Is your toothpaste toxic?

Before your next minty fresh experience, be sure to investigate the safety of your toothpaste.

Did you know that even “natural” toothpastes from the health food store could contain chemicals that are harmful to your health?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are chemicals used in many body care products including toothpaste as foaming agents.

SLS is used in cosmetics as an inexpensive degreasing agent. However, according to a report in The Journal of Toxicology, even as much as .5% concentrations of SLS could cause skin irritation. Higher amounts, 10-30%, could cause major irritation. It is not uncommon for soaps to have up to 30% SLS.

Other health risks of SLS/SLES

  1. Can cause permanent eye damage (even if exposure wasn’t to the eyes).
  2. Immune system disruption.
  3. Skin roughening and disrupted biological function of the skin.
  4. Potentially carcinogenic when paired with dioxane and formaldehyde.
  5. Can retard proper eye development in kids.

How is it that SLS/SLES is still used in our toothpaste, shampoo, soap and many other products? The International Journal of Toxicology concluded that these chemicals are safe in products designed for “brief, discontinuous use followed by thorough rinsing”. Daily use of several products containing these chemicals was not studied in their report and so the safety issue remains unclear.

Alternatives

There are a number of non-toxic options. It is encouraged to use the EWG cosmetics database to double check products before you buy them. Many chemicals have different names that may appear on the label making it next to impossible if you aren’t a chemist to determine if it’s safe or not.

Weleda, Jason, Herbal Choice Natural Tooth Gels, and some Tom’s of Maine (not all) are a few non-toxic brands. You can also make your own toothpaste (for example, baking soda, water, peppermint essential oil, and a small amount of hydrogen peroxide).

Take care when choosing other body care products like lotion, shampoo, and soap as well since they can also contain SLS and other chemicals.

Non-toxic products can be found in most health food stores in the Bay Area including New Leaf Community Markets, Staff of Life, Rainbow Grocery, Way of Life, and Whole Foods.

BPA-free coconut milk

While BPA has been banned from 10 states in the U.S. (including California), China, Canada and parts of Europe, in the U.S., the ban applies mostly to BPA products for children (bottles, cups, and baby food jars). There is no guarantee that the canned items you are purchasing are free of this hormone mimicker. Industry leaders argue that the BPA lining is the lesser of two evils and that the lining helps prevent botulism, however, there is a volume of research on the negative health impacts of BPA.

Coconut milk has become a popular milk substitute for those with dairy intolerance. Boxed coconut milks often have sweeteners and additives and so BPA-free cans may be the cleanest way (unless you make your own straight from the coconut) to obtain coconut milk.

Brands of BPA-free coconut milk:

  1. Native Forest, available at the Food Bin in Santa Cruz, some Whole Foods in the Bay Area, and in bulk on Amazon.
  2. Trader Joe’s Light Coconut Milk. Coconuts provide healthy fats that are easy to digest due to their shorter chains and so light coconut milk does not provide as much of these beneficial fats. This can be remedied by adding some coconut oil as you cook or coconut cream (available in glass jars).
  3. Aroy-D comes in a box and they do not have added preservatives. They also have coconut cream.

In regard to other packaged foods, look at the recycle code on plastics. Types 3 and 7 may be more likely to leak BPA than the other codes. When possible, buy items sold in glass containers.

Can cleansing & detoxing make us fatter?

People wanting to lose weight often resort to body cleanses & detoxification to jump-start their program. While drastically reducing calories and drinking cleansing juices/shakes may result in speedy weight loss, these results almost always boomerang. Why?

3 reasons cleansing doesn’t result in permanent weight loss:

  1. Most people are nutritionally unprepared. When we stop caloric intake through a fast or reduce it to extremely low calories as is the case with juice or shake cleanses, the body has to recruit energy from our fat cells since we aren’t taking in adequate amounts to carry on all of our life sustaining functions (plus moving around, working, and possibly exercising). Besides providing energy, fat cells also store toxins such as DDT and PCB’s. When we cleanse, we free up the contents of these fat cells including all those toxins (detoxification). Toxins get stored in fat cells in the first place because the body wasn’t equipped to eliminate them. In a healthy body that has plenty of vitamins, minerals, co-factors and enzymes, toxins are eliminated rather than stored. It makes perfect sense that an overweight person has more stored toxins (they have more fat). If an overweight person starts their weight loss program with a cleanse rather than spending 6-12 months building up their nutritional reserves to be able to deal with all the toxins once released, their weight loss will be temporary as the body will have to re-store those toxins all over again. This often results in even more weight being gained.  The Catch-22 is that for cleansing and fasting to be successful and improve health (rather than a toxic burden), you already need to be healthy.
  2. Cleansing can throw your body into a hormonal tailspin through caloric deprivation. When calories are drastically reduced, it puts the body into energy conservation mode, slowing down your metabolism. However, the body is smart and our survival system kicks into place. One way it does this is through hormones. The hormones leptin (decreases) and ghrelin (increases) cause an increase in appetite and hunger signals, forcing us to seek out calories and “rescue” us from starving to death.
  3. Not having a long-term maintenance plan in place. Without making permanent lifestyle changes to maintain long-term weight loss, it’s not going to happen. The second you stop eating healthy foods, reasonable portions, and lose sight of other critical lifestyle factors like adequate sleep, stress reduction and optimal hydration, things fall apart.

Cleanses have the illusion of being a shortcut to weight loss and improved health. They aren’t. If you are healthy, eat the right diet, consume healthy portions, drink plenty of water, get exercise weekly, and reduce your stress, cleansing occasionally may make you feel even better. By taking good care of your health, your body will naturally cleanse itself. However, most of us are regularly exposed to many environmental toxins and need a little extra help in the detoxification department. If a trained wellness care professional tells you that you need specific cleansing (colon, kidney, liver, heavy metals, etc.), it is a good opportunity to give your body that extra attention. In general, we could all benefit from:

  • Choosing an organic diet free of toxins (pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc).
  • Avoid foods you are intolerant or allergic too.
  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of clean water daily.
  • Sleep 6-8 hours each night.
  • Move your body every day.
  • Incorporate activities into your daily life that you enjoy and reduce your stress level.


Adrenal health and weight loss

These little walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys are one of the most overworked and under appreciated body parts. Our adrenals play many roles in our health. I’m just going to focus on a brief summary of their role in maintaining a healthy weight (and weight loss).

The adrenal glands have two main components, the cortex and medulla, that perform such diverse functions that some scientists consider them to be two separate glands.

The adrenal medulla synthesizes epinephrine and norepinephrine, allowing our bodies to respond to stress. The adrenal cortex synthesizes important hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone and androgens. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down tissue (like muscle) and high cortisol levels raise blood sugar, which raise insulin–all to our detriment, making us prone to storing fat rather than losing it. Weight gain in the midsection that is resistant to weight loss is a classic indication of someone under chronic stress.

DHEA is a key hormone from which testosterone and the estrogens are made. It mitigates some of the negative affects from high cortisol and it also promotes the growth and repair of tissue (especially muscle). When the demand for cortisol is prolonged, DHEA levels decline and the whole hormone system begins to break down. Yikes!

The problem

In acute stress situations, our adrenals are meant to respond by releasing cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine to enable us to take appropriate survival “fight or flight” action. When the stress passes, these levels lower and normalcy ensues. This is when adrenal function is normal and stress is manageable.

In chronic stress, our hormones become disrupted and even incapable of normal function without intervention (removal of the chronic stressor and help restoring the damage). The adrenals have difficulty producing adequate levels of cortisol  and it generally becomes worse as the day goes on, although someone with tired adrenals generally needs coffee or other caffeine sources to “get them going” in the morning. Caffeine makes it worse, forcing the adrenals to work harder, and contributes to dysfunctional adrenals. It’s a vicious cycle.

Some causes

 

There are many potential stressors we face living in the modern world: food chemicals, food coloring, impurities in drinking water, synthetic chemicals in the home & office, pesticides on the cotton our clothes are made of (or clothing made from synthetic materials), perfumes in our laundry detergent or on our skin, pesticides in our food, genetically modified foods, medications, heavy metals, EMF, working long hours, work stress, pollution…my goodness, the list could just go on and on!

Besides your garden variety relationship, family, and/or work stress, there are MANY things that our bodies can interpret as stress since they disrupt normal healthy function. Not all stressors are obvious either. For example, food intolerance or parasites & pathogens can be quite difficult to identify without proper lab testing yet they can cause a drain on your health much like someone poking a hole in your bathtub plug. The cumulative stress caused my several stressors taking their toll on your health day after day is what leads to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a health red flag being frantically waved so that you make changes before it is too late.

Signs of adrenal fatigue

  • Extra weight in the middle
  • Difficulty losing weight even with exercise
  • Blood sugar imbalance or diabetes
  • Feeling exhausted, especially in the afternoon
  • Low sex drive
  • Reproductive issues
  • Thyroid condition
  • Low bone density
  • Problems managing weight
  • Mood disturbance
  • Difficulty concentrating, poor memory

Restoring adrenal function

Restoring function to tired adrenals is a piece of work. The first piece is as basic as nailing down the optimal diet, a metabolic typing diet, and eliminating food allergies and intolerances. I offer both of these tests as well as the BioHealth 205 adrenal function panel. This is a saliva test which tests your cortisol levels and rhythm throughout the day (it is possible to have “normal” cortisol output, but have very sick adrenals and this is something the rhythm test will identify), 2 DHEA tests, melatonin, estriol and estradiol (estrogens), and testosterone levels. The results of this test convey valuable information related to the level of function of your adrenals and from this, an advisor can determine the right protocol to help you whip those adrenals back into shape.

Lifestyle is an important factor in restoring adrenal function.The world we live in now is quite different than the world even 50 years ago. Technology can be a double edged sword. I love Facebook as much as the next person, but it can be a time suck that distracts us from more important things such as sleep,  face to face time with our friends and family, preparing healthy meals and taking a walk outside in the fresh air.

Getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night, eating the right diet, drinking enough clean water, moving your body daily, and using stres reduction techniques are all part of an adrenal repair protocol. If you think that your adrenals are fatigued (or if you are just curious), take this free adrenal function questionnaire (close to bottom of page).

 

Take the 30 day “Love your body, love your health” wellness challenge!

Got any plans this next month? Well add this to the top of your list because without good health, you won’t be fully enjoying all the rest of the great stuff life has to offer.

I’m inviting you to take a 30 day “Love your body, love your health” wellness challenge! From Jan 14th till Valentine’s Day (aw, how sweet), commit to:

  1. Eating foods and amounts of foods that you know are nourishing, satisfying, and don’t sabotage your health.
  2. Incorporate movement you truly enjoy at least twice a week.
  3. Get 6-8 hrs of sleep every night.
  4. Drink half your body weight in ounces of clean water daily.
  5. Say 1 affirmation daily (i.e., “wow, my butt is looking pretty good today” or “I totally rocked that Sudoku puzzle”).

For some of you, this will be easy and for others, incredibly challenging. Do it anyway.
Please post your comments or questions here on the blog or on Facebook. Let’s support each other and do something truly nice for ourselves at the same time!

Pot belly posture

Is your posture contributing to weak abdominal muscles?

An ideal posture, from the side view, shows the ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles stacking directly over one another. In swayback posture, the hips and pelvis are thrust forward and the upper body leans backward to compensate. The head and neck also move into a compensatory forward position because the body is trying to re-balance itself.

The pot belly illusion

One of the drawbacks of a swayback posture is that the forward position of the hips forces the lower abdominals into a weakened, lengthened position which is good for neither function or appearance. The lack of strength in the low ab muscles allows the belly to protrude and doesn’t give adequate support to the internal organs or low back.

Swayback posture.

Muscle imbalances of swayback posture

Besides weak lower abs, people with swayback posture usually also have weak mid-back muscles, hip flexors, & gluteals and shortened, overly tight low back, upper abdominals and hamstrings.

What to do if you have swayback posture?

Since there are many reasons why someone might have swayback posture, different therapies are going to help different people so it is necessary to keep an open mind when choosing corrective exercises and stretches. Besides paying attention in the mirror to how your joints stack up, working with a postural specialistphysical therapist or a personal trainer with special posture training can provide invaluable insight and save you a lot of trial and error.

Some general guidelines for improving swayback posture are:

  1. Address pelvic instability through pelvic tilts, bridging and isolated hip flexor lifts.
  2. Promote thoracic extension. The sitting floor exercise against a wall helps align the spine and strengthen the muscles that hold the spine in the correct position that are weak in those with swayback (hip flexors and mid-back musles).
  3. Improve hip mobility while stabilizing the pelvis. This assisted hip lift stretch is effective for both. Stability ball circles and leg swings are also effective.

If left untreated, swayback posture can lead to chronic back pain (mid and low) and poor core strength. Given the right corrective routine, posture and abdominal appearance will improve, pain subside and core/back strength increase.