When I found out I was pregnant with Katie one of the first things I did was read the labels on every product in my bathroom. I’m not sure what prompted me to do it, but I think it was this study linking hidden chemicals in perfumes to “abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys.” The perfume I was currently wearing (Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue) was on the list.
Seriously, could just spraying something on your skin have that much of an effect on a developing baby? Apparently so. Until then I had been mostly concerned with what I put in my body . . . now I was just as concerned with what I put on it. After all, everything that entered my bloodstream entered my baby’s, too. Did you know that . . .
On average, we each use nine personal care products a day containing 126 different ingredients. Such “safety” testing as exists looks for reactions, such as skin redness, rashes or stinging, but does not investigate potential long-term problems for either humans or the environment. Yet the chemicals that go into products such as shampoos and hand creams are not trace contaminants. They are the basic ingredients.
Absorbed into the body, they can be stored in fatty tissue or organs such as the liver, kidney, reproductive organs and brain. Cosmetics companies complain of unfounded hysteria, but scientists are finding industrial plasticisers such as phthalates in urine, preservatives known as parabens in breast-tumour tissue, and antibacterials such as Triclosan and fragrance chemicals like the hormone-disrupting musk xylene in human breast milk. Medical research is proving that fragrances can trigger asthma; that the detergents in shampoos can damage eye tissue; and that hair-dye chemicals can cause bladder cancer and lymphoma.
For me, the best option I knew about was to buy all my personal care products at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that “organic” personal care products often contain chemicals, toxins and known carcinogens. With a few exceptions (like castille soap), I realized that the cheaper “natural” products at Whole Foods often contained unhealthy, synthetic fillers. In this case, you do get what you pay for.
So what is there to do? Buy a teeny-tiny bottle of shampoo for $15 and ration it like it’s gold? For me, the solution evolved like this: Pay out the nose for some really important stuff and then cheaply make what you can to balance out the cost.
For example, I make my own shampoo but buy the pricey California Baby for Katie because the homemade stuff isn’t tear-free (UPDATE: California Baby reformulated their shampoo and I no longer recommend it.). You know what I love about my shampoo? It’s made with ingredients so pure I can literally eat them (except for the tea tree oil). Food grade personal care products are the gold standard.
If you’re interested in transitioning to healthier personal care, here are some product recommendations and recipes:
Before you leave, consider this: Every one of these recipes and products was recommended to me by someone else. Without those people generously sharing what they’ve learned I would have nothing to share with you. So if you have a tip please leave it here so we can all benefit. Maybe your favorite natural moisturizer? Home blended massage oil? A salve for itchy ant bites?
Come on, I know many of you have awesome tips to share. SPILL!!!
Read More »
I am very, very pregnant. Pretty soon hummingbirds are going to get their center of gravity confused and start orbiting my midsection, I just know it.
The thing about being this pregnant is that I am constantly confronted by limitations that are foreign to me. Let me give you an example of who I was before becoming a mom.
Daniel: I had a weird dream last night.
Me: Yeah? What was it about?
Daniel: You were wearing a shirt that said “One Man Army” across the front.
Me: Really? That’s cool.
Daniel: Someone in the dream thought so, too. But I just laughed and said “I’ve lost to that army.”
What I’m trying to say is that good or bad, I used to be a force to be reckoned with. At least I thought so. But you know what? Motherhood requires more stamina, determination and strategy than anything I encountered in the corporate world. It is in my role as a mom that I find I have truly discovered my limitations: time and energy. Sheesh . . . I’ve handled pr blowouts and written magazine articles with more ease than it takes me to put together my weekly meal plan.
Sometimes I get caught up in the passion of cooking, which is very real to me, and forget that delicious food does not have to be complicated. So for the past several weeks I have been experimenting with recipes that can be made in bulk, because as much as I love cooking I do not want to be there all day.
Basically, our family needs satisfying, freezable meals that are also nourishing. This 8 Layer Dip, which was inspired by Organic & Thrifty’s 5 Layer Dip, is AWESOME. It’s not exactly fuss-free, but you can easily make double batches of the meat/beans and freeze the extra for an easy meal later on.
Black Beans With Cumin
Preparing The Black Beans With Cumin
Preparing & Layering The Dip
The tale of how I came to shun toothpaste (even “natural toothpaste”) is a somewhat convoluted one. It started about ten months ago when, on our way back from a service celebrating Papaw Dessinger’s life, Katie’s front tooth broke.
No trauma. No fall. It just broke.
What had happened to my otherwise healthy, robust child? Turns out, Katie had a lip tie (same as my son’s) that caused milk to pool near her top four teeth in the front, causing a breastmilk version of “bottle rot.”
I felt horrible, confused, and embarrassed. You name it, I felt it.
Every time Katie smiled in public I felt the sting of the expressions I’d see on other people’s faces. How could I let my child walk around like this without doing something? The thing is, I wanted to do something, but I knew that although dental procedures could cosmetically correct the problem, they couldn’t strengthen her teeth. I wanted to know how we could correct the problem naturally, so I began researching ways to build up Katie’s teeth and bones. Food had been a healing force in my life and I believed it could do the same for my daughter.
After scouring the web I ran across someone who had been through the exact same experience with his own daughter. Ramiel Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay, had successfully helped his daughter’s cavities heal using food. I had never heard of such a thing! Apparently, the tooth structure that had decayed didn’t fully grow back it’s original structure, but the decay disappeared and new enamel formed to seal and protect what was left of the tooth. Amazing.
The days spent waiting for Amazon to deliver my precious package stretched my patience, but when it finally arrived I knew it had been worth the wait before I finished the intro:
“Decaying teeth can be a scary, painful process. When in a state of fear and panic, we disregard the most sensible decision we could make: to search for the real cause, rather than succumb to the easy and passive response of allowing a dentist to “fix” the problem for us. We have been taught, for the most part, that tooth decay is inevitable and that we have no choice in the matter. After reading this book you will see that this is far from the truth.”
The book is based on the research of Dr. Weston Price, a figure whose findings had played a prominent role on my own journey from chronic disease to vibrant health. Dr. Price was a prominent dentist that traveled the world in the 1930s to study why indigenous cultures have stronger teeth and fewer cavities than modern “civilized” cultures. Dr. Price was no quack. In fact, he was the first research director of the National Dental Association, which later became The American Dental Association (ADA).
During the 1930s, Dr. Price was able to document the sharp decline in health experienced by previously healthy people who came into contact with modern civilization. The revealing findings of Dr. Price, along with his telling photographs, bring home the fact that our modern food and lifestyle is a primary cause of disease.
Cure Tooth Decay, p. 24
Despite our zillions of toothpastes, mouthwashes, flavored flosses, etc. we are actually worse off than many “primitive” cultures when it comes to dental health. We have more cavities, more gum disease, and more need for braces.
How can that be?
Dr. Price found that traditional diets were significantly higher in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E &K), calcium and phosphorous. As tooth enamel wears away these nutrients are needed to replenish it (often referred to as tooth remineralization). Unfortunately, since the modern diet is typically deficient in all of these that doesn’t happen. Keep in mind, this research was done back in the 1930s. Although refined sugar, canned vegetables and white flour had already been introduced just think how much worse it is now!
And if you don’t have tooth decay that may be why. However, I have unfortunately run into several real foodies whose children have similar issues to Katie. So what gives? Obviously, in Katie’s situation an undiagnosed lip tie played a huge role. But aside from that there are other practices that can interfere with tooth remineralization. Like toothpaste.
My personal experience has been that flossing and brushing do help limit tooth decay. The act of brushing may not be harmful, but the use of certain toothpastes (especially those with flouride) could create harmful effects and even promote cavities. Glycerin is added to toothpaste to give it its “pasty” consistency. Supposedly, glycerin requires 27 rinses to remove from the teeth. And this could create a barrier on the teeth that would prevent teeth from getting harder and stronger.
Cure Tooth Decay, p. 123
According to Nagel, remineralization occurs both through direct contact with nutrients when food is chewed and also through digestion/uptake via the bloodstream. By coating our teeth we prevent one of the two ways teeth are designed to remineralize and harden.
In addition, products like tooth whitening gels strip the teeth of their enamel and make them more vulnerable. Manufacturers say whitening products don’t harm enamel, but I have used them and experienced enamel loss firsthand. My teeth did get whiter, but they also lost their sheen, which is the outermost layer of enamel.
So, if tooth brushing is beneficial but toothpaste is bad, what do we use . . . tree bark??? Yes and No. If you’re teeth are really suffering there are some very beneficial herbal blends that contain bark (White Oak, Prickly Ash, Bayberry and Slippery Elm). But I am getting ahead of myself. There are basically three options: tooth soap, baking soda or herbal tooth powders:
For natural tooth whitening, Nagel makes this recommendation:
Dab a small amount of organic peppermint essential oil on your finger (much less than a drop), rub your finger on your toothbrush, and then brush normally.
My dentist friend and his wife are going to be horrified when they read this, but things got worse with Katie’s teeth before they got better. She got two cavities in her bottom molars. Although I am not a dentist and never had one confirm that she had cavities, I worked as a dental assistant for my friend for a brief period during college and I’m 100% sure that she had two.
When I found them I decided to hold off on an exam and order both of the herbal formulas I mentioned. Katie hates them both, but she hates Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Tooth & Gum Powder less. Since I began using it one cavity has healed completely (with new white enamel over the top) and one has gone from a scary black spot to a light brown one that looks better all the time. Overall, the quality of the enamel on her teeth has also significantly improved. They went from looking slightly translucent at the tips to being more dense looking.
We still have a ways to go, but I think that’s mostly because I can only get her cooperation part of the time when it comes to eating certain healing foods. Overall, though, I feel very strongly that because of Nagel’s book she will suffer no long term effects due to my previous ignorance. Her baby teeth may not be as perfect as some other childrens, but her bones and adult teeth will be strong and healthy.
Personally, I have seen significant remineralization with my own teeth since switching to toothsoap, but I have more stains that I’d like. I think I’ll try the peppermint oil and see how it goes.
For an insightful synopsis of Dr. Price’s research with photos of the cultures he studies, check out this post at Nourished Kitchen.
For more in-depth info visit The Weston A. Price Foundation
Photo credit: Julia Freeman-WoolpertRead More »
There is a reason why women forget . . . I am convinced of this.
Unless they intentionally practice the art of forgetfulness (i.e. forgiveness), most women can probably tell you who called them “peanut head” and stole their Snoopy pencil in the second grade.
There is this one thing, though. Childbirth. For some reason we forget THAT.
Last week Daniel and I took a refresher course for expecting moms. One minute I am chatting about due dates and birth photographers, the next I am watching a slideshow that plunges me headlong into the most intense flashback I’ve ever had in my life. As my body argued over whether to puke or faint, my consciousness struggled to control the emotions that had tears flowing down my face.
To you first-time moms in my birth class: I am so, so sorry. I did not mean to terrify you.
The truth is, I was scared. Not so much of the pain, but how the pain leads to full disclosure. How it strips away inhibitions in a way nothing else can (not even booze). The thing about an unmedicated childbirth is that there is absolutely no pretense. In the midst of soul-splitting pain it is impossible to be anything other than exactly what I am.
It’s not that I’m intentionally deceitful on a regular basis, but sometimes I’m pretty good at deceiving myself and/or ignoring my own baggage. In some ways, labor is like a near-death experience. I’m sure you’ve heard off that “moment of clarity” . . . the huge spotlight on the forgotten rooms of your soul. That’s what I felt. It’s a gift, really. A very painful blessing that reminds me of this scene from Jim Carrey’s movie, Liar Liar.
Well, that was what was going on inside of me the first time, but on the outside it looked more like this:
If I knew that in one week I would wake up like Fletcher, I would do a heck of a lot of self-assessment ahead of time. I would want to know what’s in my heart before it flies out of my mouth. Essentially, that is what is going to happen. The first time it caught me off guard.
Not this time. Although I loved my birth experience with Katie, this birth holds new promise. Last time my “moment of truth” was about me alone. I found a strength within that I never knew I had. For this birth, I want to let Daniel in. I want to have the courage to reach out to him in a way that few married people do after they experience the humdrum tediums and disappointments of married life. I want this to be our moment of truth.
I know that may sound overdramatic. What can I say? I’m 31+ weeks now, which in essence means I am one walking hormone.
But what I mean is this: We’re not the same people we were when we got married, or got our careers going, or became parents. In fact, who we are individually and as a couple has changed dramatically in the last year and I often have a hard time getting my head around it. Things have changed so gradually I barely noticed, but sometimes I don’t know who we are anymore. I *think* we are more solid and real with each other than ever, but we haven’t faced any huge challenges that can confirm that for us. Last weeks class reminded me that we have an opportunity to test out the newfound depth in our marriage. I feel motivated me to work on the loose ends I have been ignoring, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
It took more than a few days, but it was worth it.Read More »
Since I am usually a daily post kind of gal, I thought I’d let ya’ll know that I am taking a few days off. Not that any of you will necessarily notice and wonder why (how egotistical of me to think THAT!), but just in case you do.
We’re experiencing a deliciously refreshing late June rain here in Dallas/Fort Worth. It started out pretty fierce but has since transformed into a deep, soaking sprinkle. I want to stay in bed, light a candle and read. That probably won’t happen, but I am going to take some time for some soul refreshment. I need it.Read More »
This morning I am sipping tea and flipping through baby name books while Gigi and Katie make a carrot cake for my nephew Conner’s birthday party.
Katie: “Mmmm, I ate this”
Gigi: “You ate the ginger?”
Katie: “Yes, it’s spiiiiicy. I need water.”
As each ingredient goes in, she asks if it is spicy and tries to taste it. Baking soda, nutmeg, salt . . . she’s declared them all “just right”. Ironically, just last night I was assessing the “ingredients” of my life with Daniel. I put far too many of them in the “bitter” and “unsavory” categories.
Truth be told, there are many sweet elements in my life: Answered prayers, for one. Simpler things, too, like the way Katie spontaneously began requesting Cream & Sugar instead of “mommy’s milk.”
There is some bitterness as well, but as I sit here watching Gigi fold the batter into her baking pans I wonder if maybe they are necessary to make sure this cake turns out just right. I’ve never heard of a Baking Soda Cake (ewww), and yet how else would you get a cake fluffy if not for baking soda (aluminum free, of course)? Perhaps this would be the time to point out that it’s not up to the cake batter question the Baker. “Why did you add that? I don’t need it and I don’t like it!”
And yet I have been judging the end result by the pleasantness/discomfort of the process. This morning I am asking a new question:
Chicken soup when it’s 100 degrees outside? I know it seems like a partnership destined to fail. But here’s the deal: We love whole roasted chicken around here and I simply can’t waste the opportunity to make a nutritious bone broth afterwards. So rather than freeze all the broth I make from now until October, I’m experimenting with ways to use it AND celebrate the season.
Behold! I give you Summer Chicken & Basil Soup, which features seasonal items such as zucchini and, ahem, basil. This recipe was inspired by the Boston Chef, only he doesn’t use exact measurements. I made a couple of changes and added some measurements to make things a bit more simple.
PREP: 15 mins
COOK: 35 mins
READY IN: 50 mins
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner