A Year in Review & Looking Forward

New Years Eve2015 is upon us… does anyone else find that as insane as I do?  I really feel like 2014 just flew by.  It was a a pretty crazy year for me, with an amazing  trip to Europe and fun moments with friends & family, but also lots of work (aka stress) the rest of the year that took over my life and effected my health. As I look back, I am so thankful for all that I’ve learned and I’m ready to tackle 2015 with some big resolutions.  They aren’t much different than what I was inspired by in Europe, I am only more determined by not accomplishing them in 2014:

  • Nourish my body – I’ve really taken a step back in what I eat due to convenience and it’s certainly not making me feel great.  My goals for this year are to meal-plan weekly to ensure I am getting adequate protein and veggies, to shop local & organic at the Farmer’s Market at least twice per month, and to cook from scratch at a minimum of 5 times per week. This used to be routine for me, so I know it’s realistic to achieve. I am not really a calorie counter or weight watcher, but I am committed to consistently tracking what I eat on an app and making goals to lose weight & inches where needed in order to keep myself accountable.
  • Get moving – I need to exercise more, plain and simple.  I got a Jawbone UP 24 for Christmas (loving it so far, by the way!) and it is astounding how little I move throughout the day.  I’ll never reach my step goal if I don’t do some intentional fitness daily.  I want to explore more resistance training to build muscle and get back on my spin bike that’s just sitting upstairs.  And, again, I want to take more walks with my sweet puppy who so loves them. Belle Walk
  • Learn to relax – I am still trying to figure out what this means and how to accomplish it.  I am hoping the two above goals aid in reducing stress, but I truly want to learn how to leave work at the office.  I want to come home and be able to focus on my family and my health. Reading & writing are both so relaxing for me, and I want to read more health books, do a bit more research and share about it here on this blog.  One main area I want to explore more this year is essential oils.  I have been using them for a couple of years now and seeing great results, so I recently became a distributor with Young Living in hopes to share my experience with more people.  There is so much to learn about these natural oils from plants that God provided to heal us.  Plus, I have recently discovered how effective they are at helping me relax – I have the “Joy” and “Stress Away” blends in my diffuser right now bringing loveliness to my home.

I’ve said it before, but I am always astounded by how many people this blog has reached.  I started it on New Year’s Day only 2 years ago thinking it would just be a way to keep myself accountable and share with friends and family.  This year, I reached over 10,000 views!  To close out 2014, I wanted to do a recap of the most popular posts of this year:

2nd Year Running Most Read Overall – Kombucha Home-Brew

Most Pinned on Pinterest – Health Foodie Series

Most Reader-Shared – Healthy Hygiene Routine & Part 2: Deodorant

Most Read Book Review – Coconut Oil

Most Read Post in 2014 – Emphasis on Hopeful

If you want to make sure you don’t miss any future posts, be sure to hit the “Follow” button at the top right corner of my site to get an email whenever I publish a new blog.  If you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see more of, please leave a comment and let me know.  It’s certainly motivating if I know it’s something people want to hear about; most often it’s just a surprise after I write it!

Wishing you a healthy & hopeful 2015!

Healthy Hygiene Part 2: Deodorant

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to share a little something about a simple way that you can help decrease your risk of developing breast cancer: change your deodorant.

There are two very common ingredients in deodorant that continue to be implicated as one of the possible causes of breast cancer – Aluminum & Parabens. Aluminum is used as an antiperspirant; it blocks pores and therefore prevents sweat. Parabens (look for: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or benzylparaben) are found in most beauty products and are used to prevent bacteria growth, which helps both the shelf life of a product and preventing odors from developing as you use the product.  The issue with both of these compounds is that they are proven to mimic estrogen in the body and cause hormone disruption.  Estrogen promotes the growth of breast tissue, but when disrupted, it can lead to an abnormal & excessive growth of cancerous breast tissue.

Your underarms are a very sensitive area, with thin skin covering many blood vessels and a large cluster of lymph nodes.  The materials that you spray or roll on that location are absorbed easily by the skin.  If you shave under your arms and then roll on deodorant, you have even increased your exposure and allowed these chemicals to go straight into your blood stream.  Aluminum is a toxic metal to our bodies and if you take a look at the back of your product, you’ll find many other questionable, hard-to-pronounce ingredients on there as well. Any toxicity can limit the function of your lymphatic system, which contributes to your overall immune function.  I don’t know about you, but this is simply not a health risk I am willing to take for beauty’s sake.  Fortunately, there are safe, alternative options.  Here’s a few I recommend checking out:

Silver Botanicals – Silver Shield Deodorant

I found this awesome company at my local farmer’s market one Saturday and I am thrilled to be sharing them with y’all.  They use a blend of essential oils and colloidal silver.  Essential oils have a long list of medicinal benefits and are naturally deodorizing, anti-bacterial and have a long-lasting aroma.  Colloidal silver also has many healing properties as an anti-microbial preventing the growth of bacteria. I take it every day as an immune supplement and double up when I’m sick, so it only makes sense to put it under my arms also.  I have found this to be the best natural deodorant out there; it keeps me smelling good all day and the more I use it, the less I sweat – it’s getting my body back in balance.  One caution: it will sting a lot if you try to apply right after shaving… wait an hour or so.

Coming in at only $7.50 for a 2 oz spray bottle (it’s lasted me two months) with the option to buy discounted refills in the future, it’s a great deal. Silver Botanicals also has a great line of other hygiene & household products, my favorite being the Oral Disinfectant mouthwash.  If you don’t live in Austin, you can buy online.

Sam’s Natural Deodorant

This was recommended to me by my friends Emily & Ben – they both said that it keeps them smelling fresh the longest of any option they’ve tried.  Their list of ingredients contains several essential oils, coconut oil (which I love!), and does not contain harsh chemicals. I am excited to try it soon and see if it works for my hubby!

Buy the handmade 3 oz stick online for only $8.95 and read more about the cool company living out their American Dream.

Lafes Organic Mineral Salt Deodorant

I wrote about this product in my first installment of Health Hygiene Routines and continue to have great success with it.  I love that the list of ingredients is simple: mineral salts, essential oils and aloe vera.  I still use this regularly because it’s the most effective at preventing sweat.  How? Because of it’s use of natural mineral salts.  These mineral salts are potassium alum, which I recently  learned are technically aluminum, but with molecules too large to fit through your skin’s pores.  Essentially, it creates an outer layer that helps block perspiration instead of  actually going in your pores like aluminum.  While there are not studies yet on if on if our bodies absorb any of the toxic metal from these crystal salts, if perspiration is a problem for you (or you are looking for an option for Summer or exercise), I think it’s worth giving it a go; it still doesn’t contain parabens or other harmful chemicals.

I use both the unscented spray and the roll on lavender version.  You can find a 4 oz bottle for only $4.50 at Natural Grocers or online.

Tom’s of Maine Natural Sensitive Care Deodorant

One last option, especially for those of you with easily irritated skin or bad razor burn. I find that the more often I switch on and off of different deodorants, they seem to stay more effective (shampoo is the same way for me… anyone else?).  This deodorant has such a cooling effect that it is my go-to after I shave.  It doesn’t last very long for me, so I have to reapply once more a day, but I love the smell and it feels so smooth. Again, this option is paraben & aluminum free and the list of ingredients is simple.  It uses chamomile to soothe and hops to prevent odor-causing bacteria.

You should be able to find the 2.25 oz gel stick at your regular grocery store for $5.00 – I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and H-E-B.

Deodorant

The great thing about these natural options are that they have plenty of other benefits as well…

  1. For those of you with sensitive skin (like my friend Emily who gets blisters when she uses regular deodorant), you should see the irritation you experience drastically decrease with options that don’t contain lots of chemicals.
  2. Wives who do their husband’s laundry, rejoice: You’ll no longer have to deal with trying to bleach those gross yellow stains on all of their white shirts!
  3. You’ll be supporting small businesses & companies who truly care about the health of their customers.

Is this a change you would make? Which one are you interested to try?

Sources: Dr. Mercola, Livestrong, Silver Botanicals

Healthy Hygiene Routine

 

Healthy Hygiene RoutineMany people make a good effort to eat healthy and limit the toxins they ingest, but what about the chemicals you are spreading over your body or putting in your mouth during your hygiene routine?  Today I want to share some basic products I use daily and talk a bit about why they are way better than their mainstream alternatives.

Living Clay MaskCalcium Bentonite clay is full of trace minerals and literally vacuums toxins out of the skin. It’s been used throughout history and has so many healing and detoxifying uses.  It’s alkaline 9.7 pH brings the body into balance.  I use it as a mask at least once a week on my face and have seen dramatic improvement in my skin.  If my hormones are going crazy and causing me to break out, then I will use it daily to remove my makeup each night.  You can instantly feel how it stimulates blood circulation and your skin will feel so refreshed and energized afterwards.  When I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics, it helped decrease the severity and redness of the rash. I use the powder form in detox baths and even mix it with water & drink to detoxify my body when I’m sick.  It’s also the perfect shaving cream for those of you who struggle with dry skin and razor burn.  This is one of those products I really could not live without; it’s made my skin clearer than ever!

Coconut Oil – I recently wrote about my absolute obsession with coconut oil and all it’s miraculous healing abilities. In addition to cooking with it, I also use it as a moisturizer all over my body and even on my face.  As it absorbs and moisturizes your skin, you also get it’s benefits internally.  It has anti-aging properties and will help prevent wrinkles; it also helps your skin adjust to sun exposure giving it SPF effects.  And it’s great for removing eye makeup and lip stains.  Best of all, it’s super affordable (especially when you compare it to what you would spend on lotion and expensive face moisturizer) because a little goes a very long way.  I simply melt a few tablespoons on the stove and put it into a small travel sized container for my bathroom counter.

Lavender Essential Oil -I actually mix this with the coconut oil in the container I use for my face moisturizer.  Besides smelling absolutely amazing, lavender oil has many anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  It will help heal pimples very quickly, minimizes the appearance of scar tissue, and helps heal cuts and bruises by stimulating circulation.  It’s a great moisturizer for chapped skin, so I use it on my lips too.  Plus, it’s scent helps calm your mind and body, decreasing stress and helping you wind down for a night of restful sleep.

Orawellness HealThy Mouth Blend – The simple fact that you’re never supposed to swallow regular toothpaste always made me suspicious of its safety for putting in my mouth at all.  This is the best “toothpaste” I’ve ever used and I’ve seen incredible improvement in my mouth health over the past year (my dentist has too!).   This is a blend of organic essential oils that fight bacteria and helps heal cavities.  Plus, it doesn’t contain any of the toxic chemical fluoride.  If you have gum problems, cavities, or are just looking for a safe way to clean your teeth, this is a must-try!

Mineral Salts Deodorant – Antiperspirant deodorant works by using aluminum to stop the sweat and odor.  Unfortunately, it also causes breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, so I knew I needed to get it out of my routine.  (TMI) I sweat a lot, which made this the toughest natural hygiene solution to find.  Most products would work for a while or at least stop odor, but I finally found a great solution that is consistently helping with both.  Lafes Deoderant is made with simply 3 ingredients: aloe vera, essential oil and natural mineral salt; it comes as a spray or a roll on.  The mineral salts combat the bacteria that causes odor. I love the lavender scent and while it’s not technically an “antiperspirant,” I’ve noticed that my sweating has decreased the more I use it.  I buy mine at my grocery store, Natural Grocers, and it lasts months using only once a day.  Lastly, it doesn’t leave stains or marks on your clothing like the regular ones always do – a great bonus!

As for the “beauty” department, I am researching and testing different makeup and hair products to find healthy options that actually work.

Hair Products – I am currently using Kevin Murphy shampoo, conditioner, hair spray and dry shampoo.  They are sulfate and paraben-free and work amazing, but still use a lot of chemicals I am not comfortable with.  I’ve tried many of the organic options from the grocery store but found my hair was oily and flat within just a week of use.  I am considering making my own as soon as what I have runs out, and I will certainly keep you updated on that adventure.

Makeup – I’ve used Origins, Arbonne, and MineralFusion from Whole Foods, but they are all so expensive and don’t have the lasting power that I really want.   I feel like when I come home from work it looks like I didn’t even put makeup on that day.  Looking for any and all recommendations!!

Have you found safe, natural beauty & hygiene products that you love? Please share them here!

Let’s Talk Teeth

Shark Teeth

In honor of Shark Week, let’s talk teeth!

Last week, I visited the dentist for my 6-month cleaning appointment and received a glowing report: no cavities, no gum disease, not even a “you could be flossing or brushing better.”  When is the last time you got a report like that?  Well, for me, this was phenomenal news compared to my last dental visit…

See, earlier this year, I went in for my normal cleaning and the dentist gave me some grim news.  Apparently I had a serious bacterial infection that was causing gum disease in my mouth.  I was urged to spend $500 on a test that would pinpoint the exact bacteria attacking my mouth, which would direct them to prescribe the appropriate antibiotics, and maybe even steroids, to fight the bacteria.  I was also told to implement a new routine into my dental care: schedule cleanings every 3 months and purchase a high-end water pick as well as a pricey prescription dental wash (which I was appalled to find contained sucralose!).  To top it all off, the dentist mentioned that if this gum disease continued to ravage my mouth, it would likely cause heart disease and infertility problems.  Way to put the fear into a patient!

Okay, so I am admittedly cynical when it comes to anyone in the health profession.  Let’s be honest, this is their job… it’s how they support their families, and more problems with a patient certainly mean more money for them.  This was certainly not the first time in my life to receive a terrible diagnosis from a medical professional, and I knew from experience that I needed to do a little research of my own before agreeing to any treatment.

I take great care in what I put in my body, whether it’s food and drink or the hygiene and beauty products that my skin absorbs.  A few years ago, I learned about the dangers of fluoride and have since been filtering it out of my water at home as well as avoiding it in dental products.  Fluoride is used to prevent cavities because it kills the bacteria in our mouth, but unfortunately, we are getting far too much of it and it’s causing lots of health problems in the general population.  Just a few examples include cell death, brain damage, dementia, bone issues, lowered immune function and thyroid problems.  (Read more here and here.)  I take a daily iodine supplement to counteract the fluoride that I do consume through water outside my home and bathing since Austin’s water contains it.  More and more people are beginning to hear about the dangers of the fluoride chemical being added to our water supply, and some places, like Portland and Israel, have even voted to prevent it.  I have personally seen improvement in my hormone issues and memory since removing it.  All that to say, I needed a dental care solution without toxic fluoride or other harmful chemicals, which meant the dentist’s solutions were not going to happen.

Having found natural healing for so many other health issues in my life, I began to seek out some trusted sources that have helped in the past.  Thanks to a recommendation by my favorite Dr. Cate, I found a product called OraWellness. I purchased the OraWellness HealThy Mouth Blend to give it a try.   It is a blend of organic essential oils with bacteria-fighting properties to fight against gum disease and the bacteria that causes cavities. Basically, you use a few drops of the blend on your toothbrush instead of toothpaste.   It was hard to get used to not using toothpaste, but within a week I was sold. It tastes great and the small bottle travels easy.  I also love that you can use it on your floss or as a mouthwash for a deeper clean.   My mouth has never felt so fresh.  Plus, since you are just using a few drops at a time, a bottle usually lasts me 2-3 months, which is totally affordable. Also, they have these great toothbrushes with less bristles that feel so much better on my sensitive gums (thank you, seasonal allergies).  If you want to learn more about why the blend works, you can visit their website directly. Their blog also has some great insight into other dental care topics as well as how important a healthy mouth is to overall wellness.

Now, six months later, after using the product twice a day, I am free of gum disease, bacterial infection, cavities and have clean, fresh breath. Plus, I swear my teeth are whiter!  The dentist was shocked by the transformation of my mouth, and hopefully slightly convinced that the natural way can indeed heal.

Had you heard about the dangers of fluoride?  Would you ever try something new and natural to clean your teeth and gums?