Category Archives: Lifestyle

Finding Balance while Living with Autoimmune Related Conditions

March is autoimmune disease awareness month.

For those of you who know or follow me, you are likely well aware that living healthful and well is a key focus area for both my personal life and professional niche.  This may be in spite of having chronic conditions or underlying physiological dysfunction.  The fact that I carry my own diagnosis and am a fit to “autoimmune wellness warrior” can present certain idiosyncracies to maintaining balance.

Professionally, I work with people to live better, well, and most healthful, while personally, I am often holding on tight while navigating through turbulent, bumpy roads all while working to keep it all together!  Naturally, it can give me greater ability to express empathy, but it can also leave me feeling that I have a massive case of imposter syndrome.

A few insights on autoimmune related conditions are as follows (more can be found via the AARDA):

  • Approximately 50 million Americans are afflicted with an autoimmune-related condition.
  • There are over 80 conditions confirmed associated with underlying autoimmune dysfunction and the list is growing.
  • Women are disproportionately affected.
  • Late or misdiagnosis has been common.
  • Despite supportive evidence for lifestyle interventions significantly influencing outcomes, immunosuppressant treatment is still common yet may result in devastating long-term side effects.
  • The body of research centered on effects from environmental factors and the manifestation of autoimmune-related conditions is mounting.

For people who are able to put autoimmune conditions into remission, a 3-5 year timeline is common.  This is typically curated through a “lifestyle-medicine” approach which will involve a range of shifts including dietary approaches, relationship with sleep and stress, reduction in adverse environmental exposures where possible, and a potential range of therapeutic related approaches to nudge the body closer to healthful homeostasis.  For many of us, like myself, complete remission may not be realistic, but a significant reduction in the severity could be possible.  Therefore, 5 years not just after a diagnosis, but from the time in which notable lifestyle changes are begun is kind of a relevant time to do a robust check-in.

This spring will mark 5 years since I have had a formal diagnosis for autoimmune related conditions, (which often cluster and may come with secondary conditions that are considered to be present as a result of the specific autoimmune condition(s) manifestation).  In many ways, things are going relatively well.  There may still be an occasional flare-up or mishap, but many of my symptoms have been significantly reduced, my antibody labs came back the best results I have seen since I started this journey, and I have indoctrinated the lifestyle changes to become my new normal without much mental anguish to think it all through.

Which brings up a good point.  As much as these conditions are physiological, there is also a chaotic dance in store for the mindset.  However, although sometimes haphazard with certain unexpected variables, it’s still one that can be orchestrated.  Therefore, a few wellness tips can also be rather impactful!

Manage expectations through letting go of perfect.  “Well” does not mean perfect.  Hey type A-ers, I’m talking even a little more closely to you.  Systems and plans can be fantastic for staying on track, but remaining flexible while having a sense of humor can also go a long way!

It’s ok to say No.  Not everyone is going to understand what we are dealing with.  It’s not personal, educate when it’s appropriate, but otherwise, let it go.  Time and energy are much better spent on other areas in which we can enthusiastically say “yes”.

Focus on the unintentional gifts.  For me, I have significantly more knowledge and perspective than I would have had otherwise.  Also, I have been able to shift various focus and responsibility to a more meaningful purpose.

A few other bloggers’ posts that are a little similar to this one that may provide further insight and inspiration.

Autoimmune Disease Warriors, About Us

The Advantages of Disadvantages

Why I Am Not an Autoimmune Warrior

 

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

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Live Out Your Joy

It was a blast to plan out an Instagram contest with a fellow entrepreneur who takes center on healthful living.  Be sure to follow @theConureLife and @LiveConscientiousLiveHealthful on Instagram to play along.

It starts on February 13th (US time) which also happens to coincide with “National Self Love Day”.

The daily themes center on healthful habits and behaviors that can be easily and consistently addressed, such as hydration, breathing, eliminating negative facets that don’t serve you, movement, and appropriate rest.

Additional ideas for you to “Live Out Your Joy” can be found in this Mind Body Green article, 10 Everyday Choices for a Soul-centered, Joyous Life.  I also love this article written by Eric Barke, How to Live Joyously Like an Old Person, that gains perspective on joy from our elder population.

Feel free to join us!

 

 

Photo credits to @JuicePlus and @WellnessStockShop

What About Vermont?

The Green Mountain State may just live up to it’s “green” status and perhaps there is a little bit of truth to Keep Vermont Weird as well.

In mid-October, I visited this lovely state.  It was just as the leaves were starting to change in color.  Therefore, I saw plenty of green with some pleasant pops of red, yellow, and orange as well.

My decision to take the trip was, ultimately, the result of two state-wide campaigns that went viral about mid-2018.  One, a grant-funded remote-worker relocation incentive program that was passed by their state legislature and, two, a tourism campaign referred to as Stay-to-Stay which invited people to visit Vermont with the consideration of relocation and included a schedule of events centered around leading a life there.

In a nutshell, I just had to see about Vermont…

As a long-standing practitioner of green living, I have always been curious about things I had heard with regards to life in Vermont.  Perhaps this has been partly a picturesque pipe dream of becoming a homesteader paired with another part desire to “get out of dodge”, however, it continued to stick in the back of my mind for some years.  When I learned of the two programs, the notion re-emerged to top of mind and I simply could not let the thought pass without taking action.

I spent most of my time in the Burlington area.  Coming from living primarily in a major urban environment, I felt it would give me a good sample of Vermont while also keeping a bit of an urban feel.  (When I return to Vermont, I would also really like to visit the Rutland area).

So what did I learn from visiting this unique place?

There are many facets I could comment on, but the ones that stood out the most include the following:

Smaller sized population areas do NOT need to impede larger scale support for farmers markets and locally sourced food.

In fact, the Burlington Farmers Market, which is not the only one in Burlington, but is the most well known, could just about give Pike Place Market in Seattle a run for their money.  There is so much enthusiasm for “Vermont made” and many options are organic and/or sustainable.  Also, in the main center of Burlington, no big-box grocers reside.  The primary grocery shopping center is a neighborhood co-op, City Market, Onion River Co-op.

Luck had it that a fellow alumni from where I received my undergraduate and Master of Business Administration degrees worked in leadership for this co-op and was willing to meet me.  His enthusiasm for the place was invigorating.  Also, he shared some impressive data points that reflect just how much Vermont seems to throw support towards local growers.

Social impact and business can co-exist… really, they can.

This theme was salient across my time there.  From the presentations at Vermont Tech Jam, a meeting with a hybrid co-working/business accelerator space, VCET, to casual conversations with business owners residing there, it was evident that this is a priority.

“Vermonters”, be they those raised there or transplanted, seem to have strived to work sufficient and smart, yet not lose consciousness for the communities in which they operate and service.  This is further illustrated by the number of Certified B Corporations there.

I gained a sense of small but mighty from the business community there.  Successes originating and/or operating within Vermont, such as Jet Blue, Seventh Generation, Gardener’s Supply Company, Mamava, and Sustain Natural, only add to the tout that business can behave better, even if just a little.

Green and healthful living can be practiced on a regular basis anywhere, but a few small yet supportive infrastructures may help us to be mindful of doing so.

Perhaps it was the air of the place (pun intended), but there were certainly signs for support of health promotion.  Even subtle reminders, such as attractive light pole banners reading “Smoke-free community” within areas where people work out and play outdoors were noticeable and seemed to be well-respected.  More information in these links; Church Street, Burlington Parks

There were also consistent reminders to take the idea of a socially-supportive community into consideration.  The lake monster themed change stands in downtown Burlington, for example, were fun and artistic but served a relevant charitable purpose.

It was also very easy to find recycling, which, believe it or not (…in 2018!), some municipalities still fail at royally!

Yoga really does help fuel the body, mind, and soul.

I was blown away by the number of yoga studios and the quality of instruction I received.  Many private studios offer a range of classes and most include some sort of donation based class at least once a week with a charitable beneficiary designated.

Spaces calling themselves wellness co-ops or collectives housed an interdisciplinary range of allied health, wellness, and fitness professionals.  These centers and shared spaces reflected both a mutual support for one another in business and presented convenience which seemed more patient-centric and nurturing by design.  Some of them centered on social services.  Almost all of them included a range of holistic services, including various yoga modalities and therapy.

Not to mention, this state has thrown their hat in the ring to support integrative healthcare, for example, naturopathic physicians (NMD’s) can operate as PCP’s (primary care physicians).  In addition, as compared to other states in the U.S., Vermont policy is more supportive for the range of nutrition-related professionals.

In closing…

I came back feeling a little more fresh and cleaner.  The landscape was spectacular.  With the scenic beauty and crisp “mountain air,” it’s hard to imagine not feeling a little more well after spending time there.

Vermont, like any state, is certainly imperfect.  However, I have little doubt that the sense of community and cultural norms centered around green space, healthful living, and social-consciousness in Vermont have kept this a really, really great place to not just visit, but also live, work, or play!

For a little fun, more Vermont slogans available here.

I also would like to give a special nod to the yoga apparel store Yogarama Athletica.  If in Burlington, it is definitely worth stopping in.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Support your body to better ward off infection & illness with this recipe

Herbs and spices have various “healing” properties.  They can also play a role in prevention.

Specific profiles will vary, but in general, appropriate usage of herbs and spices in our dietary protocols can make a favorable impact on digestion, circulation, blood sugar regulation, and immune response.  Within the scope of health-beneficial herbs and spices, options such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are often revered.  (click on each of them for more info)

I am happy to share this nourishing hot beverage from my mother’s recipe Rolodex.  A true inspiration, she has been steadfast in practicing whole-food, natural-living protocols for many years.

This warming drink comes especially in handy for times that you notice signs and symptoms of a nasty bug coming on, such as a cold or other viral infection.

Start with the following:

  • cinnamon stick (break it up if you can)
  • 1 tsp whole clove buds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • two large mugs of water

Put the water in a pan and bring to a high boil.  Add cinnamon and clove.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Turn off heat and add ginger.  Steep for about 15 more minutes.

Time to get warm and spicy.  Drink up.  Strain the desired amount.  Add lemon juice and honey to taste (optional).  Keep any remaining beverage to sip on later.

Photo credit Wellness Stock Shop #wellnessstockshop @wellnessstockshop

Tips from Deanna Minich, leading nutrition professional?

“DNA is like a canvas, food is like the paint…”  – Dr. Deanna Minich

The art of nutrition (and the science) is a practice that has captivated me.  Starting as early as my adolescent years, it has carried me from a passionate interest and professional focus through, more recently, a healing journey with autoimmune conditions.

Someone who has masterfully crafted this “art” is a nutrition professional introduced to me a few years ago while I was studying public health and the University of Illinois, Chicago.  As you can imagine, the opportunity to see her speak live was something not to be missed!

Deanna Minich is an educator, scientist, author, and sought after speaker.  She seeks to focus on health and vitality through healing protocols that are both scientific and creative.

Throughout her career, she has sought to “unite people to talk about food in a cohesive way.”  In doing so, she relies on colors of the rainbow as a primary teaching aid.  Her newest book, The Rainbow Diet: A Holistic Approach to Radiant Health Through Foods and Supplements, encourages a nourishing relationship with food and includes recipes, activities, and a wealth of information.

As she explained in her live talk, food is both information (the scientific lens) and connection (part of the art).

One illustration is from a look at “healing spices”.  Flavor brought about from specific spice and herb combinations can be definitive to styles of cuisine.  As it turns out, there are also certain healing properties of these plant compounds (otherwise, informative).  However, they can also warm the heart, so to speak, and bring about larger concepts, such as social connection.  Across the various profiles from turmeric and paprika to parsley or cilantro, we see the colors of the rainbow begin to emerge.

Shifting into a larger edibles, we can look at whole foods, such as strawberries, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and kale (to name just a few).  Not only are these foods power houses for various phytonutrients related to skin and flesh colors (information), they can elicit specific moods and feelings (connection).

Digging deeper into color, there is an emotional spectrum associated to various colors of the rainbow, such as red commonly associated to energy.  That being said, as an educator, connecting food options can become just as much creative as it is scientific or routine.

Synthesizing her work and the related science could result in a much longer blog post!  However, a few key take away points and resources are as follows:

Take Away Points

Embrace small bites & sampling – Avoid falling into the phytonutrient gap.  Across all color groups, eat a wide variety of foods in smaller doses of each to optimize micro-level nutrition.

Consider the possibilities – Don’t like tomatoes and worry you may be missing lycopene?  Guess what, nature figured that out.  There are other foods in nature that will deliver the same compounds.  Try watermelon, guava, or cooked sweet red peppers.

Aim for ripeness – Foods picked when they are ripe, generally deliver more optimal nutrient profiles.  Therefore, buying direct from the source and eating seasonally becomes quite relevant.  For scenarios in which this can not occur, there are a few sensory tips and tricks to follow OR we even have newer technologies to guide us.

Couple up – Some micro-level nutrients absorb better in the presence of macro-level compounds such as healthful fat or complete protein (ie “food synergy”).

Get creative – Buy yourself a box of crayons and mark yourself up a colorful canvas each week representing different foods you intake by color.  Are any of the colors missing from your canvas?

Resources

www.drdeannaminich.com

Food and Spirit health professional training – explore creative ways to illustrate scientific concepts associated to food and receive various tools for support

2 1/2 min video on finding fresh produce in the super market – also, check out Jo Robinson’s book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health

SCiO The World’s First Handheld Moelcular Sensor – Development Kit (1) – digital sensory tool that can assess molecular aspects of substrates such as macro-nutrient profiling of food or lab results for skin care (see demo here)

Self monitor through options such as Berkeley Test Nitric Oxide Saliva Test Strips, 10 Count or Ph Test Strips 200 Count – Great for Alkaline diet and overall ph balance – Free Alkaline Food Chart (Sent Via Email) and also ask your practitioner to provide you a Nutrition-focused Physical Assessment/Exam

***Thank you to the Chicago Functional Forum chapter including Dr. Amy Weiler and Anne Gnuechtel for organizing and hosting this impressive presentation.

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

Affiliate links may result in a small amount of monetary income.

Composting 101 – What I Learned

Did you know…

  • Food waste contributes to 8% global emissions (methane).
  • In urban areas, such as Chicago, approximately 30% (sometimes higher) of total waste sent to landfills consists of organic matter that is compostable!

I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of data less than acceptable.  Composting is an organic like process that represents cyclical dynamics by natural design.  Different than recycling that requires man-power input, the process relies on basic principles of organic chemistry.  However, we have culturally escaped so far away from the notion that we need to attend or teach “how to” classes on the subject.

So what the heck can you do about it?

  1. Find your local players.  In my area, we have some fantastic organizations, such as Zero Waste Chicago, working hard to educate, advocate, and implement solutions within systems, such as restaurant waste or municipal waste services.  Some compost services will be commercial focused only while others will also work with residential.  Some of these will be integrated within your municipality.  In some cases, even animal protein, bones, and/or cooking oils will be accepted, but not all are set up to intake these substrates.  Even better, some of them operate by bicycle further reducing eco-footprint.
  2. Learn the different ways to compost.  Worm composting, for example, presents a nice solution for certain urban dwellers that don’t have yards.  Other options for urban settings are pick-up and drop-off services that provide a tightly sealed bucket that is rotated out for an empty bucket either on a schedule or as requested.  These can be nice for anyone because there is less planning on the balance between brown matter (think paper bags, sticks/twigs, leaves, stems, etc) and other food scraps.  Those with a yard can also take a go at creating their own compost through a variety of outdoor designs.  Finished compost is great for gardens, but can also be spread like a mulch.
  3. Start doing it!  Figure out what works best for you, come up with a plan, and implement.  Even if a portion of your food waste goes to compost, you are making a difference.  Also, pay attention to whom you shop from or purchase prepared food.  Restaurants that are doing their part are often decreasing their adverse impacts in other ways as well.

In addition, commercial services often provide data that illustrate impact and allows for monitoring individual contribution (or foot print).

Some municipalities offer incentives, so be sure to check into this.  Also, farmer’s markets may be drop off sites (which could be cheaper and easier for your life planning).

Finally, please don’t forget about “precycle“…  fewer waste purchased = less to be attended to by you, municipal systems, OR natural environments.  In terms of food waste, the application would be only purchasing what you will actually use.  Additionally, some food scraps can be saved to make broth before they are composted extending their life and purpose even further.

Admittedly, I had started composting via a small bucket and had surrendered after my outdoor plant season ended.  However, now, thanks to a presentation from Zero Waste Chicago, I have additional resources to implement a new and better fit game plan.  Be sure to check out their site for additional resources AND, best of all, meet ups around eco-conscious living.  #ConscientiousHealthfulLiving

Thank you to Freehand Chicago for hosting this relevant community education.

Additional resources mentioned;

In need of a little humor, insert “food waste” into a Google Images search and find the many 50’s(ish) pictorials attempting to persuade avoiding it.  One of them is included below;

FightFoodWaste1

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

Kombucha 101 – What I Learned

Last month I attended a presentation at one of Chicago’s newest hot spots; The Kombucha Room.  Nestled in the Logan Square neighborhood, the venue strives to support regional brewers and community wellness education.

For those absolutely new to the term, we are talking about fermented tea infused with flavors and, as the presenter (Kombuchade) advised, “good for the performance athlete and your grandmother”.  The making of which is as much art as it is science, but definitely realistic to do at home.  (Although supporting your local, organic focused businesses is definitely a great way to “‘buch on” as well).

The first priority is to start with a good scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast).  Like any good culture, this should come from reputable sources and those that are able to provide you data on the strains.  There is actually a Kombucha Brewers International association which can help for resources and/or direction.  Best yet, scoby can eventually be shared with other fellow ‘buch makers.

*I have seen other recipe bloggers, such as The Kitchn, demonstrate how to make your own with a pre-purchased kombucha as part of the recipe.  However, this was not discussed in the presentation I attended.  Again, it’s best to know your sources and go with the good stuff.

Next, is to think about and determine flavor profiles.  This step has a part A & B.

  • A) Determine your base tea leaves.  These are needed for scoby growth.
  • B) Additives, such as spices, should align with your health and wellness priorities.
    • A “2nd level” fermentation, could have whole substrates like fruit or shaved ginger root.  (Whole substrates will increase “fizz” effect, experimentation with them will likely have best outcomes after you have become a more savvy brew master playing with your base teas and other, more simple flavor additives).

Experimentation with infusions are seemingly endless, but you will always want to keep a “base” scoby (ie not infused with any additives).  15-20% saved should be sufficient, but up to 50% set aside for future batches could generate “aged textures”.

After determining what flavor combinations you want to tackle, stock up on appropriate supplies and derive a strategic game plan for the brewing process.  Although some rules apply, this can be customized and fit to your lifestyle.  Figure out personal logistics.  Once a system is set up, input time could be, for example, an hour or two per week (keeping in mind, time put in will give back to you in more ways that one).

Pay attention to temperature in which you are storing your batch.  Some brew masters like to place them in proximity to a heated cooking source or on top of a refrigerator.  Colder temperatures will slow the ferment.  This is where trial and error + personal circumstances will come into play.  However, over time, you will get the hang of it and can tailor the plan accordingly.  Think of this as nurturing.

Once the kombucha has cultivated to your desired taste and consistency, it an be poured directly from the container it was fermented in to enjoy OR into smaller, individual containers to be refrigerated.

Additional resource material is below;

Supply Suggestions

  • Sterilized jar (glass preferred).  Can wipe with white vinegar wipe before use.
    • Growlers, mason jars, etc.
  • Large tea ball (metal strainer).
  • Filtered water, such as reverse osmosis.
  • Flip tops for jars (for example from Mason Jars Company).

Points for Processing

  • Don’t burn your culture, ie overheat.  Watch for little bubbles at bottom of the liquid (typically 150°).
  • Keep liquid moving in pot.
  • After pour onto scoby, stir up (can be with hand).
  • Don’t move jar around too much.
  • Don’t over seal the bottle or it could explode.  (Also, don’t use cheap wine corker, etc.  Be sure to buy something rated for kombucha pressurizing).
  • To limit the primary fermentation, refrigerate.  Otherwise, it will continue to culture/age.

Other Tips/Tricks of the Trade

  • Keep tea portion to at least 50% and consider avoiding anti-bacterial varieties or additives, such as an earl gray tea or certain essential oils.  (These might work for small batch, but it will definitely be trial and error).
  • Don’t attempt to reduce sugar.  The ‘buch needs this for energy.
  • Scoby can be stored in a mason jar.  Vinegar will preserve it (only warning is if there is a big black or green fuzz ball).
  • Infuse flavors when kombucha is warm (vs after refrigeration).
  • Your first batch may be a little thin.  Taste the scoby as you go along through the batching (play with it).
  • Individual bottles can be used to create more fizz.
    • Note:  different herbs have different fizz results.
  • The bottles can be “burbed”.
  • Although more advanced in technique, nitrogen can force carbonate.
  • Secondary infusions, such as whole fruit, may be best when wrapped with cheese cloth (think of this as similar to a tea bag).

If excess scoby (as it will continue to grow);

  • Recipes to convert into food
  • Can feed to animals
  • You can eat it directly
  • Compost it

Other Lessons/Words of Wisdom

  • Organic process ties into the energy/natural processes, ie ingredients don’t have to be organic, but quality of ingredients = quality of kombucha.
  • Buying commercial brands will vary with regards to the level of kombucha.  Translation; read labels.
  • If asked about alcohol content, it is hard to measure b/c alcoholic measures pick up on organic acids in the profile and includes those.  The short answer, is this shouldn’t be of too much concern and is likely gossiped about due to hype vs actuality.

In closing…  enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill, practice mindfulness while doing, and reap the rewards of your custom creations!

If in Chicago, be sure to check out The Kombucha Room.  Social media shot outs are below:

@thekombucharoomchi

@TheKombuchaRoom

 

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

Disclosure – Links to Mason Jars Company may generate very small amounts of monetary income.

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