Keep Your Breasts Healthy Naturally

In light of breast cancer awareness month I’d like to talk a little bit about keeping your girls healthy and happy and cancer-free. The fact is that there are lots of simple things you can do to stay healthy and help prevent breast cancer.  Simple changes can really add up – here are some places to start, taken from my book: DIY Health: For Women.

Natural Ways To Help Prevent Breast Cancer:

  1. Manage your estrogens – Make sure you are doing the things we’ve talked about to keep your estrogens under control and to keep them at a safe level.  Don’t forget the basics like fiber and exercise that we talked about here – they go a long way.
  2. Don’t take extra estrogens if you’re high risk – if you have genetic risk or a family history of breast cancer than just don’t use birth control or HRT that adds estrogens into your system.  That means no birth control pills, no implants, no shots, no patch.  If you really need a birth control method that isn’t condoms, then consider an IUD – the Mirena IUD actually secretes a small amount of progesterone and so would be very balancing for a woman who normally has high estrogen.  The copper IUD lasts longer (about 10 years for one IUD) but can cause heavy bleeding.  Talk with your doctor to find a solution that is right for you.
  3. Help your Breast tissue – if you have dense breasts or are fibrocystic, start with iodine therapy and GLA (the good fats from evening primrose oil or borage oil).  It’s really important to check with your doctor if you have thyroid problems before you start taking iodine.  It should only take 3-4 months for your breast tissue to change and soften.  After that you can just take iodine every now and then to maintain.
  4. Limit the estrogenic chemicals in your life – cut out the phthalates, the cleaning products, the pesticides and herbicides.  All of these chemicals mimic estrogen in your body and so have the same potential cancer causing effects. Switch to organic when you can, especially in milk, dairy and eggs. If you’re high-risk then this is especially important but I believe every woman should protect herself and her children.
  5. Exercise – how many times do I need to say it?
  6. Breast self-exams – this is really just to make sure that no lumps pop up quickly – use circular motions to feel the whole area of breast tissue, including under your arms on both sides.  Look for lumps or knots.  Also make sure you look at your breasts in the mirror – dimpling, puckering or inverted nipples can indicate a problem – especially if it starts suddenly.  Also watch for sores or ‘bug bites’ that don’t go away – it is much more rare but there is a form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer that just looks like a sore or an itchy rash-like spot on the breast that doesn’t heal.
  7. Lose Weight – I know. I make it sound so simple.  Remember the bottom line is that you need to use more calories than you eat.  Every woman is different in the weight loss department, but eliminating your food allergies will be a tremendous help.
  8. Eat your veggies and cut down on the meats – a more plant-based diet helps to reduce your risk and protect your body from many types of cancers, including breast.
  9. Screening – mammograms are suggested for women over 40 and although there is some radiation exposure they also help with early detection so talk with your doctor about what is right for you.  For women who are truly high risk having a thermogram, or thermal imaging, of the breasts done yearly can be extremely helpful.  Thermal imaging will show problem areas far before you would be able to feel a lump or find anything on a mammogram, although if a spot shows up you will still need to get a mammogram to pinpoint the exact location.  Thermal imaging essentially acts as an early warning system that shows you what to watch.  It also gives you the opportunity to take more aggressive steps if something does show up to prevent it from growing into cancer.

Take care of your breasts ladies – it’s incredibly important.  These days it seems like everyone knows and loves someone who has been touched by breast cancer. We all have mothers or aunts or sisters or friends who have faced this beast, but together we can help to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Make sure your friends know how to take care of themselves, raise your children doing breast self-exams and practicing good eating habits.  Love your breasts ladies, it will help to keep you healthy.

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Potato Chip Diet?

This is by far the weirdest diet tip I’ve ever heard. And I do mean EVER.  I spent the weekend at a conference organized by our State association, the TXANP (Texas Association of Naturopathic Physicians) and our topic was environmental medicine.  Environmental medicine is essentially a study of the various toxins in the environment (depressing) and how we can get rid of them. One tip, in a conference full of great information, stands out. Mostly because it involves junk food.

Detoxify your fat with 7 potato chips a day. What???

Does anyone else remember the fake oil in fried food that lets you eat fried junk food – potato chips mostly – but not absorb any of the fats?  I mostly remember it because the unfortunate side effect was nothing short of ‘anal leakage,’ which is terrifyingly vivid and  enough to earn Saturday Night Live notoriety.  Well, apparently now we have a valid use for this artificial fat (The trade name is Olestra) and a reason to eat fat-free potato chips (but only 7 per day, because god knows you don’t want the whole anal leakage thing).

Apparently by eating a small amount of this artificial fat, you are actually giving your body an unlikely route to detox.  Not only that, it helps you to detox some particularly hard to reach toxins.  Here’s how it works:

  1. When your body really can’t deal with a toxin, it stores it somewhere where it won’t do too much harm.  If that toxin is water soluble it’s stored in places like your bones, and if it’s a fat soluble toxin then you just pack it away in your fat cells.  Fat soluble toxins include dioxin, PCBs, formaldehyde, plastics and pesticides.
  2. Because your body can’t deal with it that toxin just sits there and detoxes incredibly slowly – usually over many many years.  While that fat is toxic it is incredibly hard for your body to burn, simply because it’s dangerous.  If your body uses the fat from that fat cell then it has to deal with the toxins, so your body avoids using that fat – this means weight loss is harder.
  3. Part of the reason your body can’t burn that fat is because it’s hard to eliminate fats in your digestive tract because we’re thrifty – even if we do get those toxic fats out, our thrifty hoarder genes pull them right back in because they might come in handy.  This is where the artificial fat comes in.
  4. The reason this artificial fat is “fat-free” is because it’s totally undigestible, so it stays in your digestive tract after you’ve eaten your 7 fat-free potato chips.  That means that your body can dump those toxins out of long-term storage in your fat cells and into a new form of storage, which is the artificial oils from the no-fat chips.
  5. Essentially, your body gets to transfer toxins from inside your fat cells, to the fats traveling through your digestive tract, which means that suddenly your body can start burning the fat in your fat cells like it’s supposed to because the fat in your cells isn’t toxic anymore.  Woohoo!

So, although I wouldn’t normally suggest putting fat-free potato chips anywhere near your mouth, this is forcing me to revise my thinking.  Now – I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m condoning these as a food source, they’re not food.  There’s nothing about them that’s food.  They may be, however, a simple solution to a problem that is notoriously difficult to solve.  Simply taking 7 fat-free potato chips per day could give your body the perfect tool to start pulling the toxins out of your fat, and that is completely worth it.

Here’s why this is so great:

  • You’ll lose weight – once you get rid of those toxins your body can burn fat far more normally and weight will start coming off the way it should.
  • You’ll feel better – getting rid of toxins always does that.
  • You’ll avoid disease – this gets rid of the toxins that are implicated in conditions like breast cancer, thyroid disease and diabetes and therefore help yourself to avoid those conditions.  Bonus!
  • It’s cheap – detox can be a ridiculously expensive proposition, and this makes it pretty darn cheap.  At least for the fat soluble part.
  • It’s asy – it doesn’t get much easier than eating 7 fat-free potato chips per day.  I mean really.

Here are some steps you can take to make the detoxification even more effective:

  1. Drink your water -  The fat-free chips will help to detoxify the fat soluble toxins, but they’re not going to help with the water soluble ones, you need water for that. Make sure you’re getting filtered water (reverse osmosis is best) so that you’re not putting more toxins back in.
  2. Eat your fiber -  As you should know by now, I’m crazy about fiber.  Fiber is another thing that can stay in your digestive tract and bind to toxins, so why not attack your toxic monster with artificial fat and fiber?  It won’t stand a chance.
  3. Sweat -  I don’t care how you do it, but do it.  Think saunas, steam rooms, hot yoga, sweat lodges or just that much exercise.  We detoxify through our sweat as well as our digestion and urine so sweating helps you to get toxins out of your surface tissues.
  4. Take a good multivitamin -  Detox is a lot of work for your body and you need lots of vitamins and minerals to do it so plan on taking a good multi-vitamin.  Look for something in a capsule (not a tablet – those are too hard for your body to digest).  In general I like multi’s from Thorne Research or ITI.
  5. Get your exercise – The more you circulate and send blood to all of your cells, the more quickly your body can find and eliminate toxins from everywhere.  Detoxification takes time, none of this will happen overnight, but it will happen much more quickly if you’re getting your blood pumping.
  6. Castor oil – Castor oil is a great detoxifier that is so underused.  I love castor oil.  Just slather some on your skin – especially over your liver area (right side of your belly just under your rib cage), your breasts, and your fatty tissues – put on some old pj’s that you don’t care about (it’s oily so it will stain whatever you’re wearing), and go to bed like that.  It absorbs overnight and helps your body to detox through your lymph system.  I wrote a whole post about castor oil if you want to learn more.

Of course this isn’t a complete detox protocol, but it’s a really easy way to make a great start on your own.  To think something as simple (and as unlikely) as fat-free potato chips can do so much good! Just remember moderation because I’m guessing anal leakage really makes your day worse.

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Pumpkin Smoothie – Best Fall Breakfast Ever

Ok – so I’m all about health food that tastes like dessert – in this case: pumpkin pie.  In the fall, it doesn’t get much better than pumpkin pie – especially when I can have it for breakfast and still feel like I’m doing great thing for my body.  It’s a win-win.  Here’s the recipe for my latest obsession:

Ridiculously Awesome Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

In your blender mix the heck out of:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup baked pumpkin (cubes) or 1/2 cup 100% pumpkin puree from a can
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (my favorite is vanilla glycemic foundation from Ortho Molecular products)
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 2 carrots (if you have a vita mix or juicing blender) or 1/4 cup carrot juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Maybe some extra water if it’s too thick

Pumpkin!

This smoothie is super orange, packed with antioxidants and TASTES LIKE PUMPKIN PIE!! Here are the benefits:

  • High protein
  • High fiber (if you use this protein powder.  If you’re using another protein powder that doesn’t have fiber in it I suggest adding a scoop of fiber powder, unflavored, that mixes clear with water – the pumpkin and carrots also have some fiber, but I think it’s great to have more fiber in the morning)
  • Low sugar/carbohydrate
  • Wheat, gluten, dairy and soy free
  • High in carotenoids – the antioxidants in the Vitamin A family that give pumpkins and carrots their orange color.  These are great for skin health, eye health and overall anti-aging.
  • Blood sugar controlling cinnamon (from the pumpkin pie spice) that helps to regulate your sugar processing all morning
  • Potassium
  • 3 of your fruit and veggie servings – and it’s not even noon yet!

Seriously I’ve been living off of these this fall and they’re only getting better. This addiction might last through Christmas…

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The Fastest Way to Drop 5 Pounds

So, I know it’s kind of a cheat, but if you really need to fit into that dress by next week, or those suit pants that you’re having trouble zipping right now, there is a quick and easy way.  This isn’t a great long-term weight loss program for most people, but in the short term it will get you uber-quick results. God knows there are times in life where that matters.

Clearly she made it into her jeans... Weight Loss © Geotrac | Dreamstime.com

Here’s the plan:

  1. Cut out grains -  This means cut out the breads, potatoes, pastas, cookies, chips, crackers, corn, rice and everything made with those things. If you’re a burger kind of person for lunches then do the meat with no bun (and no fries). And yes, I know potatoes aren’t actually a grain, but work with me here – I’m trying to get you into those jeans.
  2. Increase your water intake – At least 10 eight ounce glasses daily.  Set an alarm on your phone – it helps.  Just do one glass an hour and you’re totally good.
  3. Sleep – Sleep is when your body loses it’s weight and if you’re not getting it then it’s going to show in your waistline.  If you need to drop weight quickly then this is the way to do it. If you normally have trouble sleeping then melatonin is a safe place to start.  Most people notice a difference with 3 mg, but if you don’t it’s safe up to 10 mg at bedtime.

That’s it!

I get that for most people being 100% grain-free isn’t the lifestyle they want long-term, but it’s totally worth it if it gets you looking fabulous in that wedding dress, bikini, business suit or on the surf board. This isn’t great long-term because we’re not talking at all about balanced nutrition or healthy calories or any of that – this is just a quick fix for that time when 5 pounds REALLY matters.

Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Think eggs or Greek yoghurt with fruit for breakfast. Protein smoothie will work too.
  • If you’re normally a sandwich person for lunch try making the same sandwich, but as a lettuce wrap (just use big pieces of lettuce instead of bread and either roll it up like a burrito or sandwich it like, well, a sandwich.
  • High-protein prepared salads are a great lunch option.  Consider egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad.  All great options – no bread required.  Add an apple to that and you’re done.
  • For dinner thing meat + veggies.  Keep it simple – that’s always the best way.
  • If you want longer term weight loss you can use this for a week as a kick-start to see some weight fall off quickly, then transition to a healthy, low carb diet that isn’t quite so restrictive (but keep doing water and sleep – that makes every weight loss quicker).  For more ideas about long-term weight loss check this post from January.
  • Seriously set a phone alarm to go off every hour between 8 am and 6 pm and every time it beeps at you, have a glass of water.  Simple!  And not so close to bed that you’re up all night going to the bathroom (but you will spend more day time than usual in the bathroom – just think of it as the junk that was stored in your fat finally getting a chance to leave your body).
  • Keep it short-term.  Believe me, you can be AWESOME at this for a week!
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Cleaning Your Face With Oil – Thanks Crunchy Betty!

Ok, so I know we’ve been talking about cooking oils and this is kind of a tangent, but I’ve only just discovered it and it’s the best thing ever.  A great friend of mine from Santa Fe (the same one responsible for the tooth soap) sent me a link from Crunchy Betty’s blog about Oil Cleansing and I’m always a sucker for new things.

Basically the theory is that applying a cleansing oil to your face dissolves the bad/dirty oils that are already there and when you take off the extra good oil, you also take off the bad oil.  Still – it took some bravery to slather oil all over my face, let me tell you.  I picked a day to try it when I would have a few days without any major social events scheduled just in case my face turned into one giant zit.

Not only did my face not turn into a zit-scape, my skin and lips LOVE this treatment.  It felt great to do, like a little luxury facial, and my skin is the softest it’s ever been.  Not only that but the little weird inflamed spots that I normally have to fight to keep under control – the ones that aren’t quite zits, but are suspiciously red and look like they *might* become zits – those are mysteriously gone.  No muss, no fuss, just gone.  So far I’ve done it every night this week and my skin just keeps getting better.  Not only that, I look forward to washing my face – and that isn’t something I could ever say before.  I LOVE THIS!

Skin that youthfull - she must be oil cleansing! GIRL CLEANING FACE © Vladimir Mucibabic | Dreamstime.com

How To Oil Cleanse Your Skin

  1. Pull your hair back from your face with a hairband – your skin loves the oil, but if you get it in your hair there is nothing that will fix that but a shower.
  2. Turn on the tap with hot water – as hot as your skin will tolerate (we’re turning it on here so it has time to warm up).
  3. Choose your oil blend (we’ll talk oil blends in a minute – it’s really fun) and pour about a dime sized amount in your palm.
  4. Use your fingertips to gently smooth the oil over your face and massage lightly for 2 minutes- enjoy this part, it feels great!
  5. Run a wash cloth under the tap with water as hot as you can stand it – the heat helps to lift the oil from your skin more easily.
  6. Gently wipe your face with the hot washcloth, and just see how gorgeous, soft and radiant your skin is!
  7. Chances are that if you’re like me you can probably skip the night creams etc… when you do this before bed – your skin doesn’t need anything else.

Mixing The Best Oil For Your Skin

So – I’ve only been doing this for a week so some of this is just my faith in Crunchy Betty’s advise – if you haven’t read her blog, then click her link at the end because she’s fabulous. Here are some oils you can try:

  • Castor Oil – a necessary ingredient! This penetrates the deep layers of your skin, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and generally protects your skin like no other. If you aren’t familiar with my deep and abiding love of castor oil then read about castor oil here. According to Crunchy Betty it’s more on the drying side so better if you have normal to oily skin.
  • Jojoba Oil – this skin staple is great for all types but especially acne-prone skin.
  • Sweet Almond Oil – Great for all skin types, especially oily skin.
  • Olive Oil and Sunflower Seed Oil – Great for everyone!
  • Avocado Oil – Especially great for dry and aging skin.
  • Sesame Oil – Great for dry, sensitive skin.
  • Shea Oil – Perfect for sensitive, reactive skin.

Now the key is finding your best mix:

I’ve been using a 50/50 mix of castor oil and shea oil, because they’re both favorites of mine and my skin tends to be both oily and sensitive at the same time.

Crunchy Betty suggests working in thirds and she suggests

Oily skin – 2/3 castor oil and 1/3 carrier oil

Normal skin – equal parts castor oil and carrier oil

Dry skin – 1/3 castor oil and 2/3 carrier oil

Always the best idea is to experiment with your skin and see what your face loves.  Mix it up in small batches at first until you find the perfect thing for you.  Once you decide to mix a larger batch then we can start adding essential oils.  With essential oils a tiny bit (a few drops to a cup of oil) is enough so it’s too intense for the small trial batches.  Here are some essential oils to try (but I always go by smell as much as function):

  • Rose – Smells great and it’s been used for centuries to help smooth wrinkles and protect skin from the changes brought by age.
  • Frankincense – Brings deep healing to troubled skin – especially if there are deep skin issues like cystic acne or repeat infections.
  • Lavender – One of the most popular scents and it’s also antibacterial and anti-fungal so it’s great if there is surface acne.  If your acne follows your hormone cycle lavender isn’t the best choice because it can increase your estrogens. This is also rumored to even out your skin tone.
  • Peppermint – This lively and refreshing oil actually deep cleanses your pores and helps them to close and minimize a little bit so it’s great if you’re prone to blackheads. Tea Tree and Eucalyptus have similar effects.
  • Sandalwood – Nourishing and healing, especially for dry, chapped or raw skin.
  • Lemon – This oil is very drying to acne and blemishes and strongly anti-bacterial but it may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight if you leave it on (probably not a problem in your oil cleansing routine)
  • Myrrh – Strongly healing for rashes, eczema and seborrhea.

Now you have the tools – go forth and oil cleanse!  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about all of this and how happy I am to share it.  I’d love to hear what you think about it!

Also – I’ve got to share Crunchy Betty because she’s a new favorite for me!

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The Best Oil for Cooking? The Debate Rages On

Remember when butter was the thing your grandmother cooked everything in? Then butter was the enemy and margarine was king. Then, of course, someone figured out that margarine was killing you and you floundered around until the food network introduced you to extra virgin olive oil (EVOO in case you’re food network savvy).

The best oils for cooking

Olive oils from Turkey, Italy, Spain, and Greece

So the problem is, how do you know what to use? How do you know what is best for you? I’ll try to give you the most complete answer I can, but honestly a lot of days I feel like I’m not 100% sure of anything. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of nutritional education, along with chemistry (sorry – we’re going to have to get into chemistry too) but the truth is we’re still learning about how different oils and fats act with heat and also what they do in your body. So I’ll give you the best answer I have now, and I’ll keep updating as I find new and more complete information.

Here are the Things I Know For Sure:

  1. Don’t Overheat – All fats and oils become harmful if they are cooked at too high a temperature, but the temperature that they can withstand is different for every fat or oil.
  2. If It’s Smoking It’s Bad – Generally you know you’ve over heated an oil if it starts to smoke in the pan. The smoke forms when the oil starts to burn and change into something harmful. The temperature at which an oil begins to smoke is called it’s ‘smoke point’ and is a great way to evaluate it’s heat stability.
  3. More Solid is Usually More Heat Stable – Usually the more solid a fat or oil is at room temperature, the hotter you can cook it without it turning bad.
  4. Every Natural Oil Is a Mixture of Different Types of Fats – lard isn’t just one type of molecule, it’s many types of molecules so there is no fat that is 100% good or 100% bad. Every natural oil is mixed.
  5. Extra Refining Can Make Oils More Heat Stable -  I don’t like refining as a rule because often some of the nutritional value is refined out of the oil and the oil has to go through chemical processes to be refined, but if you’re planning on cooking at high temperatures a more refined oil can be a really good thing.

Smoke Points of Cooking Oils:

Unrefined Flaxseed, Safflower, Sunflower, Canola Oil: 225 *F, 107 *C
Unrefined Corn, Peanut, Soy and Walnut Oil: 320 *F, 160 *F
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): 320 *F, 160 *C
Butter, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Unrefined Sesame Oil: 350 *F, 177 *C
Lard: 370 *F, 182 *C
Macadamia Nut Oil: 390 *F, 199 *C
Refined Canola Oil, Low Acidity EVOO: 400 * F, 204 *C
Sesame Oil: 410 *F, 210 *C
Cotton Seed Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Virgin Olive Oil, Almond Oil: 420 *F, 216 *C
Hazelnut Oil: 430 *F, 221 *C
Peanut Oil, Sunflower Oil: 440 *F, 227 *C
Palm or Palm Kernel Oil, Refined Peanut, Safflower, Soy, High-Oleic Sunflower, Coconut Oil, : 450 *F, 232 *C
Extra Light Olive Oil: 468 *F, 242 *C
Ghee (Indian Refined Butter): 485 *F, 252 *C
Refined Soybean or Safflower Oil: 495 *F, 257 *C
Avocado Oil: 520 *F, 271 *C

So What is The Best Oil For Cooking?

Times like this I wish I had THE answer, not just an answer.  Sauteing or pan frying usually happens at temperatures around 500* F, which means a very heat stable oil like avocado oil, ghee or refined coconut oil is a good idea.  I love the flavor of butter and virgin or extra virgin olive oil, and virgin coconut oil but obviously those are only suitable for lower temperature cooking.  So the best solution to me is to keep a variety of oils handy.  I still use butter (organic) for baking, EVOO in salad dressings and dipping sauces, and a variety of nut and coconut oils for higher temperature cooking depending on what flavor I’m looking for.  Avocado oil I reserve for sauteing because it is stable at such a high temperature (and so wonderful for you).

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A Healthy Smile Keeps You Healthy Long Term

So, the thing everyone seems to want to talk about is their pearly whites.  People want bright, shiny white teeth that you can see from outer space.  Your gums are far less glamorous and hardly anyone asks me anything at all about their gum health, so I’m here to champion the gums because in terms of your overall body health, they’re WAY more important than their much more glamorous cousins, your teeth.

Your gums are one of the most common sites of chronic infection.  Gum disease and gingivitis sound like they shouldn’t be a big deal for your body but the truth is that they are behind many of the major health risks. If your gums are chronically infected then your body is always using precious resources to try to fight that infection. That means you have less of those resources – energy, nutrients and immunity – to use in other places.  Gum disease poses a very serious threat to your body and it increases the risk of:

  • Heart attack by as much as 25%
  • Preterm, low birth weight babies
  • Digestive disorders
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Respiratory disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Uncontrolled diabetes (it doesn’t cause diabetes, but makes diabetes that is there much harder to control)
  • Stroke

All of that from gingivitis! It’s important to note that although it’s commonly called “gum disease” that it actually harms far more than your gums. The term periodontal disease is more accurate because that means disease around the teeth, but gum disease is just easier to say and more widely used.  This type of problem effects the gums, ligaments and bone. If something was attacking the tissue, ligaments and bone of your leg, for example, you’d do everything you could to stop it.  This is just a less noticeable place.  Still, gum disease is attacking the tissue, ligament and bone of your mouth – it’s no less important.

If you haven't tried tooth soap yet you just don't know what you're missing. My favorite flavors are ginger and fennel, but then, those are the only ones I've tried because I just can't bear to part with them.

Essentially the bacterial infections travel down into the spaces between your teeth and gums.  The more bacteria there are, and the longer they’re left to grow and breed, the further into your body they can travel.  From there they can infect the ligament holding the tooth into your jaw and travel into the bones of your face.  The more bacteria get between your teeth and gums, the more your gums are damaged and eaten away and pockets begin to form.  These pockets are great places for bacteria to hide out and so the process becomes more serious.

There are lots of contributing factors to gum disease – general health, genetics, age, lifestyle, stress, smoking, lack of dental care, etc… but by far the biggest and most changeable factor is your oral hygiene. The best news is that starting now with good oral hygiene can make a tremendous difference, even if you haven’t paid much attention to your teeth before now. In terms of your gum health, the best tool in addition to brushing and flossing would be a water-pik or oral irrigator of some kind.  These are used to shoot water between the gum and tooth to clean bacteria out of those pockets and help your body to heal.

Please keep in mind I’m not a dentist or dental specialist, but this seems to be a good place to start.  Check with your dentist for any fine-tuning that you may need for you. Also, when you brush your teeth, don’t forget to also gently brush your tongue and gums to get rid of bacteria there too.

Here’s my tooth-care schedule:
Breakfast: Floss and brush
Snack: I’d love to say I actually brush here, but usually I just use mouth rinse, swish (see below) or chew gum
Lunch: Brush
Snack: Same as the above snack
Dinner: Brush
Before bed: Floss, brush,  water-pik with plain water or water and mouthwash

It is most important to do a complete care in the morning and in the evening because lots of bacteria can build up overnight.  The rest of the day the more you can do, the better, but it’s hard to water-pik at work so realistically do what you can.  Anytime after you eat if you can take the time to add flossing into the routine, you should.  If you can’t take the time, like most people then brushing, using something like tooth swish or even chewing sugar free gum will help.

Being a natural product freak, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you:

Here’s Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss – I honestly never thought I’d be excited about floss in any way because really it’s all the same, except it’s not.  This one is thicker than normal and stretches into a thick ribbon that gets hidden gunk out of there easily and it has the loveliest hint of cardamom flavor – sometimes it’s the simple things that make you happy… Thanks Amy Love for sharing this one with me!

Tooth brightener.  Because who doesn’t want a brighter smile? Just one or two uses a week. AWESOME!

Tooth soap.  This one defies explanation except to say that it’s soap, for your teeth.  I’m pretty sure once you start with this there is no going back to regular old toothpaste. It’s all natural, organic, good for teeth and gums and completely different from the usual routine!  And thanks Jenny for getting me hooked!

Tooth swish – for when you don’t have time to brush.  Another totally indescribable experience – it’s citrus-y, salty goodness that cleans and nourishes your teeth and gums.

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Red Wine and Your Health

In light of the extreme heat, the never ending drought and the horrifying fires that have touched so many lives in Bastrop and forever changed so many people’s worlds, it seems time for some good news.  So sit back, grab a glass of red wine if you can, and learn about the great reasons to take this kind of break more often.

A few drinks in a week can actually be a good thing for your heart-health as studies have indicated that moderate drinkers (5 – 9 alcoholic drinks per week) have lower risk of dying from heart related disease than do non-drinkers.  Keep in mind, of course, that heavy drinkers have much higher risk so lets not overdo it here. This means moderate drinkers have lower risk of coronary heart disease (or CHD) than do people who don’t drink any alcoholic drinks at all.  By decreasing your risk of coronary heart disease,  you are also decreasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Red wine  may actually be the healthiest of the alcohols, but any alcohol is better than no alcohol (I bet you never thought you’d hear a doctor say that).  Red wine is special because of something called resveratrol, which is a powerful antioxidant.  Resveratrol (or red wine) shows great anti-cancer properties, it’s good for your heart, it may even help with clear-thinking.  The best part is, it’s in red wine.  It’s also in purple grape juice, for those of you who don’t like wine or don’t like alcohol in general (but keep in mind the benefits of resveratrol are in addition to the benefits of alcohol).  It comes out of the dark colored skins of the grapes and is a great addition to your diet.

Don't worry, it's good for you. Thanks for the picture Mick Stephenson!

A small amount of alcohol also acts as a blood thinner and improves your circulation through small vessels, which is part of why you may flush when you drink – the blood vessels near your skin open up and so you turn pink. So here’s a summary:

Health Benefits of Alcohol (In Moderation):

  • Mild blood thinner that increases circulation to small vessels in your body
  • Lowers your risk of heart disease
  • Lowers your risk of heart attack

Health Benefits of Red Wine:

  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Boosts your heart health
  • May increase clarity of thought
  • All the usual benefits of alcohol

Things Alcohol Doesn’t Help With:

  • Sleep – even if it feels like it.  Read more here
  • Judgement – but I’m guessing you knew this already
  • Driving – please just don’t

It’s important to listen to your body and to know your own tolerances.  I’m a very small person and I have a low tolerance, so I treat a half-sized drink for a normal person like a full drink for me (I’m about half the size of a regular person anyway so this all works out). It’s about knowing my limits and listening to my body.  Alcohol tolerance changes with things like sleep, stress, the amount of food you’ve eaten, your hydration status and where you are in your hormone cycle.  Just remember to always pay attention – just because last week you had two glasses of red wine without any problems doesn’t mean you can today.  Always err on the side of moderation.

Also remember one glass of wine = 6 oz.  Please note the size of the wine glasses in your kitchen because most of them, if you actually filled them, would be about 24 oz of wine. The best thing to do is measure out 6 oz of water and put it in your favorite wine glass to see what that actually looks like.  If you double it that counts as two glasses of wine, even if it all fits in one wine glass.  Don’t get sneaky with your measuring…

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Alcohol Before Bed – Not the Best For Restorative Sleep

It comes as no surprise that although plenty of people use alcohol to relax and unwind at the end of the day, it’s no friend to your sleep.  In fact this Japanese study showed that alcohol may help you relax enough to fall asleep but actually gets in the way of staying asleep.

COCKTAIL © Alexmax | Dreamstime.com

In this study healthy young men were given three different strengths of alcoholic drink once each in a period of three weeks. One drink had no alcohol in it, one had 0.5 grams and the last had 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. The men in this study had their drinks almost 2 hours before they went to sleep.

In the study they measured heart rate variability, so the evenness of the men’s heart rates as an indicator of their sleep quality. Both alcohol groups, but most strongly in the high alcohol group, the men showed much higher than normal heart rate variability.  This means their sleep was more restless and more disturbed than the men who didn’t have alcohol before sleep.

The bottom line is that sleep and alcohol don’t mix well.  If you’re looking for something to help you fall asleep I’d highly recommend melatonin, which is your own natural sleep hormone. Melatonin is dose dependent so you may need more than one tablet (usually 3mg) in order to fall asleep easily.  Also practice good sleep hygiene and really taking care of your sleep environment will help.

Click for more information on getting great sleep naturally.

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My Thyroid is “Normal” – so Why Do I Feel So Bad?

I can’t begin to tell you how many times a week I hear this exact thing.  Women come to my office practically in tears because they found out their thyroid was low, or out of balance and started the hormones thinking that it would solve the problem, but months go by and they start losing hope. According to lab tests their thyroid is normal, but they still feel down and out. By the time they get into my office they’re usually so frustrated they’re teary eyed and feel helpless about their health.

Here’s the thing – there’s hope for you.  Let me say that again – THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU! Conventional medicine looks at the hormones and only the hormones.  They are great at finding the right balance of hormones to put you back in a normal range, but sometimes that doesn’t fix the problem.  When the problem doesn’t go away is when I start to look at nutritional deficiencies.  Your thyroid needs lots of things to function and lots of nutrients to make those hormones do what they’re supposed to.  If those nutrients aren’t there then the hormones just aren’t enough to make a difference.

Here are the biggest nutritional deficiencies in the thyroid game:

  • Iodine – your thyroid hormones need iodine to be created, and also the receptors for those thyroid hormones need iodine to work.  Basically this means if you don’t have enough iodine thyroid things just don’t happen.
  • Zinc – zinc is necessary for your pituitary to signal your thyroid to start releasing hormones so if you don’t have enough zinc then your thyroid doesn’t respond well.
  • Selenium – is necessary to help your body convert the forms of thyroid hormone from T3 to T4.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – helps your body secrete thyroid hormones.
  • Tyrosine – one of the building blocks of thyroid hormones

These things can block thyroid function:

  • Food Sensitivities – especially wheat and gluten.  There is a strong association between having a food sensitivity and having low thyroid function. More about food sensitivities…
  • Heavy Metals – toxicity hurts your thyroid function and has a lot of the same symptoms so if simple steps aren’t working then it might be a good idea to look into your heavy metals.
  • Goitrogenic Foods – these foods actually slow down your thyroid. A little bit isn’t enough to make a difference, but a lot sure can.  Especially Soy, but also brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, millet, kale, flax seeds and broccoli. These are all healthy foods and normal amounts are great, but if the only protein you get is soy protein you might want to reconsider.
  • Fluoride Toxicity – it might be good for your teeth in small amounts, but it’s bad for your thyroid.  Fluoride is toxic to your thyroid gland so try to moderate your intake.  Filtered water (check your filters, some add fluoride back in), and fluoride free toothpaste can help. If you can’t find a fluoride free toothpaste then look for a low fluoride content – all toothpaste gives the percentage of fluoride on the label.
  • Other Hormone Imbalance – if the rest of your hormones are out of balance it changes the way your thyroid works.  In general hormones all work as a team and so if some of that team doesn’t do it’s job the rest of the team tries to compensate.  It’s not pretty!

The bottom line is that there is hope for you – always.  There are so many ways to help your thyroid that the hormone is just a small part of it so if you feel like you’ve tried everything then come see me or visit another naturopathic doctor.  There isn’t any reason to feel bad.

If, by chance, you haven’t seen it – Dear Thyroid is one of my favorite thyroid resources and a great support system for anyone who’s struggling, who has a story to share or who wants to helps others with thyroid disease.

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