Health Tip #31

health-tip-31

If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin

Skin care products and cosmetics can be full of a host of hidden and  unsavory ingredients. The general rule of thumb when choosing personal care products is if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.  This is because what we put on our skin is directly absorbed into the blood stream.  Harmful chemicals can be absorbed into our bodies increasing our toxic burden, making us sick and making it hard for us to lose weight as excesses toxins are stored in fat.

Ingredients to avoid

According to Nadine Artemis of Living Libations skin care, there are several ingredients that we should watch out for.  These ingredients include:

1. Sulfates (sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS))
2. Paraben (look for the prefixes ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- or isobutyl)
3. Sodium Benzoate (found in many ingredients that are “extracts”)
4. PEG (Polyethylene Glycol has many different uses in cosmetics…and in oven cleaners)
5. FD&C Colors and Pigments (mixed with calcium or aluminum as fixates so the color stays put on the skin)
6. Alcohols (Check product labels for isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol 40 and ethyl alcohol, ethanol, denatured alcohol, methanol and benzyl alcohol)
7. Urea (Urea can be labeled as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin)
8. Fragrances (The term alone can indicate the presence of up to one thousand substances, many toxic or carcinogenic)
9. Aloe Vera (usually compromised by hidden preservatives like sodium benzoate, sodium sulfite, potassium sorbate and citric acid (to adjust pH))
10. Water (tap) (aqueous solutions are vulnerable to spoilage, preservatives (like paraben, sodium benzoate and Leucidal Liquid) must be added to the product. It is probably tap water, too, which means it likely contains chlorine and fluoride along with a multitude of other toxins)

Extract from Deciphering Cosmetic Codes: Ingredients Your Skin Can Live Without

Health Tip #30

health-tip-30

“There must be something sacred in salt: It is in our tears, and in the ocean.”  Kahlil Gibran

Why We Need Salt

In fact, salt is in our blood, sweat and tears.  And salt, or sodium,  is also needed to regulate our fluid levels and blood pressure, help the brain communicate with muscles through nerve impulses, the contraction and relaxation of muscles, adrenal function and the uptake of nutrients into the cell.  That’s all pretty important stuff.  Salt cravings can be a sign we are lacking in needed minerals or that our adrenals need nourishing.

Don’t Forget The Potassium

So why are we told to seriously reduce or eliminate salt from our diets?  This is because of sodium’s job of regulating fluids and blood pressure.  It is believed that too much salt in the diet results in high blood pressure which in turn increases our risk of heart attack and stroke.  Studies have shown that a diet too low in salt could be as unhealthy as diets too high in salt.  And that the unhealthy effects of salt consumption could have more to do with our sodium-potassium balance than with too much sodium alone.  Adequate potassium levels have been associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.  Potassium can be obtained from vegetables and fruits including: avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, coconut water, white beans, bananas, acorn squash and dried apricots.

Ditch The Table Salt

The other problem with salt is that most of the sodium in our modern diets comes from processed table salt added to nearly all processed foods.  Table salt is highly refined and stripped of nearly 60 trace minerals, leaving it devoid of nutrients.  Table salt contains sodium chloride, added iodine and many man made chemicals including anti-caking agents, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, and preservatives like aluminum hydroxide.

Choose Natural Salts

Natural salts such as pink Himalayan salt and sea salt contain sodium chloride but unlike table salt, they also contain their natural trace minerals including phosphorus and potassium.  Iodine is not present in significant levels in these salts but iodine can be obtained by adding sea vegetables to our diet. Locally, Harmonic Arts has a sea-vegetable blend that can be added to soups and stews to up the mineral and iodine content of our meals.

Health Tip #29

health-tip-29

Just take a bath

This is going to be a simple post.  Just take the time to have a hot bath once a week.  Soak for 15-20 minutes and relax.  A hot bath can make you sleep better, ease muscle tension and improve circulation.  Throw in some Epsom salts and essential oils to improve the therapeutic affects.

Epsom salts for magnesium

Epsom salt baths help us detox and replenish magnesium stores.  The magnesium will easily be absorbed through the skin.  Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and many of us don’t get enough.  We need it for normal muscle function including  the heart muscle (normal cardiac activity).   Other than Epsom salt baths, the best way to get magnesium is from a dietary source, by eating fresh vegetables, particularly leafy greens, grown in healthy, mineral rich soils.  Magnesium and calcium need to be balanced 1:1 in our bodies.  Too much calcium has been associated with heart attack, stroke and sudden death.  For strong bones, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D and Vitamin K2 all have to be present.  This is why it’s best to get our calcium from food sources over supplements.  Nature has a way of keeping nutrients in balance.

Taking a hot bath is an easy way to a long list of health benefits.  So go take a hot bath!

Health Tip #28

health-tip-28

What is a mental diet?

Just as our physical diet is made up of what we eat and drink, we also have a mental diet.  Our mental diet is information we take in through our senses (things we hear, things we see), and interpret in our minds.  Our mental diet also includes the things that we tell ourselves about those things that we perceive and how they relate to us.  In short, our mental diet is what we choose to feed our minds.

Watch outside influences

The outside influences of our mental diet include, family, friends, coworkers and those people around us that touch our lives.  Just stop and take a moment to think about the people who are a part of our lives.  Are they a positive influence on us?  What sort of things do they talk about?  Do they gossip?  Are they judgmental of us or others? How do we feel after interaction with them?  Do they leave us feeling uplifted and hopeful?  Or do they leave us feeling deflated and depressed?  Just like junk food, if the influence of others leaves us feeling low, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to limit the time spent under those influences.

Outside influences also include media such as television, movies, video games, magazines, newspapers, the internet and social media.  Just as there are many temptations for junk food in our physical diet, there are unlimited sources of mental junk food as well.  Much of the aforementioned media fits into that category.  Most of what we hear of and see in the media is paid for by large corporations with massive advertising budgets.  Their goal?  To make us feel inadequate and lacking so we will want what their selling.  That doesn’t make for a healthy mental diet.

Watch internal dialogue

The external influences are not the most important part of our mental diet.  The things that we tell ourselves about these influences, the perceptions we form and how they relate to us is the most important part of our mental diet.  We tend to become what we believe so watching our internal dialogue is an important practice.  Are our thoughts loving and kind toward ourselves and others?  Are our thoughts mean and judgmental?  Do we spend a lot of time blaming and complaining or do we spend time thinking of positive solutions?  Are the thoughts we’re thinking bringing us happiness?  Are our thoughts bringing us closer to our goals?

A healthy mental diet

So how do we create a healthy mental diet for ourselves?  For starters we can limit the unhealthy external influences.  But what we really need to focus on is improving our internal dialogue. Below is a list of things that can help us improve our mental diet from the inside out.

Get good sleep Focus on positive thoughts Good whole food nutrition Recite positive affirmations

 

Visualization Meditation – becoming an observer of our thoughts Heal the gut  (gut-brain connection) Exercise

 

Get out in nature Spend time with positive influences Set goals and take positive action Give, and be kind to others
Take responsibility and not blaming Write a gratitude journal Live minimally- doing and having less Speak well of ourselves and others

Health Tip #27

health-tip-27

Why Shop The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store?

If you think about your local grocery store, it’s mostly laid out with the fresh foods, seafood, meats, dairy and produces cases around the perimeter of the store.  So why should we shop the perimeter of the grocery store?  This is where the whole foods are.  Always look for the foods that are the least processed, harvested from the wild or come from a farm rather than a factory. The middle aisles tend to be where we find highly processed foods containing dubious ingredients.

Choose High Quality

Even when shopping the perimeter it behooves us to choose the highest quality ingredients that we can afford.  If you can, choose wild local seafood, local grass-fed meats and dairy products and a rainbow of brightly colored, local and organic produce.

Plan Ahead

It does take more time to prepare a whole food meal from scratch but the benefits to our health is well worth the effort.  Planning ahead, making a menu plan and shopping with a list will help with this task.  Using a slow cooker, especially during the cooler months, is another great time saver.  Planning ahead and remembering not to shop when feeling ravenous are good ways to save money and to help make the healthiest choices while shopping.

 

Health Tip #26

health-tip-26

Eat The Old-Fashioned Way

This  post is a continuation of the post about basing our diet on simple, old fashioned foods.  As much as possible we should try to eat natural whole foods that our grandparents and great grandparents and great great grandparents would have recognized.

Foods Are Like Drugs

The foods that we eat and the beverages we drink make up every cell of our bodies.    Foods are like drugs, and they send powerful chemical messages all over our bodies, including our brains.  Everything we choose to eat and drink has a huge impact on our health and how we feel physically and mentally.

Taking Stock

As we are in January and beginning a new year, and as we want to make better choices for ourselves and our family in the coming year, it’s time to take stock of what it is we have in stock.

Out With The Old and What Is Not Serving Us

We already talked about cutting out the diet foods and overly processed sugary foods and processed carbohydrates.  We talked about replacing the damaged processed fats with healthy fats. Now is the time to consider clearing out all the products from our pantries, refrigerators and freezers that aren’t serving us in our endeavor for weight loss and overall health.  Ditch the energy drinks and candy bars.  Ditch the breakfast cereals loaded with sugar.  Breakfast cereal out of a box really isn’t the best start to our day anyway.  Ditch the bags of chips and salty snacks, particularly the ones flavored with MSG or hidden as “yeast extract“.

Become A Food Detective

In general, go through your kitchen and be a bit of a detective.  Read the labels.  If there are ingredients in your food that you have never heard of and have no idea what they are, get rid of them.  Why would we eat things when we don’t even know what they are?  And why the heck do we need modified corn starch, propylene glycol, carrageenan and gelatin in our  0% fat yogurt?  Ironically these ingredients don’t belong in our yogurt but the fat does!  Did you know we can’t even utilize the calcium in the yogurt without the fat anyway?  Choose a yogurt that is just real, whole yogurt.  Locally where I live, Tree Island Yogurt is my choice.

If you want to know more about reading labels and the about the detrimental ingredients in our foods, check out Vani Hari at the Food Babe.

 

Health Tip #25

health-tip-25

Bathing In Nature

Being outdoors in nature brings about a feeling of peace and restores our equilibrium.  I love being in the forest here on the Pacific North West Coast, surrounded by big trees, or walking along the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore.  I always feel better after spending time in nature.  “Shinrin-yoku,” is a Japanese healing practice of “forest bathing”.  It means spending time in a forest, to improve mental and physical health by  inhaling negative ions, essential oils and even beneficial bacteria from the forest air.

Health Benefits of Negative Ions

When we are in nature, near mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, we are exposed to negative ions.  There is evidence to show that negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood enhancing chemicals which in turn help to relieve depression and stress, and give us an energy boost.  This may be one of the reasons why being outdoors in nature has been shown to decrease stress, increase creativity, improve mood and self-esteem and improve SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder).

Touch The Earth

As I am writing this post in January, it may seem a little impractical, but one of the best ways to expose ourselves to negative ions is through grounding, or touching our bare skin to the earth, such as walking barefoot on the beach.

Nature Offers Better Air Quality

Another good reason for spending at least some time each day, outdoors in nature, is that indoor air quality is usually far worse than outdoors.  This is due to off gassing of building materials, paints, carpeting and furniture and the build up of dust and mold.

As we mentioned in the post about sleep, getting out in natural sunlight helps set our internal clock and helps us sleep better at night.

Green Exercise

Exercising outdoors in nature or green exercise can be very energizing and has the added benefit of adding variety and intensity to our workout as we move through the wind, weather and changing terrain.  Exercising outdoors has also shown to lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).

Those who have little contact with nature have been shown to to be more likely to suffer from certain mental disorders.

Walking Meditation

And as a final note, the next time you’re outdoors in nature, why not try doing it mindfully.  Turn off the noise (music players, cell phones…) and be fully present, for at least a few moments, to the nature around you, moving in time with your breath and sensing the moment.  Truly be in nature.

Health Tip #24

health-tip-24

The Sumo Diet

If you want to put on weight, go on the Sumo wrestler’s diet.  Sumo wrestlers would purposely wake themselves up in the night to eat in order to put on weight.  This is a great way of adding excess body weight because we don’t need fuel while we’re sleeping.  Night fed rats were also shown to put on more weight than their day time fed counterparts. Ideally we should eat before we need the fuel or before we are going to be exerting ourselves.

Eat When You Need Fuel

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?  Our ancestors might have had a big breakfast to fuel up for a day of hard physical labor but if we have a big meal and then go sit at a desk job, that old adage isn’t serving us in the same way.  It really depends on when we need the fuel.  We should try to eat before we need the fuel and not eat when we don’t need fuel.

Avoiding Late Night Eating Problems

Ideally we should eat our last meal  3 hours before we go to bed to avoid excess weight gain, acid reflux and to prepare the body for a period of fasting overnight while we sleep. Staying up late and eating late throws off our metabolism and internal biological clock.

Health Tip #23

health-tip-23

It was inevitable.  Sooner or later I was going to mention exercise.

Move Like Our Ancestors Did

If one of our ancestors, who lived off the land, before the time of all our modern technologies and conveniences, heard us talking about exercise, they’d think we were crazy.  They didn’t have to exercise.  Daily life was exercise. They had to use their bodies a lot more. In our modern exercises, we should try to replicate some of the hard work that constituted exercise for them.

Keep Moving

They had to move a lot.  There wasn’t a lot of time for just sitting down.  In our modern times, sitting has been labeled the new smoking for its negative health effects.  So, we too, should aim to keep active.  Park the car further away from the store front and walk.  Leave the car and walk or ride your bike.  Take the stairs.  Go for a walk on your lunch break.  Use a stand up desk at work.  Keep moving!  We should aim to sit as little as possible during the day.

Move Like Your Life Depended On It

The other thing our ancestors had to do was to move quickly in short intense bursts, often to avoid unwanted consequences.  Short burst of intense activity should also be included in our exercise regime.  If we’re taking a walk, we may speed walk as fast as we can for short bursts, then return to our regular pace.  If we’re jogging, we may sprint for short bursts.  It is suggested that we get out and get our heart pumping in this way 2 1/2 hours/week.

Heavy Lifting

Yet another thing our ancestors had to do was move heavy objects from place to place.  Resistance and weight training are excellent ways to replicate this work.  We can even use our own body weight for these exercises, as in push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, planks, squats, lunges… We don’t need expensive equipment.  Yoga and Pilates are great weight bearing exercises as well.  Weight bearing exercise is important as we age for maintenance of strong bones.   It is recommended that this kind of exercise should be done 2 times/week.

Stay Quick and Nimble

Our ancestors were agile.  As we age we tend to lose our agility.  Doing agility exercises helps keep us young.  Do you ever watch kids on the playground?  Try adding in agility exercises.  Go through an agility course at a local park, try out a local adventure park or indoor climbing gym.  Take a dance fitness class.  Or, the next time you take a walk in the park, don’t just walk, play.  How would a child walk through the same park?  Would they just walk or would they jump off stumps and find wobbly logs to balance on?

Have Fun!

Most of all, make exercise fun and enjoyable.  Do a form of exercise that you love doing, not something that you have to force yourself to do, and do it consistently.

Health Tip #22

health-tip-22

We Need Our Sleep

Sleep is not merely a waste of productive time.  Sleep is a necessary part of your overall health.  We need 8 hours of sleep each night for optimal health.  Lack of proper sleep can lead to a decline in mental and physical health including:  reduced cognitive function, memory loss, weight gain, obesity, depression, headaches, anxiety, accidents, diabetes, decreased immune function, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and lack of emotional control.  A lack of sleep also exacerbates chronic illnesses already present.

While we sleep, our body goes into a detox, repair and mental and immunological integration faze.  Without sleep we miss out on all of these processes.

Sleep For Better Brain Health

Sleep makes you smarter.  While we sleep, and as we dream, our brain sews together (integrates) the pieces of our experiences into memories, discovers the rules for our lives and fosters insight.  Studies have shown that students performed better on problem solving and memory and recall tests when given a chance to sleep on it.   Our brain strategizes and figures out answers to our problems and possible paths of action and the meaning of our lives while we sleep.  A lack of this process can lead to lack of mental health including depression.

Lights Out

In order to get good sleep we need complete darkness.  Light at night disrupts our anti-cancer, melatonin production.  It is for this reason that shift work is listed as a possible carcinogen.  Blue light emitted from fluorescent and LED lights are not healthy for us during the night.  Using blue-light blockers on technology, blue light blocker glasses and incandescent lights at night will help with this.

Stay In Sync With The Sun

Ideally to synchronize our biological clocks, we should be rising with the sun, being exposed to natural sunlight during the day and darkness at night.  Spending daylight hours outdoors will help with this, especially at high noon, so taking a walk on our lunch break is a great idea.  Not only that, but spending time outdoors in nature also helps with good quality sleep.

Winding Down

Shutting off all electronics and stopping work 1 or 2 hours before bed can help with a good nights sleep.  Doing activities that help you to relax and wind down will also help you sleep.  Have a hot bath, listen to relaxation recordings, read something uplifting or write in your gratitude journal and have a good nights sleep.