All posts by ashleyhealth101

About ashleyhealth101

Part time health-centric blogger gradually learning the craft

Bug Off…

It’s summer in the US and I definitely do not blog as much between June and September.  However, a news alert caught my eye this past weekend; Scientists say record floods could brew bad batch of mosquitoes (Chicago Tribune).  This on top of reports of the first case of West Nile virus in the state of Illinois this year…  Eeek.  Southern regions may be seeing even greater batches of the little buggers.

Unfortunately most commercialized insect repellents are higher dose chemical concoctions.  Considering the alternative of an invasive virus, the choice may be simple.  However, lower toxicity options do exist in the essential oil (EO) spectrum and, bonus(!), some of these EO’s may assist in overall immune health.

Lara Adler, a reputable and resourceful expert educator on environmental toxins reminds us that “a number of essential oils have clinically been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, including clove oil, tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus, lemon-grass, and cinnamon oils.  Some oils are more effective against bacteria, while others are more effective against viruses, so combinations can be more effective than just using one oil on it’s own” (nd).

Furthermore, certain EO’s are particularly effective for insect repellent.  In this area, I’ve seen several blends usually including options such as lemon-grass, peppermint, and/or citronella.

My amazing friend and camping expert shared the following insect repellent recipe (for a 2 oz bottle):

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 8 drops citronella
  • 8 drops cedarwood
  • 6 drops lemon-grass
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops peppermint
  • 5 drops rose geranium
  • 3 drops thyme

*Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water.

Check out Cricket Camping blog for more outdoor living tips and some cool narratives.

This summer, further support conscientious healthful living by getting outside and active, but with consideration for the option of lower toxicity “bug off” approaches.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Adler, L. (nd). Tools for Teaching Toxicity. Essential Oils as Cleaners.

5 ways to “pretty up” your beauty routine

The beauty industry is a big business!  This spring, I kicked off with a blog The ‘Real’ Spring Clean detailing a few ways to clean up lifestyle approaches and living environments with regards to harmful exposures.  Personal care is a huge area within this topic, partially attributable to lack of adequate evaluation (see a 2004 Environmental Working Group report).

5 faucets to consider within this focus area include the following;

  1.  Upgrade your products for more bang for the buck.  One thing that blows people away is that well formulated, low-toxin beauty care products often require a lower amount for adequate application.  What does this mean in simple terms?  Investment in this sort of product will stretch, ie “less is more”.
  2. Pay attention to substrate when color is involved.  Essentially, liquids involving color have a greater chance of causing harm when applied to the skin.  Therefore, paying attention to chemicals, particularly those relating to endocrine disruption*, and carcinogens in products such as gels and creams may take higher significance as compared to a dry powder.  Definitely pay close attention to that lip color and be sure yours does not include lead.
  3. Avoid synthetic scents.  “Fragrance” is not well regulated in the U.S. and can consist of many proprietary chemical concoctions unclear to the end consumer.  The frustrating thing is even with “good” options, it can be hard to avoid.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) maintains a guide called Skin Deep to help assess this.  A good habit is to check whether labels have the word “fragrance” OR if a natural, plant-based substrate, such as a specific essential oil, is indicated.  Also, consider swapping out chemical based perfumes for essential oil blends!
  4. Take a break.  Find opportunities to avoid or reduce applications, for example there are ways to reduce how often we wash hair with shampoo and conditioner which, as it turns out, often leads to better hair quality.  Not only will making these reductions help lower the risk of cumulative low-dose exposures from personal care, it will save money over time.
  5. Remember internal health.  Finally, and most importantly, the real “skin deep” starts from within.  Cellular health is impacted by nutrition, toxicity, and emotional health.  Proper care for your internal systems will illuminate in better skin and hair quality leading to less need for external applications.

Although, admittedly, I’m still figuring this out myself, there are a couple options that I have come to favorable resolution on (for now);

Annmarie Skin Care multi-purpose foundation relies on a mineral powder, which can be used dry, or combined with facial oil, cream, or serum.  Blend a small amount of the mineral powder with oil, cream or serum in the palm of your hand to create the liquid consistency for foundation.

Typically I blend with their signature herb-infused oil (also available in unscented), but it has surprised me how nicely it also applies as a direct powder application.  In consideration of point 1 above, this product stretches well.  I hardly use any of it to make for full coverage.

Neal’s Yard Remedies is a product line was introduced to me by the lovely Lara Adler.  Based in the UK, it is distributed through retail channels throughout Great Britain and via independent consultants in other countries.  An unexpected bonus is I found that a friend from grade school had become a rep so I was able to reconnect with her through the process (see her page).

I have been absolutely amazed at how happy I have been when using Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser.  The formula cleanses and moisturizes simultaneously and can be used simply as an under eye make up remover or as a total facial cleanse.  Their Full of Grace solid serum is also a great multi-purpose staple.

Mineral Fusion products, although not perfect (mostly due to fragrance), rank pretty favorable across EWG’s list, come at a reasonable price point, and are available through a variety of accessible channels, including Whole Foods.  In addition, they have hair care formulas for color treated hair which is less commonly found within natural/organic centered personal care products.

One discouraging thing about being a Hashi’s patient is that I have experienced a fair share of eye brow thinning.  ZuZu Luxe pencil comes in a tobacco color that I love and their products rank pretty well on EWG’s list as well.

A company that I have not tried yet, but am considering for future use is 100% Pure.  The company relies on natural, plant-derived pigments and avoids iron oxides which have to be tested for lead.

Many also turn to Beauty Counter which is positioned at the fore front of education in the US beauty market and centered on reduction of substrates that are harmful in personal care products including their coined “Never List”.  Link to the page for one consultant in my network.

Finally, I have noticed several small, craft based options picking up momentum.  A few favorites in the Chicago area include Bonnie and Biba Lips.  Lip applications have not had the best track record, such as testing for lead.  Especially with consideration to point 2 above, lip color is a key area to pay attention to when assessing for potential toxicity.

Additional resources can be found via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

*Chemical-based substrates associated to endocrine disruption include phthalates (a class of chemicals related to “fragrance”, softeners, solvents, and stabilizers in personal and household related products), parabens (used as preservatives), and phenoxyethanol.  Endocrine disruptors refer to substrates that mimic or block hormone signals which, in addition to gland and organ health, have been studied for their role obesity.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure - Annmarie Gianni & 100% Pure links direct to my affiliate pages which may generate very small amounts of monetary income.

The ‘Real’ Spring Clean

How do you define clean?

I hope to challenge your definition and for those in which I’m “speaking to the choir”, let’s sing!

Toxins are a result of man-made chemicals as well as naturally occurring.  Repetitive low-dose exposure to these compounds over time, such as phthalates, is what we refer with the terms “toxic load” or “burden”.  Collective dose has been a subjective topic within the scientific community.  However, there is a supportive body of evidence for associations between toxic exposures and the onset of a whole host of chronic diseases from autoimmune to cancers.  Children, pregnant women, and older aged adults are significantly more sensitive and vulnerable to toxin exposure such as those from pesticides.  Substrates with toxicity can be found in consumer products, food, and the environment in which we engage.

Do I have your attention?

O.k., now “what the heck can you do about it?“…

I cordially invite you to redefine your spring clean.  Conduct an intervention for yourself by focusing on ridding yourself of the ugly (cleanse) and shifting to more healthful alternatives.  The easiest changes will be in your home.  Pick a room to start with and get going.  (Hint, this will likely be your kitchen and/or bathroom).

Primary areas in which you can easily make shifts;

  1. Personal Care – Color, fragrance, additives, synthetic chemicals that few would accurately pronounce… you name it.  Each of these are areas to become keen on when assessing potential toxic load.
  2. Cleaning Products – Besides data on unintentional poisoning leading to adverse outcomes including death, the average US household cleaner contributes to indoor air pollution.  These products carry rather harsh hazard warnings, such as “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, for a reason.  Yet, natural alternatives do not need any of this.  Consider the alternatives.
  3. Food –
    • How many ingredients are in a piece of produce?  No, this is not a trick question.  Answer:  ONE!  A follow up question, do you know how that piece of produce was grown, ripened, and shipped?
    • How many ingredients are in the average processed food item?  To be honest, I could not find this data, but I’m certain the average number is over 5!  Whole-food recipes, ie products of resulting in multiples of one, are not what I’m referring to here.  I’m calling out additives, derivatives, isolations, etc.  Many nutritionists suggest to shop by “Five or Fewer”. By this, we mean if it has more than five ingredients, don’t buy it.
    • Finally, pesticide resin, which can also be systemic, and potential harmful exposures picked up during shipping and transit are also variables to take into account.  The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists provide preliminary guidance (see below).
    • BONUS – don’t forget to check out your food storage, packaging, and cookware options, especially those used for heated items and/or those holding fat based items.

A special note on fragrances – In some cases, natural derivatives can contribute to the scent of an item, however, often the term on a product label is code for chemical concoction and full disclosure is not legally required.

Changes in each of the areas can parallel each other.  We often think of health as diet and fitness and the term “clean living” has been coined to food.  However, our health is impacted by many more variables each of which can be addressed in a “Spring Clean”.  Healthful shifts will incorporate reasonable reduction and realistic transitions.

What about communal spaces?

On a public health landscape, we certainly have work to do.  However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does incorporate this area into their healthy workplace initiatives and can be leveraged as a resource for change within communal spaces.

Other Resources;

Clean 15-Dirty Dozen

Wellness Wednesday: 5 Practices to Start Your Day

Love it or Hate it, we set our clocks forward this week.  Therefore, if you are someone who normally gets up at 6 a.m. it will feel as though it is actually 5 a.m. for a little while until internal rhythms adjust and the break of dawn re-centers more in our favor.

So what are a few ways to help jump start your days?

Hydration – if we are properly hydrating throughout the day, we are ingesting water regularly and not taking 7-9 hour gaps.  However, obviously, we don’t drink while we are asleep.  Be sure to have a glass of water in the morning.

Some swear by warmer temperature to the water and the addition of lemon juice (for alkalinity).  It’s likely not as important to get hung up with “how” to drink the water versus simply investing in ourselves  and the day upon us by doing it.  Find what works for you.

Commit Yourself to Consistency – In this instance I am mostly referring to sleep and bed times.  Yes, going to bed is the night before versus the current day.  However, a consistent bed time can help regulate circadian processes including hormonal regulation.  Go to bed early enough to account for time it takes to fall asleep AND obtain sufficient duration.  Furthermore, allow yourself to rise at a consistent time.  In fact, a well-trained sleeper doesn’t even need an alarm clock!

With respect to adjusting to the time change, if you normally go to bed at 9 p.m., even though it feels early and your body may think it’s still 8 p.m., still go to bed.  If you simply can not bring yourself to actually sleep at this time, try various relaxation techniques and be sure to power down electronics a minimum of 1 hour before bed.  This will help reduce the disruption technology can have on us.

*Important side note; studies have suggested that sleep helps aid detoxification.  See two links at the bottom of this post.

Shake Your Money Maker & “Move It” – Does this mean you have to dance?  No.  Although, I’m not a stranger to recommending it!  It does mean you should take part in, at minimum, light physical activity as part of your start of day routine.

This is a good time to emphasize activity that has flow to it, such as gentle movement options.  While at rest and lying down, spinal discs fill up a fluid like substance and at are at their fullest when you rise.  Although this is a natural occurrence that serves a function, it can still inadvertently cause a little havoc in the morning if abrupt activity occurs before the body is ready to take it on.  Adequately limbering up by taking care to understand appropriate types of movement can help prevent injury.

There is also truth to the “morning stretch”.  Need a suggestion, watch Fido.  Animals instinctively take upon movement and stretches as needed upon rise.  Follow this link for a Livestrong article written by Linda Ray on this topic.

Power Up – hey you in the Starbuck’s line grabbing your own the go coffee and pastry!  We see you.  In fact, many of you we notice DAILY!  Do you really think with all the biochemical interactions our bodies endure on a daily basis that’s going to cut it?  Nope!

Studies have shown that children receiving adequate breakfast performed better based on cognitive and behavioral metrics.  This doesn’t just go away because we have become adults.  Substantial nutrition, particularly in the beginning half of the day, can help bring about focus, mental clarity, and overall productivity.  Therefore, allow yourself time to eat a good breakfast and make sure you are getting up early enough for this, even if you prep the night before.

Make sure your morning meal is both macro- and micro-nutrient focused.  In that you are including a balance across protein-fat-carbohydrates AND taking in food choices that are considerate of content with high nutritious value.  For more tips on how to do this, keep following this blog and/or look back through some of my previous suggestions or referrals for meal planning and recipes.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Finally, we can’t control the weather.  We can, however, control the attitude in which we set forth on our day with.  Put on your happy face and go with it.

– Keep Calm & Wellness On….

The brain flushes out toxins in sleep, and poor sleep associated with buildup of Alzheimer’s toxins : Discoveries, Oct 22, 2013.

How Sleep Clears the Brain, Oct 28, 2013.

 

Eco-Toilet Center

March will honor the first day of spring and I will integrate responsible “spring clean”. Please see this re-press in keeping theme;

Eco-toilets are more environmentally sound than conventional flush toilets. In addition to conserving drinking water, eco-toilets also divert and recover the majority of nutrients in human waste. T…

Source: Eco-Toilet Center

Wellness Wednesday: Autoimmune Disease Awareness

March serves as an awareness month for Autoimmune Disease and Related Conditions.  Although this serves as a wellness blog, advocacy and awareness for conditions, particularly those that may be under-served in traditional medical models, are still areas I feel are important to incorporate.  Due to personal and professional impact, I’m including this into my blog this month.

See the bottom of the post for another way in which you can provide support. 

I credit the New Yorker for publishing a few personal accounts over the last few years highlighting path or circumstances from those living with autoimmune related conditions.  The 2013 article “What’s Wrong With Me?” by Meghan O’Rourke provides an insightful look into a journey with autoimmune dysfunction.  Those with any number of these conditions will certainly find clear areas of relation to her story.

An interesting caveat presented in “What’s Wrong With Me?” is the fact that people may not understand how best to support research and advocacy for these conditions.  Within our system of care and related infrastructure, there is often a misguided focus on specialties or specific disease classifications.  In this case, those would be examples such as lupus, celiac, Crohn’s disease, MS (multiple sclerosis), rheumatoid arthritis, and those affecting thyroid regulation such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease.

However, there are upwards of 100 conditions that can be the result of a harmful autoimmunity state in the body.  (The Autoimmune Related Diseases Association maintains an A to Z list).  Many of which have overlap and/or common root causes.  Also, manifestation of an autoimmune condition can vary from one person to the next and is thought to be considerate of “bio-indviduality.”

Unfortunately, variability in manifestation can contribute to difficulty with regards to timely diagnosis.  Diagnosis is typically handled through testing and measurement of autoantibodies, which are used as clinical markers to classify or predict a disease (Eggert, Zettl, & Neeck, 2010).  Symptoms typically present as vague and could include fatigue, chronic low-grade fevers, muscle and joint aches, or rashes (Campbell, 2014).

Leading up to a diagnosis, is a multi-factorial “soup”, so to speak, of circumstances.  A genetic disposition may be present, but it is thought that lifetime exposures play a role in impacting whether or not a condition manifests or not. “Exposures” encompasses a range from environmental, physical or mental stress, and infectious agents.  In addition, onset of a condition could be indicative of underlying conditions such as intestinal permeability or excessive chronic inflammation (Campbell, 2014).

This further leads us to “chicken vs egg” discussions in science and it also presents a paradigm shift in how we are addressing the category of disease.  In this case “autoimmunity” versus a specific diagnosis resulting from autoimmune dysfunction.  However, in actuality, underlying inflammation or cellular dysfunction versus a specific diagnosis of any kind.

For the would be autoimmune related diseases and conditions supporter, this could present some confusion.  Three simple suggestions are as follows;

Understand care models within systems and those of independent health practitioners.  If your knowledge isn’t great, take a pause on donating money.  By all means I’m not promoting a withdrawal of financial support, but do some homework and don’t get distracted by fancy color schemes, ribbons, and other advocacy tactics.

Talk to those living with these conditions or reliable practitioners that treat them.  I suggest this mainly to understand the layers to the conditions.  To further illustrate this, consider the example of Tom O’Bryan.  His team recently broadcasted an impactful series Betrayal, which detailed many stories of those with autoimmune related conditions.  Purchases of the program went to support for children living with Celiac who may be experiencing mental/emotional stress due to social isolation.  Clearly this is a top of mind problem for the children or the loved ones that support them, but how many people external to the spectrum would have thought of this?  …and, are the research and advocacy agencies addressing these issues with fair weight?

Support those with conditions in other ways, particularly in the mental/emotional area and lifestyle behavior spectrum.  Response to a diagnosis may require significant behavior change and due diligence will be needed.  This may present avenues of going against the norm, for example, going to a super bowl party and replacing crock pot nacho cheese with some sort of super food just so there is something on the table.  Human behavior change is a tough cookie and social support matters!  Be sure to not make a big deal about it putting the person on the spot, but find ways to be inclusive of the person.

The list can easily continue.  Feel free to share interesting projects for which you are aware in the comments.  As a final note, I will be making a relevant donation at the conclusion of the month.  I’m leveraging income from my Juice Plus and Tower Garden business to make this happen.  Please visit my websites for further information or set up a call with me to learn more.  I’ll include a follow up post about this in April.

REFERENCES:

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (2014-2016). Autoimmune Info, List of Diseases. Retrieved 2016, from AARDA – American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association: http://www.aarda.org/disease-list/.

Campbell, A.W. (2014). Autoimmunity and the Gut. Autoimmune Diseases, 2014, 12. Retrieved 2016, from http://doi.org/10.1155/2014/152428.

Eggert, M. Z., Zettle, U.K., & Neeck, G. (2010, May). Autoantibodies in autoimmune diseases. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 16(14), 1634-1643.

O’Rourke, M.  (2013, Aug 26).  What’s Wrong With Me?  The New Yorker.  Retrieved 2017, from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/08/26/whats-wrong-with-me.

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Tropical Smoothie

The upper Midwest had a fluke winter warm up this past weekend for a bit of spring/summer tease.

However, typically this is the time of year where we are starving for a little “paradise”.  Therefore, it could be the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen.

Frozen fruit can be a great way to leverage powerful phytonutrients into the diet, particularly across times of the year where seasonable options are not available fresh.  A key to healthful smoothies is balance.

I have found that tropical fruit combos, although sweet, can be used in moderation to balance greens such as spinach or super green based blends.

Including options such as chia or hemp seeds and a spoonful of coconut butter, avocado, or nut butter will add compounds such as omega 3 and healthful fats.

A combination that I find most appealing is as follows:

  • 1 bag of organic tropical frozen fruit blend, 16 oz (typically this includes pineapple, banana, strawberries, and mango)
  • 2 handfuls of raw spinach (often available through hoop house suppliers in winter)
  • 1 spoonful raw greens powder
  • Approx. 1-2 tbsp coconut butter
  • Approx. 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Approx. 2 tsp cinnamon
  • If desired, a splash of well-sourced nut milk (liquid from the fruit may be sufficient or water can be used)

Blend to desired consistency.

***NOTE:  The above recipe may not be suitable for all dietary plans particularly those considerate of food combining.