Tag: health and wellness

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Straight from a doctor’s mouth: why we need to make changes to our personal care products especially those we use on our kids

Beautycounter is about cancer prevention. That’s why we always say we’re a movement to get safer products into the hands of everyone.

Each month, our extended team gets together here in San Diego (we also do these in other parts of the country if you’re located elsewhere and interested in attending one) to continue educating ourselves on topics and issues related to health and wellness. Last night, our guest speaker was Dr. Adam Silberman, a naturopath in La Jolla who has trained extensively all over the world and who has an impressive list of celebrity clientele (although you would never know it given his humble and goofy personality).

Dr. Silberman’s talk focused on how toxins found in every day products can negatively impact our endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. He had so many valuable insights to share but here are a few of what I thought were the most important takeaways:

  • He recently treated a 13 year-old patient with severe face, chest and neck acne by having her stop all personal care products for ten days. She wasn’t allowed to use anything on her hair or body except water and apple cider vinegar. By day ten, her acne was completely gone. She was thrilled and immediately wanted to start using her personal care products again to which his answer was “not the same ones you were using before!” 
  • Some toxins never leave the body which is why they’re found in human tissue even after a person is deceased. Even something that seems mundane like walking on grass after it’s been sprayed with pesticides can stay in your body forever. Skin is our largest organ and it absorbs whatever it comes into contact with–just think about how nicotine patches and pain relief creams get absorbed into the skin. The same goes for the shampoo, lotion, sunscreen and makeup we’re using on our bodies every day. 
  • We have to be our own health advocates! The amount of toxins he sees in some of his patients’ blood work is off the charts yet our government doesn’t do much of anything to protect our health when it comes to the personal care industry. Because of the lack of overall regulation and loopholes with things like transparency, reading labels isn’t enough–we must do our research using resources like the Environmental Working Group.

Knowing that we must be our own advocates, I’ll leave you with this: What small changes can you make today that will have a big impact on you tomorrow?

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia


Young Caucasian woman facial massage

Craniosacral what?

If you’ve read my youngest daughter Sasha’s story, then you’ve already been introduced to the phrase craniosacral therapy. Until we moved to San Diego, I had never heard of it and I thought I was pretty well-versed in alternative approaches to wellness given my ongoing fascination with the mind, body, spirit connection.

As a quick overview, craniosacral therapy is a form of bodywork that uses gentle touch to manipulate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. In other words, joints that permit little to no movement. Practitioners of craniosacral therapy may also apply light touches to a patient’s spine and pelvis. Practitioners believe this manipulation regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid found in your brain and spine).

So what does all of this have to do with Sasha? In a nutshell, Sasha spent the first three years of her life with chronic ear infections which eventually led to tubes, RSV, two bouts of pneumonia back-to-back and some crazy mono-like virus that sent us in and out of the hospital twice with 106 degree fevers. Because of all of this, the slightest sinus congestion would turn into an ear infection and the slightest cough would move into her lungs.

While trips to the chiropractor paired with essential oils were doing their job in helping her fight through various illness (along with antibiotics when needed of course), we couldn’t get her immune system to a different place until Melinda came along. When my neighbor told me about Melinda, she promptly said “she’s expensive but worth every penny.” I didn’t know what the price tag was nor did I want to know. I was on my last nerve and would pay anything I could to help get Sasha to a better place.

After patiently waiting for two months to see Melinda, in walked a tall blonde woman in her 60s who looked like she had just come from a cover shoot for Vogue. Chic clothes, chunky jewelry and hip glasses were surrounded by a massage table, Chinese herbs and acupuncture needles. I knew immediately that I was going to love this woman.

After a thorough intake, the treatment began. Melinda applied light touches to Sasha’s head, ears, sinuses, neck, chest, lungs and even the inside of her mouth. She went as low as the abdomen and could tell that Sasha also suffered from constipation. That night, Sasha slept like a rock. Having never been a consistent sleeper before, I knew something had taken effect.

Following the initial appointment, we saw Melinda three more times as she continued to work on Sasha’s areas of need. Through it all, Sasha always laid patiently on the table until one session when Melinda touched the left side of her neck. Instantly, Sasha started to squirm and fuss in a way that I had never witnessed before. Melinda looked up at me and asked if the cord was wrapped around her neck at birth and I shook my head yes.

From there, she asked me to hop on the table with Sasha and lay nose to nose with her. Over the next three minutes while Melinda touched the spot, Sasha let out what I can only describe as a raw, caveman like cry. Tears immediately started rolling down my face as she released what I imagine was years of fear and emotion. A few days later when we were playing at home, Sasha suddenly stopped and said to me, “mommy, I was really scared when the cord was wrapped around my neck.” My whole body became covered in goosebumps as I hugged her tight and told her she was safe.

It’s been close to two months since our last appointment with Melinda and we’ve certainly noticed a difference. Sasha’s had two colds since then but neither one went into her ears or her lungs and she was able to fight them off. Knowing that health is always an ongoing journey, I know we still have a lot of work to do especially when it comes to getting her to take vitamins and supplements. But at least I can breathe a little easier knowing we’re making progress!

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia

 


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Think your skin doesn’t absorb chemicals? Think again!

This morning, Good Morning America did an interesting piece about the lack of regulation in the beauty industry and how the United States government does NOT regulate the safety of all of the shampoos, lotions and makeup that we use on our skin every day.

If you haven’t visited the “learn” section of my site, let me quickly catch you up on some of the scary facts:

  • The average woman uses between 8-10 products on her body every single day and those products get absorbed right into her skin.
  • The United States hasn’t passed a major federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938!
  • Over the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,400 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products. The U.S. has only partially banned 11 to date.
  • There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today and many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry.

Now back to Good Morning America…

As part of their research, GMA wanted to see if our bodies actually absorb the chemicals in our skin care and cosmetics and they specifically looked at two common chemicals: parabens, which can act as preservatives, and phthalates, controversial chemicals often used to make fragrances last longer. Here’s what happened:

After getting a baseline measurement of the chemicals in ABC News’ correspondent Mary Bruce’s system, for three days, she used only beauty products containing the two chemicals, parabens and phthalates. Then, for five days, she cut them out completely, using only products excluding those chemicals for her daily routine.

ABC News took urine samples at each stage of the experiment and sent them to the California Department of Health for review, then met with University of California-Berkeley researcher Kim Harley for the results.

When Bruce switched to using only products with the chemicals, the level of parabens in her system went off the charts, going up to 386 ug/g, from her baseline of 38 ug/g. The average American woman, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has 23 ug/g.

When she changed to the low-chemical products, the “levels basically plummeted,” said Harley. “You went down to 6 [ug/g].”

The same thing happened with phthalates, going from her baseline of 87 ug/g, up to 284 ug/g, and back down to 45 ug/g. The average for women is 43 ug/g.

Not only are the results of this test frightening, but what’s even worse is the CDC says the health effects of low-level exposure to these chemicals are “unknown!”

Make sure to check out GMA’s video for the full story and if you want more information on how you can make healthier choices, feel free to check out the shop section of my site or contact me.

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia

 

 


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My cookbook obsession: pure delicious

At my daughters’ pediatric practice, there’s only one doctor who looks at the body holistically. One out of a total of ten doctors and she just happens to be the head of the practice. I’m not trying to pick on them by any means as my girls receive good care there but this narrow view on how to treat the body is my ongoing issue with Western medicine.

For many years, I’ve been trying to incorporate healthier food choices into our lives for various reasons–from my ongoing issues with indigestion, bloating and IBS, to Natalya’s chronic ear infections and eczema, Sasha’s chronic ear and respiratory infections and constipation, and Eric’s chronic sinus infections. While this might seem like a lot for one family, we are hardly unique knowing that nearly one in five households have at least one member who suffers from a food allergy or intolerance.

From age one to almost age two, Sasha was allergic to eggs. During that year of our lives, I was forced to move out of my comfort zone as eggs have always been a daily staple in our lives. Just when I got comfortable and felt like we had a whole new arsenal of options, Sasha outgrew the allergy and decided she wasn’t going to eat anything but eggs, cheese, noodles, bread and tortillas. Hence, her constipation issues that still exist today.

While we’re not completely gluten-free or dairy-free (how can you be with kids who like hot lunch at school and a husband who loves burritos?), we’ve made significant strides in this past year thanks to the incredible amount of resources out there that are making it easier and less time consuming to make healthier choices.

My current obsession is a relatively new cookbook by Heather Christo called “Pure Delicious.” Heather is a mother and a chef who decided to take control of her family’s health by completely revising the way they ate due to chronic illnesses many of which are the same ones I’ve listed above.

I love everything about this cookbook. Everything. The recipes are simple and easy to make and the ingredients needed are minimal which saves us money at the grocery store. Most importantly, I don’t feel like we’re giving up anything–in fact, I think we’ve gained more than we’ve given up in terms of taste.

It’s hard to narrow down my favorite recipes but here are some of our “Pure Delicious” staples:

  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Lemon-artichoke hummus
  • Spicy Thai curry noodle soup
  • Penne with creamy tomato-vodka sauce
  • Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri
  • Chocolate zucchini bundt cake

“Pure Delicious” also has an eight week elimination challenge which I’m hoping to start this January. I don’t know how realistic it will be for Natalya and Sasha to fully participate but I’ll take anything that helps us keep inching toward more consistency when it comes to healthier food choices!

With love, lavender and lipstick,

Olivia

 


Coffee cup on a day window background

Why I quit coffee cold turkey

Coffee is serious business in our house. About four years ago, I decided to surprise my husband with an espresso machine for our anniversary. I thought I was so clever to have pulled off the research on my own, ultimately settling on a machine from Williams Sonoma that wasn’t the most expensive yet still a sizable investment.

Knowing that his gift wouldn’t ship to our house in time for the big day, I printed out a photo and slipped it in his card. About an hour after he opened it, I heard him on the phone talking to his favorite coffee shop in San Francisco. The next thing I knew, he had canceled our order at Williams Sonoma and purchased a different machine and grinder elsewhere for double the price!

I couldn’t really argue with the man as he is a coffee connoisseur. He drinks at least three espressos every day to my one cappuccino. As much as I loved and craved my coffee every morning, I always knew my body was sensitive to caffeine so one to two drinks per day was my limit.

Fast forward to five months ago when I started experiencing some “female” changes that were completely knew to me: missed periods, extreme bloating that never seemed to let up, breasts that ached and had doubled in size, and a five pound weight gain that wasn’t budging no matter how healthy I ate or how much I worked out. Me being me, I immediately thought I was perimenopausal and marched into my doctor’s office. After a slew of tests, she deemed me perfectly healthy and sent me on my way. From there, I went to the acupuncturist and started seeing my craniosacral therapist. While both were helpful in minimizing the symptoms, my intuition said the answer was hiding somewhere else but where damnit?!

Three months into this frustrating experience, I happened to come across a Facebook post from a local nutritionist who had given up caffeine in hopes to help her headaches and fatigue. While our circumstances were obviously different, a little voice in my head told me to do some research which led to headlines like this:

  • caffeine disrupts your entire hormonal cascade for 24 hours;
  • women metabolize caffeine more slowly that men;
  • caffeine causes discomfort and pain in the breasts;
  • caffeine in coffee increases your stress hormones eliciting cortisol and increasing insulin. Insulin increases inflammation;
  • the acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion and imbalances in your gut flora.

There’s no need to panic as most of the information out there seems to be in support of coffee. Plus, I was specifically searching for the relationship between coffee and the female body. That said, I couldn’t stand another day of misery and was willing to try anything to feel better so I broke up with coffee and caffeine altogether. Cold turkey.

While I don’t recommend ripping off the band aid like I did, I will say that two months later I’m completely back to myself with consistent periods, regular breasts, normal weight and a flatter belly (I’ll never be one of those women who has a completely flat belly!). Also positive, I have way more energy and no longer experience the highs and lows of caffeine.

Knowing how complicated the body is and how powerful the mind is, I’m sure coffee wasn’t the only contributing factor to my five months of misery but I’m glad I found a solution that’s working. And at least I can still treat myself to a decaf almond milk cappuccino here and there!

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia


Different types of non-dairy milk

How to transition a dairy-obsessed toddler away from cow’s milk

As part of Sasha’s journey toward building a stronger immune system, I knew we had to transition her away from her beloved cow’s milk. Now I realize there are varying opinions about dairy, and we’re certainly not a dairy free family. However as I’ve aged, I’ve become more sensitive to dairy products and I’ve given up milk, creamer, yogurt and many cheeses (although I can’t bring myself to completely let go of cheese). Additionally, based on my experiences with Eastern practitioners, I’m more aligned with the theory that our bodies were not meant to drink milk past breastfeeding age nor we were meant to process another species’ milk.

As someone who was still drinking at least three “babas” a day in sippy cups, I can’t describe how traumatic this was for Sasha. When I first raised the idea, she cried so hard I felt like she was going to nominate me for “worst mother of the year.” But two months after making the switch, she promptly told on my mom who had offered her cow’s milk for breakfast. Not only did she rat her out, but she also told my mom that cow’s milk was “not good for her body.”

Here’s what worked for us:

  • Start laying the foundation a few weeks before you make the big switch. Because Sasha tends to get sick on a frequent basis, I wasn’t short on opportunities to start explaining why cow’s milk wasn’t helping her little body fight off viruses and infections or poop regularly (constipation is also an ongoing struggle for Sasha and I’m sure she’s going to be thoroughly embarrassed when she reads this as a teenager). To reinforce my messages to her, I would also bring up the subject during our visits to various practitioners. Eventually she stopped balking less at the idea and started becoming more curious about the change.
  • Let your child choose his/her new “milk.” We planned a special date to our local Whole Foods just to pick out some new “milks” to try. As hard as it was not to grab some additional groceries while we were there, I wanted this trip to feel special and all about Sasha so we only shopped for “milk.” She picked out five different varieties/brands which certainly wasn’t cheap but was definitely worth the investment in her long-term physical and emotional well-being.
  • Throw a taste test party. Continuing to play up this moment as something positive and exciting, we had a taste test party when we got home from the store. The entire family gathered around our kitchen island and watched as Sasha poured and tasted each one of her new “milks.” We cheered her on as she tried almond, coconut, almond-coconut and cashew finally landing on coconut.
  • Reward progress with milestone treats. After the excitement of the taste test died down, we experienced a few more tears that evening (and the following few evenings) at bedtime when reality sunk in. It took her a few days to get used to her new coconut “babas” but I kept telling her how strong she was and how proud we were of her for making good choices. I also let her have a small glass of chocolate almond milk here and there to acknowledge her progress.

Since giving up milk combined with treatments from the craniosacral therapist, regular visits to the chiropractor and regular use of essential oils, we’ve seen a big difference in Sasha’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria. In the short time we’ve been back at preschool, she’s already moved through three colds without them worsening and moving into her lungs. Certainly there’s a part of me that’s already worried about the heart of cold and flu season since this year was so rough. But I do feel like we’re better prepared this time around and have many more tools to help us pull through the season!

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia

 

 

 


Banana smoothie and fresh banana on wooden background.

Chocolate, peanut butter, banana, oh my!

I love smoothies and fresh juices but let me be honest: I don’t take the time to make them as much as I should.

For one, I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of concoctions available to explore and find myself spending double at the grocery store for produce and fruit that might not get used in the way I had originally planned for. And two, because smoothies and juices are trendy right now, there are multiple juice bars within five minutes of my house that are relatively the same price as making one at home.

Excuses aside, there is one recipe that is my go-to that I make at least 3-4 times per week. I don’t start off my day with it because I prefer savory foods in the morning so it usually ends up being my lunch and my girls’ afternoon snack. Additionally, it’s easy to make because I always have the ingredients on hand and can easily swamp things in or out depending on what’s in my fridge and fruit bowl.

1 cup almond milk

1 frozen banana

1 tablespoon peanut butter or almond butter. I love Justin’s peanut butter.

1 scoop chocolate organic plant protein powder. I use Garden of Life’s smooth chocolate.

Usually this has a nice consistency with just the frozen banana but sometimes I will throw in a few ice cubes as well. To mix up the recipe, I’ll switch out the chocolate protein powder for Garden of Life’s smooth vanilla. And if I’m feeling crazy, I’ll eliminate the peanut butter and add in other seasonal fruits and sometimes spinach although my girls are too smart for that version these days.

While I know this recipe isn’t innovative or unique by any means, it’s simple and that’s what the middle ground is all about!

With love, lipstick and lavender,

Olivia