It’s Laundry Time!

Two Things to Remember:  Eco-Nuts and Wool Dryer Balls

Many of you know that I’m a big advocate for a clean environment where I live, work and play.  This last week I was in northeastern Maine (yes it was COLD).  My friend has a septic system and therefore has to be very fussy about what goes down the drains.  She uses two products I have never seen nor used:  Eco-Nuts and Wool Dryer Balls.

If you’re interested in reducing waste, getting clean laundry, saving money and having non-toxic products for your family, read on!

What in the world are Eco-Nuts?

Eco-Nuts, or “soap nuts” are a special marble-size berry from the Himalayas.  They have been used for centuries as soap.  The soap nuts contain “saponin” which acts like a natural soap for your laundry.   

Using eco-nuts means less problem with allergies, sensitive skin or acne.  Perfect for baby clothes and linens!

Why wool dryer balls?

The wool dryer balls linked at the bottom of this blog are organic, nontoxic and leave no residue, unlike most dryer sheets.  These re-usable balls do not make any noise in the dryer, yet may reduce the drying time by 40% (save money! save your dryer! help the environment!).  No static cling either.  No residue from dryer sheets. 

Only soft, not stiff, laundry.  And they last up to 1000 loads.  Seriously cheap.

And doTerra has this to say about their set:.

“Made with love, these handmade dryer balls and bag provide needed jobs and income to improve the economic well-being of women in Kathmandu, Nepal. The balls are created from organic, chemical- and dye-free wool harvested according to international ethical sheering standards.”

DoTerra gives this video:  https://youtu.be/sP3B4J771oE

Dryer sheets

I’m not saying dryer sheets are bad for you.  They do contain a number of ingredients or chemicals but only “fragrance” has been questionable by scientists.  Most are “generally recognized as safe” but that doesn’t mean we should wear them every day.   At least buy unscented dryer sheets.  Oh, you like the fragrance?  I do too.  But realize that wonderful smell is the residue on your clothing and linens.

Check out this post from the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org):

          https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/11/dont-get-slimed-skip-fabric-softener

and

           https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/skip-fabric-softeners

EWG’s list of laundry products and the ratings (A to F) are listed here:

            https://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/9-Laundry

I figured why use dryer sheets with any possible risk when the wool dryer balls do a better job and save me money?

How to Use Eco-Nuts

Simply place 4 – 6 in a small cotton drawstring bag, pop into the washer, and you’re good to go.  Keep re-using the bag of eco-nuts until the nuts are thin (several loads).  Then replace with 4 – 6 more nuts, and recycle the old ones.

How to Use Wool Dryer Balls

Toss in 4 wool dryer balls for a small or medium load; 6 for a large load.  Mine don’t feel wet when I take them out, but I run them for a few more minutes all by themselves anyway.

I’ve been told you can add essential oils to the wool dryer balls.  I’d recommend adding it a few hours before so the oils evaporate a bit.  Adding it right before laundry “may” stain your clothes.  One suggestion was to actually inject the wool balls with a syringe so the oil goes deep inside.  (Will oil go in a syringe???)  I ended up putting a few drops of “Purity” by doTerra on the cotton ball while the wash was going, and then tossed the ball into the dryer when the time came to dry the clothes.  Over time the wool ball with the essential oil may discolor, but I’m not worried about that.

Put it into action

What’s the action plan?  Buy Eco-Nuts here.    The organic Nepal wool dryer balls are for sale on doTerra, use my link here and search “wool dryer balls”.   DoTerra sells the balls (~$10 for 6) along with a wintergreen essential oil ($39.50 retail for both the oil and the dryer balls; $29.50 wholesale for both).  

 

Good Better Best:  Our Food

Good Better Best:  Our Food

What do I eat?  Is it good for you?  Bad for you?  How do I know the difference?  This post will help you understand how to sort the foods.  Read on: Good Better Best:  Our Food.

It’s all good food (bad food doesn’t exist).

No food is bad for you.  There, I said it.  Hard to believe anyone would say no food is bad for you.  But, no food is bad for you. 

Let me explain.  If you are starving, a soft drink tastes great and provides needed calories.  A starving person does not have to worry about the grams of sugar or high fructose corn syrup – they just need calories.  We have labels on foods that work now to provoke guilt and negative emotion about what should be a pleasant, mindful, life-giving experience.

Off with the guilt!  It’s eating – not cheating.  It’s just food – not a moral judgement or weakness of character.  While it might not help optimize you, no food is bad for you.

Good to Better

Given that there are no foods that are “bad” for you, are there some that are better?

The answer is yes, of course.  Let’s start with cleaning up the foods.  Foods that are made from clean ingredients – those ingredients that our bodies recognize and utilize – are better for you.   Our bodies may not recognize certain ingredients as they have been synthetically developed in a laboratory – and often in higher quantities than what may occur naturally in foods.  These cleaner foods are better for you, and set you on the path to optimize.  I’ll give some examples below.

Better to Best

Once you get rid of certain ingredients that our bodies do not recognize, how do you optimize even more? 

What is in your food becomes you.  That’s why you feel better when you eat foods that are better or best for you.  Mediocre foods that don’t provide optimal nutrients will produce a mediocre body and health.

The best foods for us are those foods that have antioxidants and electrolytes, and that nourish us.  They are fresh fruits and vegetables (not irradiated) that still have their “live” enzymes.  You’ll know them because they spoil. (Foods that don’t spoil also don’t have antioxidants.)  They are the traditional, natural healthy fats, like cold-press olive oil, unrefined coconut oil and grass fed butter.  Put these foods into your diet as often as possible.

A deeper dive: a comparison of ingredients from two cookie manufacturers:

 

 

To me, there is a big difference in these two brands of shortbread cookie.  The first has four ingredients – wheat, butter, sugar, salt.  Sounds like a recipe to me; I have those ingredients in my home kitchen.  So did my grandmother. 

Let’s look at the second cookie:  wheat, sugar, canola oil, palm oil, corn flour, salt, high fructose corn syrup, baking soda, soy lecithin, cornstarch and artificial flavor.  Well, I have some of those ingredients.  I’m not even sure what the artificial flavor is, or where they get that from.  (For an eye-opening article on artificial flavors, see this). 

Canola oil doesn’t sound too bad until you consider how it was processed – hexane is a common solvent, as an example.  It’s removed later in processing if that helps you feel better.  And do we want to just skip over the bleaching and deodorizing part of processing?  I’m a good cook, but I’m not sure I could create canola oil.  Last I checked, the manufacturing of butter does not require hexane, bleaching or deodorizing – and I can make butter!

Did you know that “canola” is a newly created plant oil?  Canadian scientists took a common plant (rapeseed) that had dangerous and toxic ingredients and modified it to create a new plant oil, and called it “canola”.  So we have NOT been eating canola for thousands or even hundreds of years.  In fact, it was invented in 1978 and we began eating it en masse after that when a good marketing campaign introduced this cheap oil as a heart-healthy alternative to olive oil.  Keep in mind that about 90% of the canola crop is GMO and resistant to herbicides – and we are just figuring out the possible implications of long term intake of GMO crops.

At least I know we have been eating butter for a long, long time – long before we knew about heart disease and heart disease wasn’t the widespread cause of death that we see today.

Fooducate yourself:

For a great resource on how healthy foods are, look at https://www.fooducate.com/  While I don’t agree with everything on the website, it offers a decent guide to foods, especially processed foods.  I’ll share a side story:  I worked with a young woman who ate Hot Pocket’s Ham and Cheese every day for lunch.  The patients had noticed this, and commented.  I used Fooducate’s website (here) to compare ingredients.  Her first statement was one of shock:  “My lunch gets a D!”

A hot ham and cheese sandwich should have a few ingredients – ham, cheese, maybe milk for a sauce, some seasoning and then “pocket” should be flour, salt, water, etc.  Try this from Hot Pocket’s own website:

UNBLEACHED ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, FULLY COOKED HICKORY HAM AND WATER PRODUCT, 25% OF WEIGHT IS ADDED INGREDIENTS, GROUND AND FORMED, NATURAL HICKORY SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED (CURED WITH WATER, SUGAR, SALT, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, DEHYDRATED PORK BROTH, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL HICKORY SMOKE FLAVOR, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE), REDUCED FAT CHEDDAR CHEESE (PASTEURIZED PART SKIM MILK, SKIM MILK, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH*, CULTURES, SALT, FLAVORS*, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE*, ANNATTO, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, ENZYMES, *INGREDIENTS NOT IN REGULAR CHEDDAR CHEESE), IMITATION CHEDDAR CHEESE (WATER, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CASEIN, SOYBEAN OIL, WHEY, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SALT, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, LACTIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR, ANNATTO [COLOR]), SEASONING (WHEY, CHEDDAR/BLUE CHEESES [PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES], BUTTERMILK, NATURAL FLAVOR, MALTODEXTRIN, COCONUT OIL, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, CULTURED WHOLE MILK, CITRIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, EXTRACTIVES OF ANNATTO AND TURMERIC), PALM OIL, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SEASONING (BREAD CRUMBS [BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, DEXTROSE, YEAST, SALT], SEASONING [CHEDDAR AND BLUE CHEESES {MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES}, WHEY, SALT, DEXTROSE, DRIED ONION, NATURAL FLAVOR, SOYBEAN OIL, GARLIC POWDER, CITRIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, SPICE, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA AND ANNATTO]), SUGAR, SEASONING (WHEY, SOYBEAN OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, CHEDDAR/BLUE CHEESES [MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYMES], NONFAT MILK, SALT, NATURAL FLAVORS, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, CULTURED MILK, CITRIC ACID, EXTRACTIVES OF ANNATTO, PAPRIKA, AND TURMERIC [COLOR]), FRACTIONATED PALM OIL, SALT, YEAST, DOUGH CONDITIONER (CALCIUM SULFATE, SALT, L- CYSTEINE HYDROCHLORIDE, GARLIC POWDER, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, ENZYMES), DOUGH CONDITIONER (DISTILLED MONOGLYCERIDES WITH ASCORBIC ACID AND CITRIC ACID [ANTIOXIDANTS]), EGG YOLKS, LACTIC ACID, WHEY, SOY FLOUR, EGG WHITES, SOYBEAN OIL

I don’t know about you, but a “hickory ham and water product” doesn’t sound appetizing, nor does “imitation cheddar cheese”.  Some of the other ingredients I have in my home, but many to be honest I would not know where to even buy the item.

Put it into action

What’s the action plan?  Go from good to better, then reach for best.  Plan to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet – with the fiber when possible.  Buy the healthy fats.  Make smoothies.  Change your recipes.  You can tuck in fresh tomatoes, spinach, and antioxidant-rich herbs into a spaghetti sauce, or all types of fresh enzyme- rich goodies into a salad or slaw.   And have fun!  Food should be a delightful experience – it heals us.   It gives us life and energy.  Bring on the best!

 

Future posts will include food lists to help you understand where the foods generally fit.  Stay tuned!

 

Bugs bugging you this season?  

I must be a bug magnet; they love me.  Unfortunately I really react to a bite, so avoiding them is best.

When trying to figure out which insect repellent to use, consider how often you will be applying them.  This is especially true if you are applying something directly to your skin.  Skin is an effective absorption surface – which means the product may make it’s way into your liver or bloodstream.  The more often you use them, consider the safety very carefully.

DEET

DEET is considered safe when applied correctly by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), However, when not applied correctly, a host of issues can ensue, including neurologic effects (effects on the nervous system).  This means if you apply it with your hands and then grab a cookie, then DEET gets transferred to the cookie and you ingest it, which is not using the product correctly.  Also, don’t spray it on your face, as many membranes such as those around the eyes, can become very irritated.  Spray it on your hands and apply it to your face with your hands – then go wash your hands with soap and water.  Directions also say not to inhale it, which is difficult to accomplish when spraying on squirmy kids.  Read  more about your risk and use with children here.  

I personally am not anxious to use it.  Maybe if I were in a deep rainforest or some circumstance where the threat of mosquito or tick bites needs a more powerful force; that would be rare in my case and I might consider it.

DEET-Free Products:

Avon sells a product called “Skin So Soft” that is reputed to repel mosquitos for about 2 hours.  I have not found any information on it other than one study that proves it works.

We used the ultrasonic clip ons when my boys were young and those seemed to work.

New on the block are permethrin-infused clothing, which comes from chrysanthemums.

Essential Oils

And of course, one of my favorites, essential oil based products.

The most common are citronella based products.  Citronella is the essential oil of two grasses.  It is sold most often as candles, and will repel mosquitos for about 2 hours. Other essential oil products include sprays which have lemon eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, rosemary or other oils.  To learn more about the use of essential oils, click here.  The two I have found that are especially effective for me are DoTerra Terrashield® and Peppermint Oils.  Peppermint oil especially will deter ants, flies, mosquitos, knats, and ticks.  Here are the ingredients in the TerraShield blend:

Fractionated Coconut Oil, Ylang Ylang Flower, Tamanu Seed, Nootka Wood, Cedarwood Wood, Catnip Plant, Lemon Eucalyptus Leaf, Litsea Fruit, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Arborvitae Wood

If applying as an oil, you will want to add a carrier such as a liquid coconut oil.   

Making and using Essential Oil Wipes

I personally like to use a wipe and found a recipe for baby wipes that I swapped out the oils for ones that discourage bugs.   My own bug repellent wipes using essential oil! I hang these up near a door entrance to deter the pests as well, such as at the entrance from the garage to the house.  They dry up and I have to hang a new one, but it has cut down on the number of flies that get in.  I also have a spray bottle with water and a few drops of peppermint that I spray around the doorways.  Smells nice to me; nasty to the bugs!

Here is my modified recipe for bug repellent wipes using essential oil:

Bug-Off Wipes

Mix together in a glass bowl (that has a fitted lid):

1 & 1/2 cups distilled water

2 Tablespoons fractionated coconut oil (or liquid coconut oil)

2 Tablespoons witchhazel

6 – 8 drops of vitamin E oil (optional)

15 drops TerraShield® essential oil

10 – 15 drops peppermint essential oil

Stir together. Next, take a roll of good quality paper towels (I like the half-size tear offs).  Do not use the cheap stuff for this.  Cut the roll in half so that you have two half rolls (they will be about the size and look of a roll of toilet paper).   Tear off the half-sheets from one of the rolls, and lay them in a decently straight stack.  Put the stack of paper towels in the bowl with the liquid and let it soak overnight with the lid on.  Keep the lid on when not in use.  Use one or two wipes at a time.  Can be used on the skin, even the face.  It has not been tested, and I would use caution for use on infants, toddlers, children or those under age 18.

Safety for pets:  

I have not reviewed any information on safety around pets, infants, or small children.  Read up on that if it is of concern to you.

Final Thoughts:

For most of my life, I just wanted the bugs to stop biting me, and gave little thought to the products I was using. Now that I’m more aware of both the effects of products and the effects of viruses the bugs carry (mosquitos and Zika, West Nile and the ticks and Lyme Disease) I have become more concerned about finding a balance.  These products are more natural but they haven’t been studied for safety around pets or others, and many should not be ingested.  Please use caution, but best of luck!

Photo credit:  mosquito:  Егор Камелев on  Unsplash; tick:  Foad RoshanonUnsplash

 

 

Buy DoTerra

 

 

Pacific Coast Salmon (get recipe)

as seen in “Too Tired To Cook” (get cookbook)  

 

I read an article written by a woman who was trying to introduce healthier foods to her family.  I think there are many parents facing this now, or have tried in the past.  She served her family brown rice, and they revolted, refusing to eat it.  It doesn’t surprise me; most of us have no idea how to prepare brown rice, and there is lots of terrible advice out there, so we just do our best.   This article will give you tips on how to get your family to eat brown rice.

 

The short answer? 

You soak it for a long time before you cook it.  Read on to see how much and why.

 

All rice was previously brown rice.

A friend of mine was making changes to become healthier and lose weight.  He achieved a 30 lb. weight loss by reducing his carbohydrate, and increasing his fiber.  He is from Panama, and rice is a mainstay of his diet.  I asked him if he had switched to brown rice, and his reaction was classic:  “NO.  I can’t do brown rice.  I just don’t like it at all.”  His facial expression was pure disgust.

This was amusing; he is normally very open minded.  But I knew his mother and grandmother made the rice when he was a young boy.   He told me that they grew their own rice, and harvested it.   He remembers the women pounding the hard shell of the rice (the husk) with a large mortar-and-pestle type device until the hard husk broke free.  The women then sifted out the husk, boiled the rice, and they ate dinner. 

Imagine my friend’s surprise when I told him that he grew up eating brown rice!   This was inconceivable; he was truly shocked and in disbelief.  As a man of science and a man with a great dislike of brown rice, he wanted proof.  We discussed what the grain of rice looks like,   After the outer hard husk is “threshed” off (the mortar-and-pestle system), there is a thin layer called the bran, and a minuscule area that contains the rice germ and rice germ oil.  Today the outer bran layer and rice germ are removed by milling to store the grain for long periods (otherwise the oil would spoil it), and dried to further extend the shelf life.  The “white” or polished rice that you buy in the grocery store is dry and hard, not moist, and does not have the bran and germ. 

To prove to my friend that he grew up on brown rice, I asked him if his mother and grandmother methodically and painstakingly removed the thin bran layer and germ from each grain of rice – it would have taken hours.  He said “no, all they did was boil it” – bran and germ and all.   They did not dry it either.  I pointed out the brown rice we buy is dry – not like what he grew up with – and needs to be rehydrated by soaking, preferably for several hours.  He laughed and immediately called his wife to tell her they ate brown rice for most of their lives!

Buying brown rice

Most people have a preference as to the type of rice they enjoy.  For my family it is jasmine rice, followed by basmati.  To introduce your family to brown rice, buy the same variety of rice.  In my case I bought brown jasmine rice. 

Where?  For that I had to find an Oriental grocery, and discovered they had several varieties of brown rice – short grain, long grain, sweet, jasmine, basmati – the list went on.  Now, my local big box grocery store carries brown jasmine rice.

Introducing brown rice

Introducing a change in the usual foods is difficult.  Food, for many, represents much more than a way to fill an empty belly.  It carries memories, and emotions such as feeling loved perhaps.  Think birthday cake, or a holiday dinner.  There are just certain foods we expect. 

But, as pointed out above, foods we now have adopted to become “ours”, even culturally, were not even eaten before modern processing.  Our great-grandmothers did not have white rice.  Just as in our example of the women in Panama, I doubt women or other workers in China, or Thailand, or Japan, or Spain, or Mexico, or Iran, or India sat around peeling rice and removing the germ.  They boiled the rice, flavored it with yummy spices and served it.   Indeed, polished white rice is a relatively new food to humans. 

Back to our question:  how to introduce brown rice.  The answer?  gradually.   Just as it is hard to go from whole milk to skim milk (a difference of only 3.5% milkfat), it is hard to switch immediately to brown rice.  Start by mixing 1/3 brown rice with 2/3 white rice.  Gradually over two or three weeks, make it 1/2 brown rice and 1/2 white rice.   Lest you think that doesn’t do much, consider that now your family is eating more fiber, more B vitamins, and more trace essential minerals.  If your family is accepting the rice changes, try adding more brown.   

When I asked my son (again!) if he liked the rice, he finally said “Mom, I’m ok.  I’m used to it now.  Make it all brown rice.”  Never thought I’d hear that!  Here is a picture of the brown/white rice mix with chopped cilantro and lime juice; as you can tell, we see the white rice first and that is the dominant texture.

Cooking brown rice

First, mix then rinse the rice.  That is to get rid of any coatings designed to keep it dry and preserved, and to discard anything that isn’t rice (I have found small stones, rarely,  in the white rice).  Next, soak the rice (we will rinse this off so it doesn’t matter how much – I add enough water to cover the rice by another inch). 

Soak the rice for a minimum of 2 hours, and I’d suggest all day or even put it in to soak the night before.  Also, cover it. 

When it is time to cook, drain the rice.  I use a rice cooker so I add the water that the rice cooker indicates for the amount of rice, and use the white rice setting.  That’s right:  white rice.   The brown rice has now been moistened and soaked up some liquid and it will cook about as quickly as the white rice alone – maybe 5 more minutes.

There you have it.  How to get your family to eat brown rice: buy a familiar variety, mix it, soak it, cook it, flavor it. How to make delicious brown rice that the family will find familiar, yet a slight twist.  The flavor of the brown rice is a nice nutty flavor but it will not be dominant or hardly noticeable as you a mixing it with white rice, at least initially to introduce it.  Texturally, it is very familiar.  Serve with yummy sides and enjoy!

Soap with Clean Ingredients

We use soap several times a day.  It comes in many forms: bar soap, liquid soap and hand sanitizer.  And you probably already know where I’m headed with this:  since you use it several times a day, get the soap with clean ingredients to lessen your exposure to chemicals and ingredients that were unknown to our ancestors. 

Clean soap?  Sounds like a bit of redundancy, ‘eh?  But look at the ingredients in your soap, and you’ll see many items that leave you wondering what they are.

How soap began…

It all started years ago when humans discovered ashes from the fire actually made things cleaner.  I would not have thought of putting ashes in my pot to clean it, but someone did and it worked.  At some point, fat or oil was added and improved the products.

In fact, all soap needs is three ingredients:  an alkali and a fat – and water to boil the alkali.  Our ancestors boiled ashes and added oil or fat to the mix.   Today, whether we are talking about handsoap, or laundry detergent, dish detergent, or other cleansers, it is the same basic recipe.

Photo by Abhay Singh on Unsplash

Comparison of ingredients:

I purchased a handsoap from a commercial manufacturer, which promised the scent of orchid petals and mint water.  It was one of my favorites.  

I looked up information in the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep® and other websites.   The EWG-SD program rates the product from 1 – 10, with 1 – 2 being low hazard, 3 – 6 being moderate hazard, and 7 – 10 being higher hazard.

https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ 

Let’s look at the ingredients (in order by weight; largest amount first):

  • water
  • sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate:  surfactant, produces foam.  From coconut.  Rated “2” by EWG-SD – limited data (concern for contamination, organ system toxicity)
  • laureth-3:  emulsifier and surfactant. Rated “3” – by EWG-SD – fair data available (concern for contamination)
  • cocomidopropyl betaine: surfactant.  Rated “4” by EWG-SD – good data available.  Overall hazard low to moderately low. (concern for contamination).  Associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.  
  • sodium chloride – that’s salt, like table salt
  • fragrance – it does not have to be disclosed as to the exact ingredients, and there are over 200 chemicals approved for this category.  Potential allergen or skin irritant.
  • DMDM hydantoin:  antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser preservative. Rated “7” (red) by EWG-SD – limited data. Moderate overall hazard, moderate allergies and immunotoxicity.  
  • citric acid: weak organic acid, found in citrus fruit
  • polyquaternium-7:  anti-static, forms a thin film coating.   Rated “3” by EWG-SD – limited data.  Low overall hazard, contamination concerns.
  • tetrasodium EDTA:  chelating agent used to sequester metal ions to make the solution more stable.  Rated “2” by EWG-SD; low overall hazard, possible occupation hazard.
  • aloe barbadensis leaf juice:  enhances appearance of dry skin.  Extracted from the leaf of the aloe plant.  Rated “1 – 3” depending upon usage.  Caution as human carcinogen only for IF NON DECOLORIZED.  
  • glycerin:  moisturizer.   Rated “2” by EWG-SD, low overall hazard.
  • poloxamer 124:  surfactant.  Rated “2” by EWG-SD, low overall hazard, concern for persistence and bioaccumulation.
  • hydrolyzed silk:  anti-static, binds moisture, provides the most “glide”.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD.  Low overall hazard.
  • Ext. D&C violet no. 2:   colorant.  Cochineal is from insects.  Not rated by EWG-SD due to limited data.  Moderate overall hazard, low cancer concern, moderate allergies and immunotoxicity.
  • FC&C blue no. 1:  colorant.  Rated “3” by EWG-SD; fair data available.  Low overall concern, high concern for persistence and bioaccumulation, moderate concern for toxicity.

I found one that appears healthier; let’s take a look::

  • water
  • sodium cocoyl glutamate:  surfactant.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD.  Low overall concern.
  • polysorbate 20:  surfactant, emulsified.  Rated “3” by EWG-SD.  Low overall concern; high contamination concern.
  • sodium lauroamphoacetate:  surfactant.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD, no data available.  Low overall hazard.
  • wild orange peel expressed:  fragrance, cleanser, purifying agent.  Cold pressed from peel of wild orange.  Not rated by EWG-SD.
  • clove bud oil:  aroma/fragrance, cleanser.  Not rated by EWG-SD.
  • cinnamon leaf oil:  aroma/fragrance.  Not rated by EWG-SD.  May cause skin irritation if used excessively and left on skin over a long period of time.
  • cinnamon bark oil:  aroma/fragrance.  Not rated by EWG-SD.
  • eucalyptus leaf oil:  cleanser. Not rated by EWG-SD.  Caution for possible skin sensitivity.
  • rosemary leaf oil:  aroma/fragrance. Not rated by EWG-SD.
  • phenoxyethanol:  preservative and stabilizer.  Rated “4” by EWG-SD, limited data.  Moderate overall hazard, concern for skin irritation. Occupational hazard. 
  • cetyl hydroxyethylcellulose: moisturizer, emulsifier, cleanser.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD, no data available.  Low overall hazard. 
  • caprylyl glycol:  skin conditioner, some antimicrobial activity.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD, limited data available.  Low overall hazard.
  • ethylhexylglycerin: skin conditioner, weak preservative.  Rated ‘1″ by EWG-SD, limited data available.  Low overall hazard; concern for irritation.
  • hexylene glycol: keeps the essential oils dissolved.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD, fair data available.  Low overall hazard and allergies / immunotoxicity, concern for irritation.  
  • sodium hydroxide:  also known as “lye” made from baking soda, buffering agent to adjust pH.  Rated “3-4” by EWG-SD.  Moderate overall hazard.
  • disodium EDTA: used to sequester metal ions.  Rated “1” by EWG-SD, fair data available.  Low overall hazard.  
  • citric acid: weak organic acid, found in citrus fruit

Discussion:

Both products have good and fair ingredients, representing both low and moderate risk.  And I now know what the ingredients do, which is helpful, because I had no idea.  All the ingredients are approved for use in cosmetics or soap. 

I chose the second cleanser for my home.  I like the scent better and I feel that my family has been afforded additional protection from the properties of the essential oils that have nothing to do with cleaning my hands.  The oils may have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, which may help us in cold and flu season.

My preferred soap can be found here:

The essential oil link is to the left side of the page; once on the doTerra site, search for OnGuard Foaming Hand Wash.

That’s right.  I like it so much that I sell it.  We have it by every sink, and I want you to as well.

Photo by Flickr / Creative Commons

A new movie trailer was sent to me this morning by a friend, who wanted my opinion.  The movie is “Generation Zapped”, and it seems to focus on the children and their exposure to WiFi / EMF.  They point out that several countries (including the US) have taken measures to reduce WiFi exposure in schools, and some, like France, have banned WiFi in certain schools.  If you’re interested the trailer is here:

I found this interesting – and timely.  I’m in the process of changing my cell phone and wireless provider right now.  That’s part of what inspired this blog.  At my former cell phone provider they had terrible reception inside the store.  That was not impressive, and to be honest, downright funny.  Like a shoemaker who has bad shoes!  The new cell phone provider had amazing reception – everywhere in the store.  And then it struck me – I’m exposed to WiFi at home, at work, at many restaurants, and now even when I shop.  What’s all this doing to me?  to my family?  to my friends?  I try to use clean products that are environmentally friendly.  I buy foods that are sustainably produced, as gently as possible.  But what about all the “built in” exposure like cell phones and WiFi?  Am I being bombarded all day long?  

The science can’t decide

So the debate is back:  are cellphones or WiFi hurting us?   The subject was all the buzz a few years ago but quietly faded from the everyday conversation.  It faded because some scientists said it’s no different than exposure to the radio or television and that’s been around us for 100 years.  I’m not completely surprised the debate has resurfaced.  As I travelled the country and talked to physicians and other healthcare professionals, they quietly told me they have stopped microwaving their food, they use bluetooth devices, and don’t take the cell phone into the bedroom at night.  Some refuse to have WiFi in their homes, instead using cabling.  Do we have reason to be concerned?

Don’t get me wrong – I love our modern conveniences – our cell phone always within reach, our tablets and iPads, our WiFi…  And thinking out further, our microwaves, electricity…  I sure don’t want to go back to the days of my grandmother – who had to chop wood for the fire to cook (I turn a knob), haul water from the well (I turn a knob), and wash her clothes in a “washbucket” and ringer, then hang them on an outside clothesline to dry (I turn a knob and have to push a button). 

But, with modern conveniences and technology comes responsibility.  One day the research will be clear and we will know.  Until then, we’ll focus on what we can do to reduce our exposure to the radiofrequency radiation given off by cell phones at the antenna and Wifi Services. 

A brief look at the technology

When the radiofrequency waves become stronger, they give off heat and can be damaging (think of what the microwave does to food).  The radiofrequency waves in the cell phones are very weak and do not tend to raise our body temperature.

First, a bit of technology definition so you’ll know what is being referenced. 

The FCC requires that all cell phone models be tested for their Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. The SAR is a measure of the maximum amount of microwave radiation absorbed by the head or the body.

https://www.saferemr.com/2017/10/iphone-8-SAR.html

How many of us read the instructions for a cell phone?  Apple clearly states on their website: 

To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.

Although this device has been tested to determine SAR in each band of operation, not all bands are available in all areas. Bands are dependent on your service provider’s wireless and roaming networks.

https://www.apple.com/legal/rfexposure/iphone5,1/en/

Oh, didn’t know that: it is not just my phone but my cell phone provider as well.  How do I find that information?  

Oddly enough, with more people using the cell phones and WiFI, there are more stations (1.4 Billion base stations worldwide according to the WHO), stronger signals, etc. which, according to the National Cancer Institute, actually lowers our exposure.  Weak signals cause the phones to ramp up the radiowaves.  However, being in a crowded place with lots of people who also use your carrier’s service, causes competition for signal and the antenna may have to work harder.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

What can we do?

And… it gets worse.  I often have my cellular network on, plus WiFi, plus bluetooth.  Experts in the field tell us:

When all these transmitters are turned on, the SAR value is 1.58 for the iPhone 6 and 1.59 for the iPhone 6 Plus. (1, 2) These levels are very close to the legal limit which is 1.60. To reduce exposure to microwave radiation, turn off any transmitters not in use.

  Dr. Joel Moskowitz – see reference at end of blog

Well, my conveniences just got a little less convenient if I have to turn on and turn off cellular, WiFi and bluetooth.

What about little bodies (children)?  Their brains are growing as are their bodies, and they have different physiology than grown adults.  Does it affect them the same?

Today many children are cell phone users — the child’s brain absorbs twice the radiation as the adult’s brain.

Yikes!  Reading on…

Moreover, the artificial head does not contain any metal (e.g., dental fillings, earrings, or eyeglass frames) which could increase the radiation absorption beyond what the laboratory-generated SAR reflects. (5)

(5) Joel Moskowitz. “”Comments on the 2012 GAO Report: ‘Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed’.:” http://www.saferemr.com/2013/01/commentary-gao-2012-report-on-mobile.html

They use an artificial head for testing, in case you were wondering.  So how do I compare to the artificial head?  Check yes for dental fillings, check yes for earrings, and check yes for metal eyeglass frames (at least half of the day).  Looks like I’m 3 for 3 on that. 

Photo by BoldGrid: National Day of Listening-November 27

Note to self: always talk on speaker phone or through my earbuds and put the cell phone on the table.  And floss so there’s no additional dental fillings.  And no face piercings.

Experts recommend using either a wired headset or a Bluetooth headset. While you may still be exposed to some radiation using either type of headset, it’s still a lot less than holding the phone to your ear. If you do use a Bluetooth headset, I’d recommend taking it out of your ear when you’re not using it. There’s no need to continue to expose yourself to low levels of electromagnetic radiation when you don’t need to, since we still don’t know the long-term effects of radiation exposure at these low levels.

https://www.cnet.com/news/cell-phone-radiation-a-self-defense-guide-faq/

Bluetooth devices worn in the ear have lower SAR than the phone held to the ear.  I don’t use a bluetooth headset but I know many people who keep it in their ear all day.  Taking it out of the ear when not in use is probably sane advice.  I’ve also read that I can turn off the cellular function by putting it in airplane mode.

More advice.  Don’t put your cellphone in your pocket or in your bra.  Move it away from your bed at night, and for goodness sake don’t put it under your pillow.

Latest debate continues…

What does all this do to us?  Again the literature is not crystal clear.  There was an article in Science Direct in July 2018 that presents quite an argument that we should still be cognizant.  They looked at 23 controlled studies for effects from WiFi / EMF, even citing one study from the US Navy that showed reduced testosterone:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355

Or if you don’t like ScienceDirect, here is the author’s published article:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29573716

So there you have it.  The debate is not over yet, some countries are banning WiFi from schools, the science seems very divided but it makes sense to me to reduce SAR and WiFi / EMF exposure whenever you can until it’s proven to be healthy.

Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash

iPhone 6 SAR: Radiation Levels and Separation Distance

Future Posts

Related posts in the future will focus on resources to help reduce exposure to environmental toxins.

 

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Wheat.  It’s been around for thousands of years, almost 10,000 BCE.  Wheat is a staple in the diets of so many Americans, with our love of bread, pasta and pizza.  But for some individuals, wheat spells disaster and pain, and figuring out which condition is causing the issue with wheat can be challenging.

Different types of wheat-related conditions

There are three primary types of wheat-related conditions:  a true food allergy to wheat, an autoimmune condition called Celiac Disease, and a newly recognized condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) or Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity (NCWS).  They share only one thing:  a sensitivity to wheat. 

Photo by Abhay Singh on Unsplash

Wheat Allergy:

Wheat allergy is most common in children.  The onset is from minutes to hours, and the symptoms may be severe (analphalaxis or an inability to breathe).  The individual will test positive to a skin prick (IgE) or a food challenge, which are an exposure, and needs to be conducted under the care of a qualified healthcare professional as an emergency situation could result.

Celiac Disease:

Celiac Disease (also called Coeliac Disease) is an autoimmune response to the intestines, triggered by a grain protein, most commonly, gluten.  Other proteins may also cause the response but this is less well studied.  Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid).  

Celiac Disease causes damage to the villi that line the gut wall.  The villi are responsible for absorption of our nutrients, and long-standing damage may cause malnutrition.  Damage to the gut can be seen in a biopsy.

Symptoms may present in weeks to years.  However, 1 in 8 people with Celiac Disease do not have any symptoms but yet have damage occurring.  And 40-60% of people with Celiac Disease will not have the expected gastrointestinal symptoms but rather experience symptoms like joint pain, brain fog, skin rashes, osteoporosis and anemia.  

Diagnosis is usually made by checking for antibodies, and with an intestinal biopsy:

  • tTg IgA
  • tTg IgG (especially is IgA deficient)
  • Anti-deamidated gliadin
  • Anti-DGP IgG

If you are going to be tested for Celiac Disease, it is important to be eating gluten, as unpleasant as that sounds, for at least 2 – 3 months.  Otherwise, the antibody count can diminish and the gut damage healed, which can lead to a false sense that you do not have Celiac Disease.

There are genes which indicate a predisposition to Celiac Disease: HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8.  About 40% of the population carries this gene, and carrying the gene does not mean you will develop Celiac Disease.  In fact, only about 1% of the population has Celiac Disease.   

Ridding the diet of gluten is only the first step: gluten can also be inhaled and cause problems.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity / Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity:

There is a third category which has received increased attention in the past five years.  It goes by either Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity.  NCWS is the preferred term as researchers are unsure if the culprit is gluten, or only gluten and not other proteins as well.

For several years, many people were led to believe if they tested negative for Celiac Disease then there was nothing wrong.  This is because we don’t have a test to confirm NCWS, but the absence of our ability to test for an issue does not mean there is not an issue!  The prevalence is believed to be higher than Celiac Disease, ranging from 0.5% – 6%.  

Individuals with NCWS may experience similar symptoms, both intestinal and other symptoms, as those with Celiac Disease.  However, symptoms typically occur more quickly – in hours to days.  However, there are key differences:

  • Absence of genetic predisposition
  • Absence of specific antigen tests
  • Absence of intestinal damage upon biopsy
  • Absence of elevations in IL-8, IL-10 and IL-12 after ingestion of gluten (elevations are seen in Celiac Disease)
  • Absence of intestinal permeability (also known as gut dysbiosis or leaky gut)

We do not have a test for NCWS, and the diagnosis is made after excluding other possible causes.  One area of research is whether it is gluten itself which is causing the symptoms,  other proteins or potentially FODMOPS.  FODMOPS are fermentable, oligosaccharides, di-sacchardies, monosaccharides and polyols  Research has been specifically promising on fructans, which are included in FODMOPS.  A low FODMOPs diet may be beneficial.

What can I do to change my diet?

Most healthcare professionals will recommend a modification in gluten or wheat intake following the proper diagnosis.

For wheat allergy, the reaction can be severe.  Avoid wheat entirely, although other grains even those containing gluten may be acceptable. For those with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity, a gluten-free diet or better, a gluten-undetectable diet may be needed.  Gluten-undetectable means the product was prepared in a facility that has no other gluten-containing processes, so the risk of cross-contamination is lessened.

A good resource is:  www.foodallergy.org, and search for wheat.  This will also alert you to possible other sources of wheat and wheat products including soy sauce (use tamari!), vinegars, beers, meatballs and breaded meats, breaded vegetables, and mixes (even rice bowl mixes).  When in doubt, call the manufacturer.

Two other resources are:

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

 

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

It runs in the family, doesn’t it?  While there are certain genes that seem to indicate a tendency toward autoimmune disease, like HLA B27 or HLA DQ, the presence of the gene doesn’t mean the gene will be expressed and you will get psoriasis or celiac disease – there’s far more to the picture.  Remember, most families have similar habits and share an environment.

What does trigger the expression of the gene?  Scientists are still looking into that puzzle but we do have some clues.  

A New Way of Looking at Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system accidentally responds to what it sees as a threat when in fact it is your body’s own tissues.  Last week, I heard Dr. Nuzum (Idaho) describe autoimmune disease in a way that I had not previously heard, and it resonated with me.  I’m paraphrasing here, but you can get the idea. 

Imagine your immune system is a prize winning boxer and his opponent (the virus, bacteria, pathogen, etc.) is in the ring.  Our immune hero knocks out the opponent and round over.  But suppose the immune system fighter has on a blindfold, and suddenly we put not only the boxers but also the spectators in the ring.  Now our immune fighter cannot see his opponent although he knows the opponent is in the ring.  In swinging out, our immune fighter may hit something else besides the opponent.  How do we help the immune fighter?  We strengthen the immune system, and get the other people out of the ring.

That’s a very different description than I was used to hearing in mainstream medicine (the “over-active” immune system approach).  Maybe it was time to go back to the basics.

 

Genes, Leaky Gut and Exposure

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

There is a saying now that “chronic disease all begins in the gut” and autoimmune disease may fall into this category too.

The wall of our intestine allows digested food to enter the bloodstream.  Digested food means food has been broken down into its smallest components (sugars, amino acids, free fatty acids) and can easily be transported from the gut through small openings in the wall and into the bloodstream.  That’s a bit over-simplified but you get the idea. 

Certain foods can irritate the gut wall lining, causing intestinal permeability or dysbiosis.  In some circles this is also referred to as “leaky gut”.  The increased permeability means the gut wall is not as tight, and larger particles such as toxins, antigens and bacteria can leak through and enter the bloodstream.  These particles often contain proteins and look like a foreign object to our immune system.  And the attack begins. 

You might not even have symptoms.

It may show itself as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or lupus among others.  It is felt that a genetic predisposition, increased intestinal permeability, and antigen exposure are the necessary ingredients for autoimmune disease to develop.

GENES + LEAKY GUT + ANTIGENS

What you can do:

I remember being astounded the first time I heard that autoimmune disease can be reversed.  How is this possible?  Most people I know would settle for remission, even if reversal is not a reality yet.   It may have taken years to get diagnosed, often interspersed with missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis, and now we may be able to reverse this?

It appears you stop the offending irritant or irritants, and allow the body to heal itself.  Get rid of the bad stuff, add more of the good stuff.  Sounds pretty simple, but in fact it can be hard to do.

Diet:

Critical to your success is to ensure that your diet is anti-inflammatory.  Your food is either working for you or against you.  It’s either pro-inflammatory or it’s anti-inflammatory.

Foods that increase inflammation include sugars, white flour products (bread, pasta), processed food, fast foods, etc.   In short, any added ingredients that don’t belong in your food (chemicals) are foreign and may irritate the body and any foods that are so refined and processed as to not be recognizable as the original food (think sugar – looks nothing like a beet or cane) may also irritate the body. 

Foods that quell inflammation include those fruits and most vegetables, fresh herbs and ethically raised meats, poultry and fish.  Our bodies need fiber and vitamins and other nutrients from those foods.  No nutrients = no healing.

Many healthcare professionals recommend a diet that is gluten free and dairy free, but also low in sugar and avoidance of nightshade plants.  Some healthcare professionals go further and eliminate soy, corn, wheat, and eggs.  This diet can be challenging to even think about, so I’ve created a free download for you here for some menu ideas.  The diet should be followed for 4 to 6 weeks, initially.  If symptoms improve, discuss longer term use of the diet with your healthcare professional.

Movement / Exercise:

Movement can decrease inflammation as well.  Walk.  Bike.  Just move.  It doesn’t matter if it’s slow, or if you rest.  Sit if you need to.  

Be consistent for the best results.

One caution: over-exercising can actually increase inflammation, so don’t over do it.

Sleep:

Our bodies heal during sleep.  It’s important to get quality, restorative sleep of about 8 hours duration.  

Breathing:

Deep breathing works against inflammation by cleansing your lymphatics.  It removes toxins that can build up.  Deep relaxation helps manage stress, which can begin a cascade of inflammation.  Yoga or meditation can help.  Sound therapy in the form of meditative music may be of value.

Supplements:

Your healthcare professional may have specific recommendations for you, but in general omega-3 oils, vitamin C and probiotics work as anti-inflammatory agents.  Others include various adaptogenic herbs which are known to be anti-inflammatory and assist in the modulation of the immune system.  Green tea and/or turmeric may be suggested.

If leaky gut has been occurring for months or more, you may be at risk for nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption issues and a good quality multivitamin may be suggested by your healthcare professional.

Reconnect:

While the research isn’t definite to say enhanced connection to family, community and faith will help reverse autoimmune disease, given what we know about the role of stress, my thoughts are that an enhanced connection can’t hurt.  Be kind.  Feel supported; give support.  Declare your purpose.  Identify your thoughts that are toxic, and actively and intentionally work to counter them.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it.  It’s a choice – can you live with your symptoms?  Would you like to try to get better? 

Not everyone will.  Not everyone wants to go through the changes that are necessary.  To be successful, you have to go “all in”.  Going 80% of the way will not give you optimized results.  But if you make the commitment, you’re likely to see improvement.  Do your research; read the stories of people who have done this.  Ask your healthcare professional.  And then make your decision. 

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Future Posts

Related posts in the future will focus on additional information on autoimmune disease.

 

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

It’s something we don’t think about, yet are exposed to every day through our air, our water and our food:  heavy metals.

What are heavy metals?  And why should we worry about them?  Heavy metals are from the earth’s crust, and cannot be degraded or destroyed.  They are persistent in our environment.

There are essential metals that we need to survive, but in small “trace” amounts:  copper, zinc, cobalt, chromium, manganese, iron, and selenium.  While essential in trace amounts these can become dangerous if excessive amounts are taken in. 

What gets our attention are the more toxic elements:  lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, which cause problems even in small amounts.  These are what people think of when we say “heavy metals”.

What happens if we take in heavy metals?

Heavy metals can “bioaccumulate” which means they can build up in our soft tissues and bone and may cause multiple organs to become damaged.  Symptoms may, therefore, be expressed in a variety of ways.  These metals can also mimic or displace vital nutrients (like calcium and zinc) and disrupt metabolic reactions that keep us healthy.  A new area of study is the co-interaction of heavy metals in the body, and the surprising synergistic effects they seem to have.

How we take in heavy metals

Photo by Abhay Singh on Unsplash

We are exposed through groundwater contamination and that may lead to contaminated foods, through polluted air emissions, and through products that we put on our skin.  Heavy metals are even released by volcanic eruptions!

Let’s look at several of these metals and how we may be exposed.  Note how surprisingly often you see “batteries, plastics, paint, pigments and ceramics”.

Antimony:

Commonly used as a flame retardant, antimony can be found in clothing, toys and furniture.  It’s also used to harden lead, and can be found in lead-based products.  It’s common in batteries, plastics, paint, pigments, and ceramics but also enamel and pewter.

Arsenic:

Used primarily in pesticide manufacturing and applications, it affects agricultural workers (especially vineyards), and is found in ceramics, glass making, smelting and refining of metallic ore, and semi-conductor manufacturing. Certain regions of the world are known to have high levels of arsenic in the groundwater, and individuals who have lived in Bangladesh, India, China, Uruguay, Mexico and Taiwan may have higher levels of arsenic exposure.

Arsenic can inactivate over 200 enzymes, and can replace phosphate in metabolic reactions.

Berryllium:

Electronic component manufacturing and electronic recycling are the primary locations for berryllium exposure.

Cadmium:

This is one heavy metal that deserves a closer look.  Cadmium is similar to zinc and can replace zinc in enzymes and other functions.  Highest levels are seen in active smokers, with lesser levels in former smokers.  E-cigarettes are proving to be a source of exposure due to the use in flavorings.  Not convinced to stop smoking?  Cadmium accumulation is strongly associated with emphysema.  Cadmium is also found in batteries (NiCad – rechargeable), children’s jewelry, pesticides (manufacturing and application), plastic, and pigments.

Chronic exposure to cadmium is known to decrease norepinephrine, seratonin and acetylcholine, which are neurotransmitters that regulate mood and other functions..

Chromium:

Used in the manufacturing of steel and stainless steel, but also chrome, linoleum, copier toner, tanning, and pigments.  Over 300,000 workers are exposed each year, primarily through breathing but also contact with skin resulting in a type of dermatitis. Chromium seems to accumulate in aquatic life, so be cautious about the amount of fish you consume.

Cobalt:

Cobalt is used in the manufacturing of jet engines, and also machine tools, tires, magnets, batteries, alloys, crystal, ceramics and paint.

Lead:

If you watched the news in the past few years, you probably heard about the water supply in Flint, Michigan.  The water supply source had been switched, and the residents (including the children) were unwittingly exposed to high quantities of lead.  When I was a child, lead paint was common and leaded gasoline was the norm.  Many steps have been undertaken to remove lead but it remains a threat. In fact, lead poisoning remains one of the most common pediatric health concerns. Houses built before 1978 may still have lead in the paint, which turns to lead dust and the soil around the house may also have lead from previous activities. And 25% (or over 16 million households) fall in that category.  And over 2000 water systems across the US have higher levels than permitted, not counting what your pipes are made of.

Lead can mimic and replace calcium in the body’s reactions.

Most lead today is used in the manufacture of batteries (83%), but you will also find lead in children’s or costume jewelry, leaded crystal, lead pipes, lipstick and other beauty supplies, toys, glass, pigments and ceramics – even candy. Lead exposure occurs through pesticide manufacture and application, car exhaust, mining, manufacture of ammunition, solder and pipes, and leaded x-ray shields.

Mercury:

Oh, what we did not know back then.  Thermometers would break and we would play with the enticing silvery liquid that seemed to pool into little balls.  We let dentists fill our cavities with amalgam that contained almost half mercury.  Our grandmothers had mercury lamps and other antiques. . 

Besides checking the surfaces on antiques, mercury is found in electrical switches, thermostats, batteries, paint, skin cream, jewelry, televisions, and in the manufacture of chlorine and coal burning for energy.  Mercury may be a perservative for pharmaceutical products.

There are different forms of mercury.  Elemental mercury is “mercury vapor”.  Organic mercury is methylmercury, and is of concern because of the accumulation in certain deep water fish such as tuna.  Inorganic or monomercury or dimethylmercury is of concern because of the neurotoxic effects.  Of note, some ayurvedic preparations use inorganic mercury.  The evidence is not clear on toxicity if used correctly but please seek guidance from an experienced ayurvedic provider.

Nickel:

We’ve all handled a nickel, right?  Yes,  nickel is used in the manufacture of coins but also in nickel plating, jewelry, batteries (NiCad), ceramics, and is found in diesel exhaust. 

What can I do to reduce my exposure?

For items that you use every day, like lipstick, it pays to do your homework.  The average women wears lipstick 365 days a year and may reapply once or twice each day.  Lead-free lipstick may be a worthwhile investment.  Same with mercury-free face cream, or aluminum-free deodorant (the underarm has very good absorption) or over-the-counter antacids.  Or toothpaste that is nickel and lead-free. Cleaning supplies that have cleaner ingredients.  Hand soap that is cleaner. (The links are to products I use and sell).  Foods that are grown organically (earlier in 2019, there was a report of 45 fruit juices that contain lead, arsenic or cadmium).  

Look at the products you use every day:  furniture fabrics and upholstery, car seating, clothing, toys, ceramic plates.  

Note how close you are to recycling centers and manufacturing.  At your job, if you work around heavy metals, reduce your exposure by wearing gloves and a mask, or the appropriate protective equipment.  

There are websites and resources to help you reduce the exposure to yourself and your loved ones.  Here is a nice list to get started:

  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:  http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/lead-and-other-heavy-metals/
  • Environmental Working Group (EWG) SkinDeep(R):  https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Clean-up in My Community:  https://www.epa.gov/cleanups/cleanups-my-community

Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Future Posts

Related posts in the future will focus on resources to help reduce exposure to environmental toxins.

The micronutrients that are “water-soluble” include the B-complex and vitamin C.  Whereas fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissue of our bodies, the water-soluble vitamins are excreted through the urine and must be replaced daily.  

 

B-vitamins

While very different than each other, the B vitamins work in a complementary way, and often are found in the same foods.  Our B vitamins help with stress, releasing nutrients from our foods and creating the anti-oxidants to help prevent disease.  

 

The family of B-vitamins includes (* indicates essential vitamin):

  • B1 thiamine*: helps body use carbohydrates for energy, muscle contraction, and nerve signals. A deficiency can cause “beri beri”, which can cause reversible changes to the cardiovascular system or the nervous system.
  • B2 riboflavin*:  body growth and red blood cell production.  
  • B3 niacin*:  helps digestive system, skin and nerves.  May play a role in cholesterol regulation. A deficiency may result in ‘pellegra’
  • B4: choline, adenine, or carnitine. No longer considered a vitamin but choline is being studied.
  • B5 pantothenic acid*:  used for growth, helps metabolism.  Production of cholesterol and hormones.
  • B6 pyridoxine*: helps produce insulin, red blood cells and fight infections.  Deficiency can cause anemia.
  • B7 biotin*: used for growth, helps metabolism
  • B8 adenosine monophosphate (AMP) or inositol.  No longer considered a vitamin.
  • B9 folate*:  critical during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects and spina bifida, helps to produce glutathione (master anti-oxidant) and seratonin
  • B10 para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).  No longer considered a vitamin.
  • B11 pteryl-hepta-glutamic acid (PHGA). No longer considered a vitamin.
  • B12 cobalamin*: helps create new red blood cells; with folate B12 helps to produce glutathione and seratonin.  Deficiency can cause anemia.
  • B13 orotic acid.  No longer considered a vitamin.

 

Vitamin C:

The power of vitamin C was discovered in the 1800’s when citrus fruits containing vitamin C prevented the dreaded and fatal disease, scurvy, in British sailors.  Until then, sailors often developed severe bleeding and many died within the first few months at sea. 
Today a vitamin C deficiency is rare, although some groups are at higher risk for an insufficient intake such as smokers (including passive smoke), infants who are fed evaporated or boiled milk and not formula or breast fed, those who follow a very strict diet, and those with malabsorption issues or certain chronic diseases.
During the 1970s vitamin C developed a reputation for preventing colds; this research has not been proven nor disproven and research is on-going.  It is known that vitamin C is a very strong anti-oxidant but can also function as a pro-oxidant therefore supplementation in the absence of a deficiency is not recommended at this time.  Excessive consumption can result in diarrhea and abdominal cramps.  Excessive consumption over an extended period of time and then suddenly stopping can result in “rebound scurvy”.
Vitamin C is also used to aid in the absorption of iron in cases of iron-deficient anemia or low hemoglobin.