with anything in the green zone (0-2) depending on the ingredients, but these ladies insist on the cleanest available - only zeros so you know its the safest stuff out there! 

Every quarter they offer a free buying club that allows you to try products from their favorite, trusted manufacturers and the majority are mom & pop, Etsy type suppliers which I love to support! Some shops offer specials or discounts but the deal is you save on shipping. I always hesitate to order things online because I hate paying for shipping - especially if it's for a cheaper item. With the buying club you can order things from as many stores as you want, they are delivered to Jess and then she ships them all to you in one box. You get to try lots of different stores and products but only have to pay one shipping fee. I think it's great and have ordered four quarters in a row. We've discovered lots of great products that I would have never had the chance to try. I'm a little late getting this post out - the deadline to order is August 17,  which still gives you two weeks! All of the details are on this page.

There are 25 different vendors and tons of products to chose from - here are some of my favorite finds that I recommend trying (also, just so you know I'm not getting paid anything to promote this, just sharing what has worked for me!):

  • Glass straws from Glass Dharma - they sound kinda scary and dangerous, but they're made of borosilicate tubing which is the strongest glass commercially available and meets Corning specifications (a process that strengthens the glass) - they're guaranteed! We LOVE them because they don't leach toxins into your drink like plastic and one glass straw will replace thousands of plastic straws during your lifetime. The size I use every single every single day is the 8 inch ice tea. I also bought the shorty smoothie straw for Olivia but it's a little too short and too thick. Try one out!
  • Josiah's Oils DIY Cleaning Oils are awesome if you want to try making your own cleaning supplies that fight all three categories of infectious organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses), kill mold on contact, repel insects and can even help you clear congestion. Plus it smells divine - you can inhale all you want and it will actually help improve your body's immune system. For $12 you get approximately 300 drops which will last you a long long time. The recipe to make the basic general cleaner is easy-peasy: simply fill a bottle with 2 TBS of white vinegar, 1 tsp baking soda, 60-100 drops of cleaning oil and top off with water. Trust me, you'll love this stuff!!
  • Switching to a natural deodorant can really ruin your day. Traditional deodorant is probably the #1 worst personal care products and is linked to countless cancers, so switching to a natural option can be a little change that makes a huge difference in your health (I've been meaning to write a post about it, just hasn't happened yet….). The problem is that most options out there are horrible and don't work, which is extremely frustrating. I tried probably seven different brands (Primal Pit Paste worked for a while, then quit on me) before I found Jess's homemade deodorant. It's made of coconut oil, arrowroot powder, corn starch, baking soda, tea tree oil and the essential oil of your choice (or nothing at all!). I personally like her favorite blend which is orange, lavender and a little bit of peppermint. It comes in a mason jar, which is a little different but very eco-friendly - I just put a little bit on my finger and rub it on. Works all day for me and I've been using it successfully for almost a year! One jar will last me about a year and she charges $8 per 4oz jar. Jess also offers samples if you just want to try it out (which you should!)
  • I can confidently state that I am a lip balm/chapstick connoisseur and expert. It is my one major vice and addiction. If you ever need some ask me because I can guarantee I will have something to offer - most likely Burt's Bees. I have used Burt's almost exclusively for about a decade now but this buying club prompted me to try a new brand called Simply Rustic. 100% from nature skin care using fair trade, organic, raw and wildcrafted ingredients - plus their prices are super reasonable. Their lip balm comes in tempting flavors like orange lavender, chocolate covered strawberries and pomegranate vanilla coconut but my FAVORITE is Minty which subtly smells just like an Andes mint. They are only $2.50 each!!
  • I still wash my face with honey every night but needed something to remove eye makeup and a new serum. Last quarter I bought a sample set of Simply Rustic's Simply Face Sample Bundle to test out their products. It includes a cleansing oil, toner, "Face Food Mask" and serum based on your skin type for $13 (3 months later I am still using the face food and serum, haven't run out yet!). I really really like the cleansing oil for eye makeup removal and when I want to mix up my routine a bit - it is especially nice in a steamy bath for a deep cleanse. The toner is really refreshing in the morning and doesn't dry my skin. I use it and then apply my day time moisturizer. The serum is amazing - I love how it makes my skin feel, absorbs completely and isn't too heavy like others I've tried. PLUS IT IS ONLY $15 FOR A WHOLE OUNCE!!!! Everything comes in cobalt glass containers that I'll hoard forever and never be able to throw away.Try out the sample bundle to see how you like it. I already put in my order for their full sized gift bundle for only $46, can't be beat!
  • Laundry detergent is another product that is important to go all-natural. You wear your clothes all day (for the most part), so those chemicals are in constant contact with your skin and being absorbed. We switched to Molly's Suds for laundry and to clean Olivia's cloth diapers and have been very happy. They do offer sample sizes if you want to just try it out - their dryer balls are my Christmas wish list :)
  • I purchased a set of Neat-os reusable storage bags before they became a part of the buying club and use them every day. They're a little pricey but I consider it an investment since we no longer have to buy Zip-locks. We like the zipper closure (velcro and food don't mix), they're easy to wash and I like being able to see what is inside - they'll last us hundreds of uses! We have one gallon sized, two snacks and one sandwich - eventually I'll buy more. 
  • Poofy Organics is one of my favorite new brands and I've been thrilled with every product that I've tried. We use their "baby poof" line on Olivia exclusively and love their body wash/shampoo, happy tush diaper ointment and lotion. I am going to be trying their shampoo and conditioner when I run out of what I have now. The one product they sell that I think every single woman (or man if nail polish is your thing) needs is their nail polish remover. I don't think that anyone doubts how toxic traditional nail polish is - I put the cap back on as soon as possible to keep all the fumes and chemicals in! This remover is very different and is oil based with no offensive chemical smell - it scores a zero on EWG. It does take several more swipes to remove the polish, but it removes ALL of it which my Cutex stuff didn't do. Your nails will also look healthy and nourished by the oil - they'll be so happy and appreciative. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Clean from the very beginning

I'm pregnant! We're absolutely thrilled and I just felt my first flutters at 18 weeks along:) Our baby boy is due January 1st and we're REALLY hoping he decides to come just a little early to save us a boatload on another deductible - I'll trying every single natural induction tip out there! 
my little bump
From the very start I've been committed to creating a non-toxic and healthy  environment for my little one to grow. This includes my diet of course, but also the products I put on my body and use in our home. In-utero exposure to environmental chemicals has been linked to childhood and adult diseases including autism, high blood pressure, ADHD, mental disorders, heart disease and more (Dr. Mercola July 9, 2014). Any future mothers please read this article from the American College of Gynecology, which is a medical journal that educates OB/GYNs of new policies and medical studies. The first paragraph pretty much sums it up:
Toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous other long-term health problems, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). In a joint Committee Opinion, The College and ASRM urge ob-gyns to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.
About 700 new chemicals are introduced to the US market every year and over 84,000 different industrial chemical substances are now approved for use in our country. APPROVED WITHOUT ANY SAFETY DATA (more than 90% are untested)! These maybe safe/maybe not safe chemicals are in our skin care products, sunscreen, makeup, cleaning products, laundry detergent, EVERYWHERE - many chemicals that pregnant women are exposed to cross straight from the placenta to the fetus!! This NY Times article "Think Those Chemicals Have Been Tested?" will blow you away, so unbelievably frustrating. Especially concerning to me are chemicals considered to me are endocrine disrupting chemicals" which mess with our bodies by mimicking hormones and the way our body naturally works (include parabens, fragrance (phthalates), BPA, flame retardants, and MANY more). Endocrine disrupting chemicals are especially harmful and can do the most damage during prenatal and postnatal development when organ and neural systems are developing. Avoid these chemicals just like you do sushi and deli meat! 

Since the burden to determine product safety is on the mama, I URGE you to examine the ingredients in the products you use. A few months ago I wrote a post "The List of Bad Ingredients" that can help you - the website The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is also an amazing resource. Don't be fooled by marketing gimmicks describing a product as "natural" or "organic" - YOU MUST READ THE INGREDIENTS!! If you can make these changes BEFOFE you get pregnant that is ideal - critical development happens during those first months.

Dr. Mercola wrote this article that is full of valuable suggestions for avoiding chemicals and toxins during pregnancy. He found that in a survey of over 2,500 US obstetricians that 78% agreed that they could reduce environmental exposure through patient counseling and only 20% claim to routinely ask about exposure history. Even more disturbing is that only one in fifteen obstetricians reported receiving any training on the topic at all!! Hopefully more articles like the one in the American College of Gynecology will be published and action steps taken in practices.
I realize all these changes and warnings are very overwhelming - where do you begin?! Mercola's article includes this great list to use as a guide and I've included my blog posts that pertain:
  1. As much as possible, purchase organic produce and free-range, organic foods to reduce your exposure to pesticides, growth hormones, GMOs, and synthetic fertilizers. (Learn more about GMOs and their danger and my guide to buying organic)
  2. Rather than using conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity.
  3. Eat mostly raw, fresh foods, steering clear of processed, prepackaged foods of all kinds. This way you automatically avoid artificial food additives, including dangerous artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and MSG. Freshly grown sprouts are particularly nutritious, especially watercress, sunflower, and pea sprouts.
  4. Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap and canned foods (which are often lined with BPA- and BPS-containing liners). (Read about my new favorite non-plastic products here)
  5. Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath). (I've been wanting to blog about this - we use this bath filterthis shower filter and here is my post on fluoride)
  6. Only use natural cleaning products in your home. (LOVE my recipes for homemade cleaners)
  7. Switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. The Environmental Working Group has a useful database to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.14 (Read my posts on makeup and my beauty routine for product suggestions)
  8. Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, or other synthetic fragrances. (Read more about why here).
  9. Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
  10. When redoing your home, look for "green," chemical-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings.
  11. Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric, or install a glass shower door. Most flexible plastics, like shower curtains, contain dangerous plasticizers like phthalates. (Read more about phthalates here).
  12. Limit your use of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) as much as possible. Drugs are chemicals too, and they will leave residues and accumulate in your body over time.
  13. Avoid spraying pesticides around your home or insect repellants that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective, and natural alternatives out there. (I have lots of natural pest remedies pinned - check out my Pinterest page)
If anyone has any questions or needs additional product suggestions please let me know - I'd love to help!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Dangit, Cancer Loves Sugar

"Every single person who has cancer has a pH that is too acidic."
                                                                          - Dr. Otto Warburg

Way back in 1931, German scientist Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Peace Prize for his cancer research. I'm going to do my best to break down and explain some very high level science…Warburg's work demonstrated two main points: 1) There was a direct relationship between body pH and oxygen and 2) Cancer cells replicate in the absence of oxygen. Without exception, people with cancer have a pH of less than 7.0 and their tissues and cells are not being properly oxygenated, which is a condition called "acidosis." Your body must be slightly alkaline for its cells to be properly oxygenated and people with an alkaline body pH of over 7.4 do not have cancer EVER because cancer cannot survive in their body. 
Otto Warburg, one of the 20th century's leading biochemists
In simplest terms: If your body pH is acidic it is the perfect environment for cancer to initiate, grow, and thrive. Cancer LOVES acidity. On the other hand if your body pH is alkaline between 7.2 and 7.4 (7.365 being the ideal) you can prevent and reverse almost all disease including cancer. AMAZING!!

A little refresher on pH way back from your 6th grade science class…pH is the symbol for hydrogen ion concentration and is the measurement of the body's oxygen saturation level. The pH scale goes from zero to 14 with zero being purely acid, 14 being purely alkaline and 7 being "neutral pH." Litmus paper allows you to test the pH of just about anything by matching it to the blue (alkaline) to red (acidic) scale. I just bought these from Amazon and look forward to testing the food that I eat and my own pH.

So how do you manage your body's pH for disease prevention? FOOD!!! Every single food has a pH that is either acidic or alkaline and by eating 70% or more alkaline foods you should be in the safe zone. I thought I knew a few obvious acidic foods - oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and was so surprised I was wrong. The pH of citrus and tomatoes are acidic before it is consumed and digested - once they are broken down by the body the byproducts they leave have an alkaline pH. People that eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) are in bad shape - dairy, meat, processed food, sugar, alcohol, coffee are all very acidic with Colas being the absolute worst. Is it any surprise cancer rates are skyrocketing?! Dangit, cancer LOVES sugar. Alkaline foods are fruits and vegetables (with a few exceptions like plums, blackberries, and cranberries), which reinforces all my beliefs in the benefits of a plant based diet. Read my post about The China Study, which details the connection between diet and disease.

I have studied this chart and done yahoo ph searches for over an hour - such a great reminder of the importance of eating right! Remember, you don't need to follow the alkaline side strictly, just make sure the majority (ideally 70% or more) of the foods you eat come from that side. For a more extensive and detailed list, this website is a great resource and now in my bookmarks. I need to step it up with the fruits and veggies and cut back my grain intake. My goal is to keep my 30% acidic foods to beans, whole grains and nuts. I'm also going drink more lemon water (FoodBabe article on benefits of lemon water). Of course there are slip-ups and indulgences but this knowledge will hopefully help improve my choices. What a great reason to seriously limit junk food - my health!!

More information: Otto Warburg

Cancer Loves Sugar

Friday, June 20, 2014

BPA-Free is just as bad

When I put together Olivia's registry I did TONS of research on the products I selected, and felt really good that all the BPA-free items were the absolute safest choice for my daughter. Boon dishes and utensils, Born-Free bottles, ZoLi sippy cups; all BPA-free, cost a little more and were free from toxins, right? NOPE, recently come to find out that "BPA-free" does not mean "free from all hormone-disrupting chemicals." They just switched out BPA for another ingredient that will still leach chemicals and petroleum by-products into your food. This article from Mother Jones details a new study in the journal Environmental Health that identifies specific plastic products - including AVENT baby bottles, CamelBak sippy cups, and Lock & Lock food storage containers - that leach estrogen-mimicking chemicals. Study authors write "Many PC-replacement-products made from acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and Tritan resins leached chemicals with estrogenic activity, including products made for use by babies. Exposure to various forms of UV radiation often increased the leaching of chemicals with estrogenic activity."

So what's the big deal with hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA? ALOT, that's what. One of my first posts on this blog was about endocrine disrupting hormones and the havoc they wreak. For starters they're linked to cancer and it only takes a tiny dose - just parts per BILLION. According to scientists they may cause infertility problems, liver abnormalities, asthma and heart disease and a slew of other issues. Even worse, some of these effects appear to be epigenetic and trans-generational meaning they pass from one generation to the next. Bottom line, avoid these chemicals as much as possible. (I also wrote these informative posts about the hormone disrupting chemicals BPA and phthalates).

"Many of the items are advertised as healthy alternatives to plastics containing BPA and the hormone-altering chemicals known as phthalates," writes Mother Jones. "Born Free markets its baby products as the 'natural choice for moms who want a safe, calm experience every time they feed their baby." Weil Baby claims that its bottles are made from 'revolutionary new materials' that are 'ultra-safe.' After UV exposure, CertiChem's study found that both companies' products leached potent synthetic estrogens." This just makes my blood boil. Companies use clever BS marketing buzz words like "All-natural", "Gluten-free", "BPA-free", etc. to sell their products and safety only seems to be an issue if we don't buy it. My lesson learned is that the burden is on the consumer to determine product safety and it is important to thoroughly research your purchases and read labels.

Plastic is EVERYWHERE and there is not much I can do about what is outside of my home. My main concern is plastic used with our food - bowls, plates, cups, utensils, etc. Little by little we've been replacing our BPA-free products with either glass or stainless steel and I've found some great substitutes! 

Sippy cups: It ticks me off how much money I wasted on stupid ZoLi sippy cups - they were $15 each and the special straw cleaning kit was another $10. UGH!!! I'm glad I discovered Pura Kiki stainless steel bottles and luckily Olivia loves them. They are 100% plastic free with silicon spouts and the outside is completely non-toxic and free of lead, phthalates, PVC or BPA. I also really like that they can be used as bottles and the top is compatible with pretty much every nipple out there, so they grow with your child. They come in a lot of great colors and a heads up, ours have been dropped several times and the paint has chipped here and there. No big deal, but if the aesthetics of your sippy cups are important to you then go with the natural stainless. They're not cheap at $15.99 on Amazon, but I highly recommend them!!!
Dishes: I had a collection of Boon plates and bowls (the one with the suction that sticks to the table) and immediately switched these out for alternatives we already owned. Our Pyrex Snapware has been great for bowls - they are practically unbreakable (saying practically because they can break, its just very hard to do) and a great size for snacks or cereal. Olivia has dropped them on the floor numerous times and they have never busted.
I made the FOOLISH, FOOLISH mistake of letting Olivia use our Pillivuyt dishes until I figured out a good plate substitute. I was completely asking for it when one shattered into pieces on the floor - I could have cried because I KNEW it was bound to happen, UGH!! Several natural/green parenting blogs I follow recommended Duralex which is the company that invented tempered glass that is 2.5 more resistant to breakage and chipping than normal glass. The dessert plate is just the perfect size for my almost 2 year old at 7 1/2 inches and is dishwasher and microwave safe. Another bonus is they're made 100% in France and not China. I bought a set of six on Amazon for $21.80 and they've served us well so far! I will probably buy some of the matching bowls down the road.
One of the "crunchy mama" boards I follow shared this great idea for small snack bowls: stainless steel cat food bowls! Wal-mart sells this exact 4 1/2 one for only $1.00 and it doesn't have any cheesy cat paws or designs on it - just plain stainless steel bowl. They don't have them online and I found ours on the pet aisle. ONLY $1!!! I actually remember my vet years ago saying to never use plastic food bowls for your pets because the chemicals leach into the food and water. I should have questioned why it was not recommended for pets but apparently okay for humans...

Utensils: Olivia started using our stainless flatware several months back, so that hasn't been a concern. For our next little one I will use something bamboo like Bambu 5-inch Baby's Utensils, which are $16.99 on Amazon for a set of four. 
Baby Bottles: If I were in the market for baby bottles I would stay away from anything plastic - no matter what they claim I would not trust them. There are many glass options and I would probably go with LifeFactory. They are all made in the US or Europe, are leakproof and like the Pura Kiki will grow with your child into a sippy then regular water bottle. The only reason I wouldn't recommend the Pura for baby bottles is because you can't see how many ounces your baby has drank since it is stainless. LifeFactory bottles are't cheap at about $17 each and I would probably try to find some used ones on Ebay or Craigslist.

Teethers: Just like everything else, I paid a premium for a couple teethers for Olivia that were both BPA and BPS free. I wish I would have bought one of these handmade natural wood and organic bamboo teethers from Myecobaby on Etsy. Only $10 and Olivia would have LOVED these (especially the one with the knots).
 Water Bottles: Ed and I are addicted to our water bottles and carry them everywhere. We were fans of CamelBak and Nalgene, but are now BIG BIG fans of our new Sigg stainless water bottles. Check out their website and you won't believe all the fun, creative designs you can choose. I was overwhelmed and couldn't make up my mind, so I went with this basic blue 1.0 Liter Classic Traveler and am crazy about it. They also have a wide mouth option, but this one is just right for me. They cost about $23 on Amazon and I like that they are made in Switzerland and not China (like Kleen Kanteen). Mine has taken a few tumbles and has a couple little dents, but I still love it. I've had water that tastes funny in stainless steel containers and that is not the case with the Sigg. Ever since we installed our Premier Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System from Costco and switched to Sigg I've been pounding water all day because it tastes so good!
Food storage: I have mentioned our Pyrex Snapware in previous posts and above as a bowl option - love this stuff. We bought our 18 piece set at Costco for a crazy good price of something like $28, but I don't see it on their site anymore. Amazon sells it for $44.76, which is still a great price. I have never had a leak and it is so so durable. I did buy an additional set of smaller one cup squares for $12.99 and that is all we need! These have been great for Olivia's snacks.
Travel mugs: Next up on my shopping list is to replace our plastic travel coffee mugs - they're probably not even BPA-free. We don't use them much, so it hasn't been a top priority. My sister has a great looking ceramic one from Starbucks that I was eye-balling, but it was a seasonal Christmas purchase. Found several different options on Ebay and I like this one:

I would love to hear any other suggestions or ideas!!

Additional reading: