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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Cosmetics. They are everywhere. They keep our face clear, our skin soft, our eyelashes fuller, and our teeth sparkle. Every year, the American people spend over 27 billion dollars keeping themselves pretty. Now I know that may not sound like a lot with all of this billion dollar bail-out-business that has been going on, but 27 billion dollars is A LOT of money. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person uses 12 beauty product a day. One in four use 15. The average man even uses at least 6. The true cost however, may not be coming out of our pocketbooks. Recent research shows that many of us are paying with our health.

Ok, so I’ll admit, I am also part of the problem here. Until a few years ago, I was a beauty product junkie. I don’t know about you, but every time I walked into a CVS or a Walgreens, chances were pretty high that I was coming out with a new product. All those eye-catching packages, all the health claims; they got me every time. It might be something as simple as chap-stick (gosh, where do they all go??), but a product left the store with me nonetheless. Five years of trying to clear out my product stash, and I still have a host of unused products staring at me every time I open my linen closet.

So why the change? Well, it originally started with my attempt to eat healthier and more nutritious foods. I figured with all of the added emphasis to what was going IN my body, what was going ON my body should be just as important. After all, your skin is your biggest organ right? So I then fell into the marketing trap. I started purchasing more “natural”, more expensive products. While I bought less of them because they were so pricey, I still bought them. I was convinced that products containing organic sap moss from Iceland must be better for me…right? I read over each label making sure I could at least pronounce all the the ingredients listed and was sure to stay away from things like benzyl alcohol, animal parts, and petroleum bi-products.  

Then as the years passed, I started reading about parabens. Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetic products.  And when I say cosmetic, I don’t just mean make-up. They are found in body lotions, shower gels, shampoos, over the counter topical creams, and  pretty much just about everything. The most common parabens used in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Check any product in your house and chances are very high that one, if not all three, are listed on the ingredient list. Although they are used in very small amounts, if you are using 10-12 products a day, you are being exposed to them in everything you use. While the FDA claims that they are safe, parabens have found in breast tumors from women with cancer. They tested 20 tumors and found parabens in ALL of them.  The study did not make the claim that parabens actually cause breast cancer, but many other groups and companies have started taking precautionary measures and taking these parabens out of their products. ANd why not? Simply because that study didn’t prove parabens caused cancer, it also didn’t prove that they didn’t. The study was enough for me to make sure they are kept out of my products.

And as if reading reports on parabens wasn’t enough, I soon started reading about phthalates. Pronounced “thay-lates”, these chemicals are mainly used as plasticizers in order to increase flexibility in plastc. Think about all those rubber duckies, plastic teething rings, and shower curtain liners. Chances are, they are full of them. So whats so bad about that? Well, phthalates are also known endocrine disruptors. They mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage. In one report, I read that the application of phthalates actually changed the sex of the frogs they were being tested on! According to the Environmental Working Group, phthalates have been linked to all sorts of problems in men including sperm damage, infertility, and reduced testosterone levels.  The unfortunate thing about them, is that unlike parabens, they are hard to find in products because they are not listed on the label. Due to patent laws, many companies can simply add the word “fragrance” to the list. It is under this, where many of these phthalates hide. They also hide them in acronyms such as DBP, DEHP, BzBp, and DMP.

Accoring to a PBS, Phthalates have been banned in the European Union since 2005. Nine other countries, including Japan, Mexico and Argentina, have also outlawed the chemicals. China, which makes 85 percent of the world’s toys, has developed two manufacturing lines, one for the European market and the other like-minded nations that ban phthalates, and another one for the United States and dozens mostly developing and third world countries that don’t restrict them. It took the US until the end of last year to pass a bill that would ban these and several other toxic chemicals from our children’s toys.  The next step should be to get them out of ALL of our products.

So what can you do? Well, you can start by checking out the toxicity of your products by going to the Environmental Working Group’s safe cosmetic database. One their site they also have a research section where you can look at a list of some of the toxic ingredients going into your products. Simply by refusing to purchase products with these things in them with say a lot to these companies. Remember purchasing power just that… power. With this knowledge, you can begin to make safer choices for yourself and your family.

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So, being a research fanatic is hard work. Fortunately, I often times will come across really great organizations that do all the work for me, and this is exactly what I found when it was time to purchase a new car seat for Liam. Yes, he has already outgrown his old one, can you believe it??? I know, I know, he may not be super-sized like some of my friend’s (yes, plural) 30 lb. 8 month olds who grew out of their infant seats at 3 months, but he’s big to me 🙂

When I started researching car seats a while back, I learned that (surprise, surprise) not only are they putting toxics in our food supply, but apparently they are putting them in our children’s car seats as well. (Hmm..what are we going to do with “them”?) You may be reading this thinking to yourself, “Well, I don’t have children, so I am not concerned.” However, what you may not know, is that chances are, they are in your car seats as well. What kind of chemicals are in these seats you ask? Well, only bromine, PVC’s, phtalates, and lead (to name a few)!! Here is an excerpt from their site

“Plastics used in vehicle interiors and child car seats contain many chemicals that are added during the production processes to impart specific properties such as rigidity, durability or flame resistance. Many of these chemicals are not chemically bound to the parts and are consequently released into the environment during the life of the product. One of the common ways chemicals are released is referred to as “off-gassing,” and evidence of this is sometimes present as a window film or “fogging” that develops on the inside of the windshield. Heat can accelerate this process and UV exposure may also cause chemicals to break down into even more toxic compounds. The mix of chemicals released from materials used inside the car can be inhaled or ingested by drivers and passengers through dust and air, potentially causing allergic or other acute reactions. These chemicals have also been linked in animal studies to long-term health impacts such as birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer. The concern with the commercial use of these chemicals is that consumers are exposed to them from many sources in addition to auto interiors, and the combination of these many exposures may lead to harm.”

And there’s more where that came from. So when read the site, I learned that Sunshine Kids makes the only toxic-free children’s car seat on the market. There are many companies that make low-toxic seats, but Sunshine Kids is the only non-toxic one in the “convertible” car seat selection for 2008. When I started researching company, I found out that they were based locally in Kent, WA. Even better I thought! However, come to find out, like so many other American companies, even though they are based here, the seats are manufactured in China. So now I am faced with a dillemma. Should I poison my child or contribute money to human rights abuses? (decisions, decisions!) But seriously, it’s a tough call. I consciously avoid buying everything else from human rights abusers, but when it comes to exposing my child to toxic chemicals, I think I can make an exception. ANd that is exaclty what I did. So now Liam is cruising around in his super cool Radian 65! To see how healthy your car seats are, click here.

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In a society where we are hard-wired to reach for the medicine cabinet the minute we feel sick, it’s not often first nature to reach for your backyard garden instead. In fact, it takes some getting used to… especially at 5 a.m. when your baby is screaming and feverish! I will admit that I was somewhat unprepared for Liam’s first cold. He had a really bad runny nose and a slight fever and boy was he miserable. As a mother, you feel helpless. You know that they are hurting, and the first thing you want to do is ease their pain. This is what makes reaching for the Motrin so incredibly tempting. Its a quick fix and it “works”. I say works in parentheses because cold medicines and pain relievers don’t ever cure the problem, they simply mask it. As adults in this busier than ever world, some of us need a quick fix.  However, I feel that a little baby with a slight fever needs to let his body fight the infection in order to work up a healthy immune system. Don’t get me wrong, pain relievers are sometimes necessary for certain situations, especially if his fever had reached dangerous levels, but they shouldn’t be something you simply give to your child the minute he coughs or sneezes. There are other, safer ways of dealing with a cold. With all of that said, fevers are scary. Being unprepared for what to do, and not knowing anything about fevers, even I ran to the store for a quick fix. However, by the time I got back, Liam was sleeping peacefully on his daddies tummy and my concerns diminished. SInce I had a little while to calm down (the whole ordeal was a little nervewracking), I turned to Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, a wonderful book about coventional, homeopathic, and alternative medicine, and read about my options. Even though I ended up making the decision to not rely on Motrin, here are a few things I wish I knew before I ran to the drug stroe at 2 a.m. :

  • Fevers scare moms more than they should. In most cases, a fever is the body’s reaction to an acute viral or bacterial infection. It is not necessarily a dangerous condition. Since viruses and bacteria do not survive well in elevated body temperatures, a fever is actually an ALLY in fighting infection. It is one of the ways in which the body defends and heals itself. In a child, the level of the fever does not necessarily reflect the severity of the illness. A child can be very sick with a low fever, or a slight cold and a very high fever. When assessing your child’s condition, it is better to observe how they are ACTING, not how high their fever is.  Unless a child’s temperature is well over 102, there is generally no need for medication. Gently and naturally bringing your childs temp down can not only help your child feel better, but also prevent further complications.
  • As soon as your child starts to feel or look sick, get him to drink some echinacea tea! If you are breastfeeding, you can start drinking it. Echinacea and goldenseal tea is even better. The immune-boosting effects of these herbs have been well documented and could help you avoid a nasty cold. If the fever is already noticable, you can give your child a fever reducing tea made of all or some of the following: sage, licorice root, lemon balm, chamomille, elder flower, and peppermint leaf. If you don’t have all of that stuff, try a simple ginger tea.
  • Wrapping the calves in socks soaked in lemon juice can also help bring down a fever. Heat a cup of water with the juice of one lemon, soak the socks in it, wring them out and put them on under a pair or dry socks. Bundle up and leave on for 20 minutes.
  • Garlic has antibacterial properties and helps detoxify the body. Not so easy to use with infants, but you can get an older child to swallow a clove or an odorless capsule.

As for the runny nose, since it wasnt so “scary”, I had a little bit of time to figure out what to do. Here are some things that seemed to work:

  • Shower Steams: Run really hot water in a shower and just sit in the bathroom with your baby for 15-20 minutes. This worked really well before bed time. Even better, I had some lavender and eucalyptus growing outside, so I cut some down, filled a sock and threw it in the hot water. The aromatherapy effects helped clear both his and my sinuses. If you dont have the fresh herbs, you can always use some essential oils in the tub.
  • Beta Carotene: Cartenoids are a group of substances that help mucous membranes to heal. The best known is beta carotene. SInce I couldn’t give it to Liam, I took a bunch of it hoping that he would get some!
  • Vitamin C: This helps all around for any kind of cold. Like the echinacea, as soon as you start feeling sick, pump up on some Vitamin C. It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to ease the course of a cold. Choose ones without sugar if you pick the chewable ones!
  • Lavendar and Eucalyptus Oils: I diluted one drop of lavender in a TB of olive oil and rubbed it on his chest and back. For me, I used Eucalyptus. I am not sure if Euc. can be used on infants. Some sorces said no way and others said extremely diluted, so I just stayed away from using it on him.

Above all, make sure you rest!! Hope everyone stays healyth and doesn’t have to worry about any of this!

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Rashes are a very strange thing. They can appear and disappear rather quickly, or they can spread. They can be liquid-filled lesions, or they can be dry and chaffing. They can itch, or they can have no feeling at all. They can be caused by food allergies, heat, humidity, harsh chemicals, fragrances, bacteria, viruses, insects, you name it! I figure that over the couse of my 28-year lifespan, I have probably had a few of them. The strange thing is though, I cannot remember a single one. I never bought any cream or lotion, never looked it up online, never stressed about it. However, as soon as Liam got a few red bumps on his back, I instantly became a rash dectective. I read and reread all of the books in the house containing rash info. I went to a dozen websites looking for clues. I narrowed down my options, experimented with a few solutions, and after a grueling seven days, finally came up with a remedy. If there was a certification of some sort, I would pass with flying colors.

So after ruling out the really bad ones (measels, chickenpox, mumps), I narrowed it down to three: prickly heat, allergies, or eczema. Since the rash didn’t seem to heal quickly, I very quickly ruled out prickly heat. So then I was left with allergies and eczema. I googled “images” of each and was somewhat deterred by the seriousness of all of the pictures that I saw. The pictures online looked really scary, and I soon realized that his rash was nowhere near as serious as many. However, the rash did seem to be spreading so I was still equally concerned.

Before I could pinpoint what exactly the rash was, I figured I needed to do what I could to at least not let it get any worse. It was a very dry rash, so I knew it needed moisture. (Some rashes are “wetter” and actually need to be dried out).  I had been putting Earth’s Best Calendula Cream on it when it first started and that didn’t seem to help. Since the aloe plant is a great moisturizer, I figured I would give that a try. In Florida, I could have run out back and cut off a leaf…not so easy in the Pacific Northwest. So I ran to the healh food store in search of some 100% aloe. Surprisingly, most of the aloe they carried ranged in the 85-99% range. You may think that 99% is probably good enough, but when I looked at the host of ingredients that made up that 1%, there was no way I was putting that on my baby. I finally found an acceptable 100% aloe at a local drug store. In fear that it may be allergies, I also started watching what I was eating.

A few days went by of religiously applying aloe, one oatmeal bath, and still no results. The one good thing though, was that the rash did not seem to be getting any worse. I also noticed that it did not seem to change or worsen when I ate highly allergenic foods (eggs, wheat, etc). One thing about allergies is that most of the time, the reaction will be worse right after eating the particular food they are allergic to (makes sense, huh?) I started ruling out allergies and focusing specifically on baby eczema. While it definitely wasn’t a severe case (no oozing lesions), his skin was patchy, dry, and red. One pattern I began to notice was that the rash seemed to get worse at night. When he woke up in the morning, it looked like it was getting better, but by the end of the day in the bath, it looked bad all over again. Hmmm… I figured I would go back to the calendula cream, but this time, I would use a different brand. I picked up some Weleda (great company!)  Baby Calendula Cream and planned to use it right after his bath. I did a little more research that afternoon, and read that hot water actually aggravates eczema. Bingo!! That totally explained why it was worse in the bath.

That night I bathed him in tepid water, applied the Weleda cream and almost immediately saw the results. The next morning he woke up and the rash had diminished substantially. By the third night, the rash was completely gone. Great SUccess!!!

I feel like I got through my first ’bout of medical issues pretty successfully. I kept him out of the doctor’s office and away from unecessary over the counter/ prescribed medicaions.  Now if I can just get through the teething!!

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