Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Toxin Spotlight: Talc

This is the first post in a series on toxic ingredients found in beauty and household cleaning products.  First up, talc.

Talc is probably one of the very first toxins we were all exposed to as newborn babies.  It kinda makes me sad.  Our parents just didn't know better, and sprinkled baby powder all over our itty bitty bottoms, exposing us to a toxin that is very similar to asbestos.  Yes, the known carcinogen, asbestos.

Content from Cancer Prevention Coalition:

Q. What is talc?

A. Talc is a mineral, produced by the mining of talc rocks and then processed by crushing, drying and milling.  Processing eliminates a number of trace minerals from the talc, but does not separate minute fibers which are very similar to asbestos.

Q. What kinds of consumer products contain talc?

A. Talc is found in a wide variety of consumer products ranging from home and garden pesticides to antacids.  However, the products most widely used and that pose the most serious health risks are body powders.  Talc is the main ingredient in baby powder, medicated powders, perfumed powders and designer perfumed body powders.  Because talc is resistant to moisture, it is also used by the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture medications and is a listed ingredient of some antacids.  Talc is the principal ingredient home and garden pesticides and flea and tick powders.  Talc is used in smaller quantities in deodorants, chalk, crayons, textiles, soap, insulating materials, paints, asphalt filler, paper, and in food processing.

Q. Why is talc harmful?

A. Talc is closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos.  Talc particles have been shown to cause tumors in the ovaries and lungs of cancer victims.  For the last 30 years, scientists have closely scrutinized talc particles and found dangerous similarities to asbestos.  Responding to this evidence in 1973, the FDA drafted a resolution that would limit the amount of asbestos-like fibers in cosmetic grade talc.  However, no ruling has ever been made and today, cosmetic grade talc remains non-regulated by the federal government.  This inaction ignores a 1993 National Toxicology Program report which found that cosmetic grade talc, without any asbestos-like fibers, caused tumors in animal subjects.  Clearly with or without asbestos-like fibers, cosmetic grade talcum powder is a carcinogen.

Q. What kind of exposure is dangerous?

A. Talc is toxic.  Talc particles cause tumors in human ovaries and lungs.  Numerous studies have shown a strong link between frequent use of talc in the female genital area and ovarian cancer. Talc particles are able to move through the reproductive system and become imbedded in the lining of the ovary.  Researchers have found talc particles in ovarian tumors and have found that women with ovarian cancer have used talcum powder in their genital area more frequently than healthy women.

Talc poses a health risk when exposed to the lungs.  Talc miners have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses from exposure to industrial grade talc, which contains dangerous silica and asbestos.  The common household hazard posed by talc is inhalation of baby powder by infants.  Since the early 1980s, records show that several thousand infants each year have died or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby powder.

Q. What about infants?

A. Talc is used on babies because it absorbs unpleasant moisture.  Clearly, dusting with talcum powder endangers an infant's lungs at the prospect of inhalation.  Exposing children to this carcinogen is unnecessary and dangerous.

What to Do?

Do not buy or use products containing talc.  It is especially important that women not apply talc to underwear or sanitary pads.

Do not use talc on your baby.  This means no Johnson & Johnson baby powder.  I have purchased from Well.ca a powder from Hugo Naturals called Shea Butter Baby Powder that works just as well as talc powder, but instead of talc, the ingredients are: Zia Mays, (corn) starch, simmondsia chinensis (organic jojoba) seed oil, tocopherol (natural vitamin E),  and butyrospermum parkii (organic shea butter).  It works great.  I think that technically, you can probably just get away with using cornstarch from your cupboard.  Pretty pure.  Thankfully, there's often a healthy alternative to the toxins in our world.  And it usually requires simplifying our way of thinking and creating :)

Have a great day!

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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Estrogen Dominance: Hormone Hell!

I'm sorry I fell of the radar for most of this month!  I'm a bad blogger :(  Work, and life, have just been a bit crazy and busy lately.  Sometimes that happens, right?

It's really time I did a post on estrogen dominance, since many women (and some men) have this.  They may suffer from certain symptoms, and not even realize why.  Women who have taken the birth control pill may have estrogen dominance.  Plus, there are so many estrogens in our environment that the scales are often tipped in the favour of excess estrogen in our bodies.  This is a topic I have become well researched in, as I have been dealing with estrogen dominance for quite some time now.  As you know from this blog, I've also been treating it with naturopathy for the past year, and changing everything about my internal and external environment.  I will be, for the most part, sharing information found directly from other sources. 


There are three forms of estrogen: estradiol, estrone and estriol.  Estradiol is 12 times more potent than estrone and 80 times more potent than estriol.  Over exposure to estradiol may increase a person's risk of estrogen related symptoms and/or disease.  Estriol, on the other hand, is considered the "good estrogen" as studies show it may actually protect against cancer.

The primary role of estrogen in women is to maintain the growth and function of the uterus so that the sex organs can become adult sized, and also to prepare the uterine lining to receive a fertilized egg. Additionally, for both men and women, estrogen affects skeletal growth, skin, fat and protein deposition, and electrolyte balance.  Maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen can be difficult, as there are many factors today that can throw off estrogen balance, including exposure to xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens and poor estrogen metabolism. 


Progesterone is the building block for many other major hormones including corticosteroids, which are essential for stress response, electrolyte balance, blood pressure, and survival.  Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen are all made from progesterone in a process that begins with cholesterol.  Progesterone is a primary hormone needed for fertility and pregnancy. It is essential to the survival of the fertilized egg, the embryo, and the fetus. In pregnancy, it prevents the shedding of the uterine lining.   A drop in progesterone can result in a miscarriage.  Some health care professionals are beginning to make a connection between low progesterone levels and symptoms of fibromyalgia.

There is only one type of progesterone, as opposed to the three types of estrogen.  When in its all natural form progesterone is considered a very safe hormone.  When in a synthetic form, progesterone is called progestin, and is considered to have much greater health risks than all natural progesterone.

Adequate progesterone levels are essential to healthy hormone balance. 

How They Work Together

Estrogen and progesterone work in synchronization with each other like a system of checks and balances to achieve hormonal harmony in both men and women.  Estrogen is an active hormone that is actually able to increase the production of its own receptors.  It stimulates tissue to grow. When left unchecked (due to inadequate progesterone levels), it can stimulate tissue to grow inappropriately.  Progesterone works to balance estrogen.  It is able to decrease the production of estrogen receptors, thus protecting the body from estrogen induced tissue growth like uterine fibroids and estrogen positive cancers. Estrogen and progesterone need the presence of each other in order to correctly perform their individual functions.  When estrogen and progesterone become out of balance, often estrogen dominance is the result. 


Estrogen Dominance

The following is a list of symptoms that can arise when there is excess estrogen in the body, relative to low progesterone.  This list is not exhaustive:

     •   PMS
     •   decreased sex drive
     •   uterine fibroids
     •   polycystic ovarian syndrome
     •   irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
     •   bloating (water retention)
     •   breast swelling and tenderness
     •   fibrocystic breasts
     •   headaches (especially premenstrually)
     •   mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
     •   weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen, hips and thighs)
     •   cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
     •   hair loss
     •   thyroid dysfunction
     •   sluggish metabolism
     •   foggy thinking, memory loss
     •   fatigue
     •   trouble sleeping/insomnia

    Estrogen dominance has also been linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, and increased blood clotting, and is also associated with acceleration of the aging process.  In men, estrogen dominance can cause problems like decreased fertility due to low sperm count, baldness, development of breasts, weight gain, and sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction.  High levels of estrogen also cause enlarged prostates.

    Birth control pills cause or contribute to estrogen dominance by keeping estrogen levels high, in order to trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, and therefore cannot get pregnant again.  The weight gain, decreased libido, depression, and mood swings that often accompanies being on the pill, is caused by estrogen dominance.

    As I've explained in other posts, we are exposed to xenoestrogens in our environment, and phytoestrogens in some of the foods we eat.  These estrogens mimic estrogen in the body, and when there aren't enough receptors available in the body to use the hormones, they kind of just float around the body and wreak havoc with our systems.

    Common sources of xenoestrogens are pesticides and herbicides, commercially raised meat, plastics, styrofoam cups, canned foods, personal care products and cosmetics, birth control pills, detergents, car exhaust and indoor toxins, all artificial scents, air fresheners and perfumes, and paints, lacquers and solvents.

    More than 300 foods have been shown to contain phytoestrogens. Most food phytoestrogens are from one of three chemical classes, the isoflavonoids, the lignans or the coumestans. Isoflavonoid phytoestrogens are found in beans from the legume family; soybeans and soy products are the major dietary source of this type of phytoestrogens. Lignan phytoestrogens are found in high fibre foods such as cereal brans and beans; flaxseeds contain large amounts of lignans. The coumestan phytoestrogens are found in various beans such as split peas, pinto beans, and lima beans; alfalfa and clover sprouts are the foods with the highest amounts of coumestans.

    So you can see that our environment constantly exposes us to compounds that mimic estrogen in our body.  Is it any surprise that so many people have high estrogen levels?  It's pretty much an uphill battle for everyone to have normal hormones, under these circumstances.

    What Can You Do?

    I am not a doctor or naturopath, or any sort of expert with formal education, though I hope to be at some point.  If you have issues with hormone imbalance, I strongly encourage you to find a naturopath.  I am not here to provide any sort of medical opinion.  I can only relate to you my personal experiences and extensive research, some of which you have read about in this blog already.

    I really think the first place to start is by cutting down, or eliminating your exposure to estrogens in your home and environment.  Replace the plastic in your kitchen, and generally stop using it for any food and drink.  Buy organic produce and naturally raised meat without hormones and antibiotics.  Stop using harmful beauty/hygiene products and perfumes.  These days, there are really wonderful, quality natural products that are just as good as any others, and widely available at any health store or online.  Use more natural cleaners in your home.  Find a natural laundry detergent (like soap nuts) and stop using dryer sheets.  These are all things you can do, to some degree hopefully.

    Once you're done detoxifying your home and lifestyle, there are other things you should keep in mind in terms of balancing those hormones.
    • Studies have shown that drinking more than two cups of coffee a day boosts estrogen levels in women.  For some women, cutting out caffeine can really reduce PMS symptoms.  
    • Watch your diet: too much refined food, and diets high in empty carbohydrates and fat can increase estrogen levels.  
    • Detoxify your liver, and watch your alcohol intake.  Intake of alcohol increases the level of excess estrogen.  When the liver has to work hard to eliminate toxins such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, or environmental agents, the liver’s capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen is compromised.
    • Aerobic exercise, movement that gets your heart pumping, has been shown to facilitate hormone balance.
    • Remember to get enough fibre.  Estrogen is excreted by the bowel; if stool remains in the bowel, estrogen is reabsorbed.

    Different Supplements I Have Learned About

    Again, I am not suggesting you take any of the below listed supplements without advice from a naturopath.  I just want to give you the info so you know there are lots of natural supplements that help with hormone imbalance.

    Chaste tree

    Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree or Monk's Pepper, was said to be used as herbal remedy by monks in the Middle Ages to diminish their sex drive, and its common names stem from its use by monks to maintain celibacy. Although it does seem to occasionally reduce sex drive in women, the effects are less pronounced than the name of this plant suggests. 

    In modern times, chaste tree is used primarily as a women's herb for menstrual complaints. The flavonoids in chaste tree exert an effect similar to the hormone progesterone, although the plant contains no hormonal compounds. Chaste tree acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, normalizing the release of both follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

    The overall effect is to regulate the menstrual cycle and slightly increase the production of progesterone in women who otherwise have irregular cycles. Many menstrual complaints are known to result from a relative lack of progesterone. When progesterone levels are low relative to estrogen, the result is often infertility, heavy bleeding, lack of periods, too-frequent periods, irregular periods, and premenstrual syndrome. Because it helps normalize LH levels, chaste tree alleviates these complaints. It can normalize and regulate menstrual cycles, reduce premenstrual fluid retention, and treat some cases of acne that flare up during menstruation.  Source

    Tribulus Terrestris

    Tribulus is thought to support healthy hormone profile by boosting testosterone levels via stimulation of the anterior pituitary gland. This stimulation is thought to promote the production and secretion of Leutinizing Hormone (LH), which can lead to increases in unbound, free-testosterone levels.  As a result, this herb can enhance libido in men and women.  Source

    Biotone EFA (Essential Fatty Acid)

    Biotone EFA is a unique combination of rice bran, soybean and wheat germ oils specifically formulated to support and regulate hormonal function.  Rice bran and wheat germ oils are high in octacosanol, fatty acids, phytosterols, and in ketosteroids, anabolic growth agents, and lipotropic factors.  Octacosanol, found in wheat and in rice oil fractions, improves heart functions, increases vitality and endurance, prevents muscle spasms, and duplicates the biological effects of sex hormones and ketosteroids without the side-effects associated with hormone therapy.  Source

    Evening Primrose Oil

    Evening primrose oil is used for conditions affecting women's health, such as breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle, menopausal symptoms, and PMS.


    Please see my previous blog post on the use and benefits of maca.

    Vitamin B6

    When women become estrogen dominant, they become Vitamin B6 deficient.  Vitamin B6 has long been touted to help PMS.  Most studies confirm that women taking B6 supplements have decreased bloating, breast pain, and premenstrual acne flare, a condition in which pimples break out about a week before a woman's period begins.  Source


    Magnesium Citrate provides the body with a highly absorbable form of magnesium, which is often depleted when estrogen levels are high.  A deficiency in magnesium can lead to severe PMS, muscle cramping, and fatigue, among other symptoms.  Magnesium is important for hundreds of bodily processes and can have an effect on virtually every organ system within the body.  Therefore, it is important to be sure that your body gets adequate daily amounts.  Interestingly, chocolate is one of the foods that is highest in magnesium.  Some women with estrogen dominance have a chocolate craving just before their period.  Source

    Calcium D-glucarate

    Calcium D-glucarate is a substance produced naturally in small amounts by humans. Supplementation of calcium D-glucarate has been shown to prevent recycling of hormones and environmental toxins, promoting liver detoxification and excretion of these potentially detrimental substances.  In this way, it lowers estrogen levels.  Source

    Indinol 3-carbinol

    Indole-3-carbinol is a member of the class of sulfur-containing chemicals called glucosinolates.  It is found in high amounts in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, turnips, and rutabagas. Indole-3-carbinol acts as an antioxidant, can stimulate natural detoxification enzymes and supports normal hormone metabolism.  In the body, Indole 3-carbinol can be broken dow into diindolylmethane (DIM), another indole compound that also has similar health benefits.

    Foods to Eat

    Cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip greens and watercress.

    Fibre binds to estrogen metabolites in the stool and encourages excretion of excess estrogen through the stool.  For getting more fibre, seek out whole, unprocessed foods, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains.

    Foods Not to Eat

    Soy contains isoflavones that are called phytoestrogens because they can mimic the effects of estrogen. These compounds can worsen the effects of other estrogenic chemicals and contribute to estrogen dominance.  Avoid soybeans, edamame, tofu, soy protein, soy beverages, soy cheese and other soy-based products.

    Commercially raised meat and poultry are often given hormones that resemble estrogen to speed up their growth and development.  When you eat commercially raised beef or chicken that contain hormones, these estrogen-like hormones accumulate in your body and can contribute to your estrogen dominance problems.  Avoid regular meat and chicken and choose hormone-free options.  Even better, opt for grass-fed beef and free-range chicken to reduce your exposure to these hormones.

    Conventional Produce: Most fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues, which can disrupt the balance of your hormones by mimicking estrogen in the body.  Buy organic for the "dirty dozen," the produce with the highest levels of contaminants.  The dirty dozen includes peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.  Visit the Environmental Working Group for more information.

    Phew!  A lot of info there.....

    And there's a LOT more info to share still, this topic is huge.  Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful.  My last word on the subject, just based on my own personal experience of dealing with this, is that if you are having hormonal imbalance as indicated by any of the symptoms listed above, go see a naturopath.  I see Dr. Shannon Munkley out of Balance Integrated Healthcare in Liberty Village.  She has been amazing, and she really works on the whole person, physically and emotionally, and she really gets you involved with your own treatment.  It is up to you if her treatment helps -- because it's up to you to make sure you're actually doing what she suggests.  It has changed my life, but slowly.  If you want to be prescribed a birth control pill to get a quick fix, and likely go through a long lasting tornado of imbalanced hormones in the future, then go see your GP.  If you want to work naturally with your body using herbal supplements, diet, and lifestyle change, find yourself a good naturopath.

    Have a great weekend!


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    Monday, 30 January 2012

    Product Review: OMG Spa Stuff! Sweet Escape Cocoa Luxe Collection

    Hello, happy Monday!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

    This is a romantic time of year.  Yes, Valentine's Day is just around the corner, but that's not the main reason I'm feeling lovey dovey.  My 4 year anniversary is on the 1st!  This time of year is just romantic for me; it brings me back to when Jeremy and I just started dating.  It was the dead of winter, 2008, a winter of blizzards, making it a struggle just to get out of the house and see each other.  I fell for him hard and fast.  We flirted like mad for the next couple weeks, and then before we knew it, it was Valentine's Day.  I sent a card to his office by courier.  I got all dressed up, and then Jer knocked on my door and took me out to a cozy little French restaurant for an amazing dinner, and gave me a beautiful red Betsey Johnson watch bangle.  The restaurant was playing orchestral Christmas music, still!  We brought it to their attention, and they switched it to something else, but within 20 minutes, the Christmas music was back on.  It was pretty funny.  Anyway, what wonderful memories!

    This time of year, I find myself going for pedicures, going to Body Blitz, and seeking out long and luxurious baths with decadent scents.  I just crave that warmth, romance, and indulgence in the winter months.  I've found some bath/spa products lately that are driving me wild!  I was introduced to Sweet Escape at Christmas, and have been loving it since then.  This Ontario company has an amazing selection of lotions, body butter cremes, bath soaks, and sugar scrubs that smell incredible.  The products are made with decadent all natural and nourishing ingredients with absolutely no parabens, phthalates, SLS, or harmful preservatives.  It's hard to find really good quality and indulgent bath and body products that are natural and clean.  I've finally found what I'm looking for! 

    I've been using the Cocoa Luxe collection lately, which consists of a warm cocoa bath soak, dark cocoa sugar scrub, and creamy cocoa body butter creme.  I don't have to wait for someone to give me chocolates!  They all smell absolutely divine.

    Warm Cocoa Bath Soak, Dark Cocoa Sugar Scrub,
    Creamy Cocoa Body Butter Creme

    First I run a hot bath, and pour a generous amount of the Warm Cocoa Bath Soak under the running water.  I step into the tub and let myself slink into the warmth and soft cocoa scent that is filling the air.  I like to bring a glass of red wine with me to enjoy, of course!  The Epsom salt and dead sea salt soothes sore muscles and feet, and the virgin oil de coco-creme softens the skin.

    After relaxing for a while, I use the Dark Cocoa Sugar Scrub on my entire body.  Sugar scrubs are beneficial for gentle exfoliation, and because they are natural, there are no harsh side effects.  You can use it safely no matter your skin type.  The exfoliation removes excess oil and skin cells, unclogs pores, and leaves fresh, soft skin behind.  Cocoa in particular has antioxidant properties which prevent the free radicals from causing damage to the skin’s elastin, other protein and collagen, so it's great to use in skin care products.  Chocolate is also a good moisturizer.  This scrub leaves my skin so soft, and smelling good enough to eat!

    After all this decadence, I use the Creamy Cocoa Body Butter Creme, which is soft and luxurious, but not oily.  Sweet Escape makes by far the best quality body butter I have ever used, and it lasts for a long time.  I just towel off, and put it all over my entire body, and it absorbs so nicely, leaving my skin baby soft.  I especially love using it on my feet and elbows, as well as my legs.  At this time of year, I find my skin can get so dry, so I use the creme daily.  And since I don't use perfume, this is perfect for me, because I smell so good that Jeremy wants to be close all the time.  It's a treat for him too! :)

    I've come to really love this relaxing routine - it really is a sweet escape, because everything smells just like dessert!  By the way, I tasted the sugar scrub, just out of curiosity, because you can see from the ingredients below that they are almost entirely edible.  It tasted kind of good!  Hehehe.

    There are many other scents and products I can't wait to try: Coconut Creme Sorbet Sugar Scrub, Key Lime Coconut Shimmer Body Lotion, Tahitian Vanilla Coconut Bath Soak....just to name a few (can you tell I love coconut?).  Orders can be placed online, and delivered to Canadian and U.S. addresses.  I encourage you to check out Sweet Escape if you're craving some indulgence as we settle into the long winter ahead.  I really find it helps so much with the winter blahs just to treat yourself......but you've gotta do it clean!

    Speaking of which, check out the amazing ingredients in the Cocoa Luxe Collection - this stuff was made so well:

    Warm Cocoa Bath Soak

    Sodium Chloride (Dead Sea Salt), Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Milk Powder, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (Coconut Derived), Cocomidopropyl Betaine (Coconut Derived), Sodium Bicarbonate, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Powder, Cocos Nucifera (Virgin Oil De Coco-Creme), Theobroma Cacoa (Cocoa) Absolute, Althea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Extract, Tricalcium Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol and Caprylyl Glycol (Preservative)

    Dark Cocoa Sugar Scrub

    Organic Sucrose (Cane Sugar), Dark Sucrose (Brown Sugar), Caprylic/Capric Trigyceride (Fractioned Coconut Oil), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Emulsifying Wax NF (Vegetable Derived), Organic Beeswax, Gyceryl Stearate, Palm Stearic Acid (Vegetable Derived), Organic Copernicia Cerifera (Carnuaba) Wax, Organic Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Powder, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Passiflora Incarnata (Passionfruit) Oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Absolute, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Bean Nibs, Phenoxyethanol and Caprylyl Glycol (Preservative)

    Creamy Cocoa Body Butter Creme

    Aqua (Water), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Emulsifying Wax NF (Vegetable Derived), Palm Stearic Acid (Vegetable Derived), Cocos Nuciferas (Coconut) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grapeseed) Oil, Glyceryl Monostearate, Cocos Nucifera (Virgin Oil De Coco-Creme), Passiflora Incarnata (Passionfruit) Oil, Camelia Sinensis (Japanese Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Absolute, Phenoxyethanol and Caprylyl Glycol (Preservative)

    Have a great day, and don't forget to treat yourself!


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    Friday, 27 January 2012

    Recipe: Superfood Trail Mix

    It's Friday!!!  I took the day off today, so I'm just relaxing, running a few errands, fabric shopping for my sewing course, and hitting the gym around noon.  Don't you just love taking a day off during the week?  The world is so different when everyone is at work and you're not.  Plus it's snowing now, and it's so beautiful!

    Perhaps you've noticed my running series about superfoods. If you haven't, that's probably because I've only written two posts in the series so far.  My blog is young :)

    A superfood is a food rich in phytochemicals, which are special chemicals that have been noted to have disease-fighting properties.  Phytochemicals can reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system, or in some other way contribute to a person being healthier.

    I decided to take some of my favourite superfoods and combine them into a delicious and healthy trail mix. Pictured below are shredded coconut, cacao nibs, goji berries, mulberries, and chia seeds.

    I've gone over coconut's amazingness in full detail in my Coconut Lovin' post, so I won't get into that again.

    Chia Seeds:
    Same thing -- in my post called Superfood Spotlight: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia.

    Goji Berries:
    AKA Wolfberries contain:
    • 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
    • 18 amino acids
    • 6 essential vitamins (calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin)
    • 8 polysaccharides and 6 monosaccharides
    • 5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid
    • beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
    • 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
    • numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with antioxidant properties
     Source: Wikipedia

    Nutrients in mulberries include protein and carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, carbohydrates, and iron. Mulberries also contain fibre.  Mulberries contain anthocyanins, a powerful type of antioxidant.  They may help improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure, and may prove beneficial as an anti-inflammatory.  Source: Livestrong

    Cacao Nibs:
    Studies show that cocoa nibs have higher antioxidant levels than blueberries, red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in cocoa nibs are also more stable than in other foods and are easy for the body to assimilate.
    Cacao nibs have the following health benefits:
    • Energy Boost: Cacao nibs contain a substance called theobromine, a central nervous system stimulant that has a similar, though less powerful, stimulating effect as caffeine.  It may give you a healthy energy boost if you're feeling low during the day.
    • Mood Elevators: Cocoa contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid required for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Enhanced serotonin levels can quell anxiety and enhance mood.  Eating cocoa also helps to release endorphins, the body’s natural opiates.  Endorphins are what give runners that natural high. Eating cocoa can have a similar effect and may explain why some people become self proclaimed chocoholics.
    • PMS Symptoms: Magnesium deficiency is known to aggravate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.  Forty percent of women admit to chocolate cravings.  This may be the body’s attempt to obtain sufficient magnesium levels.  Since cacao nibs are a natural snack without added sugar, they may be a healthier way to satisfy monthly chocolate cravings.
    • Appetite Control: Cocoa contains chromium an important mineral for stabilizing blood sugar and reducing appetite.
    • Improve Circulation: Cocoa is a great source of flavanols, powerful antioxidants that play an important role in circulation.  Flavanols help to prevent clogged arteries by helping to stop fatty acids from oxidizing in the bloodstream.  Flavanols also help make blood platelets less sticky, which reduces the risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
    • Improve Cholesterol Levels. Cocoa contains healthy monounsaturated fats. The same fats found in olive oil. These healthy fats have been shown to raise good cholesterol (HDL) level.
     Source: Fitday

    All of the above makes this trail mix super packed with incredible nutrients, vitamins, fibre, omega 3, antioxidants, good fats, and the list goes on and on.  Enjoy!

    Superfood Trail Mix

    1/2 cup goji berries
    1/2 cup cacao nibs
    1/2 cup shredded coconut
    1/2 cup Mulberry Power
    1/2 tbsp chia seeds

    Just mix it all up and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

    Optional: I made a batch with 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds.  While it was good, the taste really took over, such that you couldn't taste the berries and cacao nibs as well.  We also tried them raw, which would be preferred in terms of keeping the nutrients intact, but there was a "raw" flavour that just didn't go.

    Special thanks to Jeremy as my taste tester and photographer :)

    Nutrition Information
    Serving Size: 2 tbsp approx

    Calories:   137
    Calories from Fat:   67
    Total Fat:   7.4 g
         Saturated Fat:   4.8 g
         Trans Fat:   0 g
    Cholesterol:   0 g
    Sodium:   7 mg
    Total Carbohydrates:   15.9 g
         Dietary Fibre:   3.9 g
         Sugars:   9.7 g
    Protein:   2.3 g
    Vitamin A:   47%
    Vitamin C:   44%
    Calcium:   5%
    Iron:   11%

    It's a bit higher in sugar than I would like, while on a paleo diet, but the sugar is almost entirely from the berries, and it's not terribly egregious in small quantities.  Just don't overdo it on this trail mix, and I think you'll be fine.

    Have a great weekend, friends!


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    Tuesday, 24 January 2012

    A peek inside my bathroom cabinet

    Hey there!  I hope all is well in your world!  Things are really great in mine.  My parents came to visit on the weekend, and I took my mom to a cooking/info workshop with nutritionist Julie Daniluk, called “The Recipe for Healing Inflammation.”  She has a new book out called Meals that Heal Inflammation, which is chock full of information, and some amazing anti-inflammatory recipes.  They cooked up a delicious lunch for us, and we bought Julie’s wonderful book, which I think is a must-read for everyone.  It was a nice afternoon with my mom.

    I know that shopping for clean beauty products can be a challenge for some people at first.  Shopping in a health store can be rather daunting.  And reading labels is almost like speaking another language!  I’m still learning that language myself, but I’m getting pretty fluent.  I thought I’d give you all a peek inside my bathroom cabinet and show you the products I use all the time.  I have found some amazing clean and natural products.


    Shampoo/Conditioner: Kiss My Face Miss Treated
    This stuff is obviously meant for those with damaged hair, and it works wonderfully to replenish moisture and health to my hair.  Kiss My Face products are generally very clean – no parabens, phthalates, SLS, artificial fragrance, and often with organic ingredients.

    Conditioning Mask: Live Clean Exotic Nectar Argan Oil Restorative Conditioning Mask
    I use this after shampoo and conditioner, leaving it on for 5 minutes.  It smells great, and leaves my hair very soft and conditioned.

    Oil Treatment: Weleda Rosemary Hair Oil
    I was using Moroccan Oil for a while, but sought out an oil treatment without any harmful ingredients, and came upon this rosemary oil.  It works just as well for restoring some health to my hair, with some incredibly healing natural ingredients.

    Leave In Conditioner: Giovanni Vitapro Fusion Leave In Hair Treatment
    My hair is so damaged from regular straightening that I take this extra conditioning step.  Giovanni hair products are fantastic, and the ingredients are clean.

    For Going Curly: North American Hemp Co. Curl Activator & Reactivator
    I use this spray when I wear my hair curly.  I just spray it all over my damp hair and scrunch the curls.  The ingredients are clean, and the product is amazing.

    Hairspray: Botanical Therapeutic Natural Hairspray
    This stuff works just as well as any standard hairspray, without any of the harmful chemicals.

    Anti-Frizz: Giovanni Frizz Be Gone
    I use a tiny bit of this after straightening, just to smooth out my hair from top to tip.  Giovanni offers so many great hair products with clean ingredients.

    Hair Dye: Tints of Nature
    This permanent hair dye contains no ammonia or ammonia substitutes, and no parabens.  It contains certified organic ingredients.  Coverage is excellent, and the colour looks natural.



    Face Wash: Kiss My Face Clean For a Day
    I’ve done a product review on this one.  I’ve been using this wash for more than 2 years, and it’s fantastic, and clean.

    Moisturizer: Derma E Vitamin A Wrinkle Cream
    I was using coconut oil as a facial moisturizer for the longest time, but recently switched to this cream.  It smells great, and absorbs well.  It seems to plump up wrinkles.  It can be applied under make up well.


    Soap: Soap Works
    This is a great company in Toronto which makes wonderfully pure bar and liquid soap.  Pictured to the right is my personal favourite, Cucumber & Calendula.  What I really love about this company is that they use no packaging on the soap!

    Bath/Shower Spa Regime: Sweet Escape Bath Soaks and Sugar Scrubs
    Sweet Escape bath soaks and sugar scrubs are incredibly nourishing to the skin, smell absolutely amazing, and leave my skin soft and healthy.  They provide a truly relaxing spa experience for me at home.

    Body Lotion: Sweet Escape Body Butter Creme or Lotion
    I use these lotions and body butters after every shower to put the moisture back in to my skin -- especially at this time of year.  The ingredients are fantastic and clean.

    Hand Cream 1: Green Beaver Cranberry Hand & Body Lotion
    Green Beaver is a fantastic Canadian company which makes wonderful products with clean ingredients.  I keep this cream at home and at work, and it's the perfect moisturizer, without being oily.

    Hand Cream 2: 100% Pure Vanilla Bean Hand Buttercream
    I recently discovered this company out of California.  As the company name indicates, every ingredient in their products is pure and natural.  This buttercream is amazing, and I'm in love with vanilla bean.  I found this cream at the Big Carrot, and it's purse sized for on the go.


    The make up brands I use are Tarte for eyeshadow, eyeliner, and foundation, and mascara and eyeshadow by Pure Anada.

    Hope you enjoyed this peek at the clean and natural products I use.  Many of them I bought from Well.ca, which is just such a great resource for shopping.  They have a great selection, and offer free shipping in Canada.  Let me know if you have any questions.

    Have a great week! :)

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    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    Simple ideas for cleaner living

    I'm really into this clean living stuff, it's true.  I try not to be pushy about it with friends and family, but I'd like to think that I have influenced one or two people to try doing things a bit differently in their lives.  Maybe to shop for organic produce, or stop using tupperware.  Every extra little thing people do in their lives to avoid toxins, and to be kind to the environment, is awesome.

    It's the simple and obvious ideas that can make a huge difference.  The following is a list of simple things that everyone can aim for, to live a less toxic life, and to be less wasteful of our resources.  Some of it is a recap from earlier posts.
    1. Replace your kitchen plastic.  You knew I would go there first.  It doesn't have to be all at once the way I did.  I fearlessly dropped $400 because I'm just that crazy!  But just start out small, and take your time with it.  Buy a couple of containers you can use for food storage, and a stainless steel container you can take your lunch to work in.  Replace a couple of your cooking utensils.  Replace your plastic cutting board.  Replace your plastic kettle with an all stainless steel kettle.  Check out IQ Living on the Danforth, they've got everything you need there.  Cut down on plastic wrap -- use tin foil and wax paper.  Reuse jars for food storage.  Avoid canned food, as the cans are lined with BPA.  Generally cut down on or avoid eating food or drinking liquids from plastic.  This includes take out containers, water bottles, and disposable coffee cups.  The take out food containers are tough to avoid, unless you just start taking out food from your own kitchen.  Replace your water bottles with the Klean Kanteen Reflect, and buy yourself one these babies for your coffee.  Is the coffee at your workplace brewed using those plastic disposable K-cups?  Stop drinking that coffee immediately, it's SO unhealthy and toxic for the body, and it's an atrocious waste of resources.  Take your new ceramic mug with silicone lid, and go on down to Starbucks.

    2. Buy natural beauty and hygiene products.  Of course.  Remember, our skin is our largest organ, and it absorbs the products we use into our tissue and blood.  The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database should be bookmarked on your browser, because it's such an incredible resource to help you shop cleaner.  Shop at the health store, read labels, buy products with less ingredients.  Avoid any product that says paraben.  Avoid any product with fragrance/parfum, unless it specifically says the fragrance is from natural sources, or essential oils.  Stop using perfume, you smell way more beautiful just as you are.  Some companies I really love, and are generally clean, yet still really fantastic, are: Green Beaver (Canadian company), Kiss My Face, Soap Works (love the Cucumber Calendula!  And they're a Toronto company), Giovanni (for hair stuff), and Hugo Naturals (though I always check the Skin Deep database before buying their stuff).  I buy a lot of my products on Well.ca, which is in Guelph, and offers free shipping in Canada.  They have tons of clean selection -- just click on the green & natural link.  I also go to Whole Foods and the Big Carrot on the Danforth.  Both have a large beauty and hygiene section, including cosmetics.

    3. Buy things with less packaging.  So much of our consumer goods are way over-packaged.  Christmas was a pretty big eye opener.  I made it a specific mission to buy things that were not overly packaged, and I did very well.  But I certainly received some gifts packaged in a ton of plastic and paper, and I felt sick to my stomach at the waste generated.  Just be more aware of this when you're shopping.  Avoid plastic where possible.

    4. Buy organic produce and naturally raised meat.   I won't go too much into this, as I wrote extensively about it in previous posts: Salad With a Side of Hormones? and Convenience Food.  Simply, you want to avoid pesticides on your produce, and hormones and antibiotics in your meat, because they disrupt your hormones, leading to all kinds of serious health problems.  You also want to avoid genetically modified organisms.  Support your local farmers.

    5. Remember the 3 R's.  Remember them all.  It seems really silly, but if we're talking simple, we need to go back to basics.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.  We all seem to have the hang of recycling, but I think we've become somewhat complacent with the other R's and rely on recycling to ease our conscience.  Recycling is not the be all and end all, especially when it comes to plastic.  The first R is the most forgotten, but probably the most important.  Example: Recently on a friend's Facebook page, he complained about the Keurig coffee machine at work with the single use K-cups, and another person commented that they don't feel bad about all the waste because the K-cups get recycled.  That really got me going, of course.  Single use items like that are ridiculously wasteful, and I see no way such waste can be justified.  They should never have been produced in the first place, but there are far too many rich, self-indulgent, and spoiled rotten people who need their items of convenience, that there is a demand for such crap.  I'm not even going to apologize about offending anyone on this point.  My workplace uses the K-cup brewing system and the single use creamers, and it makes me sick every time I go in the kitchen.  Reduce, reuse, recycle: Reduce your use first, then reuse what you can......then recycle that which you had to buy, and could not reuse.  That's how I look at it.  Okay, rant over.

    6. Eat less (or no) pre-packaged food.  You'll be saving yourself from eating so much toxic junk, sugar and preservatives, and you will feel better, look better, and live longer.  Not to mention, you'll produce much less garbage.  This is obvious and simple, but eating should be simple, with whole ingredients, and with things that last came from the earth, not a factory.

    7. Stop chewing gum.  Please go to this site and this site, and read about gum.  It's toxic.  You will never want to touch the stuff again.  The only safer alternative I have found is Glee Gum.

    8. Take good quality fish oil.  Omega-3 fatty acids are amazing.  I could write a whole post about this, actually, because there is lots to tell you.  The best quaility oil I have found is NutraSea from Ascenta.  From TheSpec:
      "Omega-3s decrease inflammation, which is essentially the underlying cause of many diseases.  They can help treat and prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure.  They can decrease high cholesterol by increasing HDL (good cholesterol), decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.  Omega-3 fish oils are a blood thinner and play a similar role to Aspirin without Aspirin’s unwanted side-effects.  They are great for supporting the brain and nerve function, thus helping with mood, memory and concentration in conditions such as menopause, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke recovery, students studying for exams, and depression and anxiety.  Research studies have compared omega-3 fatty acids to antidepressants such as Effexor and have found people in the fish oil group fared better than those on conventional antidepressants. In June 2010, Dr. François LespĂ©rance at the University of Montreal, published his results from the largest study ever conducted assessing omega-3’s efficacy in treating major depression. They were published in the online Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The results proved omega-3 fish oils are an effective treatment for people with major depression. Omega-3s also help lower high blood sugar levels in diabetics. They help support joint health in those with arthritis, sciatica and musculoskeletal conditions. In those with chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis, fish oils can help support the skin and decrease inflammation caused in these conditions.  Omega-3s also benefit auto-immune conditions such as Chron’s, Colitis, Celiac disease, allergies and any other condition where the immune system is hypersensitive."
    9.  See a naturopath to cure what ails you.  I'm telling you, it is the best thing I've ever done.  I am almost 100% past my physical issues with PMS.  Yes, it has taken a whole year.  But having the patience to allow your body to heal naturally will benefit you in the long run.  The body is so much more complicated than traditional medicine can treat.

    10. Buy products made here.  It's another obvious idea.  It can be really hard to do, because so much of our consumer goods are made cheaply overseas and shipped here.  We know all the implications of this: the child labour, sweat shops, the environmental toll, etc.  I know I can't be perfect with this, but I try to buy locally made as much as possible.  It supports our local economy, and cuts down on emissions to keep our earth a little greener.
    This little list is by no means exhaustive.  There are so many things we can all do to have healthier lives and homes.  I'm still learning lots myself.  Some things just aren't in my means yet, and there are other things I just don't have the time to do at this point.  But I feel good about changes I have made in my life and routine, and my health has certainly benefited.  In terms of toxins, we're forced to fight an uphill battle to live clean, because that's just way our world is.  So if we can make an effort to avoid the things within our control, I believe we will be healthier, and possibly avoid disease and live longer.  I really believe this.

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    Friday, 6 January 2012

    Superfood Spotlight: Maca Root (let's get it on....)

    Happy New Year!  First post of 2012!  I don't know about you, but my return to work this week has been rather painful - getting up at 7am just doesn't suit me after 10 days off!  And how can I still be fighting the cold I picked up on boxing day?!?  Sigh, oh well.  I still feel so happy that it's 2012!  I hope your new year is off to a great start too :)

    Perhaps you've heard of today's superfood, maca, a small radish-like plant grown high in the Andes in Peru, used as a root vegetable and medicinal herb for thousands of years.  Though it's not a really pretty plant, it's actually a sexy superfood that is known to rev up the libido, increase energy and stamina, and balance out hormones, along with a bunch of other benefits.

    Apparently, Incan warriors would eat maca before going off into battle to give them increased strength and endurance.  But they would have to stop taking it before returning to the villages, to keep the women safe from the powerful libido boosting effects of maca.  Sounds sexy!


    Maca is a nutritional powerhouse

    Maca contains the following, which absolutely puts it into the category of "superfood": 
    • Composition: 59% carbohydrates, 10.2% protein, 8.5% fiber, 2.2% lipids 
    • Essential Amino Acids: nearly all including Aspartic Acid, Glutamic acid, Serine, Histidine, Glycine, Threonine, Alanine, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Valine, Methionine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, HO- Proline, Proline, Sarcosine 
    • Free Fatty Acids: 20 have been found of which the most abundant are linolenic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid 
    • Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, C, D 
    • Minerals: iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, calcium 
    • Macaenes and macamides: novel polyunsaturated acids and their amides 
    • Sterols: campesterol, stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol 
    • Alkaloids: Aromatic glucosinolates including: benzyl glucosinolate, p-methoxybenzyl glucosinolate 
    • Isothyocyanates: benzyl isothiocyanate, p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate
    Source: http://www.raworganicmaca.info/

    Maca is an adaptogen

    This means that maca increases the body's ability to defend itself against both physical and mental weakening, and potential illness, and it helps restore balance within the entire body.  Where this especially helps us is with respect to our endocrine system and balancing our hormones, something I'm a big fan of.  Maca does not contain hormones, but provides a unique set of nutrients that directly fuel the endocrine system and help the glands to produce vital hormones in precise dosages predetermined by one's own body.  This is great news for those with hypothyroidism, menopausal women, women with PMS, and men with low testosterone.  Maca helps balance one's hormones in the way their body needs.

    Maca increases stamina, strength, and athletic performance

    From Livestrong:
    "Maca contains protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals -- all nutrients that you need to fuel exercise. In addition, its antioxidant effects may help it prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness after a strenuous workout. According to Peak Performance, studies suggest that antioxidants enhance the adaptive response to exercise-induced muscle damage by increasing the number of immune cells responsible for muscle repair. Maca's purported mood-lifting effects may help provide increased motivation for exercising and working out. Finally, maca's high levels of calcium, magnesium and silica can promote bone health and possibly reduce chances of fractures, making it of particular interest to athletes."
    Maca can help those with anemia

    Maca has a higher iron content than most red meats, so those who suffer from anemia could consider incorporating maca into their supplement routine, for an extra iron boost.  Also great for vegetarians and vegans!

    Maca is an aphrodisiac

    Isn't this what everyone came here to read about?  From Herbalist.com:
    "Maca root is believed to help sexual performance and act as an aphrodisiac that boosts libido in both men and women. Chemical research has demonstrated that maca contains a chemical called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate, which has reputed aphrodisiac properties.  Because maca is thought to balance hormonal activity, it is believed to be useful in cases of sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders.
    In men, it is believed to treat male impotence and erectile dysfunction and may, in fact, increase seminal volume and sperm motility. There are also claims that maca especially enhances sexual performance and endurance. The April, 2000, issue of Urology reported that the sexual performance claims made by those who used maca were consistent with the legendary reports coming from Peru. In women, it is said to increase libido, perk up a low sex drive and may, because of the herb's glucosinolate content, enhance fertility."
    There have been numerous documented studies on maca and libido/sexual function, and even sperm quality and fertility.

    Peruvian maca root is the highest growing food plant
    anywhere in the world, growing at an elevation of
    14,000 feet above sea level.

    Maca root is available at health stores in loose powder and capsule form.  If taking as a powder, you can sprinkle it over cereal, or make a smoothie.  Of course, the root  vegetable itself is edible, and I have read that it tastes like potato, though I don't imagine it would be wildly available here.  I personally do not take maca at this time, since I've been on a whole cocktail of other supplements, so I can't share my own anecdotal story.  If you have a story to share, please do!  But um, keep it clean! ;)

    Have a wonderful, super sexy weekend!


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