The average doctor’s visit is about 15 minutes. In that amount of time, it’s nearly impossible to address all of your health concerns! Going in with a plan and with a list of questions can help you get the most out of your next visit.
1. Are there any tests I should have?
This question prompts your doc to look at any past labs and also helps them quickly think about your current situation and any diagnostics that are appropriate. If you have specific tests in mind, list them out and ask about them specifically.
2. Is there anything I can do to manage “XYZ” about my menstrual cycle, if you still have a cycle?
If you are concerned about your cycle, the amount of flow, pain, PMS, or any other symptoms associated with menstruation, ask!
3. I’m experiencing some discharge/odor/itching/discomfort… is this normal?
It may feel awkward, but you need to know that your doc has heard and seen it all. If you’re concerned about your vagina, you should discuss this with your OB/GYN.
4. What are my options for birth control, if you are still menstruating?
Birth control options can be confusing! Your doctor will help you determine the method that is a good match.
5. My sex drive is low. What can I do about it?
Libido issues can result from a variety of factors. If your sex drive or issues with sex are impacting your life… talk about it! Your doctor will help you get to the bottom of it so you can get back to a more comfortable place.
6. I no longer have a menstrual cycle and am in menopause. When it comes to sex, it feels uncomfortable because it’s very dry down there. What can I do to fix this?
If you have not had a period for 12 months, you are in menopause and the drop in estrogen and progesterone hormones can cause vaginal dryness. There are natural options such as dietary adjustments. Keeping your blood sugar low, taking probiotics, vitamin D3, the herbs black cohosh, dong quoi and red clover are also effective.
If considering any herbs, speak with your doctor and also a reputable herbalist. Herbs can have interactions with certain medications so always check with your doctor first and do your due diligence. Organic virgin coconut oil is a natural lubricant that helps with dryness. There are drug store lubricants but I recommend getting to the root of the issue and possibly doing a hormone test to check what your levels are. The Dutch test is a good at home test you can order online. You can then discuss your results with your doctor or seek out a functional medical doctor who is more well versed in holistic options for a variety of conditions and situations.
Managing Menopause at Work
95% of women over the age of 55 are in menopause. The average American woman works until the age of 66. That means that a huge section of the workforce could be affected and struggling with the symptoms of menopause.
Although there are currently no fixed laws within the US that directly relate to menopause, but women do have protection in terms of age discrimination and gender bias. Human Resource departments are often very willing to help with simple accommodations that can make things better.
How can menopause affect work performance?
Menopause is more than cessation of menstruation. Although effects vary, most women experience some symptoms which last on average up to four years. The most common symptoms that could interfere with a woman’s working life include difficulty sleeping, fatigue and joint/muscle pain. Menopausal women may find that their concentration and mood are affected too. Anxiety, memory problems and irritability can wax and wane.
These can impact focus, alertness, the ability to perform manual tasks and the ability to manage stressful moments with colleagues or customers.
75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes. The experience is like an intense feeling of heat spreading throughout the body; it can lead to sweating and skin redness. Working in a warm or stuffy office may exacerbate these symptoms.
Other conditions linked to the menopause include heart palpitations, urinary tract infections and even increased risk from other, more serious conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease. For many women, menopause just isn’t pleasant and can make work more of a challenge.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, what can you do?
While it may feel strange talking to your employer about your issues, most are understanding. Don’t be afraid to talk with your employer or the Human Resources department and make requests based on what you feel able to manage.
Adjusting your schedule or allowing for flexible hours can help you avoid having to take time off.
Having access to the temperature control for your office or being allowed a small fan to assist in your comfort can help you avoid taking too many breaks or losing focus.
For your part, maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of work can help. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals may help alleviate symptoms of fatigue; protein sources from grass fed meat, wild fatty fish, pasture raised poultry and eggs, healthy fats, lots of green veggies and minimizing carbohydrates can stabilize blood sugar and help improve energy.
Exercise and meditation can improve mood and help ease stress and anxiety. There are numerous meditation apps like "Calm" that make it possible for some quick stress relief that you can do during a work break. Even five minutes of slow deep belly breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and put you in the rest and digest mode. Where there is a will there is a way, even in the workplace.
How Yoga Breathing Can Ease Hot Flashes
Yoga is an ancient practice, developed in India thousands of years ago. It is a powerful and effective way of maintaining health, wellness and a connection to your body.
Yogic wisdom can help facilitate your passage through perimenopause, menopause and beyond. Not only is Yoga a form of exercise but it is also a meditative practice that helps you develop peace with and within yourself.
For women who need support accepting the changes that menopause brings, Yoga postures and Yoga breathing can help a woman foster a healthy relationship with herself.
The practice of Yoga has two parts:
Postures are held for a particular length of time that is measured in breaths.
The beauty of Yoga is that it can be enjoyed at virtually any age and by any physical ability. Instructors are versed at creating adaptations so all can experience the benefits that Yoga has to offer.
This form of breathing is deep and full. You experience the fullness of the chest expansion as you inhale and the depth of release as the abdomen and diaphragm push air out of the lungs on the exhale.
In a 1992 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers experimented with paced Yoga breathing to reduce hot flashes. Thirty-three women who were experiencing frequent hot flashes tried this technique and reported a significant reduction in the frequency of hot flashes.
Try the following as a hot flash is coming on:
Slow your breathing to a rate of about one breath every 10 seconds.
It helps to count slowly from 1 to 5 for each inhalation and from 1 to 5 for each exhalation.
As you slow down your breathing, you may feel your hot flash release!
Rhythmic, deep breathing like this also calms the central nervous system, ease the mind and can help release emotions. Mood swings and irritability can be tempered by this type of breathing as well.
4 Surprising Symptoms of Menopause
If you’re like many, when you think about menopause, you think of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and weight gain… right?
Here are 5 Surprising Symptoms of Menopause that you may not know:
Changing estrogen levels means that your body will experience dryness. The common symptom of vaginal dryness is a great example. But, this can also be a problem in the mouth that leads to bacterial imbalance, gum disease and tooth decay.
Osteoporosis doesn’t just impact the big bones in the body! The jawbones can be affected; chewing, jaw mobility and your teeth(or dentures) can be compromised.
Stress can make jaw clenching and teeth grinding more prevalent. The extra pressure may cause tooth damage and headaches.
Talk with your dentist about how menopause is impacting your oral health. Often, they have solutions that are easy to implement and will save you from years of discomfort.
#2Bloating and Digestive Issues
Believe it or not, estrogen helps regulate digestion! Less estrogen means less bile, and that can result in dry, hard stools, constipation and uncomfortable bowel movements.
Lower estrogen is also implicated in water retention, which can be one cause of bloating. Hormonal imbalance can also cause gas and bloating in the digestive process because the way the body metabolizes carbohydrates and proteins changes.
Consult with a Health Coach or Nutritionist to discuss ways to shift your eating habits as well as what foods to focus on to support your health.
#3 Body Odor
Hormonal changes can be a beast when it comes to body odor.
Decreased estrogen is to blame for an increase in BO. Estrogen helps regulate your hypothalamus; the hypothalamus is the gland responsible for regulating your body temperature. When estrogen levels drop, your hypothalamus gets confused and responds as though you are hot, even when you aren’t. The result is activated sweat glands!
Hot flashes and night sweats can leave you, your clothing and your bedding drenched in sweat. Night sweats in particular can bread some funk because bacteria has hours to develop while you sleep. If your sheets and clothing are smelly as a result of menopausal sweat, try an enzyme cleaner as a pre-soak when you do laundry. That extra step can often help!
Vaginal dryness can cause odor, too. Without sufficient vaginal lubrication to keep pH in check, odor-causing bacteria can flourish.
Breathable fabrics, a daily shower (or two), a good natural (aluminum-free) deodorant, pretreating laundry, and following a healthy diet to help alleviate the symptoms in the first place can all make a difference.
Dizziness may be a sign of more serious health concerns, but it can be due to menopause.
Hormone fluctuations may make you experience vertigo, feel faint or lightheaded.
While experiencing other symptoms you may also feel dizzy or unstable. Hot flashes, dehydration, anxiety, panic attacks, and stress can all trigger those feeling.
Cardiovascular disruptions and disorders from heart disease that develops during menopause may leave you feeling dizzy, too.
Visit with your doctor to determine if your dizziness is related to menopause or something that requires further investigation.
3 Herbs To Ease The Symptoms of Menopause
My three favorite herbs to support and ease menopausal symptoms are:
RED CLOVER is an invaluable and potent estrogenic plant that also acts a mild diuretic. Red clover can be useful in reducing hot flashes, relieving insomnia, and improving mood. Red clover also appears to benefit the cardiovascular system. It has been shown to increase HDL (the good cholesterol), as well as relaxing arterial walls, thereby reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
CHASTEBERRY normalizes sex drive, may reduce hot flashes and help moisten dry vaginal tissues. This herb is also effective for the PMS-like symptoms of perimenopause: menstrual cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, acne, migraine headaches, and depression. Chasteberry can help regulate the menstrual cycle, which may become irregular at this time.
DONG QUAI is a Chinese herb also known as “angelica,” from its Latin name, Angelica sinensis. Traditionally, it’s been used to treat symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and thinning of vaginal tissue. Dong Quai helps moisturize, and improve vaginal lubrication, relieve aches and cramps, and restores vitality to the tissues. Another benefit of Dong quai is that it helps ease symptoms of depression. Caution: Dong Quai is not recommended for women who have bloating, menorrhagia, diarrhea, fibroids or those individuals using blood-thinning medications or aspirin.
Start with prepared, high-quality herbal products like whole herbs, herbal extracts and tinctures. Many acupuncturists also have a background in Chinese herbs as do Naturopathic doctors. I always recommend getting a personal referral from someone who has had a positive experience. Avoid taking any herbs or supplements if you are on medications or are struggling with complex health issues. Consult with a medical professional you trust and have a good relationship with for guidance.
Women and Stress
It’s true that anyone can experience stress, but women are at a higher risk for having more of it. Stress can come from many sources such as work, school, home life, parenting, health, finances, and so much more. Women are most likely to multi-task and be the bedrock of their family. I count myself in on being a multi-tasker. It’s nothing new for me to be running two loads of laundry while roasting a chicken in the oven. I used to do three things at once and now I’ve cut back to doing two things so that’s progress for me. It's been my observation that women in general have more responsibilities than their partners when it comes to family life, so it's not wonder we need a good self care routine. Many years ago, before I was married with a family of my own, I had a client with a demanding career, a husband and baby who used to say that she could use a wife. Not for any other reason other than to delegate someone else to take care of all the mundane chores and free up more time. I couldn't relate then when I was single, but I understand now!
You may think you know what it feels like to be stressed out, but many women only notice they are out of alignment when it starts to truly affect other areas of their life. Stress comes in many forms, and you may be experiencing it nearly every day without even realizing. By understanding the signs, you have a better chance at catching it early on and taking health supportive actions.
Several signs you may be under stress:
You wake up with headaches due to clenching your teeth or insomnia
You have frequent tension headaches
You’re unable to concentrate and find yourself being forgetful
You suffer from increased depression or anxiety
You have moderate to severe mood swings
You have difficulty making decisions
You find yourself smoking, drinking, or eating more than usual
You feel a sense of helplessness and overwhelm.
Complications and Side Effects
There are quite a few ways stress can affect you, both mentally and physically. This doesn’t even begin to cover the fact that stress can lead to problems at home, including finances, work, and with your family or friends. Aside from those complications, it also affects you emotionally and mentally. You might have heightened anxiety, more frequent panic attacks, and severe depression. Stress also increases the risk for many physical ailments, including headaches and migraines, muscle tension, digestive issues, high blood pressure, stroke, infections, backache, eating disorders, skin problems, bowel disorders, and many others.
What to do About it
As you can see, stress can do a number on your entire life. As soon as possible, look for healthy and productive ways to give yourself relief in the form of self-care. What will work for you might vary based on the source of stress. One day it could be writing in a journal, and the next taking a yoga class or going for a run. Choose healthy activities that take your mind off of your concerns, even if it’s just having tea with friends or watching a raunchy comedy with your family. Hearty laughter is one of life’s best forms of medicine. Make it a point to do it more often 😊
What You Need to Know About Menopause
As women age, they go through various life phases: There’s the teen years, childbearing years, and then menopause. During menopause, you can no longer get pregnant and will no longer have a menstrual cycle. When I was in my teens up to my thirties, menopause seemed so foreign to me. I never gave it a single thought until I was in my late forties. That’s when I wanted to learn more of what to expect and what tools would help me have a healthy transition into this phase of life.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause can sneak up on you, where you don’t realize what’s happening until you see your doctor about odd physical or mental symptoms. Some women do get perimenopause first, where you experience some menopause symptoms prior to actually having menopause. This is actually a good thing because you have this for about a year before menopause. You then have plenty of time to adjust to the changes in your body. That’s what happened to me. At around age forty-eight, my periods were heavier, and would occasionally skip a month or two. At fifty, I began to have hot flashes that lasted a several minutes. It did feel strange and the fact that it could happen at any moment and anywhere made me feel anxious. One time I was at work and with a client when I felt a sense of heat rise up into my head. I just knew that my face was red and quickly excused myself. As I opened the bathroom door, I walked past the mirrors and saw blotches of red on my neck, and face. It was beyond blushing. I waited out the hot flash which was about three to five minutes. I wondered if anyone noticed and what they were thinking. I was relieved my client didn’t say anything. If someone did ask, I could have said, “I’m a hot mess,” and laugh it off. It was kind of the truth at the moment.
Symptoms can vary. Some women have severe hot flashes accompanied by sweating, while other women don’t have them at all. With a decrease in estrogen, the ability to regulate insulin becomes more important. Eating high sugar foods that trigger an insulin spike are associated with more hot flashes, so it’s in your best interest to decrease or eliminate processed carbohydrates like wheat-based breads, pastas, sweets, soda, candy, fruit juices, and increase your proteins and healthy fats.
Aside from the hot flashes, you won’t have any more periods. PMS symptoms will be different than they were before. You might have a little weight gain, especially around your midsection. You may also have vaginal dryness, as a result of the decreased hormone levels in your body. While you can no longer get pregnant naturally, you may still be able to carry a baby through in-vitro fertilization.
When You Will Go Through it?
You can go through menopause at different ages, but the majority of women experience it between 45 and 55. Some women have it much younger, starting with perimenopause first. Other women luck out and last until 60 or older before going through menopause. The average age for experiencing early stages of menopause is about 51 years of age. I was 51 when my periods completely stopped. If you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for two years, you’re in menopause. It takes a while for your body to adjust fully to menopause, and if you’re having a hard time, I recommend an integrative M.D as they are well versed in holistic options for treatment protocols. They also have a greater knowledge of nutrition, herbs and supplements compared to a typical western trained M.D whose background in nutrition is very little.
While menopause is completely normal and something most women will go through, there can be issues that may affect some percentage of women. For example, you might experience a steep decline in your sexual interest due to vaginal dryness and changes in your mood and physical health. This typically improves over time as the body adjusts to the hormonal changes. However, if you see no improvement, then, as I mentioned, seek out an experienced integrative M.D. who specializes in women’s health to do a full panel hormone test.
There’s the potential risk for medical conditions like osteoporosis when you go through menopause, but there is a caveat to this. I’m always on the lookout for solid science - based research that disputes or challenges the conventional ideas of mainstream medicine. Yes, there is absolutely a place for medical intervention in certain situations where it is warranted, but it often comes with side effects with long term use. Over the last century, medicine has moved away from its origins of being plant and food based to being chemical and mechanized. In other words, there’s less trust and belief that our bodies have a natural intelligence to bring about homeostasis when provided with the right substances from nature and correct life style changes.
In the article, “Reversing Osteoporosis With Hormone Balance,” on Hormones and Balance (dot com), Magdalena Wszelaki, in her blog says, “age isn’t even the primary risk factor for osteoporosis – it can be a hormone imbalance and poor nutrient absorption. She goes on to say, “Promoting hormone balance inside our bodies should be the first step in preventing osteoporosis. Our body thrives on homeostasis. When one simple hormone or nutrient is imbalanced that sends a trickle-down reaction throughout our whole body.”
“Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme that contributes to bone formation. When the activity of this enzyme is diminished, calcium is stripped from the bones. The reduced activity of alkaline phosphatase is actually due to low serum levels of 3 key nutrients: zinc, manganese and magnesium.
“The author continues in her letter to discourage high-does calcium supplementation as well as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT has been shown to lower blood levels of zinc, magnesium and alkaline phosphatase. Studies show that people on HRT lose more zinc through urinary excretion.”
Dr. Grant backs up her conclusions in a published observation that bone fractures among women between the ages of 35 to 65 years were the highest in countries where hormone replacement therapies are frequently prescribed.
When I looked into the research on this topic, I felt that it gives many women hope and safer options to use for menopause related conditions such as osteoporosis. The key to prevention is a multi-pronged approach. Diet and nutrition are absolutely integral, so is exercise and mind set.
The transition into menopause can be a great opportunity for learning about your body, what it needs, and a holistic self-care routine to help you thrive.
Menopause is like a magical doorway that up opens you up to the infinite wisdom that you’ve always had.
As a woman, you have many different hormones that affect your fertility and various other functions. When you are peri-menopausal or starting menopause, it’s still necessary to have a balance of your entire endocrine system and one of the main hormones is progesterone.
For most of my life, I didn’t give much thought to my hormones, except when my period was about to happen. Whatever my friends, progesterone and estrogen were doing three weeks out of the month, was uneventful, until the twenty-eighth or thirtieth day of the month, then, “Wham!” My abdomen would feel more bloated, I’d have an increase in appetite (especially for carbs), my complexion was pale, I looked tired and was more emotional. I’m painting such a lovely picture that's relatable to the time when we were all menstruating. Now that I’m in the menopause stage of life, PMS is a thing of the past and so is birth control. It’s one of the parts about being female that I’m sure many women don’t miss, including myself.
You might not really understand what progesterone is or what role it plays, but it’s a type of hormone that helps with many functions in your body:
Aids in fertility / having a healthy pregnancy
Builds strong bones (stimulates cells to build new bone called osteoblasts)
Creates a happy mood (it acts on the gamma amino butyric – GABA- receptors in the brain).
Helps with skin elasticity
Good for memory
Normalizes blood sugar
Is a natural diuretic
Maintains the uterine lining
Helps with burning fat for energy
Reduces PMS symptoms,
Supports proper thyroid health
Maintains proper blood clotting
Progesterone is among the hormones women need to keep balanced, alongside estrogen, estrone, estradiol, testosterone and others.
Why You Need Progesterone
The reason doctors are concerned about progesterone levels is because of how much it impacts your body, if levels are off balance. Not just your gynecological health, but also parts of your body and mind as well. Your mental and physical health both do best when you have adequate amounts of progesterone in your body.
How to Improve Progesterone Levels
If you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, you are not alone. Fortunately, there are natural ways you can correct your hormone levels, including progesterone, without medications. Making lifestyle changes such as eating a whole foods diet that consists of healthy fats, wild fish, grass fed meat and pasture raised poultry, organic vegetables and fruits and complex carbohydrates like yams, squash and seed grains like quinoa makes a huge difference. Getting plenty of exercise, and eliminating negative habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol also have a positive impact on progesterone. I know it’s easier said than done, but making small changes that are doable and realistic over time will lead to life log lasting changes.
If you want an excellent way to accurately measure your hormone levels you can order the DUTCH test from Dr. Suzy Cohen. It’s a complete hormone panel that will give you a breakdown and explanation of your results that you can share with your health care provider. It’s a simple test that uses a urine sample. Before you order, just make sure to read the info about your state’s rules on the website and email Suzy Cohen’s support department. I live in New York, where the kit cannot be mailed, so I would have to have it sent to another state where I have a friend that can fortunately receive it. She then mails it to me and problem solved. It’s a bit of a workaround but totally worth it.
Your doctor can provide a progesterone supplement, if you’re unable to improve the issue on your own. The results of the DUTCH test will help provide a better direction, when you know exactly what your numbers are. There are natural progesterone options like wild yam cream that can be helpful and it may be a bit of trial and error until you find the right protocol. Too many women just shake their head yes and do whatever their health care provider says without questioning. Nothing against the medical profession, but it’s your body and you need to treat it like the temple that it is so ask questions and educate yourself by reading and researching. This way you are prepared to make better choices.
Did you know that essential oils have been around for thousands of years and used to improve a variety of health issues, and menopause symptoms are one of them. The Delightful Hormone balancing serum smells and works great and you can make it yourself in under five minutes! It helps balance progesterone and estrogen and has a calming effect on the nervous system. I love DIY and have made several body care products that are a part of my self care routine. You can look up websites for where to buy essential oils or you can use the company I recommend here called planttherapy.com.
The ingredients are essential oils of thyme, clary sage and ylang ylang. Use evening primrose oil as a carrier oil for the other oils.
Essential oil of thyme improves progesterone production for both men and women. Low progesterone levels are associated with infertility, PCOS, depression and other hormonal imbalances.
There is always a risk when you choose to take hormone replacement drugs. For one thing, it makes your body dependent on synthetic ingredients that are not natural to the body. Second, it increases the potential for issues in other areas of your health that can lead to serious side effects that may require other medications to offset. Before you know it, you could be on several medications that are controlling your bodily functions. When I wanted to get pregnant at 41, I was told my progesterone was low. Instead of taking drugs that were recommended by one Ob/Gyn, I did acupuncture and saw a Chinese herbalist who told me a synthetic form of progesterone would weaken my ovaries’ natural ability to produce progesterone on their own. The herbs worked for me, and I knew then that I would trust my body's innate intelligence and choose a holistic approach first. Drugs would always be a last resort. Every woman needs to trust her own intuition and decide what's best for herself.
The second ingredient for the hormone balancing serum, essential oil of clary sage, helps balance out estrogen production in the body. Many health issues such as infertility, PCOS and estrogen-based cancers are caused from excess estrogen in the body. Some of that has to do with eating high estrogen foods such as dairy, wheat, soy (most soy is processed and contributes to an increase in estrogen) and alcohol. There is more to say on this topic but I will leave that for another post.
Note: Click on the links so they take you to where you can purchase the ingredients.
Here’s to having happy hormones! 😊
Healthy Habits for Menopausal Women
Habits are a part of life and something everyone does whether consciously or unconsciously. Ideally, we want to increase our positive habits and put a stop to the ones that don’t support our best interests and health.
Constructive habits are things you do on a daily basis that are good for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Read on to learn what healthy habits menopausal women (and people of all ages!) are doing to stay on their A game.
Get More Exercise
If you don’t have a regular fitness routine, now is the perfect time to start. Exercise is wonderful for anyone, male or female, but it has some unique advantages for menopausal women. Exercise helps you lose and manage your weight, fight conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and is a preventative for ailments like arthritis and osteoporosis as you age. It’s also fantastic during any phase of your life, whether you’re a teenager, in your childbearing years, or a senior adult. Fitness is the fountain of youth and adds immeasurably to the quality of your life.
Focus on Your Nutrition
A healthy diet goes hand in hand with exercise. I often tell clients that you can work-out like an animal, but if your diet sucks, your results will be minimal. Ideally, you want to consume “whole” foods that are unprocessed, and properly prepared. Conscientious habits are your road to eating better. Fad diets don’t work because they are short lived. Who can thrive on cabbage soup for their entire life? Not me, that’s for sure. And I doubt any one reading this can either. We need variety to make sure we receive adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and macro-nutrients (protein, complex - carbohydrates, and good fats).
A health supportive diet is a lifestyle. Think of longevity and base your choices on foods that are good for you, provide high quality nutrition, and can be prepared easily. Many menopausal women do great on a Keto, Paleo or Whole-30 based diet because it’s higher in protein and good fats and lower in carbohydrates which helps keep insulin low. If you’re vegan or vegetarian which leans towards more grains and legumes that spike insulin, adjustments can be made to reverse those issues. Pick and choose based on what provides the most nutrition, and what is manageable for your current lifestyle.
Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health
Far too many people, women especially, neglect their mental health. How many times have you found yourself strung out, had a nervous stomach that sent you racing to the bathroom? Raise your hand if that's happened. The status of your mental health has a direct impact on your physical body and it’s called the “Gut-Brain axis.” Anxiety and/or depression often improves when our digestion works properly so take a look at how your gut is or isn’t working.
Here’s several ideas that can work wonders to help support your mental wellness:
A health supportive diet
Get outdoors and spend time in nature; take a hike, go for a run, bike etc...
Spend time with friends
Play with your pet (if you have one or consider adopting a furry friend)
Take a hot bath with some Epsom salt and some essential oil like lavender.
If time is a factor, then choose an action you can do for five minutes like journaling. If I’ve had an intense day, writing down how I feel increases my self-awareness and provides a good amount of relief to let go. A good bear hug with someone you love is also quick, uplifting and raises those feel-good hormones.
It’s easy to become a hermit and just work and sleep, so it’s important for your health and well-being to make a habit to connect with others who enrich your life. The possibilities to feel better are endless and at the end of the day it’s about doing what helps you feel most connected to your highest and best self.
8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid
This is a topic I’m passionate about because it’s one of the most widely ignored areas of health problems that could easily be fixed. The mass majority are living in a giant chemical soup in their own homes. So, make a cup of tea or whatever healthy beverage you enjoy and we’ll take a deep dive into learning some new vocabulary words.
According to the environmental protection agency (EPA), there are at least 62 toxic chemicals lingering in the average household. They can be found in products like paints, cosmetics, scented toilet paper, nail polish and cleaning agents. Toxic chemicals in our own home can lead to adverse health effects such as asthma, cancer, neurotoxicity, allergic reactions, reproductive disorders, and hormone disruption among others.
If you think the only way to get your home sweet home spic and span is using harsh chemical laden products, think again. They do more harm than good. From the outside, you might see their effectiveness when it comes to cleaning, but you’re putting your health at risk. My go to place for buying good for the environment products and organic food is Thrivemarket.com. Similar to Amazon prime, you’ll need to purchase a membership to have access to all their great discounts.
The following are several commonly used chemicals to avoid:
Phthalates: Phthalates are regularly found in fragranced cosmetics & personal care products and nail polish in the United States. They’re currently found in PVC children’s toys, backpacks, air fresheners, food packaging like cling wrap, medical devices, building materials such as water pipes, vinyl flooring, mosquito repellant and adhesives. Phthalates are not typically listed on ingredient labels because “fragrances” are considered to be trade secrets. Phthalates in cosmetics are banned in Europe but unfortunately remain in use in the United States. They are known carcinogens because they disrupt the endocrine system, damage and reduce sperm count and reproductive functioning, and are skin and respiratory irritants. Instead, you’re best off choosing fragrance-free organic products or essential oils.
2. Perchloroethylene (PERC): PERC is a colorless, non-combustible, volatile organic compound (VOC) typically found in liquid form. The compound turns into vapors at room temperature. This chemical is often found in aerosol paint concentrates, oven cleaners, laundry aids, and dry-cleaning solutions, typewriter correction fluid, shoe polish and wood cleaner. It is hazardous because of its classification as a neurotoxin and a possible carcinogen, with the most serious effects emanating from its inhalation. To avoid the problems associated with the presence of PERC in household chemicals, some of the viable alternatives would include liquid carbon dioxide or household cleaners made from all-natural organic ingredients. A simple oven cleaning hack is to use baking soda and water to clean your oven.
3. Triclosan: This is commonly found in products labeled as antibacterial, including dishwashing soaps, body soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, deodorants, and different products for personal care. The absorption of triclosan, which commonly happens through skin contact or contact from the lining of the mouth, can affect muscle function, hormone regulation, and can trigger allergic reactions. According to experts, avoiding the said health risks can be possible by choosing soaps with a simpler list of ingredients or those that are all-natural. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Bronner’s for face and body washing. It’s a pure product. If you’re into DIY, you can do a search on making your own products like deodorant. I’ve experimented with making my own which has turned out great! Also, stay away from body care products that say “anti-perspirant” because the main ingredient is aluminum which is linked to breast cancer and highly carcinogenic. Aluminum is also in tin-foil and many cook ware products. I’ll do a separate blog post on what pots and pans to use for safe cooking.
4. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS): QUATS chemicals that are commonly used in fabric softeners, hair conditioners, shampoos and body lotions. In hair care they, create a slippery feel to hair and skin. They also have anti-microbial properties. Exposure to QUATS can cause contact dermatitis, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Some forms of QUAT compounds like benzalkonium chloride are phenolic (volatile chemical compounds) and are endocrine disruptors (interfere with hormone function). They also harm aquatic life so they should not be flushed into the water system.
5. 2-Butoxyethanol: This chemical is a clear, colorless and flammable solvent. Solvents soften and disperse soils to lessen the amount of effort you have to use. 2-butoxyethanol can be found in floor strippers, surface cleaners, spot cleaners, window cleaners, ink removers, and other multipurpose cleaners. The high level of glycol ether in products containing this chemical has been linked to kidney and liver damage, asthma, nausea, tremor, anemia, pulmonary edema, and narcosis, among others. For an incredibly simple, effective and super safe cleaning product go the website www.forceofnature.com
6. Ammonia: This chemical has a very pungent odor and can be commonly found in polishing waxes, bathroom cleaners, jewelry cleaners, and other multipurpose cleaners. The risk from this chemical occurs when people are exposed to high concentrations which can lead to allergy, asthma, and other breathing problems. A great alternative to products containing ammonia would be vodka or natural toothpaste, which are natural cleaners.
7. Chlorine: Some of the household items containing chlorine include toilet bowl cleaners, scouring powders, laundry whiteners, mildew removers, and even tap water. Exposure to chlorine can commonly lead to respiratory and thyroid problems. In the case of the thyroid, chlorine robs our cells of iodine (I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein’s book on Iodine - “Why You Need It And Can’t Live Without it”). It’s best to avoid swimming in pools unless they are salt water based. To prevent its health risks, experts recommend the use of natural cleaners, such as vinegar, borax powder, and using filters to remove chlorine concentration in water. I use a counter top water filtration system called Aquatrue which removes chlorine and fluoride.
8. Sodium Hydroxide: Sodium hydroxide is an odorless, white crystalline solid that absorbs moisture from the air. Drain cleaners and oven cleaners are two of the most common items in the household containing sodium hydroxide. As the chemical is known for being extremely corrosive, it can be damaging for the skin and can cause a sore throat when it is inhaled. Rather than using a cleaning product that contains sodium hydroxide, use baking soda mixed with a little water to make a paste as a natural alternative.
Once you go green and ditch all the chemical laden cleaning products, you will be making a positive long-term investment in yours and your family’s health.