Archive | January, 2013

Is Your Moisturizer Toxic? Natural, Inexpensive Alternatives You’ll Love!

23 Jan

ImageIt’s a common problem this time of year; dry, flaky, itchy winter skin. It’s not just exposure to frigid temperatures and bitter winds, but dryer than usual indoor air bolstered by furnaces and wood-burners, as well as long hot showers to a stave off the chill, all culminate in to a blizzard of dry dead skin cells each time we disrobe. Dry flaky skin is not only uncomfortable, but opens the body to infection through the skin and worsens respiratory allergies by giving dust mites an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Before I give you the recipes, I’m going to school you first. First, let’s talk about staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid diuretics like caffeinated beverages and cold medicines. Use a home humidifier. Do not take hot bath or showers. The hot water washes away skin’s protective oils along with harsh, soap-based cleansers wash away the outermost layer of protective skin cells. Use only hypoallergenic body soap, Dove Sensitive is the best according to my doctor, especially for your delicate bits & pieces. Use only hypoallergenic laundry products and do not use fabric softener since towels are meant to be a bit rough to gently exfoliate loose skin.

Now let’s talk moisturizers. The skin is the body’s largest organ; what goes on our skin in absorbed into our bloodstream. Why do you think they tell pregnant women not to even handle certain medications? The bottom line is this: if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, why would you slather it on your skin?

Commercially produced moisturizers are not only an unnecessary expense, but are full of toxins. Think baby oil (mineral oil) and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) are safe, especially for your baby? Think again! Petroleum based products coat the skin like Saran Wrap, clogging pores causing blemishes and interfering with the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins via the skin, but also affects the liver’s ability to process nutrients, and are known carcinogens, not to mention the harm to the environment from fossil fuel extraction. Only about 1% of any moisturizer has all of their ingredients screened by the FDA, and more than half contain known toxins. Here are just some of the most common culprits:

  • Artificial colorings: carcinogenic and often contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
  • DEA, MEA & TEA: hormone-disrupting chemicals and form cancer-causing agents.
  • Formaldehyde: carcinogenic & mutagenic, damaging and inhibiting the repair of DNA, also used to embalm dead bodies.
  • Petroleum (mineral oil jelly): we just talked about this, baby oil & Vaseline.
  • Propylene Glycol: another petroleum based carcinogen, also used to de-ice airplanes.
  • Synthetic Fragrances: can cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, coughing & vomiting.

So what do you do about it? Here are some natural, inexpensive and highly effective products and recipes, for use as topical moisturizers (face, body, lip & hair) as well as soothing baths. Store all oil based products in a sealed container, in a cool dry place away from direct light. All of these are safe for kids and pets too.

  1. Crisco (vegetable shortening). This stuff has more uses than duct tape & is dirt cheap!  Since this 100% plant based cream is hypoallergenic and safe for the most sensitive skin, no wonder it is a popular choice in hospitals and medical schools as a lubricant and moisturizer. Most common uses are: sexual lubricant, make-up remover, hair conditioner (if you straighten or curl coarse textured hair with hot irons), post-bath moisturizer (use on slightly damp skin), dry cracked skin treatment (before bed, apply to clean hands & feet, cover with cotton socks & gloves). Most people put it in a clean glass lidded jar, so they don’t have to have the tub sitting out.
  2. Coconut oil. This a great alternative if you don’t want to use Crisco as a facial moisturizer. This oil is easily absorbed through the skin; rapidly hydrating, conditioning, and shielding the skin from moisture loss. It contains vitamins A, B, C, and E, and its protective anti-oxidant qualities protect the skin from free radicals and other environmental aging factors, as well as having properties that protect against viral, fungal, and bacterial infections, including yeast. To make a balm: use an electric mixer to whisk 1c of cool coconut oil (optional add 1t Vitamin E oil & a few drops essential oil for fragrance) for about 7min or until the correct consistency. Place in a lidded glass jar & store in a cool dry place out of direct light.
  3. Oatmeal bath. Make your own Aveeno soothing bath using rolled oats & a blender. While Aveeno runs about $8 for 12oz, you can buy a 2lb canister of generic rolled oats for about $2 at Aldi’s. Just make sure you get the plain rolled oats, not steel cut or flavored with sugar. After I’ve reduced it into a fine power in the blender, I store it in a plastic flip-top powdered coffee creamer container my neighbor was going to put in the recycling bin, and just sprinkle in a bathtub of warm water and soak the itchy skin away.
  4. Olive Oil. Contains antioxidants including vitamins A, D, E, & K, and is best used on very rough dry skin, wrinkles, stretch marks & scars since it is not as quickly absorbed as other natural oils like coconut. It also holds up well in body and bath oils. When making these mixtures, I prefer to use a new plastic flip-top shaker bottle or squeeze bottle, and be sure to store in a cool dry place away from direct light. Bath oil: Combine 1oz Extra Virgin olive oil, 1oz Sweet Almond oil, 1/2oz of Grape Seed oil & 10-15 drops of your choice of essential oil in bottle, cover tightly & shake until blended. Body oil: Combine 1oz Extra Virgin olive oil, 1oz Avocado oil & 1oz of Wheat Germ oil in a bottle and shake until well blended. Apply sparingly to damp skin after bathing, spreading with hands, then pat dry with towel or air dry.

So what did we learn today? De-icer is for airplanes, embalming fluid is for corpses, petroleum is for cars, and NONE of them should ever be used on your body. So skip the drugstore and shop the grocery store for gorgeous skin as nature intended. Your wallet and your body will thank you!

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How To Fight Colds, Flu & Allergies

17 Jan

ImageCold and Flu season is upon us with a vengeance, but what if I told you there were safe, effective, and inexpensive natural ways to reduce colds, flu & allergies? Think it’s too good to be true? Think again! These methods have been used all over the world for generations, long before the FDA even existed, and are guaranteed lobbyist and Madison Avenue free!

Even if you don’t have medical issues, prescription and over-the-counter medications can have many unwanted side effects, these natural methods are gentler and far more effective since they not only address the symptoms but strengthen the body’s natural defenses. Always check your doctor before using any method, even if it’s natural. I’m going to tell you about my top 3 ways to detoxify the body and boost your immune system and have included links for more details, including the recipes and demonstration videos depending on what interests you. These methods are also helpful in treating numerous physical and mental ailments. They are also handy if you are engaged in a weight-loss, smoking session, or alcohol & drug rehab program, since it is all about detoxification. Follow directions exactly for each or not only will you ruin the results, but it may cause harm or at least discomfort. Substitutions & shortcuts may seem tempting, but don’t do it.

  1. Neti Pot. This will give you instant relief. I call it “the nose enema”, but before you get all squeamish, think about how many times you blow you nose in public, carry around snotty tissues, use nasal spray, hocker, or heaven forbid…pick your nose. Now that is what I call disgusting, not washing out your sinuses in the privacy of your home bathroom. It works by washing mucus and debris out of your nasal passages, including viruses, germs & allergens. It also soothes dry passages that cause nosebleeds and reduces swelling and irritation. Cool huh? Best of all, it’s safe for pregnant women & those with medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, unlike over the counter and prescription drugs. For a complete list of respiratory conditions it helps, click this link. Just a few words of advice: use the pot that looks like a ceramic genie lamp, not the plastic kind; clean and sterilize after each use; use the recipe with baking soda; follow directions exactly, using the exact ingredients & temperature; practice makes perfect, but not too often. Click this link for the demo video.
  2. Liver & gall bladder cleanse. This is best to use right after you have recovered to remove toxins form germs, viruses and medications. Face it, we are full of poop which plasters our intestinal walls, preventing the good stuff from getting absorbed & the bad stuff from getting dumped. Our livers and gall bladders are overworked dealing with not only the environmental toxins beyond our control, but those we ingest willingly, like processed foods and prescription medications. This cleanse addresses both issues. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not fun, but you will feel fantastic afterward. Not only will you feel great and have more energy, but you will notice other things, like the dark circle and bags under your eyes will practically disappear. Click this link for a full list of health benefits.I set aside a weekend to do this, since you will need to stay close to a toilet. Just a few tips: follow the directions and don’t cut corners or substitute ingredients; cut down or stop caffeine & nicotine a few days before so you will sleep better; sleep on your back only & not flat; make sure none of your containers contain metal; use a straw to drink all mixtures and put it at the back of your tongue so you can’t taste anything. Here’s a link to the recipes and step-by-step directions. And while I have never passed stones as such, I have passed lots of these pre-stones that look like day-glo green peas. Cool huh?
  3. Massotherapy. This is the kind you find at a clinic, not in the back of a free local entertainment newspaper. This method works by moving toxins out of your tissues via the lymphatic system. If you have ever had a muscle cramp which eased when you rubbed it, you understand what happens when toxins build up. As your muscles relax your sinuses will drain like crazy too, so be prepared. Massotherapy can be expensive and is not often covered by insurance, so to save money I go to my local massotherapy school. Just a few tips: drink plenty of water afterward and pee to get rid of the toxins and prevent a nasty headache; Epsom salt bath afterward can also pull toxins out through the skin; avoid cold temperatures and physical exertion afterward to allow the body to heal. Here’s a link to the health benefits and conditions detox massotherapy addresses.

Here’s some links to some other detox methods I like to use, along with a surprising list of the physical and mental conditions they help, including autism. It helps to have a variety of methods available depending on your individual needs and situation.

So unless you have someone to wait on your hand and foot when you get sick, you crave the attention, and don’t care about the cost to your wallet and liver; try these methods and I think you will be shocked at how good you feel and wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

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Get Fit For Less

9 Jan


It’s the most popular New Year’s resolution, “get fit”, and it would have been yours had it not been for lack of coin. Well put aside your excuses, because I have a solution for every budget, interest, and ability, whether you are looking to get fit, loose weight, or just be healthier. There is also plenty of variety to keep you from getting bored and quitting. So squeeze into your spandex, lace up your tennies and let’s hit the ground running…after our warm-up stretches, of course.

  1. Free at the Library. You may know the library has no shortage of the latest health & fitness magazines, diet cookbooks, yoga DVDs, and workout music, but did you also know they have free classes? Check all your local public libraries for offerings since you are not limited to your city of residence as long as you have a valid library card.
  2. Free diet and fitness apps. There is no shortage of free apps to help keep you on motivated and on track.
  3. Free fitness videos. If you would rather see videos online, try sites like YouTube for clips on specific exercises or Hulu for full length routines.
  4. Free & cheap equipment. Whether you are looking for a treadmill, yoga ball, exercise DVD, skis, or  Wii Fit accessories, you are sure to find something free or cheap on sites like Freecycle, Craigslist, Ebay, and even Amazon. Some things are used, some new; I got new stuff free via Freecycle and used stuff cheap on Amazon, so you just have to look and ask. Craigslist lets you barter or swap. Make sure you check for recalled items, beware of shipping fees, and know the return policy. If you need to check out an item in person before buying, there are plenty of fitness resale shops.
  5. Parks & rec. This one is by far my favorite for the quality, value & variety! It is not only at the city level, but also area, state & national park systems.They offer a variety of all season, all age, all ability programs that are free or affordable priced including equipment rental. This is where you usually find sports leagues and other community activities. Most have fitness centers that rival or exceed any commercial gym or spa, complete with instructors. So whether you want to shoot hoops, learn bellydancing or how to snowshoe, there’s plenty to keep you from getting stuck in a fitness rut.
  6. Free groups. These are usually more informal. They can be anything from groups of individuals that like to go hiking with their dogs at the state park, to mall walkers, to bowlers. If you can’t find a group that fits your needs, make your own. You can find these groups on sites like MeetUp and Craigslist, but also check your local bulletin boards at your college, church or apartment complex. At my one job, we organized yoga at lunchtime, which was really popular. At another job we had a walking club. Don’t forget to use free support groups, which is not only a great place to get ideas and support to stay on track, but also meet people you can ask to join you in your exercise activities.
  7. Drop in. You can find this drop in option not only at fitness centers, but also studios for yoga, dance, and martial arts to name a few. Some let you try for free, while others charge you a pay per use free. Beware of anything that says “trial” since that means you have to cancel in order for them to stop taking from your credit or checking account, and depending on the contract, its not always as easy as it seems.
  8. Use your connections. Members can usually bring guests for free or cheap to fitness centers, city rec centers, even condo association facilities, so buddy up with one of your friends that is already a member. If you are an alum, you can usually get a great deal on use of the athletic complex if you still live near your alma mater.
  9. Alternative settings. Like city rec centers, these settings are usually much cheaper than commercial gyms. Churches have jumped on the fitness bandwagon, and while they may have been the setting for support groups for years, fitness centers are relatively new. Some owned gyms already through their affiliation with private school or ethnic social clubs. Some are open to the public, while others serve members only. Schools, especially universities are opening their fitness center doors to non students.
  10. Use your benefits. Did you know your employer or health insurance provider may offer free or discounted gym memberships? Good health is just good business. You can use your Health Savings Account as an eligible expense if you have a letter from your doctor, and most of us have at least some boarderline condition that would qualify.
  11. Gym Discounts. If you have decided to join a commercial fitness center, you may as well save some money. You can find discounts, promo codes and coupons on sites like Retail Me Not, Groupon, and Living Social. If you comparison shop, you can go with the best price, or ask your favorite gym to match it. When they offer you all the tempting extras and add-ons, just say “no”. And finally, don’t pass up the “pretty person discount”. Gyms have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to pricing, pretty, fit, and young members act as free marketing for them. People come to gyms for the hook-up as much as the workout, so if you’ve got it, work it to your advantage.

So get off the sofa and get moving; you’re starting to make the cat look like an overachiever.

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