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How I Learned to Tell Time the Female Way

**WARNING: This is a highly feminine & immensely personal post, so if you aren’t willing to read about my ladyparts, please hit the back button NOW.**

Since this is my 100th blog post (woop woop!!) I figured I’d make it count.  AND since it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to choose a subject to fit the day.  So I picked a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, one I feel is at the root of women’s health.  I deeply believe that women have immense power: the power of creating and nurturing life.  The same power mother earth, God, Allah, or whatever Powers That Be possess.  I therefore believe that a woman’s ladyparts (inside and out!) deserve nothing but the best of care; after all, they have a pretty damn important job to do.  While I do believe this is a highly personal subject deserving the utmost spiritual and logical consideration, I’m going to bare my soul (or rather, uterus) in this post in hopes that my story can help someone faced with the same choices as me.

PeaceBlossomCandles on Etsy

PeaceBlossomCandles on Etsy

A few years ago, when I was going through a very difficult but necessary breakup, a good friend of mine gave me a goddess candle to remind me that every woman is a goddess, no matter how broken or bruised she may be.  She probably did not realize the significance of this gift at the time, but the idea swirling within that wax figurine has become a central part of my being.  I’ve made the mistake of thinking too little of myself far too many times in the past, and that gift has helped me past many of my insecurities.

I’ve been on the birth control pill since I was 19.  I’ve never wanted kids, and in the 6 years since I made that choice, my feelings on that matter haven’t changed.  My favorite part of life is the ease with which you can change your course, and my vision of an adventuresome life gets all kinked up when you throw a baby into the mix.  Moreover, I can’t justify bringing a child into a world already so overpopulated – and faced with so many horrible social, economic, and environmental disasters.  Children are simply not a part of my life plan.  So I went on the pill.

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Microgestin, the pill I’ve been on for the past 3 years.

When I started down the holistic health path a few years ago, my first goal was to get off birth control pills.  But I was seeing a guy who didn’t like condoms, and I wasn’t informed enough to trust any natural methods, so I decided to stick it out.  A few more pill packs couldn’t do that much more damage, right?  So I continued to read about the subject here and there.  I was working at a health food store at the time, and it seemed like every other women who came in had the same questions as me: are synthetic hormones really that bad?  Isn’t taking the risk of an unwanted pregnancy worse?  My boss gave every one of them the same answer: Yes, they really are that bad.  I listened to her give the same speech to young women like me, women recovering from hysterectomies, women going through menopause.  Synthetic hormones wreak havoc on the very parts of your body you’re trying to protect, the parts that give you the sacred power that makes you a goddess.

Like many of those women, I didn’t listen.  The pill was convenient, much more so than having to worry about condoms breaking or trying to calculate what days I was fertile.  And then I went in for a routine pap smear and heard the one word no one ever wants to hear: cancer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I had high-grade dysplasia, which is a mutation of cells in the cervix that often leads to cervical cancer.  And considering every woman in the past three generations of my family has had either breast cancer, cervical cancer, or both, I was at extra high risk for it.

I ran to the health food store to talk to my boss.  I’d heard her give the speech a hundred times to customers, but I needed to hear it again, this time for me.  She told me that dysplasia is usually caused by a folic acid deficiency, and the thief is none other than the pill.  Along with causing hormone imbalances that can cause reproductive cancers – as well as depression, blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, increased candida populations, and a host of other negative side effects – oral contraceptives rob your body of essential B vitamins, most importantly B2, B6, and folic acid.  My first priority, obviously, was to get the hell away from that pill.  With the help of my boss, we came up with a plan to get my body back in goddess condition.  Our plan of action included the following:
-Stop taking the pill
-Start taking probiotics to get my gut in on the detox plan (I started with Enzymedica’s Candidase to help get my candida – or yeast – populations back in check, then I switched to Dr. D’Adamo’s Polyflora O, a probiotic formulated specifically for people with O blood types)
-Take folic acid and B vitamins (I was taking 1000 mcg of folic acid daily)
-Restore my hormonal balances by taking New Chapter’s Broccolive (I wouldn’t recommend taking anything from NC now that they’re owned by Proctor & Gamble, but you can get the same hormone balancing and anti-cancer effects by eating raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, watercress, collard greens, and arugula)

I took the supplements for the month between my pap and my kalposcopy (cervical biopsy).  When I went in and the doctor got a closeup look at my cervix, she seemed a bit confused.  Fearing the worst, I told her to just lay it on me, that I was prepared for the worst.  She told me not to worry because… there was nothing there.  No dysplasia, no abnormalities, not a single cell out of place.  My temple was pristine again.  All it took was taking out the trash and replacing it with wholesome foods and vitamins.  I remember laying there, my most private, powerful places exposed to the world, crying and promising my body that I’d never take the pill again.

I ended up going back on the pill about a year later simply because I was terrified of getting pregnant.  I hadn’t quite made up my mind about which side of the abortion debate I was on, so I decided to avoid it completely, even at the cost of my own body.  I left the condom-hater (with the help and empowerment of my goddess candle) and eventually met the man whose ring I now wear.  Neither of us want children, so I figured my decision to get back on the pill was a good one.  But the arrival of my fiance in my life coincided with the loss of something even more important… my period.  It was a gradual disappearance, not a middle-of-the-night kidnapping; each month it would be shorter than the last, until finally it would only last about 24 – 48 hours.  It started when I moved in with him, in a new town, where I saw a new GYN, who gave me a new pill with a new dosage of estrogen.  All this newness threw my ladyparts into hysterics, and my mind followed suit.  Why were my periods shrinking?  Was my uterus shrinking too?  Was something wrong with my eggs?  I wasn’t planning on using them, but I liked knowing they were there, the sacred seeds of life passed down from generations of women before me.  Without them, could I still call myself a goddess?  Could I still call my body a temple?

Not only were my periods shrinking, but so was my well of desire.  This was a problem I’d never, ever faced, and it scared the holiness out of me.  For the first time in my life, I was wholly, madly, deliriously in love, and yet half the time it felt like my ladyparts were asleep.  WTF?

I started frantically researching alternate birth control methods.  I’d broken a promise I made to my body, and now I was paying for it.  My temple was crumbling, and I had to stop it.  I had to get off synthetic hormones once and for all.  A number of my friends simply lived by their cycles; they knew the days they were fertile, and they either avoided sex during those days or used barrier methods.  For thousands of years, women have been living by their cycles, and what better example to follow than that of my grandmothers?  So I made up my mind that this was my new path… until I got on Facebook and saw a picture of my friend’s darling baby girl, who is living proof that this method does not always work.  Her big blue eyes and tiny nose awakened a deep, deep fear in me, for as adorable as tiny noses are, I still did not want one in my life.

So I looked into tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied).  I found that the procedure causes a hormonal imbalance similar to menopause called post tubal ligation syndrome which can lead to menstrual irregularity, hot flashes, anxiety & depression, decreased libido, thinning hair & nails, and osteoporosis.  Besides, having any of my ladyparts cut, burned, or wrapped up with wire like a Christmas tree didn’t sound too appealing.  Then my feminist self jumped in.  What about him?  Why does it have to be my body that’s mutilated?  Men are the ones who are fertile 24/7, while we’re only fertile a few days a month.  They’re the ones who need birth control!  So I looked into vasectomies.  Their side effects were just as scary as getting your tubes tied.  In a vasectomy, the tube through which sperm mixes with semen is cut, preventing any sperm from being released into the woman.  The man’s body should simply reabsorb the sperm the way a woman’s body reabsorbs unfertilized eggs.  But for some men, this doesn’t happen, and the unreleased sperm form granulomas, which the body then attacks in a painful autoimmune response.  I couldn’t expect him to take that risk, just as I wouldn’t take the risk of getting my tubes tied.  So I was at a dead end.

Organix South Neem Leaf Oil

Organix South Neem Leaf Oil

Then, as if by fate, I stumbled across an article about neem oil being used as a contraceptive.  When I first heard about neem, there wasn’t much research out on it, so as exciting as this news was, I didn’t consider it as an option since there weren’t many studies citing its effectiveness.  Then summer came, and workdays at the farm stretched into 10 and 11 hours, and my quest for natural birth control took a back seat to sleep and spending precious little time with my fiance and the puppy.  But each month the wolf of dread would howl louder and louder as I watched my period get shorter and my well drier.  I finally decided that my 2013 New Years resolution would be to end this once and for all.

I dove into the research.  I found several studies and testimonials touting the effectiveness of neem oil (leaf, not seed, as it’s the leaf oil that inhibits sperm mobility) as both a spermicide and an oral contraceptive for men (examples: Sister Zeus, Male Contraceptives, Natural News, Neem Foundation, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Well Tell Me [a forum for people actually using neem & reporting results]).  I also found information on a few other herbal contraceptives, such as Queen Anne’s Lace seeds and Wild Yam, on Sister Zues’ website, which I recommend for anyone interested in herbal contraception.  (Note: she also has a section on herbal abortive methods, which, while very informative, I would not be comfortable using without the guidance of an herbalist or holistic doctor.)

Toni Wechler

Toni Weschler

I also looked more into fertility scheduling, since almost every testimonial on herbal contraceptives said they used it in conjunction with cycle scheduling.  With the help of what I believe is the most important book any woman could read, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, I learned that natural birth control is much more than the Rhythm method, about which I’d heard so much negative hype.  Rhythm assumes that all women have 28 day cycles and ovulate on day 14, while the reality is that a woman’s cycle can safely last anywhere from around 24-36 days, with ovulation falling somewhere in between.  In her book, I learned of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) in which you use your waking temperature and your cervical discharge to chart when each month you’re fertile.  While it’s a process easily done on your own with a basal thermometer, there are multiple saliva and urine tests to help calculate your fertile days.  The consensus online was that Lady Comp is the best fertility monitor, but it’s wicked expensive, and there are definitely accurate but cheaper generic tests available if you don’t feel comfortable charting on your own.

ultra3

Glyde Ultra condoms

I felt like I’d finally dove off the nail-studded diving board and into ovulation heaven.  There were so many options I’d overlooked, and so many stories of real women using them successfully.  Finally, I could keep my temple clean and baby-free!  There was a tiny hole in my pristine piscine, however, and that was the fact that many of my herbal oral barrier options would not work until all the extra estrogen from the pill was out of my system, which would take at least 3 months.  Those hormones also increased my chance of having an irregular cycle, so even fertility monitoring wouldn’t be 100% accurate until they were gone.  Which left… condoms.  Let’s be honest, no one actually likes using condoms.  They’re awkward, way less intimate, and actually a mood killer for some.  Luckily, I found Glyde condoms.  Made from plant-based rubber latex, free from animal by-products and animal testing, Fair Trade certified, and chemical/paraban/spermicide-free, Glyde is definitely the Whole Foods of condom brands.  And when you order a box, they include samples of their organic fruit extract flavored condoms.  (Can’t wait to try the strawberry!)  For once in my life, I was excited to use a condom.

So, armed with my new knowledge, I broached the subject to my fiance.  An unwanted pregnancy was something we would both have to deal with, and I felt that he therefore had a say in what contraceptive methods we used.  I told him that while I most definitely did not want kids – or an abortion – I could not poison my body any longer.  I’d already had pre-cancerous cells once, proof of the harm that the pill was doing to my body.  Bolstered by my research, I fully believed we could keep ourselves free & clear without synthetic hormones.  There were several herbal oral options, the spermicidal properties of neem oil were almost 100% effective, and the FAM method allowed us approximately 20 days of sexual freedom (assuming my pill-free cycle was around 28 days).  My health was much more important to me than the health of a possible future child, and with so many natural options, I’d assumed he’d be on board.

He wasn’t.

He didn’t want to risk a pregnancy and the subsequent abortion, and that trumped any health risks I faced.  I was hurt, shocked, and angry.  He’d been so accepting of all my herbal remedy suggestions in the past, so much so that he’d even argued with our vet a few times about giving our puppy potentially harmful vaccines.  I thought that if he agreed on avoiding harmful medications for our dog, he would definitely agree on the same plan for me.  But it seemed his fear of tiny noses was even more powerful than mine.

I stewed over his answer for a few weeks.  I went from being angry to understanding to hurt and back to angry.  The only thing I knew for sure was that I was not going to refill my pill prescription.  Tiny nose phobia be damned, I was not going to break another promise to my body.  I ordered a box of condoms.  I bookmarked online sources detailing the FAM method and all the herbal contraceptives I’d deemed worth trying.  My pill count steadily decreased, and I waited for the right time to talk again.

When I finally worked up the courage to tell him I’d stopped taking the pill and that we’d have to come up with another plan, he was surprisingly accepting.  He agreed that it’s my body and my choice.  He agreed to look over all the options, but said it was ultimately up to me.  Because, like most people on this planet, he was raised to believe that contraception is the woman’s responsibility.  But I’ll say it again: men are the ones who are fertile at all times, not us.

February 1st was the beginning of my first pill-free cycle, and the beginning of a healthier me.  Even within the first week, I could feel the difference.  My ladyparts not only woke up, but dove into life with a vengeance.  I had more energy, more happiness, more love.  But I won’t lie, detoxing from the pill is not all butterflies and rainbows.  I rapidly gained weight (almost 10 pounds in 2 weeks) even though I was juicing and dieting.  My acne flared up.  My period came back instantly, complete with cramps, bloating, even more acne, and floods to make Noah swoon.  But don’t panic, these effects should lessen as you progress through your detox, though the fact that I can barely fit into my favorite pair of pants was almost enough to make me go back on the pill.  And though he hasn’t come out and said it, the increase of booty-related comments from my fiance has lead me to believe that he’s noticed my recent weight gain also.

We’re still figuring out our contraception plan for my fertile days, mainly because our society has stupidly made this a taboo subject, even for couples, and I’ve yet to force the subject yet again and hammer out a distinct plan. What we do know is that we’re using the FAM method with some sort of barrier method during my fertile days, either my new fabulous condoms, neem as a spermicide, or neem oil as a daily male birth control. I’m still in my second month of pill detoxing, so any testing I do will probably not be completely accurate because of the residual synthetic hormones in my system.  I did start testing though, using a generic urine test each morning to figure out when I’m fertile  (packs of 7 tests are only $12-$15 at my local pharmacy).  I learned in Taking Charge, however, that urine tests, which test for the spike in your secretion of the luteinizing hormone (LH), may not always be accurate; some women produce too little LH to register, some too much so they register as fertile all the time, and some produce LH irregularly due to synthetic hormones – like the pill.  So I added the FAM method to my testing; I invested in a basal thermometer and began monitoring my ladyparts’ saliva.  Your temperature only changes after you ovulate, so though this helps with monthly charting and even pregnancy testing, the changes in your ladyparts’ discharge is what tells you when to start opening the condom box.  For me, this means testing until my LH surge, using barrier methods for a week or so after that, and charting my waking temperature daily to figure out exactly what day I ovulate.  Once the pill is out of my system and I start getting regularly scheduled results each month, I can stop testing and rely on my lady time to know when we can have us time.

Since I can’t fully rely on the FAM method until I’m free and clear of the pill, I’ve started employing several detox strategies daily to help get my body back to its natural state faster.  Using the knowledge I gained at the health food store, I came up with a detox strategy that includes drinking lots of water for cleansing, drinking raw apple cider vinegar for its probiotic benefits, and juicing raw fruits and veggies for their nutrients.  detox-juice_article_newI got my juice recipe from my favorite website The Holy Kale, and I drink a version of it almost everyday.  My juice recipe usually includes 3 or 4 leaves of kale (or another cruciferous veggie like broccoli, cabbage, or collard greens), a beet, the juice of half a lemon, 1 or 2 carrots, cranberries (or other antioxidant-rich berries), an apple, some mix of detoxifying herbs (like ginger, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, and garlic), and coconut oil.  I’ve also read great things about the DIM detox supplement, but I prefer the benefits of fresh, raw veggies.  The Master cleanse is a great detox option to start out with, but no-food cleanses are hard on the body, and while they may work for some, they don’t agree with my body.  (I’ve tried this cleanse three times now and even after just 2 or 3 days, my body feels like a limp noodle.)  Protein and good fats are the building blocks of hormones, so I’m also eating a lot of quinoa and healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil.  And I’ve started incorporating brewer’s yeast into my diet for some extra B vitamins (great popcorn seasoning!) and variety lettuce for folate, the natural version of folic acid.  With luck, daily prayers, and all the benefits of fresh, organic vegetables, I hope that my ladyparts regain their goddess-dom soon.  I also pray that this whole process helps me get more in tune with myself physically, a skill I fear has fallen dangerously out of practice among women.  I’ve already learned so much about my body throughout this journey, and I look forward to learning even more.  After all, what better friend to make than yourself?

I hope some of you are facing the same choice I did.  But more importantly, no matter what contraceptive method you choose, I hope you learn to love and respect your body the way I have.  Feeling your own hormonal changes is a wondrous experience.  Feeling your body produce a life-giving egg is nothing short of remarkable.  And knowing that you hold the gift of life in your womb is the most empowering feeling you will ever experience.  If nothing else, I hope this post makes you aware of your female power, whether or not you choose to use it, and ignites the supernova of respect your ladyparts deserve.  Because they are nothing short of a miracle.

These are the sources I used to make my decision about natural birth control:
Sweetening the Pill
-The Holy Kale – Getting Off Birth Control Pills, The Birth Control Pill, IUDs
-Natural News: Modern Birth Control
Sister Zues
-Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility
**Neither this blog post nor any of these sources were published by medical professionals, so while they can help you make your choice, they are not meant to replace the advice of your doctor.**

imagesWoman is the molder.   You are the molder of time, space, and of man: the man of tomorrow, the child; the man of today, the husband; and the men of yesterday; the ancestors.   The entire society, in theory and reality, is based on the spirit of woman.

Yogi Bhajan

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My Diet Needs to Go On a Diet

Heidi Klum - Sports Illustrated

Heidi Klum – Sports Illustrated

While sleepy-eyed March is one of my favorite times of year, with the earth waking up from its winter snooze, it’s also one of the most stressful.  Spring means that summer’s on its way, and with summer comes (dun dun dun…) the dreaded bathing suit. This spring is going to be extra frantic for me because not only do I have a beach wedding to attend in April and a Baltimore wedding in which I’m a bridesmaid in May, but I have my own wedding at the end of May.  Eeek!!  So many dresses to fit into!

Since most of us put on a few pounds in the winter (after the first dozen Christmas cookies, there’s just no going back) spring is the season for dieting.  I’m not going to be prancing around wearing only paint like Heidi here, I’d just like to have the option to prance nude should the opportunity arise.  But there are so many diets out there, how is a girl to tell which one works for her?  So I decided to dig into some of the most popular diets and get the skinny on them.

vegetarian-food-pyramidVegetarian/Vegan
This isn’t what I would consider a diet, more like a lifestyle choice, though some people do use vegetarianism/veganism as part of a health plan.  I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years now, and while I didn’t choose this for nutritional reasons, it was definitely the push I needed to start down the path to good health.  Very few people realize how complex this lifestyle can be when they begin it, however, so I wanted to give some basic guidelines.

There are several different levels of vegetarianism, depending on what animal products you include in your diet.  Pescatarians include fish, and ovo-lacto vegetarians include eggs and dairy.  Vegans consume no animal products (that includes honey!) and use no animal byproducts, like leather, wool, and fur.  The depth to which you take vegetarian/veganism is totally up to you because, as I said, it gets a little complex.  Many foods have hidden animal products that some choose to avoid, such as gelatin (made from livestock bones & found in anything that gels, like pudding, Jello, gummy bears, etc.) and rennet (made from livestock intestines and used in cheeses).  Fun vegetarian fact: white sugar is white because it’s processed with bone char, so white sugar is off limits for anyone strictly avoiding animal products.  And think about how many products contain white sugar…  Bye bye candy aisle, see ya next lifetime!

While I’ll admit that I’ve never felt healthier since becoming a vegetarian, there are a lot of serious health risks associated with this lifestyle.  When I worked at a health food store, I saw my fair share of unhealthy, skeletal-looking vegans, and so I would never recommend that diet to anyone unless it’s serving a specific health purpose.  Removing meat removes a huge chunk of your protein, good fat, and nutrient intake, and removing all animal products pretty much ensures that unless you’re taking supplements, you’re depriving your body of everything it needs to thrive.  Our bodies were created to eat meat; everything from out teeth to our gut to our brain is built to run on both meat and plants, and I’m a firm believer that mother earth knew what she was doing when she created the world.  I therefore supplement my diet with B vitamins, protein powder, fish oil capsules, and superfoods like spirulina.  Yes, it can get pretty expensive buying supplements on top of food, but vegetarianism for me it a spiritual rather than nutritional choice, and this is how I’ve found my balance.

Veg links:
101 Cookbooks – This isn’t a completely vegetarian/vegan site, but there are some great recipes, including a vegan peanut butter cookie recipe that is banging!
The Vegetarian Myth – I’m sure you’re all sick of having this book thrown in your face, but it really is an important resource for anyone considering choosing a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.  Lierre Keith examines the political, environmental, and nutritional reasons why people go veg, and then explains why those reasons are unfounded.

caveman-cookingThe Paleo Diet
Pretty much the opposite of the veg diet, the paleo diet is, well, paleo.  You eat what your Paleolithic ancestors ate, what your body was meant to eat.  The paleo diet limits you to meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungus, roots, and nuts.  That means no grain, dairy, potatoes, or processed foods.  Produce should be organic and meat must be grass-fed to get closest to how cavemen really ate, though I’m sure not everyone follows this rule.  From what I know of holistic health, this diet seems to be the best overall.  Grains and dairy come with their own health risks, and we all know by now that processed foods offer very little nutrition.  Say goodbye to chocolates though, unless you make your own!

Paleo links:
The Paleo Diet – A great place to get started, though you do have to subscribe to get all the good info.
PaleOMG – This site has some excellent paleo-approved recipes.  I made the blueberry chocolate chip cookies last night and they’re pretty good for being gluten-free.

raw-food-intro-400x400Raw Food Diet
The next step after the paleo diet would be the raw food diet, in which you eat only uncooked, unprocessed foods.  This is perhaps the only diet I could never do, because I simply cannot understand how one lives without a warm dinner on a cold night.  I do incorporate elements of this diet into my life, though, such as juicing.  Heat destroys the nutrients in produce, so the more you cook your kale, the less good it will do you.  Juicing fruits and veggies is a great way to start your day – and a great way to incorporate things like spirulina or flax seeds that taste like butt by themselves.  Dehydrating foods is another way around cooking them.  I haven’t invested in a dehydrator yet, so I can’t say yay or nay to its cooking skills.  With a raw diet, it’s your choice whether or not to include animal products, though I can’t imagine a raw steak is very tasty…

Raw Food links:The Best of Raw Food – A good website to get you started, it gives you a lot of pointers and even a shopping list!
Raw Food Life – Excellent source of information and articles on the raw food diet.
Sunfood Superfoods – A good (if slightly overpriced) shopping site for the raw food lifestyle.

blood_typesThe Blood Type Diet
If you’ve never heard of Dr. D’Adamo’s book Eat Right For Your Type, I highly suggest you check it out.  While I’m not a fan of diets that place everyone into a category based on only one or two criteria, this diet can be highly beneficial when used in conjunction with other healthy eating habits.  D’Adamo’s premise is that each blood type stemmed from different regions where different foods were available and therefore adapted to its surroundings.  His book has lists of beneficial, neutral, and detrimental foods for each blood type, as well as lifestyle recommendations.  Type O is the hunter and should eat a high protein, meat-based diet for maximum health.  Type A is the farmer and should eat a primarily vegetarian diet.  Type B is the nomad who can eat most anything, and they thrive on dairy products.  Type AB is a mix of A & B and should eat accordingly.  Blood plays a vital role in our bodies, so I can’t completely dismiss this diet, but I would argue that because it does not take into account things like gender, age, and overall health, it can’t accurately generate a diet plan.

Blood Type Diet links:
D’Adamo’s website – See what he has to say about his diet.

Notice that I did not include things like Weight Watchers and Atkins in my list.  That’s because these are not real diets.  They’re money-making gimmicks that may help you lose weight in the short term, but don’t give any thought to nutrition or helping you build good lifestyle habits to prevent you from putting the weight back on.  The bottom line is that eating right, drinking plenty of water (half your weight in ounces per day is a good guideline), and exercising is the key to any good weight loss program.  Just find out what kind of foods your body likes and feed it!

My goal?  To fit into this FABULOUS Star Wars bathing suit this summer!!Untitled

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Recipe Book: Deodorant!

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today, we’re going to learn how to make deodorant.  If you read my last post on ways to prevent cancer, you already know how important it is to avoid conventional personal care products, especially deodorant.  Homemade deodorant is fabulously simple, cost effective, and, best of all, free of heavy metals!

unknownFirst, let’s take a look at why deodorants are so bad.  Surprisingly, there is a difference between products marketed for women and for men.  Most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants, while it’s relatively easy to find a deodorant for men that’s just deodorant.  What’s the difference, you ask?  They’re pretty self explanatory: deodorants prevent your sweat from smelling and antiperspirants prevent you from sweating.  Sweat is actually a mixture of fat, proteins, and toxins secreted by your body, but it’s the sweat-munching bacteria hanging out in your crevices that cause you to stink.  Deodorants use many different ingredients to kill these bacteria; antiperspirants use heavy metals like aluminum or zirconium to plug the pores in your pits, preventing the sweat from escaping.  While deodorants can contain harmful chemicals like artificial fragrances and parabens that seep in through the skin, antiperspirants are even more harmful.  Not only do they contain heavy metals and other harmful chemicals, but they block the secretion of sweat, which is a necessary part of daily detoxing.  No bueno, mis amigos.

The solution: homemade deodorant!  While there are definitely some great options out there (I’ve heard people swear by Thai crystals) making your own is the only way to know exactly what’s in it, and what works for you.  I’ve used several different brands – Tom’s of Maine, Jason, Nature’s Gate – but none seemed to really work for me.  homepage_banner_1_imgThen I discovered Trulys Natural Deodorant.  Made by a local Delaware woman with only 4 ingredients, it was so simple and yet so fabulous.  Coconut oil, baking soda, powdered sugar, and cornstarch.  And it works.  While using it, however, I noticed that if I left it on too long, say overnight, I’d have some slight irritation in the morning.  Nowhere near as bad as when I used conventional products, but enough that I knew something in there was bothering me.  I was worried at first that there was aluminum in the baking soda she used, but after doing some research, I found that while baking powder is still suspect, most baking soda is additive-free, including Arm & Hammer.  The powdered sugar then?  Or perhaps the corn starch?  Sugar and corn both are both common allergens, so perhaps one of them was giving me the itches.  I therefore decided to make my own, but what to use in place of the offending ingredients?  Thanks to one of our customers at the farm store, I found a great deodorant recipe that did the trick.

Ingredients:
-1/3 cup coconut oil (I used refined since it’s cheaper, but virgin has such a lovely coconut smell…)
-1/3 cup arrowroot powder
-3 tbsp baking soda (I started with 2, but it was too oily and not absorbent enough for me)
-10-15 drops essential oil (optional – for fragrance)

Heat the coconut oil so it’s liquid, mix, let cool, apply, and breathe deeply all day!  With the antibacterial properties of coconut, the absorbancy of arrowroot and baking soda, and the lovely smells of essential oils, this will definitely keep you smelling fresh all day.  Trust me, I work on a farm.  If it keeps my pits smelling good, you have nothing to worry about!  Unless you have a have a real Dirty Job, that is…

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Have You Had Your Daily Dose of Cancer Today?

My Facebook is full of cancer.  Cancer talk, that is.  If you follow any natural living websites or Facebook pages, I’m sure you’ve noticed that cancer has been the topic of choice lately.  So many new studies have been published recently linking this ingredient or that chemical to cancer that it’s hard to keep up with what you should and should not buy. To make matters worse, I recently stumbled across a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information on environmental and genetic risk factors for cancer.  Their conclusion?

Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.

You can blame your mother for giving you small boobs, but not breast cancer.

The good news, folks, is that cancer should not be as scary as doctors make it out to be.  If we can’t blame our genetics for this disease, that only leaves ourselves – and that’s something we have control over.  We can eat healthy, live healthy, and think healthy.  We can let mother earth nourish and protect us instead of filling our bodies with toxic chemicals and synthetic foods.  I found a wonderfully simple 10-step guide to preventing cancer on the Alternative Health Solutions Facebook page.  Obviously, the road to perfect health is never straight and easy, nor can two people take the same route.  But this list is a great basis for any health plan, whether or not you’re worried about cancer.
cancer-free-trans-final

1.  Eat organic!  Yes, I remember last year’s study, the Dr. Oz article, and all the hype surrounding California’s Prop 37.  But there really is no way to deny it; if you’re eating conventional fruits and veggies, you’re eating chemicals meant to make bugs’ stomachs explode.  Literally.  Sounds tasty, no?  Or perhaps you’d like to eat corn with fish genes?  (Are frankenfoods still considered vegetarian?  Because when I swore off meat products, I’m pretty sure that included their DNA…)  And don’t forget to JUICE your organic produce!  The best source of vitamins and minerals will always be wholesome, healthy foods.  And since cooking veggies (even with things other than a microwave) destroys some of their nutrient content, juicing raw vegetables and herbs is definitely the way to go.
2.  Avoid conventional animal products.  This is so important, especially for anyone who has had or is especially at risk for reproductive cancers.  Livestock raised the conventional way are given regular doses of antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones, and they are fed GMO grains instead of their natural diets.  Those things aren’t any better for the animals than they are for us, so meat raised in those conditions is nutritionally inferior – and full of pharmaceutical leftovers.  Synthetic hormones throw our hormones out of balance, leaving our bodies open to reproductive an organ cancers.  Like all brothers, Big Pharma and Big Ag are constantly in competition to see who can pump the most chemicals into our bodies.
3.  Do not use microwaves.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to stand in front of the microwave while your Spaghetti-Os were cooking?  Have you ever heard the urban legend of the serial killer whose signature was putting the family chihuahua in the microwave?  There’s a reason microwaves have a bad rap, and that’s because the emit… microwaves.  Shocking, I know.  But seriously, microwaves should have their own list, because that’s how bad they are.  They emit radiation, and while it’s not the same kind that turned Dr. Banner into the Hulk, it still wreaks havoc on the body all the way down to the DNA.  Because they use radiation to heat your food rather than actual heat, they destroy almost all the nutrients in your food – up to 90%.  And, let’s face it, they simply do not know how to cook.  Leftover pizza tastes more like cardboard after being microwaved.
4.  Filter your tap and shower water.  This is probably the most important rule of all.  Water is essential to all life, and ingesting water loaded with pollutants, chlorine, fluoride, and synthetic minerals is the fastest way to poor health.  But don’t be fooled by all those cheap tap filters like Brita and Pur.  They remove barely half of the contaminants in ordinary tap water.  The best filtration system is a Reverse Osmosis (RO) system, but they are expensive to install in a home.  Many local health food or grocery stores have RO machines for customers to refill their water jugs.  But if you aren’t excited about hauling gallons of water home each week, invest in some quality home filtration systems.  And don’t think that the shower is safe simply because you don’t drink from it.  Anything that touches our skin is absorbed into our bodies, so each minute you spend in the shower is another gulp of toxic chemicals.  ZeroWater  and New Wave Enviro have great products for both the kitchen and bathroom (and you can find most of their products on Amazon, which is always a plus!).
5.  Use only natural skin care products.  Name brand lotions, soaps, and hair care products are loaded with chemicals: parabens, sulfates, and dozens of other carcinogens.  My favorite brand of natural body care products is Shikai (their Reflect line of color-enhancing shampoos is awesome!!) and I mentioned a few others in my last post.  Deodorant falls into this category, and seeing as how most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants and therefore contain aluminum, I’d say start here!  Natural deodorants are not only free of heavy metals, but cause a LOT less skin irritation, which I always had a problem with in that area.  They’re also super easy to make yourself, and I’ll tell you how in the next post!
6.  Use fluoride free toothpaste. 
I’ve been wanting to write a post on fluoride for a while, but there is so much information on it that it’s hard to figure out where to start.  So let me just say here that it is bad, especially if you love your thyroid.  If you can’t wait for me to get myself together and write about it, check out the short documentary The Fluoride Deception.  Scary stuff, man.  I stick to brands like Tom’s of Maine or Spry, and I’ve started oil pulling with coconut oil.  Oil pulling helps remove unwanted buildup from your mouth, upper respiratory tract, and sinuses, and coconut oil is antibacterial, so put the two together and you get an amazing grime-fighting duo.
7.  Avoid using pharmaceuticals and synthetic supplements as much as possible. 
I want to take this moment to share with you my favorite post from my favorite website, like, ever, The Holy Kale.  Her series on supplements called Dirty Little Supplements is the best resource for anyone who has ever questioned which brand to buy.  Her message is simple: not all supplements are created equal, and if you’re going to invest money in them, you might as well make it worth it.
8.  Limit your use of plastics. 
 Plastic contains harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates that interfere with your body’s natural hormone balance.  These chemicals are released when plastics are heated, so never ever cook with plastics or put plastics in the microwave.  But these sneaky devils can also seep out into food and liquids even in the fridge, so it’s best to cut plastics out of the kitchen completely.  Use wooden spoons for cooking, ceramic plates and bowls, and glass containers to hold your leftovers.  I wash and save jars – pasta sauce, peanut butter, salsa, anything with a wide mouth – and use those as tupperware.  I also use a mason jar as a water bottle because water is simply too important to compromise on.  The documentary Bag It is a great one on plastics, especially if you or anyone you know has kids; the part on plastics for kids will make you sick.
9.  Avoid artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and processed sugars and grains. 
If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of holistic health and already know that these things are bad, bad, bad.
10.  Use only nontoxic household products.
  Some of the best ways are the old ways, and baking soda and vinegar are still king and queen of the household clean team.  There are definitely green products out there, but it’s so easy to make your own that it’s almost a shame to pay for them.  Water and vinegar are best for streak-free windows, baking soda is awesome for cleaning the bathroom, and together they can double team a clogged sink like Drain-O never could.  I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps as laundry detergent (as well as body wash for the family, including the dog).  Remember, anything you can smell is entering your body via your lungs, so keep it clean!

Not such a hard task list, right?  Unfortunately, while these things are easy to change, there are some factors that are out of our control, like air quality, product availability, restaurant foods, budget, and other people (because you can’t stop your landlord from spraying Round Up on your lawn or tell your roommate to stop filling your house with the smell of Windex).  Fortunately, there are dozens of proven methods to heal cancer naturally, some of which Big Pharma has even succeeded in banning to keep the chemo patients rolling in.  (Case in point: apricot kernels were outlawed by the FDA in the 1970s because they are the best source of B17, the miracle cancer-fighting vitamin.  Seriously.  Apricot seeds are illegal because they cure cancer.)  The website that provided the above list is also a great resource for natural cancer-fighting strategies.  Tamara, the author of Alternative Health Solutions, healed her own breast cancer without Big Pharma and has since compiled a wealth of information on the topic.  I highly suggest you check it out if you or anyone you know is dealing with this disease.

Now get going, you’ve got some homework to do!

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Dead People Juice Does Not Make You Pretty

KC on Letterman - Jezebel.com

KC on Letterman – Jezebel.com

While I very rarely follow the celebrity gossip columns, one story made it into the E Magazine newsletter this month.  Some of you more in touch with Hollywood may have heard of Kristin Chenoweth’s eyelash accident back in March 2012.  She had a severe allergic reaction to the formaldehyde in the glue used to attach fake eyelashes and ended up with eye infections, which then drained into her throat and led to a throat infection.  Eewwww, right?  But why do we care what sludge actresses use on their faces?

Well, I care because KC is talented, tiny, and adorable.  And because she’s the good witch… duh.  Actually, I just wanted to use this as an opportunity to talk about the new skin care line I discovered.  It’s an anti-aging line called Bija Body, founded by Melissa Picoli, and while it is just a tad on the expensive side, it’s one of the best skin care lines I’ve seen so far.  Her Principles page has a list of, well, principles that guide her company, including: no GMOs, no “useless, toxic ingredients,” ethical sourcing, and only the best processing methods to preserve potency.  Check out her website and read about her products, it’s definitely worth it!  And formaldehyde-free!

While we’re on the topic of dead people juice (as KC calls it), I also want to share my favorite nail polish brand, seeing as how nail polish is chock full of toxic juices.

Suncoat

Suncoat

Suncoat has a whole line of makeup products, and their water-based nail polish rocks my socks – and it comes in lots of fun colors.  And while I don’t usually wear makeup, when I do I use mineral-based options like Ecco Bella, who has great foundations, or Larenim, who has more colors of eye shadow than I do eyelashes.  Scale of Dragon, Flirts & Giggles, Witches Brew…  WARNING: This brand may give your inner tween the power to take over.

Laremin

Laremin

Almost a year after her tragic incident, green magazines are still talking about KC’s eyelashes, using her as an example of why you should avoid toxic additives in your skin care products.  But strangely, she’s not.  You would think that after such an intense reaction to dead people juice in your makeup, one would start buying clean, natural products.  But KC hasn’t (to my knowledge) said a word in favor of clean cosmetics.  And she damn sure wasn’t wearing Ecco Bella at the Oscars last weekend.  She may be the good witch, but I think I choose the green witch instead.

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News Update: Evil Deeds and Cruelty Free

The world has been a busy place lately, and there have been so many stories worthy of boos and ballyhoos that I had to do a news update.  So grab a cup of coffee, get comfy in your favorite chair, and prepare to be updated.

I’ll start with the BAD NEWS first:

Coca Cola has launched a new campaign against obesity.  Their tactic?  Pushing their diet and low sugar products.  Which happen to be filled with empty calories and artificial sweeteners, two of the biggest culprits in the obesity epidemic.  Oh yeah, and they’re a fun kind of neurotoxin called excitotoxins, which literally “excite” your brain cells until they explode.  Fun, right?  NOT.  But I’ll tell you what is fun: the video that prompted Coke’s new anti-fat movement.  It’s called “The Real Bears,” and it is my video of the month.  Take 3.5 minutes of your time and watch it – trust me, it’s worth it!  And while you’re in a watching movies mood, check out the half hour documentary The Cost of a Coke about how Coke replied to workers’ attempts to form unions to get better wages and working conditions.  Hint: those workers are no longer around to tell their story, and I don’t mean around the factory.  Then go out to eat and skip the soda.

Obamacare, that miracle, money-saving Affordable Care Act Obama graciously bestowed upon his subjects – I mean constituents – has finally been given a price tag.  The IRS estimates the cheapest health care plan under Obamacare will cost the average family of 4 or 5 $20,000 a year.  And if they choose to opt out, the “penalty” (which the Supreme Court did indeed rule is actually a tax – an unconstitutional one at that) would be just over $2,000.  Affordable, my butt.

As if forcing a corrupt health care system on us isn’t bad enough, the government is also trying to destroy our sources of good food.  Hmm…  No sources of good, wholesome food leads to poor health, which leads to doctors visits, which lead to the need for insurance, which we are conveniently required by law to buy…  Sounds to me like there’s a master plan behind all this.  Why else would the government attack at gunpoint a private food buying club and confiscate all raw foods?  That’s what happened to the California-based Rawesome Foods in 2005.  Refrigerated goods like cheese and produce were confiscated in unrefrigerated crates and tested a week later for contamination.  Surprisingly, raw cheese that hadn’t been chilled for a week contained bacteria and was deemed unsafe.  And then, last month, the Feds turned the attack on Morningland Dairy, a Missouri dairy farm that produces raw cheese – cheese that was on the shelves at Rawesome Foods.  Local authorities confiscated and destroyed Morningland’s entire inventory – 50,000 pounds of
perfectly good raw cheese – without ever testing it.  Or tasting it, I’m sure, because no one who has had quality cheese could ever destroy that much of it.

Fracking has poisoned our tapwater.  It’s made us sick, made our pets sick.  It’s killed wildlife and livestock.  It’s polluted our air, our soil, our aquifers.  But now, it threatens our beer.  It’s time to take a stand.

Now, time for some GOOD NEWS:

The European Union has announced a ban on all cosmetics and personal care products that have been tested on animals, beginning March 11, 2013.  That’s right, Johnson & Johnson, you have a month to get your act together and stop torturing innocent beings so that pop singers can cover their acne.  But wince the US government won’t protect the health of its own citizens, it’s pretty unlikely that it would ever take measures to protect its animal population.  So check out PETA’s “Beauty without Bunnies” list of pro-cruelty and cruelty-free companies.

And in the most heartening story of the day, a Brazilian family has finally been reunited with Manuela, their pet tortoise that went missing in the 1980s.  Their shelled companion escaped during renovation and apparently has been holed up in a storage room happily munching on termites and other household bugs for 30 years.  Welcome back to civilization, Manuela.

missing_tortoise.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart

TreeHugger.com

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If You Didn’t Believe Me Before, Take a Second Look a Fracking

I’ve mentioned fracking before.  I introduced you to the Dangers of Fracking, which include contaminated water, air pollution, severe health risks (including brain cancer), well explosions, animal and livestock sickness, and the spread of more toxins than I care to count.  (Side note: 596 have been identified so far, but like McDonald’s “secret sauce,” the ingredients of the chemical soup used in fracking is a trade secret and so is not required to be made public.)

Bayou_Corne_Sinkhole.png.492x0_q85_crop-smart

TreeHugger.com “Mystery Sinkhole Threatens Bayou Corne, Louisiana”

However, my last fracking post was pretty superficial; fracking hasn’t taken over Maryland yet, and so I could ignore that little dot on my environmental radar.  I read a few articles, watched some interviews, got angry, and after posting a few links, moved on.  But then, two days ago, I saw a picture of the Bayou Corne sinkhole in Louisiana, which was caused by a collapsed production hole drilled by the company Texas Brine.  And I got angry again.  And this time, I stayed angry.

Let me tell you a few of the reasons why I got so angry.  I’ll start with a brief history of fracking.  Before he was VP, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, one of the largest oil companies in the nation; from 1995 to 2000, Cheney led a company that is not only a leader of one of the most corrupt and anti-green industries on the planet, but one that was accused multiple times of corruption.  In 2005, Cheney led an Energy Task Force that put together the Energy Policy Act, which Bush signed into law.  This Act, also known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” makes the oil industry exempt from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Safe Drinking Water Acts.  I’m going to repeat that: Cheney engineered a law which gave the oil industry – of which he was formerly a leading member – exemption from the laws that protect us and our land from pollution by companies that only care about the spendable kind of green.

The government claims that no energy is perfect, that despite its risks, fracking will free us from the even more dangerous foreign oil and all the Arab entanglements it brings.  But that brings little comfort to the people whose water has been contaminated, who’ve gotten sick from exposure to gas and chemicals, whose land has been made barren by the waste water fracking produces.  If you need more convincing, watch Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland.  Watch him interview people as they set their tap water on fire.  See the dead wildlife and the pets whose fur is falling out.  Listen to the stories of sickness, cancer, and family properties destroyed.  See water so polluted by chemicals like glycol ethers that even a reverse osmosis filter is eaten away by it.  Watch a man set a creek on fire after a company dumped their leftovers in it.  Watch as oil companies evaporate the water they don’t dump so it pollutes our air as well as our water.  Get angry.  Then go to Josh Fox’s website and see what you can do about it.

still-gasland

Gasland

Also, check out the Independent Water Testing Website to see where current wells are and whether or not you are close enough to be at risk.

And while you’re at it, watch Promised Land, Matt Damon’s movie about the fracking takeover.  I can’t vouch for how accurate the portrayal is, as I don’t own any land over a natural gas shale.  But it’s a good movie, and it’s always heartening to see celebs on the green side.