My Favorite Safe & Natural Baby Items

Safe Natural Baby ItemsAs a first time mom, registering for baby items was totally overwhelming!  Luckily, I have plenty of friends with great advice that helped me out.  I thought I would share a few of my very favorite items that we’ve used with our baby girl so far, all of which you can be confident are very safe for your little one.

For Bath Time:

Natural Sea Sponge – I was so hesitant about this one because why not use a wash cloth?  But, this is SO soft and perfect for bathing a little one- it soaks up lots of water so you can squeeze it out over baby in better control than you could a cup.

Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash, Sulfate Free Bubble Bath and Daily Cleanser – Made locally here in Austin, we love using this for baths!  Baby girl always seems to get soap suds in her mouth when trying to suck on her hands, and I don’t have to worry about this one.

Coconut Oil – Cradle cap? dry skin? baby acne? cracked nipples? This has been more effective than any lotion or baby oil that I got, and it just has one very natural ingredient.  Plus, you can use it for SO many other things!

For Feeding:

Kiinde Kozii Bottle Warmer and Breast Milk Warmer – I did a lot of research and this was the best, safest warmer for bottles of breast milk.  It takes a little bit more time than the others, but I’m confident it is not harming any beneficial properties by warming too fast, and we have never had an issue with hot spots.

Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother’s Milk Tea & Organic Moringa Capsules – I have used both to help keep up my milk supply, especially on the days I go to work and have to pump or when I don’t get much sleep.

Mommy’s Bliss Probiotic Drops Plus Vitamin D – More effective than gripe water or gas drops, these probiotics help her fragile digestive system and relieve gas. We give her a couple drops twice per day.

Lifefactory 4-Ounce BPA-Free Glass Baby Bottle with Protective Silicone Sleeve and Stage 1 Nipple – Absolutely love these glass bottles.  They are all we use and I feel great about the lack of chemical-leaching plastic.

For Sleep: 

Harlow’s Earth Waterproof Crib Mattress Cover – Organic mattresses are ridiculously expensive, so we found this super cheap solution to prevent the off-gassing of all the toxic chemicals and flame-retardants in regular mattresses.

Woombie Convertible Swaddle – Our baby girl was swaddled from birth and still is for both nighttime and naps.  Made with a two-way zipper, this is SO easy to use, even more so than the velcro ones.  Plus, it’s super breathable if you have a hot-natured babe like our little one. And, it has buttoned arm holes for when you need to transition out of the swaddle when they start to roll over or if your baby likes one or two arms out for comfort.  They have an organic cotton version too.

Organic Muslin Swaddle Blankets – While we haven’t used these for actual sleeping yet, they are the perfect lightweight, breathable blankets for Texas weather.  They double as burp cloths and car seat covers and nursing covers.  Plus, they come in the cutest fabric patterns!

Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard – This pack n play has no flame retardants, no PVC, no phthalates and no lead, so it’s totally safe for baby.  Plus, it is super lightweight, folds up into a small backpack carrying case and is easier to set up/take down than any I’ve seen.

For Diapering:

Prince Lionheart Ultimate Wipes Warmer – Everyone told me a wipe warmer was not worth it, but we love ours.  Baby girl hated diaper changes in the beginning, and cold wipes made it worse.  Now that we are using cloth, this is perfect for storing our cloth wipes in- I just add a mix of water, coconut oil and lavender essential oil and they are warm and ready to use. Baby girl’s bum is so spoiled!

Buttons Flannel Baby Wipes – Once you use cloth wipes, disposables will never compare; they are so much better at cleaning up the mess.

Planet Wise Wet Diaper Tote Bag – Perfect for putting your wet diapers in at home or get a smaller bag for on-the-go!

OsoCozy Natural Cotton Unbleached Cloth Diaper Prefolds – We love these natural cotton prefolds for simple cloth diapering; they are great as burp cloths too!

For the Nursery:

Lorena Canals Machine Washable Rug with Natural Cotton and Non-Toxic Dyes – The cutest, softest rug that’s perfectly safe for baby to lay on and totally washable for all the baby messes.

Diffuser/Humidifier &  Essential Oils – Great for little congested baby noses and for helping promote good sleep, we run lavender or peace & calming essential oil in the diffuser in her room.

For Play Time: 

Burt’s Bees – Organic Loop Bee Plush Toy – My daughter’s favorite toy… she loves the crinkly wings and holding onto the soft cotton loop.

Silicone Teething Rings – These rings are non-toxic, phthalate & BPA-free and have several different sensory bump patterns for baby to chew on.

Green Toys Shape Sorter – Baby girl is loving the colors and shapes and putting everything in her mouth.  I’ll be buying more of these Green Toys- they are 100% recycled plastic and have no BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings.

Controlling Gestational Diabetes Naturally

At my 28 week appointment, I took the dreaded pregnancy glucose test.  Since my pregnancy nausea was still pretty bad at the time, I was most nervous about trying not to throw up for an hour on an empty stomach.  I never would have imagined that I would get a call the next day saying I didn’t pass.  The following day, I had to do it all over again.  This time, I had to drink 2 of the glucose drinks and get my blood drawn 4 times over 3 hours.  I was extremely nauseous and faint, but resting in the fact that if I got through those 3 hours, it would all be over.

On Monday, I got the call that I had failed and was officially diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM).  I was shocked.  I didn’t know much about GDM at the time, so I went into full on planning & research mode to figure out how to fix it.  I was also scared; my plans all along had been to deliver at a birth center instead of the hospital and I was nervous this diagnosis would risk me out of that option.  Plus, what did it mean for the baby and for my own health? How did this happen to someone healthy like me?

That week, I got my glucose monitor and started the 4 times/day finger pricks to test my blood sugars.  I researched the gestational diabetes diet recommendations extensively and immediately began following them- mostly adding in more snacks and protein.  Because of my continued pregnancy nausea, my diet had not been great (lots more carbs than my diet pre-pregnancy), but I was committed to try my best.  I was surprised to find that sticking to the GDM diet recommendations, my blood sugar levels continually tested high.  Post-meal levels were okay, but I was only passing around a quarter of my morning fasting levels.

When I went in for my next doctor’s appointment, they were alarmed at my results.  I told them I was following the exact diet recommendations given and didn’t know what else to do.  Besides recommending a 30-45 minute walk every night after dinner, they didn’t have any other ideas for me.  At my pleading, they gave me one week to try to have PERFECT morning fasting levels; if I didn’t, I would be put on medication (glyburide) to control my body’s insulin response.  Getting put on medication would officially label me as high risk and guarantee a hospital birth with continuous monitoring and insulin during labor. Plus, after researching the medication, I wasn’t confident it was safe for my baby either. I was devastated.

Pregnancy is certainly a lesson in loss of control.  Of course, I’m sure God designed it that way to prepare us for parenthood.  I’ve felt out-of-control for my entire pregnancy… nausea I couldn’t fix, diet I didn’t want to be on, hormonal emotions, and now this. I had no idea how emotionally taxing a diagnosis like this could be.  You blame yourself. You worry about what it means for the baby you’ve been trying so hard to protect.  And the constant blood testing and attention to diet is a continual source of stress and anxiety.  And don’t forget, you’re not supposed to be stressed during pregnancy- it’s bad for the baby. Ugh.

I was determined to not let this diagnosis get the best of me.  I continued my research. Google-ing “natural ways to lower blood sugar” or similar searches came up with nothing.  No one online seems to want to try this; they all just assume that you will end up on medication or insulin and recommend you simply try your best to eat healthy for baby.  Finally, I pieced together some different ideas and resources to make a plan.

By a complete miracle, I was able to have perfect blood sugar levels that next week and return to the doctor with confidence that I could continue without medication.  But the next week, Thanksgiving came along… I splurged and enjoyed just one holiday meal & dessert and my fasting levels couldn’t recover from it; my levels became unpredictable again.  I was defeated as I walked into the doctor’s office the next week, certain they would put me on medication this time.  But my midwife was gracious and knew how hard I was working- she said it was probably due to a lack of routine, and once again I was given one last week to try.

Since that visit, I’ve been able to keep my blood sugar levels totally under control.  Even the morning fasting ones. Praise God! So, for those of you pregnant mamas diagnosed with gestational diabetes who are looking to stay off medication/insulin and want to control it naturally, I want to share what’s worked for me in hopes that you can have the same success.  I can’t point to one particular thing that made the difference; it wasn’t until I did all of these together that I was finally able to bring my levels under control.

  • Prayer – I’m listing this first because I truly believe God is the only one who has the power over all of this. I consider it a miracle that He’s kept my levels low when they were SO high and unpredictable to start with.  Pray before each meal and each finger prick- that dependence on Him will help calm you and help relieve the never-ending cycle of stress that only causes higher levels.
  • Minimal Carbs – Aim to eliminate carbs completely from your diet.  Everyone processes carbohydrates differently, so there’s not really an exact amount that’s “safe.” The nutritionists who write diets for GDM will give guidelines like 25 carbs for breakfast & lunch, 35 for dinner and 15 at two snacks.  And they’ll say that as long as you balance with a protein and fat, those carbs will not convert to glucose.  If I followed this ridiculous protocol, I would be on medication today. The only thing that worked was when I basically eliminated carbs from my diet; that means no bread (not even multi-grain), no rice, no potatoes, no corn, no oats.  It even means avoiding high glycemic produce, like fruit (some can tolerate berries, but I haven’t really been able to).
  • Eat High Protein, High Fat & Veggies – Focusing your diet around these items is the best way to avoid blood sugar spikes.  Healthy fats are especially great at keeping blood sugars stable and keeping you full.  I can’t stomach it with my nausea, but I’ve seen several recommendations that a teaspoon of coconut oil before each meal can help a great deal.  I just try to include it in what I make instead.  Search ketogenic recipes for meal ideas that fit this diet; I also have quite a few here on my blog – veggie noodles with lemon cream sauce being my fave.  My favorite snacks have been: cashews, cheese sticks, Greek yogurt and Graze meat sticks. Breakfast is the hardest on rushed mornings, but I try to alternate between hard-boiled eggs with breakfast sausage links, scrambled eggs with avocado and Greek yogurt with nuts.
  • Satisfy Sugar Cravings Safely – I know, pregnancy cravings are real and having gestational diabetes, especially over the holidays, is just the worst. Of course you have to eliminate sugar (and always avoid unsafe sugar-free products), but I’ve found a couple ways to satisfy my intense cravings for sweets: Stevia leaf naturally helps to lower blood sugar, so I’ve been using that in the tea that I drink or to sweeten Greek yogurt a bit.  And dark chocolate is also helpful to lower blood sugar- make sure to get a bar that is 75%+ cocoa and soy-free.  My go-to nightly snack has been whipped coconut cream (high in good fat!) sweetened with a bit of stevia and topped with a few dark chocolate chips – here’s the super easy recipe.
  • Walk After DinnerEvery single day. For at least 30 minutes. This is one of the hardest from a scheduling perspective and because it is uncomfortable when you are hugely pregnant and tired.  The first week is the hardest, but I promise your body will start to crave it.  It will help with digestion, relieve indigestion/heartburn and is also great at getting your body ready for labor.
  • Herbal Supplements – I talked with both my naturopath and the herbalist at my local pharmacy to see if there were any supplements to help with blood sugars that would be safe for pregnancy; they recommended two that I’ve been using these past months.  I take Diaplex before meals (started with 2 pills before each meal, but I’ve gone down to just two before lunch now) and Glukokine once in the evening right before bed.  Since I had done my research and talked with the right people, my doctor’s office was fine with me taking these; as always, you should check with your doctor before taking any medication or supplements during pregnancy.
  • Drink Lots of Water – If you are diabetic, one of the most common symptoms is frequent thirst, so this shouldn’t be a hard one to implement.  Hydration is one of the best ways to control insulin response, so you should be drinking around 2 gallons per day.  I know you are already peeing every 30 minutes, but this is crucial to stabilizing your levels.  Add some fresh lemon slices to your water for even further blood sugar stabilizing benefits. And, more importantly, drink water every time you wake up at night – it’s crucial to not let yourself get dehydrated overnight and I really think this made a huge difference with my fasting levels upon waking.
  • Consistency – Ultimately, I’ve found that a consistent routine is key to predictable levels, especially the morning fasting ones.  Schedule your meals and snacks to be at similar times each day.  Keep a food journal to track what you are eating to see if anything affects your levels.  This is not a typical diet where the occasional splurge is okay; you have to stick with it. Wake up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time each night. A strict schedule is the last thing I wanted to implement before a baby entered my life, but it’s certainly been worth it.

35-week-picNote: Don’t be surprised if you stop gaining weight or even lose weight once you put this protocol into place.  I was a bit alarmed that I’d only gained 12 pounds by 37 weeks, but my midwife assured me that it is completely normal since it’s all being done in a very healthy way.  I’m not crash dieting or exercising too much; it’s safe. Enjoy this one benefit to all your hard work and be excited that you will have less to lose after baby!

Lastly, I want to encourage you mamas not to blame yourself.  The diagnosis isn’t your fault. If you are trying everything and still failing your levels, it is not your fault.  Your placenta is causing this and sometimes it is not something you can control.  Do your best and be at peace with that.  I’m so proud of you for trying.

P.S. A great resource I finally found online was a UK website on gestational diabetes.  I definitely recommend that you check it out for great information, ideas and encouragement.

Natural vs. Organic – Does it Matter?

CONVENTIONALVSWe’ve all been there… you’re in the grocery store looking at the rows of meat, most on sale for only a few dollars per pound.  You’re overwhelmed with all the confusing labels, not even sure what they really mean. You see the small section of organic meat and they want to charge you an outrageous $13 for a package of chicken breasts.  Considering you need a 3 of those for meals this week, it’s just too much.  You decide to be budget-conscious and go with the cheaper meat, feeling a little better that you’ve at least picked the “all-natural” option. Can you relate?

Since “organic” became a thing, it’s been controversial.  People think it’s a Whole-Foods-created hoax to charge consumers more money.  With so many different opinions out there, its hard to sift through it all and find the facts.  What’s the truth here? Is organic meat healthier than natural?  Are organic vegetables more nourishing than conventionally grown ones?

All-Natural

This word makes us think of rolling green hills, cows grazing, crops blowing in the wind and of a hard-working farmer harvesting his land. Consumer Reports found that 1 in 3 people thought “natural” = “organic.”  Companies put this buzz word and pictures of idyllic farms on their labels to make you buy the product, and even pay more for it. While the term “organic” is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, “natural” isn’t; it has no clear definition.  (Source: ABC News)  So, although we may assume these foods would be minimally processed or not containing any hormones or artificial ingredients, it is in fact meaningless.

Organic

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all organic foods to meet strict standards on how those foods are grown, fed, handled and processed. Any food with the USDA Organic label must pass organic certification annual inspections. Unlike conventional foods, this ensures that the food has been grown using no toxic pesticides, no synthetic growth hormones and no petroleum-based fertilizers.  And that it has been processed without artificial colors or flavors, without artificial preservatives and without GMOs. (Sources: Consumerist and Organic: It’s Worth It)

NonGMOAdditionally, there is another important label you might find on organic foods – “Non GMO Project Verified.” This certification is managed by a non-profit organization that believes you “should have access to clearly labeled non-GMO food and products.” It is a very strict verification process, ensuring that no more than 0.9% of the product contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with complete absence being the goal. “This is in alignment with laws in the European Union (where any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled);” Europe is way ahead of America on this and other dangerous food ingredients. (Source: Non GMO Project)

Is Organic Healthier?

Now that we understand the labels, the real question becomes: is organic really better for you than natural/conventional?  There are studies that have found organic produce to be no more nutritional than its conventional counterpart.  That makes sense – an apple is still an apple and will still have the same amount of calories.  But, which version causes your body harm?  Let’s look at what “organic” labels promise not to include to see what effects those in conventional food might have on our bodies:

Toxic Pesticides: Pesticides are intentionally toxic substances used to kill living things – aka poison.  They are used consistently in conventional agriculture, even though many studies have shown to cause chronic health impacts like cancer, hormone disruption, neurodegenerative diseases, and reproductive issues. Children are especially at risk, even from minimal exposure, because they absorb more and don’t yet have fully developed brains or immune systems. A study by Harvard University and the University of Montreal found that exposure to pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables may double the risk of developing ADHD. (Source: Toxics Action Center)  Oh, and one of the most commonly used pesticides, organophospate, was first developed as nerve gas in WWII. Hmm.

Beyond the harmful health effects, they also make our food less nourishing.  One of the most popular herbicides (used to kill weeds) on the market is Monsanto’s product RoundUp – the main ingredient, glyphosate, steals nutrients from crops.  And when pesticides are applied to crops, as much as 60% of the antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables are lost.  Antioxidants are what help your body fight cancer-causing free-radicals.

As for how they effect our meat: “In a potato, the pesticide residue is .003 . in a piece of animal flesh, it is .281, nearly 100 more parts per million in every bite. It would take you over 90 days of eating conventionally grown potatoes to get the same amount of pesticide residue that one serving of chicken contains. Why? Because not only do the animals’ bodies collect and concentrate the poisons into their flesh, their feed is allowed to have 20% more pesticides used than that of crops grown for human use.” (Source: Natural News)

Watch this video to see how levels of chemicals changed in the children of a family who switched to all organic:

Synthetic Growth Hormones:  Growth hormones are widely used to increase weight gain in animals and enhance milk production in dairy cattle, one of the most well-known being rGBH.  These synthetic hormones mimic estrogen and, when they are passed on to us as we eat, can have serious side effects. After studies showed a 55-60% increase in breast cancer for women, rGBH was banned in many countries around the world; it’s still allowed in the US.  Many researchers believe that steroid hormones cause children to undergo puberty prematurely, who are now entering much younger than just a generation ago. Just a small amount of these estrogenic hormones can have significant impact on children, both on their development and risk of obesity. (Sources: Genetic Roulette, Health.com)

Artificial Colors: You would be hard-pressed today to try to find an item in your pantry that doesn’t have artificial dye in the ingredients list (Yellow #5, Blue #1). Most artificial colors are made from coal tar. Gross. And more research has been coming out lately linking food dye to brain cancer and ADHD. Not good. (Source: Forbes) While research is still limited on this newer additive, many countries around the world have decided to ban these.

Artificial Preservatives: Preservatives are used to help prevent the growth of bacteria or fungus, to prevent oxidation causing discoloration or rancidity and to inhibit the natural ripening of produce.  Sulfites and nitrates are common preservatives that cause allergic reactions in many people. (Source: Sustainable Table)  More research is needed to determine the long-term side effects of these.

GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms are created by putting the DNA from one species into another to get benefits from both.  For our food and farming purposes, this means creating a seed that makes a plant produce its own pesticide or makes it pesticide resistant so that farmers can spray without damaging the crop.  It sounds like a great idea, except that it’s all a science experiment in genetic alteration, resulting in mutations and unpredictable side effects, creating toxins, allergens, carcinogens and triggering inflammation. Some of the crops highest (90%+) in GMOs are canola, corn, soy and sugar beets, all of which are extremely common in processed foods. Unfortunately, infant formula is full of both GM soy and synthetic growth hormones (and high levels of aluminum too).

The best example of what this does to our bodies is this: GM corn is created to include BT toxin within the seed. When an insect eats the crop, it is designed to break open the stomach of the bug and kill it.  It does the same to us, opening up tiny holes in our intestines leading to what’s called leaky gut.  Then, when food passes through our intestines, it slips through these holes, entering our body… our body attacks those particles, seeing it as an invader;  over time, we develop food allergies to those items.  To watch an illustration of this or to learn more about the health effects of GMOs, read my other blog post here.

What About Antibiotic-Free, Pasture Raised & Grass Fed Animal Products?

None of these are promises made by an “organic” label, but fortunately many producers who have an organic certification will also believe in these practices too.  While a big part of this is related to the humane treatment of the animals, there are also some health effects to consider.  When animals are kept in close proximity to each other in cages all day, keeping the cages clean is impossible, leading to poor hygiene and the spreading of disease. Antibiotics must be used with these animals to prevent illness and ensure they survive to sell.  When we eat the animals, these antibiotics are passed on to us, worsening the antibiotic-resistance epidemic. In fact, 80% of all antibiotics are used with animals rather than prescribed to humans.

As for pasture-raised and grass-fed meat, it is important to know the sources of the meat, eggs and dairy that you buy.  I buy my eggs from a local farm (at the grocery store!) called Coyote Creek.  The chickens are allowed to forage for food naturally on organic pastures; they are also fed soy-free feed. The grass-fed meat that I buy ensures that these cows aren’t being fattened up by GM corn and soy feed.  They naturally graze the fields, ensuring I am getting the most nutrients from soil rich with minerals. “Research indicates that grass finished meat has superior ratios of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.” (Source: Eat Wild)

How to Shop:

Even if you’re now convinced that buying organic is worth trying to avoid all those detrimental health effects and ultimately healthier for your family, you may think I simply cannot afford it. Here are some tips on how to make it possible:

  • Compare & coupon – Where you shop can make it or break it. I’ve shopped around and discovered that usually a natural foods store can have the best pricing.  The organic produce & meat at my local grocery store, HEB, is usually several dollars more (sometimes double!) that of a natural foods store.  Farmers Markets can also be inexpensive since you are buying directly from the source.  Read about how I’m able to buy all organic on a budget here.
  • Buy fresh – Organic processed and pre-prepared foods are expensive.  Stick to the edge of the store as you shop and load up with fresh ingredients to cook at home.
  • Avoid the worst – There are some fruits and vegetables higher in pesticide residue. If you can only buy some items organic, at least avoid the conventional dirty dozen. And always thoroughly wash your produce when you get home!
  • Plan ahead – Meal plans, grocery lists and a strict budget can help you stay on track as you shop.

Or you can look at it this way: Is high-quality, organic food really that expensive by comparison?  This awesome 11 yr old kid makes a pretty good argument… “It seems to me that we can either pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital.”

Do you think you’ll make the switch to buying organic?

Product Review: Primal Pit Paste

Primal Pit PasteA few months ago, I posted about some great natural deodorant options I had found and it’s been one of the most-read posts lately.  So, apparently, I’m not the only one who has struggled to find something that works.  Since initially hearing about how harmful the chemical ingredients in regular antiperspirant deodorant, I’ve been committed to not putting myself at risk for those health effects (learn more here).  But, I have had such a hard time finding something that truly lasts all day (for me, at least) and that also helps with sweat.  While not the worst inconvenience, I still had to reapply most products at least once during the day.  So, when I heard about a local company (with an awesome name!) producing a new product, I had to try it out!

I have seen plenty of DIY natural deodorant recipes online that I’ve been meaning to make, but I decided I would go the lazy route and buy it first to see how it works.  The ingredients are simple and contain no artificial preservatives or parabens: shea butter, arrowroot powder (similar to cornstarch), coconut oil, non-aluminum baking soda, beeswax (in some versions) and essential oil.  The kind I use comes in a small glass jar and you just swoop a pea-size amount out with your finger to apply under your arms.  They also have a stick version if you prefer to apply that way (though it’s a little tougher for guys with underarm hair to apply).  The consistency is really smooth with the shea butter and coconut oil and melts as soon as it hits your skin, plus it’s super moisturizing.

The best part about this product is that the arrowroot powder absorbs any moisture and leaves you dry, while still allowing you to sweat. This is essential to your body being able to naturally sweat out toxins (and very unlike regular antiperspirant deodorant which uses aluminum to block your glands).  Primal Pit Paste does not inhibit this function, which keeps you healthy while still preventing any embarrassment when you raise your arms.

The baking soda in this product does a super effective job at deodorizing. I got the strong version and the regular version to try; the strong certainly lasts longer for me but the regular lasts all day still.  Everyone’s body chemistry is different so they have sample sizes to try if you’d like to see what works best.  While I haven’t experienced any issues personally, I know that baking soda can be irritating to those with really sensitive skin – their Happy Stick is an option made with clay instead.

Of course, I am a big fan of essential oils and love the different scents this company offers.  Plus, it’s natural way to add a scent without chemical fragrances.  So far, I’ve tried the lavender and lemonade, but the Jasmine one is next on my list.  Lavender & Lemon essential oils both have freshening properties as well and are great for the skin, so I know they can only adds to this product’s effectiveness.

If this is your first time trying a natural deodorant, I want to note that you may experience some detox effects depending on your diet and overall health.  Primal Pit Paste has a whole protocol on their website that explains exactly what that means and how to get through it.

If you are still looking for a natural deodorant option that will convince you it’s possible they can work, you should definitely give this one a try.  Buy Primal Pit Paste here!

Lavender Essential Oil

LavenderOne of the first essential oils I ever got was Lavender.  Besides being one of my favorite scents, it’s been my go-to in many different ways for a few years now.  It’s known to be the most versatile of all essential oils with many healing and restorative properties.  Lavender oil is extremely concentrated; it takes 27 square feet of lavender plants to make one 15ml bottle.  And it’s fairly inexpensive at $30 retail for a bottle of around 240 drops – plus, it’s easy to make one drop go really far and still be effective.

Each night, I use a mixture of coconut oil and lavender as my face moisturizer.  I keep a glass cosmetic container of it in my makeup drawer all ready to go.  One jar will easily last me a couple of months as a little goes a very long way.  I simply warm coconut oil to bring it to a liquid state and then add a few drops of lavender oil – I use about a 1 Tablespoon coconut oil to 1 drop lavender ratio.  Once you put it in the jar, it will harden back up (this also helps it from going rancid) and the warmth of your skin will re-liquefy it as you apply.

Since I implemented this moisturizer into my routine, I have noticed my complexion improve a great deal. Lavender’s many properties make it really effective towards any type of skin irritations, so I have found that it both helps prevent acne (by fighting the bacteria that causes blemishes) and helps promote healing.  There’s been many a morning that I woke up to discover my face blemish-free after not being so the night before.  It is also extremely moisturizing and is quite helpful at relieving dry skin.

The other great benefit to applying lavender to my face each night is that it promotes sleep.  It calms and relaxes – diffusing it by my bed also helps me fall asleep quickly on those nights that my mind can’t seem to settle down and give into the tiredness of my body.  The calming effect is also helpful with reducing anxiety or stress after work and has helped relieve headaches that I’ve had caused by that tension.

Lavender is also a staple in my medicine cabinet.  I keep it handy for minor cuts and burns as it promotes healing and provides relief.  There is simply nothing more soothing than applying coconut oil + aloe + lavender to a sunburn. And it is fantastic for those annoying, little paper cuts… with all the use our hands get, I always find those take so long to heal, but with lavender, I often find they close up in just a few hours!  It’s also helpful at relieving the pain and inflammation for a bug bite or sting or can altogether help prevent – apply lavender to your exposed skin to repel mosquitoes.

Most recently, I discovered how much lavender could help act as an anti-histamine during allergy season.  Usually cedar season really gets me down, but it was so much more manageable this time.  I was applying and diffusing lavender constantly to reduce my inflammatory response.  Lavender is also really effective with respiratory issues; when I had a sinus infection over Christmas, I noticed how much it helped with my congestion. The stimulating nature of the oil makes it help loosen things up in the respiratory system.

One last note to leave you with is from a bit of personal experience – after great success with my first bottle of lavender, I went to go buy more at the grocery store.  Started using it again and much to my surprise, it didn’t work at all anymore. I was baffled.  A couple years later, I began researching more about essential oils and realized that not all essential oils are made equally.  Many (usually cheap ones at the grocery store, unfortunately) are not pure and/or have fragrances added, so they will not be beneficial beyond just smelling good.  After a lot of research, I’ve decided to purchase my oils from only a couple of brands, one being Young Living.  Learn more about essential oils and how to purchase here.

Have you used lavender before? What has it helped you with? I love hearing personal success stories!

Note: The above testimony is purely from personal experience.  I am not a doctor and none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA.

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!