Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Natural skin care regimen

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered some handmade soap bars and some all-natural laundry soap from an Etsy store called HeartJCreations.  I expected to pay between $4 and $5.50 for each bar, so I was pleasantly surprised to see she has a "Save on 7" deal - buy 7 bars, pay $27 USD.  That saves between 4 and 8 bucks, depending on which soap you select, so it's a great deal.  One pound of laundry soap (scented with essential oils of your choice) was $7.  I paid quite a bit in shipping, but it's totally worth it, I think, to support handmade.

In any case, the soaps I ordered were:
-Woodstock '69 x 2
-rosemary peppermint x 2
-cracklin' birch
-spearmint eucalyptus

And the laundry soap I bought was spearmint eucalyptus as well.  mmmm.

She also included two little samples in my package: some cherry almond chocolate body butter and a little piece of dragon's blood soap.

I didn't get the package straight away, because for some reason the address changes I made on my Etsy didn't save and so the package went to my parent's place.  But that's ok - I got the stuff on Saturday, so that night I cut off a piece of the Rosemary Mint soap to use as face soap (I don't like having the whole bar out). 

I'm not sure if you know what's in commercial soaps and face washes, but believe me, it's not ideal.  Petrochemicals, parabens, other chemicals...no thanks.  Jodi includes the ingredients on each of her soap info pages, and the ingredients she uses in her soaps are:
-cocoa butter;
-coconut oil;
-palm oil;
-shea butter;
-olive oil;
-castor oil;
-spring water;
-lye (for the soap-making process, you don't get soap without lye, but none remains in the soap!); and
-essential oils.

That's it.  Some of the soaps have ground herbs in them, like the rosemary mint has bits of rosemary for exfoliation.

The soaps are quite soft, because of all of the fats she uses.  Coconut oil has amazing properties, as do most of her other ingredients.  I found my skin didn't get itchy after I washed my face, which is a common problem with me.  I did use some organic coconut oil as moisturizer afterwards.  Coconut oil has antibacterial properties, so helps fight the bacteria that causes zits. 

I'm on day 4 as of today, and my face feels and looks great.  My skin looks rosier, it's smooth and soft, and not at all dry.  I will try some of the Woodstock '69 soap on my face next, because the essential oils in it are fabulous for skin.  I'll likely use the rosemary mint for my hair - oh, did I forget to mention the ingredients in her soaps are all things used in solid shampoo bars, too?  The castor oil creates nice bubbles, and the palm oil and other fats all help moisturize.  Rosemary has great hair health properties - it prevents and combats dandruff (not that I have any), encourages hair growth, stimulates the scalp, and more.  You could even use this soap on your dog to prevent fleas, since rosemary is a natural flea repellent. 

If you use handmade bar soap, make sure you have a good soap dish and keep your shower soap out of the direct spray of the shower.  Let it dry between uses and keep unused soaps out of direct sunlight in a cool place. 

Check out Jodi's shop!  Let her know BerryMac (Rebecca) sent you.

This is the coconut oil I use:
Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 15-Ounce Tubs (Pack of 2)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Could This Simple Habit Actually Reduce Cancer and Diabetes by 50%?

by Dr Mercola

Vitamin D influences more than 200 genes. This includes genes related to cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D affects your DNA through the vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome.
Reuters reports:
“Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known risk factor for rickets, and some evidence suggests it may increase susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, as well as certain cancers and even dementia.”


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Reuter’s information is actually a bit misleading as other scientists have identified a total of nearly 3,000 genes that are upregulated by vitamin D. The particular study referenced above identified 200 genes affected, but it’s not clear if that is in addition to the ones already identified, or if they simply confirmed many of the ones found by others.
One thing’s for sure: Vitamin D is one of the major keys for disease prevention and for optimal health.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Areca Palm Plant

I was at the corner store tonight and mentioned my mission of finding house plants that were good air purifiers, particularly focusing on benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. These chemicals are found in most houses. The store owner, Mike, gave me a really good deal on a small Areca Palm plant.
The two chemicals I'm most concerned with are benzene and fromaldehyde. Here's some info on benzene. From Wikipedia:

Benzene exposure has serious health effects. Outdoor air may contain low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, wood smoke, automobile service stations, the transfer of gasoline, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions.[30] Vapors from products that contain benzene, such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents, can also be a source of exposure, although many of these have been modified or reformulated since the late 1970s to eliminate or reduce the benzene content. Air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations may contain higher levels of benzene.

From the CDC:
Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.

According to the Web Ecoist, the top 10 house plants to have are:
1) the Areca Palm
2) the Lady Palm
3) the Bamboo Palm
4) the Rubber Plant (toxic)
5) the Dracanea
6) English Ivy (especially good for mold!)
7) Dwarf Date Palm
8) Ficus Alii
9) the Boston Fern
10) the Peace Lily

What do YOU use to keep your indoor air clean?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fermented Cod Liver Oil Giveaway!

I'm not sure if I've really mentioned Cod Liver Oil and all the benefits, but check out the giveaway hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop! The primary ingredient in CLA is Vitamin D...and most people know of the basic benefits provided. Bone health, cancer-fighting, obesity-reducing...

I'll be focusing a couple posts of Cod Liver oil in a few weeks when everything calms down. In the meantime, check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop blog and all the related articles.

Vaccine Zombie

Friday, August 20, 2010

Perfect Greens Review

It's been several weeks now and my jar of Perfect Greens original powder is almost gone. I make a smoothie for myself and my 2 year old daughter almost every day. We prefer banana and banana-strawberry.

Recipe for banana-strawberry smoothie:
~1 frozen banana, slightly thawed
~2 frozen strawberries, slightly thawed
~3 heaping tbsp of full-fat plain yogurt
~1/2 cup (approx) of raw whole milk
~1.5 tsp Perfect Greens powder
~.25 tsp powdered eggshell for calcium
~1 tsp lemon-flavoured cod liver oil (for vit D with the calcium) - I use Health First Cod Liver Oil Supreme plus Vitamin D in lemon flavour. It is totally non-fishy tasting and quite good.

Photo credit: blary54 from morguefile.com

I throw all these ingredients into a wide-mouth large mason jar and blend it together using my handy-dandy immersion blender. (Have I mentioned how much I love that thing? It's awesome for making hummus, soups, mixing ingredients for ice cream, and so much more. But it's especially good for smoothies, and really easy to clean. Mine has a stainless steel shaft, made by President's choice.)

The smoothie is thick and still slightly frozen. It's very filling and satisfying, especially if you use really ripe bananas. Basically, I buy bananas fairly ripe (already with brown spots) and take them home, wash them, and put them directly into the freezer whole, with skins on. That way, you can set them on your counter to thaw for about 20 minutes or so without a big huge mess if you forget about them. Then all you have to do is peel the end open and squeeze out the fruit. If you'd like a more frozen smoothie, don't let the banana thaw completely, of course. That's what I do.

Within five minutes of drinking the smoothie, I feel energized, like I just drank two or three cups of coffee. The energy lasts all morning, and with the fat in the yogurt and milk, plus the good fruit, I feel very full. (I generally don't eat breakfast - I follow the Intermittent Fasting theory and it seems to work for me.)

I rarely get sick these days, now that we're pretty much off of the standard crap diet (processed foods, etc) and go to the chiropractor regularly, so it's hard for me to tell if my health has improved. I do notice a general increase in energy.

Overall, I think the Perfect Greens is a little pricey, but if the ingredients do all they are said to do to support health, then it's worth it. It's amazing the money people will pay for things they don't need but avoid investing in their health.

So does anyone else have a review of Perfect Greens (or other superfood powder like Greens+ or Vega)? I'd like to hear your input.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eighty-five Percent of All New Drugs are Lemons?

According to an article I read today, approximately 85 percent of all new pharmaceutical drugs don't work. They are marketed ferociously by big pharma, with no regard for safety or efficacy. In fact, these drugs are known (to big pharma) to cause serious complications and side effects, yet the researchers covered up the results of trials, using misinformation and even lying to hide the nasty truth.

For more information, read this article by Natural News, and pay particular attention to the portion quoting Dr Light.

Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hazardous chemical found in majority of Canadians

Article clipped from CTV - see source link at bottom of page

Hazardous chemical found in majority of Canadians

Updated: Tue Aug. 17 2010 16:00:52


You may be surprised by what you're getting in that can of soup or a bottle of pop.

A new Statistics Canada report shows an overwhelming majority of Canadians have detectable levels of bisphenol A in their bodies.

The chemical is linked to everything from cancer to developmental delays.

The study shows 90 per cent of Canadians ages six to 79 have BPA in their body.

BPA is found in everything from lining of food cans to plastic bottles. It even coats many store receipts.

It no longer appears in items like baby bottles, but it's still in our environment, including tap water in some communities.

And some, including Hamid Habibi with the University of Calgary's Institute of Environmental Toxicology are calling for an outright ban.

"I think steps need to be taken by the government in partnership with the industry to find solutions," says Habibi.

Health Canada has formally declared bisphenol A a hazardous product. (emphasis mine)


well, it's about time!

Source: CTV

Self-serving Link

I've been dreaming up topics for posts. One of these days my life will settle down enough for me to actually type them out! Still looking for an apartment, still settling into my (three) new jobs-freelance writing, of course.

Speaking of freelance writing, I started a new blog, but it's mostly for use as a website for my business. I am familiar with the blog platform so I figured it would be just as easy to create one for that purpose than to learn how to make a webpage.

If you're interested, or know someone looking for a writer for a brochure, flier, cover letter/resume, content article, news column, or otherwise, send them to my new blog, Make Words Work. There's not a lot of content, article-wise. I added in some writing samples and the rest is just information on how to contact me, about me pages, things like that. Go have a look. Tell your friends.


By the way, running group was tonight instead of last night, and we did just under 4.1 km in less than half an hour. It was more like 20-25 minutes, when you take out the stretch time. We ran almost twice as much during this run, too. Pretty soon we'll be running the entire 4 km (and increasing our distance, too).

Monday, August 9, 2010


First, I want to apologize for the spotty posting.  When I started the blog, I had every intention of adding at least one post every day Monday through Friday.  I did a pretty good job at first ;)

The last few weeks, though, have been pretty hectic.  I'm searching for a new place to live, trying to find constant writing work, and dealing with an ill husband (nothing serious, just a stomach thing but you know how men get when they're sick).  And then last night my two year old daughter came down with something that caused vomiting and diarrhea.  It's the first time she's ever been sick (how many parents can say THAT about their 26 month old kids?) and was pretty upset.  She's better since this afternoon but still needs more attention than normal.

So those are my excuses.  Please bear with me, at least until I find a place to move into (hopefully within the next couple of days to finalize a potential place I looked at on Sunday).  Then we should have until the first of September when I'll begin packing and generally going crazy.  I hate moving.  With a passion.  I turn into a raving you-know-what just at the thought of doing it again.  Oh well, such is life.

The potential apartment that we hope to get is amazing, though.  I realize this is a health and fitness blog, but it's MY blog and if I want to post something of interest to me that is outside those topics is my prerogative.  If you don't like it,  sorry.  Just don't read any further, ok?

Anyway, here's the deal with the apartment.  It's in a renovated church - the place was gutted and 16 one-bedroom apartments were built in it.  Yes, it's a 1 bedroom.  My daughter sleeps in our room so it isn't a big deal.

The apartments themselves have only been open for residency since last August, and every single thing inside them, appliances included, are brand new.  Ceramic tile on the floor (no carpets for pet dander, dust, and dirt, YAY!) an actual bathtub with shower, super high ceilings (I'm going to guess 14 feet), lots of light, small kitchen.  The absolute best thing about the place is that it's in a church.  That really appeals to me.  Aside from that, there are a bunch of other great things about it.  First of all, utilities and garbage disposal are included in the price.  So I don't have to worry about dealing with a deposit and monthly billing.  Second, there is a small yard where my daughter and dog can play safely.  There's also lots of trees and shade.  The BEST part about the outdoor space is that there are tenant gardens available to people who want them.  They are 6X6 plots.  There were several not in use so I'm guessing that by June of next year, if they're not all claimed, an interested tenant could take more than one.  The super even said I could likely bring my compost bin and stick it in the back corner.

The church is located just a few blocks from a large park with splash pad and play equipment.  There is a Lion's outdoor pool right across the street from the park.  Only about a 20 minute walk from the church is an off-leash dog park.  Basically, this place is PERFECT for me and my family.  The rental company rep is going to call me tomorrow to let me know if the apartment is going to be available for October, or if we have to settle for a basement apartment (less light) for September 1.  Obviously we'd rather take the main floor one as there are no stairs and tons more light - and more time to save for first and last.  We just had an expensive fix on the one vehicle so we got set back a little with our savings.

In any case, my hopes are set, which I know is bad and I always do it.  I hope I'm not disappointed, because I've fallen in love with the place and just want to move.  I am really looking forward to moving into a brand-new sparkly clean apartment with no clutter!  It's so much less stressful when your surroundings are neat and tidy, don't you think?  Organized personal space brings a zen feeling to your home.

See, there!  I managed to tie it all in to health anyway!  HA!

Image courtesy of morgueFile

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Dark Side of Vitaminwater

This article, in its entirety, is from the Huffington Post.  

The Dark Side of Vitaminwater
By John Robbins. Dated August 5, 2010

Now here's something you wouldn't expect. Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company's vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims. No surprise there. But how do you think the company is defending itself?

In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage."

Does this mean that you'd have to be an unreasonable person to think that a product named "vitaminwater," a product that has been heavily and aggressively marketed as a healthy beverage, actually had health benefits?
Or does it mean that it's okay for a corporation to lie about its products, as long as they can then turn around and claim that no one actually believes their lies?

In fact, the product is basically sugar-water, to which about a penny's worth of synthetic vitamins have been added. And the amount of sugar is not trivial. A bottle of vitaminwater contains 33 grams of sugar, making it more akin to a soft drink than to a healthy beverage.

Is any harm being done by this marketing ploy? After all, some might say consumers are at least getting some vitamins, and there isn't as much sugar in vitaminwater as there is in regular Coke.

True. But about 35 percent of Americans are now considered medically obese. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight. Health experts tend to disagree about almost everything, but they all concur that added sugars play a key role in the obesity epidemic, a problem that now leads to more medical costs than smoking.

How many people with weight problems have consumed products like vitaminwater in the mistaken belief that the product was nutritionally positive and carried no caloric consequences? How many have thought that consuming vitaminwater was a smart choice from a weight-loss perspective? The very name "vitaminwater" suggests that the product is simply water with added nutrients, disguising the fact that it's actually full of added sugar.

The truth is that when it comes to weight loss, what you drink may be even more important than what you eat. Americans now get nearly 25 percent of their calories from liquids. In 2009, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finding that the quickest and most reliable way to lose weight is to cut down on liquid calorie consumption. And the best way to do that is to reduce or eliminate beverages that contain added sugar.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has invested billions of dollars in its vitaminwater line, paying basketball stars, including Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, to appear in ads that emphatically state that these products are a healthy way for consumers to hydrate. When Lebron James held his much ballyhooed TV special to announce his decision to join the Miami Heat, many corporations paid millions in an attempt to capitalize on the event. But it was vitaminwater that had the most prominent role throughout the show.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, alleges that vitaminwater labels and advertising are filled with "deceptive and unsubstantiated claims." In his recent 55-page ruling, Federal Judge John Gleeson (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York), wrote, "At oral arguments, defendants (Coca-Cola) suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage." Noting that the soft drink giant wasn't claiming the lawsuit was wrong on factual grounds, the judge wrote that, "Accordingly, I must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true."
I still can't get over the bizarre audacity of Coke's legal case. Forced to defend themselves in court, they are acknowledging that vitaminwater isn't a healthy product. But they are arguing that advertising it as such isn't false advertising, because no could possibly believe such a ridiculous claim.

I guess that's why they spend hundreds of millions of dollars advertising the product, saying it will keep you "healthy as a horse," and will bring about a "healthy state of physical and mental well-being."
Why do we allow companies like Coca-Cola to tell us that drinking a bottle of sugar water with a few added water-soluble vitamins is a legitimate way to meet our nutritional needs?

Here's what I suggest: If you're looking for a healthy and far less expensive way to hydrate, try drinking water. If you want to flavor the water you drink, try adding the juice of a lemon and a small amount of honey or maple syrup to a quart of water. Another alternative is to mix one part lemonade or fruit juice to three or four parts water. Or drink green tea, hot or chilled, adding lemon and a small amount of sweetener if you like. If you want to jazz it up, try one-half fruit juice, one-half carbonated water.

If your tap water tastes bad or you suspect it might contain lead or other contaminants, get a water filter that fits under the sink or attaches to the tap.

And it's probably not the best idea to rely on a soft drink company for your vitamins and other essential nutrients. A plant-strong diet with lots of vegetables and fruits will provide you with what you need far more reliably, far more consistently -- and far more honestly.

To learn about inexpensive and healthy foods and beverages, and practical steps you can take toward greater quality of life and economic freedom, read John Robbins' critically acclaimed new book The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less. For more information about his work, or to sign up for his email list, visit johnrobbins.info

Friday, August 6, 2010

First Run

It's been a few weeks since my last run and boy, could I ever tell!  The humidity didn't help matters.  It wasn't as bad as I expected, though, given the number of hills on the route.  Kelly is at a level higher than I expected, too, which is nice.  Anyone who can do several km straight on a treadmill will do just fine on a short road run!

We took it fairly slowly and walked for 5-6 minutes for a warm up then stretched, as planned.  The beginning of the route was very steep uphill so it worked out okay.  We did cycles of run/walk, but didn't have a stopwatch (or watch of any kind!) so we just ran when we felt like it and walked when we ran out of steam.  We did about 5 run cycles, and totaled 4.09 km in just under 35 minutes.  Not bad.  I used to jog 4 k in 24 minutes in college.

We'll likely be meeting on Mondays in addition to Thursdays, and hopefully hold each other accountable.  It's always easier to do it when you have someone counting on you to be there, isn't it!

I've come up with a very loose program.  I had it all typed in here and looked lovely, until I tried the "preview" option and realized the post field is too narrow for the chart.  Grr.  Sometimes I don't like blogger very much!

In any case, perhaps I'll write up the program in list form when I have more time.  The gist of it is pretty simple; slowly increase running cycles while shortening walking cycles (leaving a 5 min cool-down walk at every one), gradually increasing distance until we can run about 8 km without difficulty.  That should take about 8 weeks.

In the meantime, stay fit and healthy! 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Running Group

After a few false starts, tonight is the first night of my self-organized running group.  I have two other women who have joined, but only one is starting with me tonight as the other has soccer.  The plan is to commence a 5km running clinic, with one night a week together to start.  I assume the other ladies will be running on their own to supplement the program.

I haven't finalized the plans for the entire program yet, but we'll start on a slow pace, and walk briskly for 5 minutes to warm up then do some stretching.  Then we'll begin our run/walk cycles.  I figure we'll run for one minute and walk for 2, depending on the fitness level of the other women.  Of course, my fitness level is above that, but I'm sure they'll catch up to me in no time.

I plan on going about 2.2 km tonight, although that may change on a whim.

Will post later with details and more information on the actual running program.

Friday, July 23, 2010

More Problems at Johnson & Johnson

When will people stop taking unnecessary prescription and non-prescription drugs? 

Yet one more FDA report of numerous violations at a Johnson & Johnson plant has been announced.  The inspectors found more than 12 types of violations.  Read my gather.com article, FDA Report Shows J&J Committed Multiple Violations where I discuss the issue.

This follows recent recalls for Tylenol and Motrin products for both adults and children.  It seems J&J doesn't really care much for quality and safety standards in their products.  So that translates into them not really giving a hoot for the safety of the people who use their products.  Money is their only concern.  I think it's time people boycotted J&J for the principle of the matter - not just until they clean up their act.  For that matter, I think people should resolve to avoid non-prescription drugs in the first place!  For the most part, they are unnecessary and dangerous.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tips to Avoid Mosquitoe Bites

How to Avoid Becoming a Bug Buffet This Summer
By Dr. Mercola
You may be one of those people for whom summer is far too brief!
But like it or not, most of you have only a few short months to enjoy the great outdoors in most of the continental U.S. Why waste it battling those pesky summertime insects?
If you've spent six or more months stuck inside buildings under cover from rain, snow and sleet, you may be looking forward to spending a few precious days outside, be it gardening, or summer sports like softball, camping and hiking—or maybe just evening strolls around the neighborhood.
Regardless of your preferred activity, bugs can be a real annoyance, as well as carriers of disease.
The good news is, there are some tricks to keeping those annoying arthropods at bay, and they don't involve applying dangerous TOXIC chemicals to your skin. And there are also natural remedies if you do fall victim to a bite or sting.

mosquito biteA Few Fascinating Mosquito Facts

Here are some fun facts about the little bloodsuckers[1]:
  • Mosquitoes do not feed on blood -- they actually feed on plant nectars. Females use blood to nourish their eggs prior to laying, imbibing about 5 millionths of a liter per "feeding."
  • Mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other body chemicals, as well as your body heat, and can sense these from 25-35 meters.
  • Women, and people drinking beer, have been shown to be more attractive to mosquitoes. So if you're a woman drinking a beer, watch out.
  • Blonds seem to be more attractive to mosquitoes than brunettes.
  • In one study, a full moon increased mosquito activity 500 percent.
  • If you turn on a light at night you will have noticed that it is magnet for bugs. What most people are not aware of is that if you use a newer LED bulb it will NOT attract bugs. This is because most LED bulbs do not emit wavelengths in the UV spectrum like incandescents or fluorescents do

Simple Preventative Measures

The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to prevent coming into contact with them in the first place.
You can avoid most assaults by staying inside around dawn and dusk, which is when they are most active. If you must be out during those times, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, hats and socks. Mosquitoes are also thicker in shrubby areas and near standing water.
The American Mosquito Control Association has a list of things you can do to prevent mosquito breeding on your property.
Bat houses are becoming increasingly popular since bats are voracious consumers of insects, especially mosquitoes. For more on buying a bat house or constructing one yourself, visit the Organization for Bat Conservation.
As recently reported by the New York Times, a simple house fan may also be all you need to keep mosquitoes at bay in your backyard, because:
"A fan dilutes and disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale. Carbon dioxide is one of the major chemicals that attract mosquitoes.
The wind from a fan also cools you off. Sweat, lactic acid and body heat attract mosquitoes — factors that a fan can help minimize."
Similarly, avoiding physical exertion that makes you hot and sweaty can help you avoid getting bit. A New York Times article from 2008 states that:
"... cues like body temperature, carbon dioxide in the breath and certain skin chemicals like lactic acid all help mosquitoes orient and find their next meal. Exercise boosts the levels of all three signals, making people more vulnerable to mosquito bites during or after exercise.There is [also] some suggestion mosquitoes are more attracted to darker colors, so donning a white shirt may help reduce bites."
Barring any of those options, if you are going to be outside with your skin exposed during mosquito season, you may want to protect yourself with a repellent.

Steer Clear of Anything Containing DEET!

The most commonly used chemical in commercial insect repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). DEET was patented by the U.S. Army in 1946 and is still widely used. Currently, DEET is used in more than 230 different products -- in concentrations of up to an astounding 100 percent.
If a chemical melts plastic or fishing line, it's not wise to apply it to your skin -- and that is exactly what DEET does.
Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell function in parts of your brain -- demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use.
The rats given small doses of DEET for 60 days had a difficult time performing even the easiest tasks, such as walking.
DEET was found to cause:
  • Problems controlling muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Headaches
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle pain, joint pain, and tremors
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
Making matters worse, DEET is also combined with other chemicals in many products, in combinations found to be more dangerous than DEET alone, according to Abou-Donia. Other things can also react with DEET -- like chemicals in your skin care products, and even your medications.
In addition, there are other potentially harmful chemicals in bug sprays, one of which is permethrin.
Permethrin is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins. The EPA has even deemed this chemical carcinogenic -- it causes lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities.
Permethrin is also damaging to the environment, and it is particularly toxic to bees and aquatic life.
It should also be noted that permethrin is highly toxic to cats[2] . Even a few drops can be lethal to your feline pet. It is used as an ingredient in some topical flea products, so when you see "for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin.

Natural Insect Repellant Alternatives

Fortunately, there are VERY effective repellents on the market, comprised of natural botanical oils and extracts that are every bit as effective as DEET but with none of the potentially harmful effects.
In one study, cinnamon oil performed better at killing mosquitoes than DEET.
Another option is to use the safe solution I have formulated. It's a natural insect repellant with a combination of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, and vanillin, which is a dynamite blend of natural plant extracts. In fact, an independent study showed BUG OFF to be more effective than a product containing 100 percent DEET! And it's safe for you, your children, and your pets.
There is also some evidence that consuming garlic can protect you from mosquitoes and ticks.

Treating Bites and Stings with Herbs and Other Natural Agents

There are many herbs and other natural agents that are soothing to the skin, and many have anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to experiment with some of these for your occasional mosquito bites:
  • Aloe Vera: One of the most nutritionally alive plants on earth, aloe contains over 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that are beneficial to your skin.
  • Calendula: This is an herb that I actually use in several of my skin care products for its soothing, moisturizing and rejuvenating properties.
  • Chamomile: The most soothing herb of all, whether used in a tea or applied to the skin. It is rich in the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin and quercetin.
  • Cinnamon: In addition to possibly repelling mosquitoes, cinnamon has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Cucumbers are helpful for reducing swelling.
  • Honey: Raw organic honey has many powerful healing qualities and has been used for centuries. An especially powerful variety is Manuka honey from New Zealand, made from the bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka bush, also known as the "Tea Tree." The Manuka tree is a relative of the Melaleuka tree, from which tea tree oil is derived.
  • Lavender: One of the most popular essential oils for its calming scent, lavender is as antimicrobial as it is soothing.
  • Neem Oil: The oil of the Neem tree (L. Azadirachta indica) is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine[3]. Neem is effective against fungal conditions, boils, eczema, and ringworm, and it would undoubtedly help an insect bite as well.
  • Tea Tree Oil: From the Melaleuca alternifolia plant of Australia and widely used by the aboriginals, tea tree oil is helpful for healing cuts, burns, infections and a multitude of other skin afflictions. It is also a good antimicrobial, including fungal infections.

A Sting Operation: How Do the Remedies Stack Up?

William Brantley of Slate.com[4] was curious enough about bee sting remedies that he actually conducted his own semi-scientific experiment. Working with a beekeeper friend, he allowed himself to be stung several times so that he could methodically test out a variety of pharmaceutical and natural remedies.
He kept a running log of symptoms -- pain, swelling and itching -- and logged them using a 10-point scale every 30 minutes, for each remedy type.
He concluded, "The best home remedies are better than the best pharmaceuticals."
The only pharmaceutical he said he would use again was Caladryl lotion, but even that did not perform as well as the better home remedies.
His favorites were:
  1. Toothpaste -- although it's unclear why it works. Of course, use the fluoride free version.
  2. Ice -- the cheapest and most effective anti-inflammatory you'll ever find
  3. A paste made of meat tenderizer, vinegar, and baking soda
Got to hand it to him -- anyone who allows himself to be stung by bees in the name of science should be given serious kudos!
You can also try rubbing raw honey on it. This is something my sister actually suggested to me for an intense, itchy rash I had for over a year after just about every other approach had failed. I was shocked at how effective it was.

Watching Out for the Wild Things

Sometimes you are bitten, but you don't know what bit you. If you have a severe reaction, it is helpful to know what critter did it.
WebMD has a helpful "Bad Bugs Slideshow" to help you identify different types of bugs and their bites.
  1. Wasps and Bees
    Bee and wasp stings account for more than half of the 50,000 known insect-related injuries to Americans each year[5] . Here is a handy bee id chart for identifying various types of bees. On the same site, there is also a wasp identification chart to help you identify several stinging insects by their appearance, as well as by their style of nest.
  2. Spiders
    Next to stings, spider bites are the next most common type of insect-related injury in the U.S. Of the more than 30,000 species of spiders, only a few can inflict serious harm to humans. The most common culprits are the widow spiders (Latrodectus species) and the recluse spider (Loxosceles species).
    If you are unfamiliar with the appearance and distinguishing characteristics of various arachnids, here is a helpful Spider Identification Chart. Arachnophobes beware ... the images are very realistic!
    Speaking of phobias, Emotional Freedom Techniques can be an effective way to tap away your fear of spiders.
  3. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
    Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are all part of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae) and contain an oil called urushiol that can cause itching and painful rashes upon contact with your skin in VERY small amounts. Only 1 nanogram -- one billionth of a gram -- is needed to cause a rash. In fact, according to the Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center, 500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin.
    The information center in the above paragraph can help you identify and steer clear of these poisonous plants. There are also some suggestions about natural sting remedies, including tea tree oil, goldenseal root, and even a recipe for a topical tea made from jewelweed, aloe and comphrey.
    About 15 percent of the population who are allergic to urushiol oil will have an extraordinarily severe reaction in which they begin to swell up in 4 to 12 hours (instead of the normal 1 to 2 days). Their eyes may also swell and their skin may even blister.
    Additionally, it is one of the few clinical conditions that I believe justify the use of oral steroids. It is the ONLY condition that I would routinely prescribe them for. Common approaches are a Medrol Dose Pack, but I prefer using less expensive generic prednisone. Since the condition is so severe and is very limited, the risk/reward ratio seems justified.
    Armed with a little knowledge about how to avoid some of these seasonal hazards, you can enjoy the outdoors without undue worry, while replenishing your winter-depleted vitamin D stores.
Please don't risk your health by applying DEET-based insect repellants -- use some of the safer alternatives instead.



  New York Times July 12, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Farm

I've been buying farm-fresh brown eggs from pastured chickens for about two months now.  There is a small private farm just outside of the town where we live, run by an older couple (in their late 50s or early 60s, I'd say).  They have chickens, turkeys, and a few beef cows.  I also found out they have honey bees, too.

Each time I've gone to pick up our eggs, a dozen every week (for $2.50), I've had the dog with me in the van so I wasn't able to get down to the barnyard to meet the animals.  But finally, we went yesterday to get our eggs and the dog was still in daycare so it was just my 2 year old daughter and me.  The lady farmer graciously offered to take us down so we could not only stand and look at the animals, but we actually were able to go inside and greet the chickens and turkeys.

We took my daughter, D, inside the chicken run first, as we figured the turkeys would be a little scary - those things look weird!  The chickens were lovely - beautiful and friendly.  They were a lustrous reddish brown colour and very soft.  We were able to stroke one that the lady held for us.  She said they have over 30 chickens, and gets about 3 dozen eggs each day.  She doesn't wash the eggs unless they are very dirty, so as to protect the cuticle. Did you know that if you wash or soak the egg in anything, the cuticle becomes permeable?  Not good.

The chickens milled about our feet, scratching and pecking at the ground for bugs and worms.  They made their cooing sounds and sounded very happy.

We weren't able to greet the cows as they were in a far pasture and under some shade trees.  Maybe next time.  We hope to get some of the meat when it's time - I hope that we will have the money to fill our freezer.  Pastured beef?  Amazing.

The turkeys, 10 in all, were next door to the chicken house.  They made funny barking noises and looked very dumb.  I don't have much more to say about them.  Turkeys are dumb animals - but they sure do taste good!  We will be getting at least one of the turkeys when they are killed, in October.  We're looking forward to that!

 All in all, it was a good visit.  It's nice to know where your food comes from, and to see how the animals live.  Even more important, it's good for our children to know where exactly food comes from and that food doesn't just come from the grocery store.  I wonder how many kids from cities actually know what real chickens look like?  Or that eggs come from chickens?  Sad.

I'm looking forward to getting our own place some day that will allow us to get a few chickens, goats, or even a miniature cow.  To have fresh milk from our own cow would be amazing!

Personal and Final Review of Homemade Deodorant

I went camping this past weekend and took only my homemade deodorant to use - no backup.  Before we left, I scooped out a glass jar (had daytime moisturizing sunblock in it that I NEVER use) and deposited a small amount of the deodorant - about 1.5 tbsp - into it.  The little glass jar with screw-on lid is a perfect size and not plastic, which is important to me.

 Both my husband and I used it.  The temperature and humidity were high.  The potential for stink was definitely there, but you know what?  We didn't smell.  Not one little bit.  Of course, one is never a good judge of her own stench-factor, but I really think neither of us smelled even the slightest bit of body odor. 

I reapplied about every 8 hours to ensure I had even coverage all day long.  I found that even at the 8-hour mark, I didn't smell of b.o. - I just didn't smell of anything.  As the deodorant itself is scented with peppermint essential oil, I figured that when I couldn't smell the peppermint anymore, that meant it was wearing off.  That's when I reapplied.

I have yet to discuss it with my husband, but I don't think he experienced any problems with using this deodorant.  So it looks like this will become our personal and permanent deodorant.  Yet one more way to save money!

I have read that some people, when switching from commercial deodorants and antiperspirants, have to allow their bodies and adjustment period - so don't expect this to work so fabulously for you as it did for me.  But at least continue to use it for at least one month, as I hear that is the magic time period required before you realize you love the stuff.  Just reapply it more often as you need to throughout the day, to ensure you have coverage.

If you use it, please let me know what you think!!

Stay healthy and fit!!

Friday, July 16, 2010


I had a great post on Vitamin D half-written on my laptop today, in Microsoft Word. And then I found out my laptop had been infected via a trojan horse.  Things degraded quickly from that point and my laptop became unusable shortly thereafter. 

My husband is attempting to repair and recover but I might end up having to wipe it, which is totally heartbreaking as I have several months worth of pictures of my daughter that were not backed up.  Including pictures from her second birthday party.  So fingers crossed that the virus repair program that he's running will work!!

In any case, I'll not be posting tomorrow after all.  I hadn't planned on posting Saturday or Sunday, either, unless I could find wireless internet floating around at the campgrounds where we'll be all weekend.  IF he gets the laptop fixed I might get a post in (if I have internet service out there) but don't count on it.  Definitely look forward to Part 1 of Vitamin D on Monday or Tuesday!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Stay healthy and fit!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of Proper Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

This article is taken from PubMed.  Source listed below.

The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.

The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009, USA. cgnh@bellatlantic.net


Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects. In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences. These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial. Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of omega-3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.
PMID: 12442909 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Source: PubMed

Three-Day Review of Homemade Coconut Oil Products

We're now on day 3 of using my homemade coconut oil products.  I made toothpaste, deodorant, and I have been adding coconut oil to our morning smoothies.  I also have been using the oil for oil pulling on a regular basis, 3 times a day.  I have one thing to say about coconut oil: I love it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spicy Black Bean and Chicken Rice Dish

How's THAT for a recipe title?  I know, it's a mouthful.  But I made it up and tried to give it a name that was descriptive enough for everyone.  I kind of threw all the ingredients together as I went along so bear with me.  You could likely adapt this for your own tastes and what you have in the fridge.  You may of course use dried (and reconstituted beans).  I had a bowl full of steamed broccoli and cauliflower so that is what I used for veggies.  Carrots, sweet peppers, zucchini - all of these things would be delicious.

1 cup brown rice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole stewed tomatoes
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I had some from when I made chicken stock - yes, I pick the bones over before discarding after I make stock - it's a good way to salvage some chicken meat)
2 cups (ish) chicken stock
2 cups vegetables, raw and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 an onion, chopped
chili powder
fresh cilantro, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter.  When transparent or browned (whichever flavour you prefer), throw in everything else but the cooked chicken and cilantro.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to med-low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and cilantro and season as desired.  You should get about 6 smallish servings from this.

This is an estimated nutritional value based on what I used.  The salt is not accounted for so sodium levels will be higher than indicated.

Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat4.9 g
     Saturated Fat1.9 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.9 g
     Monounsaturated Fat1.5 g
  Cholesterol25.0 mg
  Sodium379.2 mg
  Potassium382.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate22.8 g
     Dietary Fiber5.5 g
     Sugars3.5 g
  Protein13.2 g
  Vitamin A25.6 %
  Vitamin B-121.3 %
  Vitamin B-621.1 %
  Vitamin C35.8 %
  Vitamin D0.3 %
  Vitamin E2.3 %
  Calcium7.3 %
  Copper9.0 %
  Folate18.6 %
  Iron9.5 %
  Magnesium13.2 %
  Manganese27.3 %
  Niacin23.8 %
  Pantothenic Acid    5.3 %
  Phosphorus    16.4 %
  Riboflavin9.5 %
  Selenium16.9 %
  Thiamin11.9 %
  Zinc6.6 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.