Tag Archives: natural

How To Cure Cracked Heels From the Inside Out

5 Dec

crackedheelsinside

Awhile back I posted about my post-pregnancy struggle with cracked heels and how a weekly Apple Cider Vinegar & Eucalyptus Foot Soak has helped me. While my feet have drastically, and I mean DRASTICALLY changed – my cracks were so bad they were painful and bleeding at times – I’m still on the warpath to baby soft heels.

I’m at the point where my feet are soft, with the faintest traces of lines, but if I stop moisturizing my heels for a couple of days I’ll start to see the lines deepen and begin hardening again. So clearly, soaking my skin till its spongy, scrubbing my heels raw and then slathering on artificial moisture isn’t going to cut it for an actual long term “fix”. I realized I need to get my skin to a place where it can do its job without me feeding it a jar of lotion every month.

So, as always, I became the great Google detective and tried to unravel this mystery of the perpetually cracked heels. And here’s what I found:

Cracked Heels Need To Be Treated From the Inside

Cracked heels occur when unhealthy dry skin around the heel responds to pressure from the weight of walking, or even standing, and the skin simply splits. It could be due to sudden weight gain (like pregnancy), skin that has lost elasticity with age, or just a result of ongoing dehydration.

To understand the problem with dry skin that won’t dehydrate with lotions alone, you have to understand the basic nature of the skin on your feet.

The outer layers of the skin on your heels are designed to provide a natural barrier function, which consists of substances such as oils, cholesterol, fatty acids, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. The stratum corneum, the very top layer of the epidermis on your heels, is made up of cells that grab water using your body’s own natural moisturizing factors, amino acids and other molecules that are designed to absorb water and lock it inside the cell.

Without your body producing its own natural moisturizing factors, it simply CANNOT maintain or absorb the moisture you feed it through foot lotions and oils. At least not in the long term. It’s like trying to pour oil into a cracked cup. You may be able to fill it to the brim (look how oily and shiny my feet are!) but it will all eventually seep out (why are my feet so dry AGAIN?!).

Anyway, the health of the skins natural barrier function is crucial to provide lubrication and protection to your feet. If the barrier becomes damaged or impaired, like in the case of cracked heels, dehydration results. So the only way to get rid of cracked heels for good is to rehydrate the skin – from the inside out. Here’s how:

DSC_4990

Drink Lots Of Water

How It Helps – Sufficient water intake is critical in maintaining healthy cell metabolism. A dehydrated body can’t repair existing superficial epidermal dehydration. The fact is that skin is an organ, and just like any other part of the body, the skin on your heels is made up of cells. And skin cells, like any other cell in the body, are made up of water. Without water, the organs will certainly not function properly or at their best. If your skin is not getting the sufficient amount of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and less resilient, which on your feet means lots of lovely cracks and fissures.

Other Health Bonuses – Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water and the functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. It’s pretty much vital to life.

How Much To Drink – The unfortunate truth about drinking water and your cracked heels is that water will reach all the other organs before it reaches the skin. So if you are chronically dehydrated (*cough*me*cough*) you’ll have to really up your water intake to help your body regulate itself and hydrate your poor heels.

While the “8 cups a day” adage is under some debate – some medical professionals say you need less, some say you need as much as 9 to 13 cups a day – it’s best to err on the side of drinking too much water, especially when it comes to seeking tangible results in your skin. Aim for as much water as you can stomach. (It’s extremely hard to overdose on water. Most cases of water intoxication include athletes guzzling after a strenuous workout in the heat.) A good rule of thumb is to drink so much water that your urine has little to no color.

I blogged about my recent water splurge and the importance of drinking filtered water here.

Take a Daily Multivitamin

Not only is this a good idea for your overall health, but multivitamins contain some heavy hitters in the healthy skin arena. Take a multivitamin that contains:

Zinc –

How It Helps – Zinc is a mineral that has been likened to a 24-hour, on-call skin mechanic. It helps repair damaged tissues and heal wounds. Without Zinc, your body’s (and your cracked heels) inside and outside repair time go up. Research suggests that Zinc is particularly effective in treating topical irritations such as cracked heels by helping the cells regenerate.

Other Health Bonuses-  Consuming Zinc ensures proper immune system function, and promotes the maintenance of vision, taste, and smell.

How Much To Take – A daily multivitamin should have 100% or more of your daily requirement of Zinc (ranging from 11-50mg daily depending on who you ask), although you can also boost your Zinc intake by consuming oysters, red meat, poultry, seafood and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C –

How It Helps – Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is key to the production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels and gives skin its firmness and strength. Vitamin C also helps your skin repair itself – as an antioxidant it slows the rate of free-radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage collagen and cause skin dryness and fine lines and cracks (like in your heels). New research shows that Vitamin C not only neutralizes free radicals, but also reverses DNA damage in some cases.

Other Health Bonuses – Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.

How Much To Take – While a multivitamin usually contains 100% of your daily Vitamin C requirement (75mg to 120mg, depending on who you ask) Vitamin C is one of the safest supplements to boost up on – the safe upper limits being well over 2,000mg a day. Medical professionals recommend that when taking Vitamin C as a means to boost immunity or skin hydration, it’s best to aim for 500mg daily. I take an additional supplement of Vitamin C with Natural Rose Hips (extra antioxidant boost), in addition to my daily multivitamin.

Vitamin B6 –

How It Helps – Just like Vitamin C, B6 promotes healthy skin by counteracting damage caused by free radicals – molecules that break down healthy cells and contribute to aging and dehydration.

Other Health Bonuses – B6 stimulates co-enzymatic activities, protecting the immune system, and having positive effects on metabolism, premenstrual syndrome, hormone control and emotional disorders.

How Much To Take – A multivitamin should have 100% of your daily requirement of B6, ranging from 1.3 to 3mg, depending on who you ask. You can also boost your B6 intake by eating poultry, fish, and organ meats.

Increase Your Omega’s With a 3-6-9 Supplement

Omega 3, 6 and 9 contain essential fatty acids that are required for good health and hydrated skin, but cannot be synthesized by human body. They MUST be obtained from food or supplements. There are many over the counter supplements (often called 3-6-9 supplements) that cover all of your Omega needs in just one pill.

Omega-3 –

Among the must-have foods for healthy skin, Omega-3 fatty acids – the “good fats” – are well known for for promoting hydration and skin health. Omega-3 fats improve the moisture content of skin by improving cellular health and functioning, and help skin to maintain a smooth, elastic texture. Without essential fatty acids, too much moisture leaks out through the skin – for instance, the perpetually dry cracks in your heels. In short, taking Omega-3 internally as a supplement is as good as or better than applying cosmetic moisturizers.

Omega-6 –

Consuming oils rich in Omega-6 fatty acids can alter the fatty acid composition and eicosanoid content of the epidermis. Studies have shown that diets rich in the Omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid are associated with less skin dryness and thinning. Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance.

Omega-9 – 

Omega-9, sometimes called oleic acid, aids in the proper functioning of the other necessary fats. If there is a deficiency in Omega-9’s, the other Omega’s can’t do their job properly. A deficiency usually manifests in dry skin, hair loss, and decreased fertility. If you are boosting your Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s, boosting your Omega-9’s is a must!

DSC_5385

Where To Get Your Omega’s

Fish Oil – Fish Oil is a great source of Omega-3’s. In addition to promoting healthy skin, it also helps aid weight loss, promotes healthy pregnancy, fertility and boosts immunity. Regular consumption of Fish Oil capsules has been proven to help in reducing moisture loss from the skin.

Flaxseed Oil – Cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC, Flaxseed Oil has been called one of the most powerful foods on the planet. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it! A good source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6, preliminary studies show that Flaxseed Oil may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer in addition to boosting skin health!

Borage Oil – Borage Oil is derived from a wildflower commonly called the “starflower”. It is rich in Omega-6’s and is well known for its skin hydrating properties. A study by the Institute of Experimental Dermatology in Germany found that women who took Borage Oil supplements for 12 weeks experienced an overwhelming increase in skin moisture and hydration that exceeded that of drinking water alone. Borage Oil is also known to decrease PMS and menopause symptoms in women. Can we say win?

Evening Primrose Oil – A good source of Omega-3 and Omega-6, Evening Primrose Oil has been called the most sensational preventive discovery since Vitamin C. It’s most commonly known for it’s positive effects on women’s health, however the gamma-linoleic acid, linoleic acid and other nutrients in this oil are essential for cell structure and improve the elasticity of the skin.

Black Currant Oil – Black Currant Oil is an anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant. Rich in Omega-3 and Omega-9, this oil also aids immune systems, womens health and urinary tract health.

Be Consistent

These are the steps that I am personally taking to combat my dry, cracked heels from the inside out. I’m aggressively drinking as much water as I can stomach every day, I’m taking a daily multivitamin and I’m taking an Omega 3-6-9 supplement that contains every single one of the oils listed above. I’ve been at it for about three weeks now, and I’m seeing improvement every day, combining both internal and external approaches.

If there is an internal remedy or approach you take to cracked heels that I don’t have covered here (this is by no means an exhaustive list!) please let me know and share below!

Advertisements

Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

25 Nov

babyblog

So I’m planning on visiting my family in California next month, and my mom is busy making preparations for Tessa and I to visit (poor hubby has to work). I was giving her a list of things to buy so I don’t have to pack as much, and when telling her which diapers to get, I thought – hey! Blog post! Nothing like chattering into a void to help you formulate and better articulate your thoughts and research…

When it comes to diaper selection, I must first clarify that I consider myself to be only a semi-crunchy mom in that my concern is NOT primarily for the environment. (Sorry hippies.) I mean, I will, when given a feasible option, choose products that are nicer to the planet. I firmly believe that God has charged us to be good stewards of the Earth. But I also firmly believe that my little girl comes first. If “saving the planet” breaks the bank or strains my family financially, Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.

My one and only concern is my daughter and reducing her exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

Cloth diapers, which reign supreme in the crunchy mom circles, are not a realistic option for us. We don’t have a washer and dryer and only do laundry every other week when I have the car to run errands. Frequent trips to the Laundromat, with me dropping husband off at work to have the car (an hour drive there and back) would break our budget at this point. Additionally, our apartment complex has a strict “no hanging clothes out to dry on your balcony or patio” rule that they expect us to adhere to, or face a fine. (Really, it’s like Arcadia from X-Files around here.) And besides those facts, neither Jonathan nor I are overly interested in hand washing poo on our down time.

So with cloth diapers out, when approaching the world of disposable diapers, I’ve discovered that there are four major concerns about what will be placed on my baby’s skin every day for the next 3-5 years. And they are as follows:

Perfumes and “Mystery Ingredients”

Perfume fragrances are sometimes used in disposable diapers, under the assumption that parents would prefer a “spring rain” scented turd in lieu of simply changing a smelly diaper. The scents found in many diapers are strong and chemical-laden, harboring unnecessary irritants with potential to cause such health issues ranging from diaper rash to respiratory symptoms to allergies or worse.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, infants skin is unbelievably sensitive to product. Babies skin is ten times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t have a natural acid mantle yet, which in adults has a pH value of 5.5. The acid mantle protects the skin from irritants, allergens, pathogens, and from drying out. Babies do not have this protection. Additionally, their ratio of skin surface area to body volume is significantly larger than in adults, so their skin soaks up even minute amounts of chemicals, and it directly effects their fragile developing systems.

My biggest concern with perfumes in disposable diapers (and any product I put on my baby) is the “Mystery Ingredients” that get slipped in. As reported in the Huffington Post and elsewhere: “…due to the ‘trade secret’ status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.”

As a result, a manufacturer can legally bury dozens of potentially toxic chemicals under a “Fragrance” ingredient listing. (This is how Johnson & Johnson has gotten away throwing in downright toxic ingredients for so long.) Anything with “Fragrance” in it’s ingredient list will NOT be going on Tessa’s skin.

Chlorine Bleach and Dioxins

The process of chlorine bleaching diapers leaves tons of chemicals in the fibers of disposable diapers.  These chemical toxins are called “dioxins.” Based on animal studies, dioxins are believed to have the ability to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified dioxins as a “likely human carcinogen.” You can read all about dioxin from the World Health Organization here.

Dyes and Skin Irritants

Dyes are usually added to diapers to color them. (Duh.) This is really the lesser of all the disposable diaper evils, but still one that I choose to avoid.

The biggest downside to dyes is that they are known to cause skin and diaper rashes and have provoked allergic reactions in some babies. In a study published in Pediatrics in 2005, switching to dye-free diapers was shown to eliminate skin rashes which occurred in areas exposed to colored portions of diapers.

I’m not anti-dye (after all, the fabric on your babies onesie is likely dyed) but when it comes to prolonged exposure on my babies genitals, why not go with a dye-free version? I don’t care if a diaper is colorful and pretty, it’s just gonna get pooped on.

Phthalates and Harmful Chemicals

Phthalates are mainly plasticizers, added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In some disposable diapers, phthalates may be used as part of the process to create a waterproof outer or inner liner. The problem with phthalates is that they are not tightly chemically-bonded to the plastic, and therefore they continuously release through leaching into liquids.

Phthalates have been a concern in the medical community for its use in bottled water for some time now due to potential toxic effects to endocrine and reproductive systems – to which infants are particularly vulnerable. (This is why phthalates are a main concern with baby bottles and why I will soon be switching to glass bottles for Tessa.)

Not all diapers use phthalates, but here’s the kicker: US law does not currently require disclosure of phthalates. The only way to know that diapers are phthalate-free is if the manufacturer declares that they are.

So the good news is, there ARE natural diapers out there that are free from these four poopy ingredients listed! (If there weren’t I’d be switching to cloth in a heartbeat.) There are a number of manufacturers who offer complete transparency in their diaper ingredients, though not many. You’d be surprised how many companies do NOT practice full disclosure with their ingredients – the biggest brands guilty of this are Huggies and Pampers.

I personally use Earth’s Best brand disposable diapers on Tessa, as it meets all my personal disposable diaper requirements and then some – it’s also environmentally friendly – and it does not break the bank. They are priced only slightly more than the toxic mystery ingredient leading brands. A really awesome source for side by side comparisons of natural disposable diaper brands is available over at Baby Lab in their Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers.

Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? And if so, which ones and why? ^_^

DIY All-Natural Baby Body Wash

16 Nov

DSC_4851

This recipe is so easy I don’t even know if it warrants a blog post. But post I shall, because when I was a 15 weeks pregnant first time mommy browsing the aisles of my local Babies R Us to make a grand wish list of junk my baby may or may not need, I had no clue what to do come bath time.

I had bought into the illusion that to keep my child sparkly clean, I needed to buy the piles of baby bath products lining the shelf of the baby bathroom aisle. Since every single bath product (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, etc.) was on the new baby “essentials” checklist the store handed out, I assumed, naturally, that I would be using all of these products on my newborn the moment she popped out of me. If I didn’t, I’d be a bad mother with a dirty baby. Right???!

With the help of wonderful crunchy momma friends (thanks Bree!) and gleaning info from the interwebs on the science behind baby skin and the way it all works, I finally have this whole bath time thing (mostly) sorted out.

Using the giant pile of “recommended” products on your baby isn’t natural or healthy at all. Especially not the majority of products out there. I didn’t discover all of this until around the month Tessa was born. I didn’t even think to question the current status quo of baby bath routines till I discovered the Johnson and Johnson baby products scandal, which I wrote about earlier in my DIY Baby Wipes article.

Basically, it was discovered not too long ago that Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby shampoo contains the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15, as well as the chemical byproduct 1,4-dioxane. Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens. They’re even freaking listed on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services list of known human carcinogens NOT to be used in cosmetic products. And here we are, slathering this toxic junk on our newborns skin. W.T.F?!

Baby skin is like a sponge. It soaks up EVERYTHING. That’s why you can’t even put sunscreen on an infant. The SAFE chemicals in sunscreen will get soaked up into a newborns skin and literally POISON the newborn with an overload of chemicals that would just safely sit on top of an adults skin.

So all of that said, the fact is, the best way to care for your baby’s skin is to keep it away from products – even “natural” ones, for the most part. A newborns system has to work extremely hard to remove toxins from the bloodstream, so the less you use on your baby’s skin, the better. God has designed our little munchkins so magnificently – they have naturally protective oils in their skin that are better not washed off.

BUT! Every once in awhile, if baby is getting really grimy, you CAN use extremely gentle natural cleansing solutions on your baby to help clean off and sanitize the gunk that can gather in those beautiful chunky baby skin folds.

DSC_4808

DSC_4838

Here’s the utra-simple recipe I use for our DIY All-Natural Baby Body Wash:

1 cup of warm water

2 tablespoons Castile soap

1 vitamin e capsule

Castile soap is made by a process called saponification, a process in which an alkali is added to oil. This is how soap had been made for centuries until the recent proliferation of synthetic surfactants, which consist of potentially toxic chemicals. *cough*Johnson and Johnson*cough*

Castile soap made by saponification is safe because none of the unreacted alkali remains in the soap. And since the soap is made with gentle natural oils, like olive oil, it is one of the gentlest cleansing agents you can use on your baby. Used sparingly, the soap will cleanse without drying or irritating delicate baby skin, and what is absorbed into your little ones skin won’t pose a threat to her delicate little system. Just be careful with your baby’s eyes because saponified soap is not tear-free – only baby shampoo made synthetically can be tear-free.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant found in many plant and animal based foods. Vitamin E oil closely mimics the natural oils found in your babies skin, and is one of the few natural oils that are safe for direct use on newborns. The tiny amount added to the baby wash serves as a moisturizer and a preservative for your little squirt bottle of baby wash.

And there you have it! I use this stuff sparingly on Tessa, and only when she gets milk getting all grody in her neck folds. Or if she has a particularly explosive diaper. But we try not to use it all the time – and only sparingly when we do use it. For instance, the last two baths were just plain ol’ warm water baths with a wash cloth to gentle wipe away any sticky milk grime.

If your baby appears to be suffering from dry skin, cut back on the frequency of bath times and use a gentle, safe, natural moisturizer like a DIY All-Natural Diaper Rash Cream to spot treat dry patches.

And voila! Bath time with baby, made simple and fun! I am so lucky that my little Tessa loves bath time so much. She giggles, and splashes, and laughs, and watches the water droplets with such wonder in her eyes. It is such a fun bonding time for Jonathan and I as a new little family. I am going to forever treasure our bath times with baby!

DSC_4866

DIY All-Natural Diaper Rash Cream

10 Nov

DSC_0533

I made this cute little jar of diaper rash cream on the same day I made the DIY All Natural Baby Wipes. And I’m just now getting around to posting it, because I’m horribly lazy. (That, and I am a new mother of a two month old… but yeah, mostly because I’m lazy.)

First off, if you need any jars with character that make you feel like a crafty DIY home recipe guru, check out the selection at Hobby Lobby. They have home cosmetic safe glass jars with solid sealable lids for crazy cheap (when you catch them on 50% off days, you can get a jar like the one pictured above for 99 cents) and they all have old worldy charm. I think the jar I’m using for the diaper rash cream looks like an Alice In Wonderland-esque “Drink Me” jar, so I’m already loving this project. Ohhh, the things that make me happy!

This recipe is another slightly tweaked version of a couple different recipes I found on the ol’ Google machine. I like to find recipes that contain ingredients I have close to hand and I pick and choose ingredients based on what I feel will work best for our needs – for instance, since Tessa is not prone to diaper rashes we just needed something mildly drying, and primarily moisturizing.

DSC_0540

So for this super simple and crazy effective recipe you’ll need:

¼ cup of coconut oil

2 tablespoons of shea butter

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 vitamin e capsule

2 drops of lavender essential oil

Melt the coconut oil, shea butter, vitamin e capsule and essential oil together in a small saucepan and gently stir into a smooth cream over extremely low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from head and use a small electric mixer to slowly blend in the arrowroot powder, one teaspoon at a time.

Pour into a small, clean glass jar and put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the mixture till it is solid. Pull it out of the fridge, and as it adjusts to room temperature it will turn into a firm, but smooth and airy cream.

Then simply apply as needed! We also use this cream on Tessa after bath times as a moisturizer behind her ears, in the creases on the inside of her arms, and anywhere else the humid Florida air threatens to dry out or rash up. It smells lovely and works like a charm.

DSC_0548

What each ingredient does:

Coconut Oil – This is the main diaper rash fighting ingredient. Coconut oil contains high levels of Vitamin E and is excellent for hydrating skin. It sinks in deep, conditions, moisturizes, and softens skin. Coconut oil mimics the sebum in your skin and so it naturally and gently clears away dirt, grime, and dead skin cells. It even has some antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, killing off harmful bacteria. All must haves for a dirty baby bottom.

Shea Butter – Shea butter contains massive amounts of essential fatty acids and natural moisturizing antioxidant compounds, which makes skin incredibly soft. It is an anti-inflammatory and contains anti-fungal and yeast-killing properties. It is also high in Vitamins A and E, which promotes skin elasticity and soothes irritating and painful rashes.

Arrowroot Powder – Arrowroot is commonly added to moisturizers as a thickening agent and to help active ingredients penetrate the upper levels of the skin. It aids in giving the skin a silky feel and gets the cream to a beautiful, spreadable texture.

Vitamin E Capsule – Acts as a preservative. Vitamin E contains natural antioxidants which extend the life of oil based products. Just a few drops do the trick.

Lavender Essential Oil – Not only does the lavender oil add a nice scent to the cream, but lavender oil is known for its skin healing properties and its use as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic and deodorant!

All Natural DIY Baby Wipes

10 Oct

DSC_0513

I said I was on an all-natural kick, and I wasn’t joking. After learning about the Johnson and Johnson scandals, where toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde were being used WITHOUT disclosure on the bottles in their baby bath products, I’ve taken to seriously reconsidering what goes in, on, or around my daughter.

A week or two after her birth, I got to thinking. You can’t put sunscreen on an infant because newborns have what is called a high body surface to volume ratio. What this means is that proportionately babies have more skin for the size of their bodies as compared to that of an adult. Sunscreens are made of chemicals. On an adult, the chemical exposure is relatively minimal because the body surface ratio is smaller than a baby. Therefore, babies get a higher “dose” of sunscreen than adults, and babies can literally overdose on the chemicals and have serious adverse reactions.

The thing is, the same is true of every product you put on your child’s skin. The FDA regulate chemicals based on their safety levels for ADULTS. So for instance, while parabens are considered “safe” up to a volume of 25%, putting that “safe” amount on an infant will literally poison a newborn.

So when you think about it, conventional baby wipes contain a variety of ingredients that are being absorbed into baby skin in far greater quantities than you’d expect – and in quantities that these huge companies legally are not required to disclose. And when you consider that the average baby wipe contains parabens, phthalates (artificial fragrance), PEG’s, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol and a variety of other chemicals, it’s worth seriously reconsidering slathering this junk all over your babies bottom 14+ times a day.

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services and FDA Guidelines, here are some of the known risk factors of the various chemicals that are found in conventional baby wipes:

Parabens – Weakened estrogen production and breast tumors.

Phthalates – Early puberty in girls, reduced testosterone production in boys, genital defects and testicular cancer.

PEG’s – Uterine and breast cancers, leukemia and brain cancer.

Propylene Glycol – Cancer and reproductive dysfunction. Propylene glycol is also a known allergen and eye irritant and can also be toxic to your immune system.

Phenoxyethanol – Shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis. It has also been shown to cause reproductive problems, and the FDA has even issued warnings that use of products with this chemical could cause “respiratory distress or vomiting and diarrhea in infants”.

And so on and so on and so on.

Now, I’ve been using conventional wipes on Tessa for the past 4 weeks, waiting on my shipment of all natural and organic ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs. (Most of the ingredients are hard to find in their pure form, with no additives, at the local markets.) So I’m not saying that baby wipes are the devil. But I don’t intend to continue using them now that I have a better, safer and healthier alternative in my home. While she may not be absorbing enough of these chemicals to cause a noticeable reaction or long term harm, why put these chemicals on my baby AT ALL, when there is a better alternative? I firmly believe that my baby deserves the best.

Now, I trolled the interwebs for natural baby wipes recipes, and I finally decided to use a slightly tweaked version of these wipes from Wellness Mama. Here’s the skinny:

1 roll of heavy duty paper towels

Dispenser container

1 3/4 cups warm water

1 tablespoon of pure aloe vera gel

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of liquid castile soap

2 vitamin E capsules

1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil

6 drops of lavender essential oil

6 drops of lemongrass essential oil

Cut a roll of heavy duty paper towels (like Bounty or some such) in half. You’ll be using one half of the roll for one batch of wipes. Pull out the center tube, and put your wipes in their container. Next, mix the ingredients together and gently swirl until slightly bubbly. (Note: If you don’t plan to use your wipes right away, use distilled water since tap water can potentially grow bacteria in your container after a couple months. But seriously. NOT using wipes right away? Hahahahahahaha….) Pour the mixture over your wipes and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. For REALLY absorbent towels you may need to mix up another half batch of the liquids. Anyhoo, after ten minutes, close your container to lock in moisture, and voila! Homemade, DIY, all natural baby wipes!

DSC_0520

Why these ingredients:

Pure Aloe Vera Gel – This acts as a moisturizer for babies bottom. It is gentle and suited to sensitive skin. It is also a natural anti-bacterial agent.

Apple Cider Vinegar – The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar effectively soften and soothes dry skin, fighting diaper rash. It also works as an astringent and an antibacterial, killing harmful bacteria and fighting yeast infections.

Liquid Castile Soap – An all-natural, oil-based soap that’s extremely gentle on the skin, cleanses thoroughly, and does not require rinsing.

Sweet Almond Oil – While the aloe vera gel works as a moisturizer, the sweet almond oil works as an emollient – it softens skin rather than hydrates it. It also acts as a humectant to help prevent the loss of moisture, effectively fighting diaper rash.

Vitamin E Capsules – Acts as a preservative. Vitamin E contains natural antioxidants which extend the life of oil based products. Just a few drops do the trick.

Lavender Essential Oil – Not only does the lavender oil add a nice scent to the wipes,but lavender oil is known for its skin healing properties and its use as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic and deodorant!

Lemongrass Essential Oil – Known for its analgesic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, bactericidal, deodorant and fungicidal properties.

In my opinion, these wipes work FAR BETTER than conventional wipes. After using them my hands feel SO SOFT. I seriously want to use these as hand and face wipes, they are that gentle and cleansing. I last changed Tessa’s diaper 2 hours ago, and my skin STILL feels clean, fresh and gently moisturized.

While making the baby wipes, I also made a small batch of “butt spray” to keep on my changing table for the really, uh, generous diapers of Tessa’s. (How is baby poo so.. sticky?!) It’s essentially:

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon castile soap

1 vitamin E capsule

2 drops sweet orange oil

Again, the castile soap is cleansing and does not require rinsing, the vitamin E serves as a preservative, and the sweet orange essential oil drops are mainly to add fragrance, though the oil is a natural antiseptic and bactericidal. Just mix well, put in a spray bottle, and then spray directly onto babies bum for really sticky messes.

Not even ten minutes after whipping up a batch Tessa was kind enough to supply me with a test diaper to try out the effectiveness of my concoction. And let me tell you, it works like a charm. It cuts through poo quickly, cutting down the number of wipes used, so there’s no pushing around and spreading the mess. It also made cleaning her little lady parts free of wayward butt goop much easier.

I thought that going the DIY route would be a form of sacrifice, using sub-par product with superior ingredients. But in all honesty, the wipes and spray work BETTER than the store bought variety, and they are roughly the same cost, if not cheaper. Happy me, realizing that giving your baby the best is so EASY! ^_^

DSC_0494

Apple Cider Vinegar & Eucalyptus Foot Soak

7 Oct

DSC_0439

When I reached the late second trimester of my pregnancy, I came down with a bad case of edema. The only way I can really describe the way my feet and ankles swelled up is: John Travolta in drag in the movie Hairspray. Yeah, that’s the best I can do.

So anyway, there I was, waddling around on overstuffed sausage feet with no discernible ankle to speak of, and none of my shoes would fit. At all. I couldn’t squeeze a single pair on. So I had to buy some stretchy slippers with hard soles as makeshift shoes. I bought two pairs and wore them from around Week 28 to delivery (and even a couple of weeks post pregnancy). But mostly, I just went barefoot whenever possible.

Which resulted in some horribly cracked heels and dry, icky feet. So! Now that Tessa is 4 weeks old, (how has the time gone by so quickly?!?!) I’m finally getting around to fixing my feet that still bear the battle scars of perpetual barefootedness.

I’m currently on a natural ingredients / home remedy kick, so I put a lot of thought into this foot soak blend. There are so many recipes out there for foot soaks, so I researched the various ingredients and tailored this one to suit my specific needs / tastes. The ingredients are all natural, healthy and wholesome. Really, I blame Tessa for inspiring me to be healthier, and holistically minded. When I’m questioning the benefits and potential harm of everything that goes in or on my infant, I’ve found myself starting to do the same with the rest of my family.

So no store bought foot soaks for me! Here’s the recipe I cooked up to save my feet:

1 Gallon of Warm Water

3 Cups of Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup of Epsom Salt

5 Drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

5 Drops of Lemon Essential Oil

Combine all the ingredients, and gently swirl the water to dissolve the salts. Immerse your feet in the soak for 30 minutes, then use a pumice stone to work away the dry areas. Cover your feet in foot lotion and put socks on to lock in the moisture. Simple, relaxing and easy!

Why These Ingredients:

DSC_0461

Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is known as an acetic acid, which is a mild exfoliate. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar effectively soften feet and soothes dry skin – especially cracked heels – and helps lessen the appearance of calluses. It also works as an astringent and an antibacterial. So not only does it effectively treat feet nastiness like athlete’s foot, but it works as a deodorant and fights stinky feet.

The use of apple cider vinegar dates back many years. Its use was documented in Egyptian cultures, it was written about in the Bible, and even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, spoke of its use in 500 BC. Jonathan and I use this as a home remedy for many, many things. It’s our personal little miracle elixir, and I very much intend to blog about it more in the future!

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples through a two-stage fermenting process. Hard apple cider is made from the first stage of the fermentation process, while apple cider vinegar is made from the second stage.

DSC_0425

Epsom Salt – Epsom salt, named for a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, is not actually salt but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Long known as a natural remedy for a number of ailments, epsom salt has numerous health benefits.

Studies have shown that magnesium and sulfate are both readily absorbed through the skin, making epsom salt baths and foot soaks an easy and ideal way to enjoy the health benefits. Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function and helping to prevent artery hardening. The magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. The sulfates in the epsom salt also help improve the absorption of nutrients and help flush toxins from the body.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil – Eucalyptus is one of the oldest native medicines used in Australia. It acts as an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic. Eucalyptus is specifically a very powerful bactericidal with anti-viral properties and is an excellent immune-stimulant. It’s often recommended for people who are tired and run down. So it cleanses and relaxes – perfect for achey feet!

Lemon Essential Oil – Lemon essential oil is an antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and an astringent. Citrus oils are always a good idea for feet soaks, because of their cleansing properties. This oil is good for detoxification, and helps improve circulation. Interesting factoid: To make lemon essential oil, the lemons are harvested while they are still green to yield a higher quality oil, and it takes over 3,000 lemons to produce 2 pounds of expressed oil!

DSC_0449

So there you have it. I was able to enjoy my first soak today, and finish a novel I’ve been working on for months, all while Tessa slept soundly the whole time. The soak softened my feet enough to remove a good layer of dead skin, and my feet have a decidedly tingly feeling, even hours after the soak. I’m planning on doing a weekly soak, and moisturizing nightly till I get my feet back to presentable shape. ^_^

Why I Will Not Be Eating My Placenta

14 Jul

DSC_3428

I’ve recently come to learn of a new fad that is sweeping the ranks of crunchy moms everywhere. Despite it’s inherent, “OMG eeeww” factor, it’s being unquestioningly embraced by many who live for the “natural = good” philosophy.

I’m talking about placentophagia, aka, the act of eating your own placenta.

The placenta is a temporary organ found in female mammals while they are pregnant. The placenta makes possible the exchange of nutrients and waste products between the mother’s and the baby’s circulatory systems. The mother’s and baby’s blood never mixes – that is the sole purpose and function of the placenta.

But some crunchy moms insist that the placenta isn’t just part of your babies life support system. It’s meant to be consumed as a medicinal chef-d’oeuvre.  It’s natures primitive Prozac. It cures baby blues. It increases milk production. It shrinks your uterus. It regulates your iron stores and gives you a hormonal boost. And so on and so on and so on. So everyone needs to be popping placenta pills post-partum, and stat.

IS EATING THE PLACENTA “NATURAL”?

Now, I consider myself to be a rational crunchy mom, or quasi-crunchy. I very much prefer natural approaches to childbirth and child rearing, but I draw the line when it comes to putting a worship of all things “natural” above scientific analysis and basic common sense. The one basic tenet of gung-ho crunchy moms that I disagree with is that all things natural are therefore beneficial to practice, use or ingest. After all, arsenic is natural. Asbestos is natural. Mercury is natural. Tapeworms are natural.

Is eating the placenta natural? Sure it is. If you are a lower order species, like a rat or a dog. But is it natural for higher order primates and human beings? Not really. Not all mammals consume their placenta’s, and historically, the practice almost never occurs in human beings. And the isolated incidences are almost always in the context of religious and ritualistic practices. Not unlike eating the beating heart of your enemies or sacrificing a firstborn to ensure a good harvest.

In addition to placentophagia, many mammals also practice filial cannibalism, where they eat their own young. Benefits of eating your offspring include, “satisfaction of current nutritional and energy requirements of the mother and an increased reproductive capacity”. Just like placenta’s, babies are chock full of natural hormones and offer many health benefits! (I’d make a baby back ribs joke here, but that’s just tasteless. Haha, get it? Taste? Cuz.. eating babies.. Nevermind.) Anyway, filial cannibalism is natural. It’s healthy. Lots of mammals do it. Shouldn’t we also be snacking on our babies from time to time?

Or what about coprophagia? Lots of mammals also partake in coprophagia – the act of eating your own vomit or feces. The semi-digested matter offers many health benefits to mammals, including increasing nutritive elements such as vitamins B, K and B12, and provides healthy bacteria from the partially digested food (along with an occasional case of hepatitis or e coli). So why are we letting our precious bowel movements go to waste? If patterning our behavior off of a select few of our mammalian sisters is a valid response to women’s health, then this should be embraced as well. Fully and completely, for consistencies sake.

See, the mere “natural” consumption of birth waste by a select few wild animals just doesn’t convince me that it’s the thing to do when these same animals – dogs, goats, lemurs, apes – also indulge in shit fetishes, filial cannibalism and circle jerks.

IS EATING THE PLACENTA HISTORICALLY RELEVANT?

And saying, “Well, some people throughout history have eaten their placentas too” holds about as much weight as the “Some mammals eat their placentas” reasoning.

Societies throughout history – particularly ancient societies – have done some really freaking weird things. Human culture is full of superstition, crazy beliefs and appalling behavior. Just look at planking or twerking. So when it comes to historical context, just because some crack pot that thinks the sun is an angry fire demon in the sky believes that placenta munching is a cure-all, doesn’t make it true. That’s why we have a little modern thing called the scientific method.

Without using the scientific method to validate a practice, you end up getting modern day rituals like metzitzah b’peh, an ancient Jewish tradition involving circumcising a baby and then having a grown man suck on the wounded child’s penis. Or the modern day South African witch doctors that encourage men to rape babies and children because of the belief that by doing so you can heal yourself of AIDs.

And I’m so tired of hearing “it was used in ancient Chinese medicine” as a kind of sacred crunchy mom stomping ground to justify natural remedies. The ancient Chinese also relied heavily upon dangerous levels of opium, letting live bees sting you in the face in bee venom acupuncture, rubbing dead scorpions on your body and eating live frogs for detoxification, and many, MANY other – shall we say – questionable things.

So no, eating human afterbirth is NOT historically “natural” – it is historically ritualistic and found only in very small and isolated incidences through world history.

IS EATING THE PLACENTA SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND?

When it comes to scientifically backing up the claims of the placenta eating crowd, the burden of proof is really on the ones suggesting self-cannibalism and consumption of biohazardous medical waste. And the “proof” is just not there. Lots of claims, sure. But the fact is, there are literally NO scientific studies to confirm the “benefits” of placentophagia. Studies among carnivorous rats that act as carrion scavengers in the animal kingdom, yes. But among humans? No.

Most medical professionals flat out refute the claims that eating the placenta provides health benefits to the mother. There is simply no evidence that the placenta contains hormones that are biologically active in increasing milk supply, decreasing postpartum bleeding or improving postpartum mood. But even if the placenta did contain such miracle working hormones, there is no evidence that those hormones would survive biologically intact and maintain the integrity of the proteins and irons during the drying process of encapsulating placental tissues. Then there is the whole pesky issue of whether the wonder cure could survive the acid in the stomach, if it exists in a form that can be absorbed in the intestine, and if it can be absorbed in a form that could be utilized by human cells. There’s just no evidence of any of that.

The only solid-ish claim of those who support eating the placenta is that the placenta contains iron stores. Since the placenta is an organ meat, it can theoretically improve iron levels. But then again, so can an over the counter iron supplement. Or eating own your child.

There are just so many claims of the placentophagiasts that just smacks of miracle elixir and snake oil sales pitches. For instance, I keep hearing that these placenta pills have no expiration date. They’re so amazing, you can save them for decades to take during menopause, where they surely retain all their magical properties! This is quite a claim for a pill that is home made and not FDA approved. Even assuming the healthy nutrients (if any) are retained during the encapsulation process (doubtful), who exactly determines this lack of an expiration date for placenta pills? All herbal products, vitamin and mineral products and dehydrated meat products have an expiration date. The general rule with pills is that herbs retain their nutritive value up to 3 years after encapsulation, vitamins and minerals have a 2 year retention, enzymes and amino acids have a 1 year shelf life, and dehydrated meats have a variable of 3 months to 2 years for an expiration date. What, scientifically speaking, makes dehydrated human placenta jerky capsules immune from an expiration date?

IS EATING YOUR PLACENTA SAFE?

When scientific analysis eludes placenta proponents, I keep hearing the “Well, it can’t hurt, so why not try it!” excuse. But how do we know that it doesn’t hurt? It’s essentially cannibalism. Placenta pill poppers assert that the placenta is part of the woman’s body but actually, this is inaccurate. While there is a maternal component, placental tissue is mainly derived from the fertilized egg and carries the fetus’s genome. So technically, eating the placenta fits the definition of eating the flesh of another individual of your own species. Eating an organ of your childs, to be exact. And it has been firmly established in the biological and medical communities that there are many negative health concerns associated with cannibalism – the act of consuming human tissue.

Kuru disease, Prion disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are all incurable infections directly related to consumption of certain proteins in human flesh, most notably human organs such as the brain and the small intestines. How do we know that the placenta does not have the capacity to transfer these infections? A recent study that sought to identify and analyze the multi-protein complexes in the human placenta found 733 unique proteins and 34 known and novel heterooligomeric multi-protein complexes in the human placenta. Do we know, for a biological certainty, that these are safe to consume? The simple answer is no. We don’t.

And the recent onslaught of word of mouth miracle cures from placenta pills “not causing ill effects” make little difference in the world of cannibalistically derived illnesses. In the case of kuru disease, the incubation period has been known to last for 5 to up to 20 years after eating human organs before the symptoms start to kick in. And even then, the symptoms – ranging from tremors to hysteria to dementia – can take 3 months to 2 years before they finally culminate in insanity and death.

PLACENTA PILLS = PLACEBO PILLS

The proof of placental potency via “word of mouth” testimonies does more to advocate the use of placebo pills than anything.

It HAS been scientifically proven that placebos pills work, whereas it has not been established that placenta pills work, despite the grandiose claims. When it comes to the effectiveness of the placebo effect and placebo pills, it has been proven that capsules work better than tablets. Big pills work better than small pills. The more expensive the pills, the better. The more doses a day, (and the more ills it claims to cure), the better.

Placebo pills are also most effective in combating – you guessed it – depression! Like post-partum depression. (How ironic…)

Indeed there is much more reason to believe on scientific grounds that placenta pills “work” among eager new moms because of the placebo effect than because of any nutritive value found in the placenta. Clinical studies have shown that placebos have produced endogenous opiates – pain-relieving chemicals produced in the brain – which copy the effect of pain-relievers in unsuspecting patients. Placebos have even dramatically altered the levels of hormones in patients.

It has also been firmly proven that the placebo effect is directly related to the perceptions and expectations of the patient – if the substance is viewed as helpful, it can heal. It also helps if the one peddling the pills is enthusiastic and provides wild and varying claims to it’s cure-alls. In one study, the response to a placebo increased from 44% to 62% when the doctor treated the patient with “warmth, attention, and confidence.”

In short, placebos work best in patients who have pre-conceived notions of the effectiveness of a remedy and strongly believe they will receive certain health benefits from it. Basically, patients like ultra-crunchy moms who live by the ritualistic philosophy that anything natural is therefore good, are prime candidates for a placebo – or placenta – pill. In my personal opinion, they are both one and the same.

Which is why I won’t be eating my own placenta.