Category Archives: The Healthy Life

Ten Tips for Terrific Teeth

The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, so prioritizing oral health has many downstream effects. While ancient systems like Ayurveda have acknowledged for millennia the link between oral health and overall well-being, modern science is confirming that issues in the mouth affect organs and tissues throughout the body.

Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the oral cavity, for example, improves the function of the heart, lungs, pancreas, reproductive tissue, digestive system, and more. Even the health of the next generation is affected: findings indicate that a pregnant woman’s oral microbiome could more significantly impact the placental microbiome than the collection of microorganisms in her digestive tract or vaginal canal.

So it’s time to take a serious look at how you’re caring for your mouth. These ten tips will get you started.

Scrape your tongue

Scraping the tongue every morning upon waking confers myriad benefits. It

  • aids digestion
  • improves the sense of taste
  • stimulates the internal organs
  • helps cleanse the entire gastrointestinal tract
  • removes that unattractive white coating and other accumulations from the night
  • reduces the toxins and bacteria that contribute to bad breath
  • helps maintain healthy bacterial balance
  • encourages awareness of your current state of health as reflected in the tongue

Preferably use a stainless steel cleaner made specifically for this purpose. The back of a spoon could also work to loosen and clear accumulations, but your toothbrush will not.

Scrape the tongue from the back of the throat (just before the gag reflex) forward five to ten times, or until the tongue looks and feels clean.

Brush with natural toothpaste

After scraping your tongue, brush normally with natural toothpaste. Commercial kinds of toothpaste contain harmful ingredients, not the least of which is fluoride. Despite its prevalence, fluoride actually dissolves bones and teeth, in addition to suppressing thyroid function, creating an autoimmune response, damaging the brain and nervous system, and more.

Instead, favor brands with safe ingredients and transparent labeling, like those featured in Soap Hope’s oral care products here.

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Toothpaste is a trusted favorite, made with organic ingredients and no fluoride, no synthetic foaming agents, and no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. Cinnamon and Anise flavors are also available.

If you want to get a little more adventurous, check out A Wild Soap Bar’s Tooth Savior Natural Tooth Soap, an alternative to the traditional paste that comes in Cinnaclove and Ultamint.

Oil pull

Here’s another practice to add to your daily routine: oil pulling. It’s been gaining popularity lately, but the practice of holding and swishing oil in the mouth is quite ancient.

Like tongue scraping, oil pulling supports detoxification, improves digestive health, freshens the breath, and promotes a healthy balance of oral microbes. It also counters plaque build-up, maintains a normal oral pH, increases the circulation to oral tissue, and encourages strong teeth and gums.

Swish about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for at least ten minutes, twenty if you can, taking care not to swallow it. While sesame oil was the traditional favorite, many find coconut oil more palatable, and it has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Do this while showering or getting ready for the day so it doesn’t take up any extra time. Move the oil throughout the mouth—side to side and front to back—and pull it vigorously through the teeth with a sucking action to trap bacteria. When you’re done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water.

Whiten and brighten safely

Commercial whitening products can be even more toxic than standard kinds of toothpaste. Consider home remedies for addressing stains instead.

Activated charcoal, as a highly absorbent substance, effectively binds toxins so they can be excreted by the body. More commonly used for food poisoning, activated charcoal can have a similarly beneficial effect when you brush with it.

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal is a safe and inexpensive way to give this a try. Open the capsule carefully, as charcoal can stain bathroom surfaces and clothes, and dump a small amount on your toothbrush. Brush as usual and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat a few days in a row and then periodically as needed. You should notice improved whitening.

Another counterintuitive way to whiten teeth is with turmeric—yes, another substance that stains! Turmeric overall is one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, and it can bring some of that stellar action to the gums and mouth.

Put a small amount of powdered turmeric (available in the spice section of the grocery store) on your toothbrush, taking care again to avoid staining your sink or clothes, and brush as normal. Wait five minutes before rinsing to let the turmeric take effect. Rinse thoroughly and brush with natural toothpaste. Results are usually observed with consistency over a few days or a week. Note that your toothbrush will get yellow so you might want to keep a separate brush for this purpose.

Maintain mineral balance

Teeth require essential minerals to maintain their integrity. Most people tend to focus on calcium, but are you getting enough of the other cofactors, like magnesium, zinc, silica, and boron?

A diverse diet rich in whole foods helps here, especially traditional mineral-rich foods like bone broth, colorful plants, and nuts and seeds. Sesame seeds are an exceptional source of calcium, and pumpkin seeds abound in both magnesium and zinc.

While secondary to diet, supplements can help, like this calcium-magnesium mineral complex from Nature’s Way.

And don’t forget silica, perhaps the most overlooked mineral not only for healthy teeth but also for healthy hair, skin, nails, and connective tissue. Horsetail, also called shavegrass, may be the richest source of silica in the plant kingdom. Infuse the dried grass into a tea, or go with the capsule form, as in this product from Nature’s Way.

For additional mineral support or to shift the movement of minerals in the body, you might opt for a homeopathic formulation like Calc Phos and Calc Fluor.

Get the right vitamins

Specific vitamins are just as critical as a mineral balance to teeth and bone. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 are especially important: in an intricate process of communication, transportation, and activation, these key players affect calcium metabolism and how well the body is able to build and repair hard tissue.

Again, getting vitamins from food is ideal, especially whole foods naturally high in healthy fats, like fatty fish and fish oil, especially cod liver oil; pastured butter, high-vitamin butter oil, or ghee; coconut oil; egg yolks; poultry liver; and raw dairy (if tolerated). Traditional cultures featured these foods amply in their diets, and they lacked many of the deficiencies and diseases so common today.

Note that these nutrients are not only crucial to your health but also to the health of any future children you might have. Research is showing that poor vitamin K2 status may contribute to deviated septa and other facial abnormalities, while vitamin A, long known for its role in fetal development and eyesight, may be implicated in cleft palate when deficient.

Address infection

The aforementioned tips will go a long way in maintaining a healthy microbial balance that prevents infection. The dietary recommendations are especially important, since nutrient-poor foods like refined sugars, flours, and oils, coupled with a lack of nutrient-dense foods, predispose the mouth to disease, just as they wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

Additionally, make sure to support your body’s good bacteria with probiotic-rich foods like raw sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and beet kvass. While supplemental probiotics can help, especially in acute situations, they can’t match the species diversity acquired from a wide range of fermented foods.

If you do have an infection, then you may need more targeted therapies. Among them are the use of essential oils, of which Soap Hope carries a variety. Particularly beneficial to the teeth are clove, tea tree, and peppermint. You can apply the oil directly to the site of pain or infection, or drop the oil onto dental floss and floss as usual to reach pockets of inflammation or infection below the gum line. Another option is to add a few drops to the oil you use in oil pulling.

Work the jaw

The consistent mechanical action is part of good dental care, keeping the whole face and jaw in proper working order.

Among the best foods for this purpose is celery, which forces chewing. It also increases saliva, which serves as a personal mouthwash, and gently cleanses the surface of the teeth. Other crunchy vegetables, like carrots, have a similar action.

In general, try to eat some sort of whole, collagenous, or fibrous food at each meal. The sesame seeds you’re eating for nutrient density (see tip #5) can do double duty here; aim to chew methodically a handful every day. Regardless of the food, really involve the muscles of mastication, not just your facial muscles.

Breathe deeply

Breathing is so automatic we may rarely think about it, let alone about whether it’s optimal, but breathing and oral health are intimately related. A strong jaw and proper palate formation improve respiratory function, while a small jaw and misplaced tongue constrict the airway, causing a host of problems.

Even though the development of the oral cavity happens very early in life (making the case for adequate maternal and early childhood nutrition even stronger!), the palate is in fact malleable. Along with chewing (see tip #8), concerted effort can make a difference.

Nasal breathing is absolutely essential. The lips should be closed with the tongue pressing gently against the roof of the mouth. Mouth breathing and an inadequately positioned tongue, in contrast, starves the body of oxygen, especially during sleep. Poor sleep, in turn, prevents detoxification, repair, and restoration, leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable and your body more susceptible to inflammation, disease, and cognitive impairment. Once again, oral health is central to whole body health.

Additional breathing practices, like pranayama taught in Ayurveda and yoga, can train you to breathe more effectively and consciously. One simple technique, called ujjayi, is explained here.

Vibrate

In addition to proper breathing, vibration improves the health of bone and teeth. And it need not be complicated, though professional vibration products and therapies are becoming more common. Simple humming can do the trick: place the tongue on the roof of the mouth and hum into the upper jaw for a few minutes daily.

Humming not only activates bone and teeth but also calms the mind and nervous system, improves thyroid and immune function, stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, and increases the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters, thereby aiding mood disorders, and much more.

Gargling, chanting, and voice exercises also open the airways and keep teeth healthy and the jaw functioning properly. Furthermore, they stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps to reintegrate that gut-brain, or mind-body, the connection often compromised in everything from digestive distress and constipation to depression, anxiety, and an overactive fight-or-flight response.

So don’t hold back on singing! Even listening to music with healing frequencies can be therapeutic.

There you have it—ten basics of oral care. And the results don’t stop at terrific teeth. As we’ve seen, when the teeth and mouth are well tended, the whole body benefits.

“C” The Benefits of Vitamin C

Pass the oranges, please! Time and time again we hear people talking about the benefits of Vitamin C. What is it? Why should I use it? And what’s so great about it? Vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid, is an essential water-soluble micronutrient that can transform one’s overall health. Water-soluble means your body doesn’t store or build it up. That’s why daily intake is vital to health. It is considered the “glue” that holds and strengthens the body.

This A-list antioxidant strengthens blood vessels and gives skin the elasticity it needs to stay strong and youthful. Just watch how a daily dose can transform your energy level, hair, nails, skin, and overall health. Best way to absorb vitamin C is through a healthy diet. Be sure you are taking in daily amounts of citrus and dark greens.

Powerful Healing Abilities

Vitamin C doesn’t have to be ingested to gain benefits from it. Your body uses vitamin C to help heal injuries to your beautiful skin. Collagen helps to close wounds and also aid in creating scar tissue to protect the wound area. From wounds to sunburn vitamin C can help to aid in recovery. If you find your skin takes a long time to heal it could be a sign of vitamin C deficiency.

It puts the “C” in Collagen Boost

Vitamin C is a powerhouse for anti-aging. Collagen is a main structural protein found in your skin and connective tissue. Actually, over 70% of all protein found in your skin is collagen.  Vitamin C is required to make hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, which in turn makes collagen. Collagen is what keeps skin looking bright, firm and young. This also includes smoothing out wrinkles and other symptoms of aging.

Treat Discoloration 

Vitamin C helps prevent discoloration of the skin. It inhibits the production of pyrimidine dimers, basically preventing the DNA in your skin from reacting with sunlight and causing discoloration. This’ll keep your skin supple and smooth and lighten freckles as well as age spots. Finally, treating skin with vitamin C will help reduce and aid in the prevention of skin cancer.

Hero of Healthy Hair

Vitamin C should be center stage in your hair care regime. It can help revitalize and protect, just as it can with skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it can help protect you from the daily pollutants in our environment. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it reduces free radicals that try to damage your beautiful mane. Protected hair will grow out faster, thicker and stronger. And goodness knows we all like that! It also helps retain hair’s natural color and prevents premature aging.

Finally, it can fight the bacteria on the scalp that leads to dandruff and at the same provide the needed moisturize to maintain a healthy balance. Oh and did we meant that it helps to ward off grays, helping hair retain its natural color for longer as well as preventing hair loss. It helps fight adrenal gland fatigue which is one of the ways hair loss occurs.

Energy. Energy. Energy.

Vitamin C plays a main stage role in helping your body absorb iron and iron contributes to your overall wellbeing. So, it would make sense that it would give you more energy, because without iron we become weak, tired, and can develop anemia. Taking a daily dose of Vitamin C can help you feel vibrant and stay energized.

Hydrating Herbals

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely heard the common refrain. While ample fluids after birth are critical for your recovery and well-being, as well as making plenty of breast milk for the baby, there’s more to the story than keeping your water bottle full at all times.

Teas and tonics have historically featured prominently in postpartum care. Traditional healing systems like Ayurveda, in which I’m formally trained, recognize the value in herbal medicine and use much more than plain-Jane H2O for hydrating new moms. In fact, they often viewed the unadorned stuff straight from the faucet a lamentable missed opportunity. After all, with so many changes after birth, every sip and morsel can make a difference, so why not give your hydration the biggest bang for the buck?

Common spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel can be brewed into a simple digestive tea, as can ginger and fenugreek, with added support for breastfeeding. Other mineral-rich plants, like nettles, can infuse postpartum hydration, while more substantive tonics, like specially prepared kinds of milk, provide easily assimilated nutrition as well as hydration.

Before we look at each of these options, in turn, notice the emphasis on heating hydrators like herbal teas. In proper postpartum care, warmth is key! Food and drink should be served warm, with even plain water no colder than room temperature.

This is because birth disperses the newly delivered mother’s critical warmth, which must be rekindled from the inside out. Learn more.

Reaching for warm drinks serves another, less tangible purpose: ritual.

Medicinal and celebratory drinks permeate all cultures and cuisines—and not only for their powerful healing compounds. The ritual of savoring a warm drink can steady the mind and emotions far beyond the capacity of the given constituents to heal the body.

Furthermore, sharing a warm drink with a companion or community, or even in solitude if it’s a brew that’s been cherished throughout the ages, can create a sense of unity, a type of soul synergy that defies time, place, and even explanation. Postpartum hydration is indeed nourishment for body, mind, and soul!

Spiced teas

Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend when simmered together. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea especially benefits new mothers. In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, it aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.

While not classic components of CCF tea, fenugreek and ginger can be welcome additions. For new moms, fenugreek is often the go-to lactation aid, but it has other perks: in addition to supporting digestion and rejuvenation, it encourages the uterus to release remaining placental fragments. It also supports normal bile production, healthy pancreatic function, and blood sugar balance.

Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices whenever you can!

Cumin-Coriander-Fennel Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Especially for postpartum moms, the thermos method is even easier. Add the seeds and boiling water to a quart-sized thermos. Drink throughout the day, aiming for 5 to 10 minutes before breastfeeding if trying to counteract digestive discomfort in the baby. Chew some of the seeds while you drink for a little extra strength or strain them and add to a meal later.

If tea isn’t possible, you can still benefit from these healing plants. Herbal suppliers like Motherlove, a family business that makes organic products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, crafts supplements with similar ingredients. Their More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts contain both fennel and fenugreek. Motherlove also makes a plain Fenugreek extract.

Herbal infusions

Other time-honored herbal favorites for both pregnancy and postpartum include red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and oat straw, often prepared as infusions. When used regularly over time, they have myriad benefits, including

  • nourishing both mother and baby
  • strengthening bones, teeth, lungs, nerves, and the circulatory system
  • preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage
  • easing morning sickness
  • providing vital nutrients like iron and protein
  • reducing pain during labor
  • speeding birth
  • assisting milk production

Infusions are stronger than teas, extracting more vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the plant leaves. Yet they are easy to prepare: steep overnight and drink in the morning! Pick two herbs and prepare on alternating days, or combine several herbs into a large glass jar for storage and then infuse together.

Basic Herbal Infusion

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried herbs (like red raspberry leaf or nettle leaf)
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • fresh lemon wedges (optional)
  • stevia to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put a large handful of herbal matter (about ½ cup) into a quart-sized glass jar or a small handful (about ¼ cup) into a pint-sized glass jar.
  2. Fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly.
  3. Let stand for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Strain and drink, adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon or a few drops of stevia to taste, if desired. Refrigerate what you do not consume, reheating later as needed.

Again, Motherlove offers alternatives, if tea isn’t available. Check out their More Milk Two alcohol-free liquid herbal extract, which is specially formulated to include both red raspberry and nettle.

Tonics

If you tolerate dairy, consider warm milk tonics for additional nourishment and rebuilding. Make sure to choose raw (or at least low-temperature pasteurized), grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic cream-top milk whenever possible. You can also replace dairy milk with nut kinds of milk like almond, cashew, or coconut. Either way, make sure to warm it up and spice it up with tasty digestive aids like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.

Here’s one new-mom-approved recipe for a warm milk tonic. You’ll notice that I often camouflage traditional herbal medicine, like Shatavari, in my postpartum tonics. Shatavari is a classic rejuvenating herb that promotes vitality and strength, nourishing the tissues and supporting healthy lactation.

While I like the simplicity of powdered Shatavari, it can also be taken in supplement form, like the Shatavari capsules or Shatavari extract from Motherlove.

Proper hydration with heating herbal brews can ease the transition into motherhood for body, mind, and soul. But much more goes into successful breastfeeding and a peaceful postpartum experience. Learn more.

And if you’re interested in other herbal products designed especially for the delicate and sacred season of new motherhood, check out the whole line of Motherlove products. They’re 15%  off right now at Soap Hope, but only for only a limited time! Use code MLVDD.

 

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.

Top 5 Picks for Natural Mineral Sunscreens

It’s time to get in that summer sunshine! All that fun in the sun means protecting your skin from harmful rays too.

Trying to find the best protection for your skin?  We’d recommend steering clear of traditional chemical-laden sunscreens which have been linked to not only allergic reactions but hormonal disruptions and early onset puberty, low sperm count, and breast cancer.

Active ingredients in sunscreens come in two forms, mineral and chemical filters. Each has their own ingredients for protecting skin and evenly maintaining stability in direct sun exposure.

Chemical sunscreens typically include a combination of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. While mineral sunscreens use natural zinc oxide,  titanium dioxide or a combination of both. There are some brands that will combine both chemical and mineral ingredients.

Want a safer option to traditional chemical sunscreens? Here are our top 5 picks for the best natural sunscreens:

Kiss my Face Mineral Sunscreen Spray – SPF 30

One touch and this air-powered bottle gives a continuous spray sans the chemical propellants. It’s fragrance-free and has a base of both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide so its gentle on you and the environment. This power packing mineral sunscreen is certified organic and 100% mineral active ingredients. Take note that when used properly, it’ll leave a white tint on the body (think of a white wetsuit). We also love Kiss My Face’s Dry Oil Sunscreen.

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30

Don’t just protect the skin, give it some healing as well. With extracts of aloe vera and lavender to nourish, this sunscreen can help repair skin from free radicals, the pollutants in our environment. The 100% natural vegetarian ingredients help prevent sunburns. This sunscreen is hypo-allergenic, biodegradable and is free of gluten, parabens, phthalates and is cruelty-free.  It’s for all skin types so you can enjoy the benefits even if you have sensitive skin. Oh, and did we mention it’s also Reef Safe. Protect your skin and decrease the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.

Badger’s Damascus Rose Sheer Tint Face Sunscreen – SPF 25 

It’s great to use alone or underneath makeup. This lightly tinted moisturizer provides sheer coverage and protection from the sun’s damaging rays.  It blocks both UVA and UVB rays with non-nano uncoated zinc oxide – remember that zinc oxide is the safest, most effective single mineral active ingredient. This super sheer sunscreen is packed with Damascus rose, chamomile and lavender to soothe, refresh, and revitalize delicate skin. The Seabuckthorn and rosehip deliver potent antioxidants and vital nutrients. Plus this 95% certified organic and 100% natural sunscreen is made with 100% recyclable paperboard packaging.

Derma E Natural Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 for Body

Sheild the body from harmful UVA and UVB rays, prevent oxidative damage and premature signs of aging, this lotion offers both vitamin C and green tea for a fortified extra layer of protection. This super sunscreen was created with the idea that sunscreen shouldn’t just protect, but also help the skin recover. It also absorbs quickly and leaves a sheer, lightweight finish. It’s made for all skin types and is 100% vegan, hypoallergenic, non-irritating, sensitivity tested, fragrance-free, gluten-free and GMO-free. Basically, this sunscreen will give you coverage free of all the harmful side effects.

JASON Natural Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30

Protect your sensitive skin from sun damage with this hypo-allergenic sunscreen. Its broad spectrum can protect from UVA and UVB rays, and all of JASON’s formulas are non-greasy and absorb quickly. Enjoy the Aloe, Shea Butter, and Jojoba oil in this mineral masterpiece. This wholesome, non-nonsense sunscreen is great to use every day.

 

 

Surprise Those Puffy Eyes! 3 Ways to Improve the Skin

Most people forget or never realized the role your skin plays in the body’s natural detox process. It is designed with over 3 trillion pores to secrete fluids from the body…sweat to cool, oils to lubricate and protect, and toxins to help purge unhealthy substance from the system.

I educate every day on how your internal digestion and body function has a direct impact on the appearance of the skin and one sure way to see how your body is cranking in the detox department is the under-eye area of the face. Do you wake up puffy? Deal with dark circles more often than you like? Constantly struggle with dehydration in the delicate skin around your peepers?

According to traditional Chinese face reading, the eyes are connected to your kidneys and your kidneys filter and facilitate removal of excess water and unwanted waste from the body. Coagulated blood and lymph, the fluid in your body that carries toxins, pool under the eyes and contribute to darkening, tone and texture change.

So, if you have a lot of alcohol during your night out, expect a couple of puffy presents under your eyes when you wake up the next day. The same can happen with excessive salt or sugar intake, processed foods, long-term stress and lack of sleep. These things place added pressure on your kidneys and adrenal glands.

Here are some excellent Soap Hope tools you can use to help keep the kidneys kicking, the skin purging and those eyes bright and tight!

ACURE Brightening Eye Contour Gel – licorice root, cucumber and arnica cool and depuff while red and brown seaweed extracts work to inhibit leaky, dilated capillaries and improve texture of the delicate skin (aka smooth your fine lines…yay!). Additionally, a special argan extract has shown immediate tightening boost in 15 minutes. This gel is the best to put on the minute you wake up and let it soak in, refresh, and boost. TIP: Toss it in the fridge for added cooling benefit upon application…you’ll thank me later!

Timber and Coal Blackland Soap – activated charcoal and bentonite clay are the best at not only drawing impurities but also re-mineralizing the skin at the same time. Give your body a swift once-over with a dry brush, using quick upward strokes towards the heart. This helps shed dead skin cells (another form of detoxification) and stimulate healthy lymph and blood circulation. Hop in the shower and follow with this power bar to facilitate deep cleansing of the skin. Be sure to concentrate in the underarms and creases of the thighs where your lymph vessels and detox pathways are most concentrated.

Pukka Herbs’ Cleanse Tea – nettle leaf, dandelion root, fennel seed…all the best to support kidney function in the maintenance of healthy fluid levels and effective elimination of waste. Nettle leaf is a master at enhancing blood purification and contains lectins that help neutralize toxic agents, and it also helps with allergies.  While you relax and sip, slap a couple of the used, cooled tea bags on the eyes for added support!

Amy Halman is an award-winning skin therapist, speaker and product development specialist. As the owner of EcoBlend Therapies, she connects each client’s diet, lifestyle, body wellness and stress levels to imbalances reflecting on the skin. Utilizing this information, she designs topical, nutrition-packed treatments to feed the skin’s ability to re-engage and optimize. Learn more about her services at ecoblendtherapies.com

5 Top Picks to Win the Free-Radical Battle on the Skin

Oxidative stress is a constant in the body…otherwise known as free radical damage. What is a free radical exactly?

It forms when oxygen in your body splits into an individual atom that has an unpaired electron, making it unhappy and very unstable…which sounds like the making of a romantic drama, actually! The unstable atom floats around the body in search of a partner electron, most often stealing them from other stable atoms. Home-wrecker! This triggers a domino effect called the Free Radical Cascade where we now have another unstable atom on the search for an electron, and so on, and so on. Though free radicals are a necessary part of the body’s ability to turn things like food into chemical energy (like when you work out, for example), when they build up it causes havoc…inflammation, cellular damage, and aging. Gasp! This build up interrupts our healthy DNA structure, causing skin cells to regenerate poorly or incorrectly.

This oxidative stress activity can come from normal body function related to poor diet, stress, excess alcohol or smoking, and inflammation but can also be a response to sunlight, air pollutants and toxins in your products and environment.

Never fear…Antioxidants are here! Antioxidant-rich ingredients are such keywords in both optimal diet and topical skin care because they help to deliver the goods to these unstable atoms before they come after your cells, helping to break the cascade and supporting the body from accelerated aging and breakdown. Having a rich supply of antioxidants in your diet and skincare routine, combined with regular exercise, is extremely effective and beneficial.

Here are 5 amazing products with clean anti-oxidant power:

ACURE’s Facial Cleansing Gel not only has an acidic pH to maintain healthy barrier function, which is crucial in protecting against free radicals, environmental pollution, and bacteria, it also has an antioxidant base loaded with highly-targeted superfoods like acai (rich in Vitamin C), pomegranate, and rooibos tea.

Zum Face’s Argan Oil Facial Serum is a luxurious lipid or oil-based serum that contains Vitamin E from nutrient-packed Argan oil, as well as high concentrations of Vitamin A through Carrot Seed, which contains beta-carotene, as well as vitamin B.

Andalou’s Goji Peptide Perfecting Cream contains a goji peptide to smooth and refine texture in the skin but also touts antioxidant-rich resveratrol from grapes, white tea extract, and CoQ10.

The Seaweed Bath Co’s Hydrating Seaweed Bath is loaded with salts from the Dead Sea. These salts contain multiple minerals that not only ward off pro-aging free radicals but also help exfoliate, hydrate, detoxify and soften skin.

Pukka Herbs’ Clean Matcha Green Teaneed I say more? In addition to its impossibly yummy flavor, this tea blend contains powerful matcha powder that cannot only lend up to 10x the antioxidant support of a single cup of loose green tea, it also contains vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc, magnesium, rich fiber and chlorophyll. Dandelion Root is also featured, which is one of my favorites for aiding healthy detoxification!

Amy Halman is an award-winning skin therapist, speaker and product development specialist. As the owner of EcoBlend Therapies, she connects each client’s diet, lifestyle, body wellness and stress levels to imbalances reflecting on the skin. Utilizing this information, she designs topical, nutrition-packed treatments to feed the skin’s ability to re-engage and optimize. Learn more about her services at ecoblendtherapies.com

Detox Naturally – Your Body Already Knows How!

Is it time for a detox? Detoxes are very popular, and no wonder with the promise to give you more energy, lose weight, clear up the skin, among other things.

Most all detoxes do not work. They often are counterproductive because the stripe your body of the essential nutrients needed to function. Our bodies only need to be treated right in order to detox the way they are naturally meant to. The question we should be asking is, how can we support that natural process.

A good detox routine can help you eliminate more stubborn toxins and support you at the same time. Juice isn’t in the process, sorry! But there are plenty of other natural ways you can support your body without spending a lot of money or time.

First, what are toxins? How do we get them in our body? Unfortunately, in today’s modern society, harmful chemicals are everywhere. We have to work hard to remove as many of these toxins from our life where we have control. This can be in the products we use on our bodies, our homes, and of course incorporating a healthy detox every now and then!

One of the things that shocked me the most was the build-up of bisphenol-A (BPA) and other plastics we ingest, while we eliminate most, a small percentage gets in our fat cells, messing with our hormones and accumulating over time. Maybe that is why I can’t lose those stubborn pounds, or it could be the chocolate too, most likely the chocolate, but my new reason is definitely plastic. Plastic is really the real-world villain of our time.  This is just one toxin that your body builds up.

No matter what you do, you’re picking up chemicals throughout the day, be it through physical contact or ingestion.

The benefits of a natural detox built into your routine are boundless. No one is immune from the toxic overload of life and so a natural detox can lead to some major benefits like:

  • More energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clear skin
  • Reduced cravings
  • Lower inflammation
  • Better digestion
  • Potential weight loss

Where to start with your natural detox? We’ve got suggestions below. Definitely always consult your doctor before starting a new routine or detox as we are all awesome, unique individuals and have different needs and reactions. You are beautiful!

Sauna / Exercise to Flush Toxins

Sweat it out! Go to your local sauna and allow the toxins to seep out of your pores, but drink plenty of water and get plenty of salt while you are enjoying this benefit. I like to add a pinch of Himalayan pink salt to my water.

You can also exercise. You should do this for the obvious reasons, but you should also do it because regular exercise is another way to flush toxins from your body. Exercise increases lipolysis (the breakdown of fat tissue) and releases those toxins we talked about that are stored in your fat. Lipolysis is especially effective when you combine with liver and kidney support or adsorbents that can suck up the released toxins.  So get moving!

Drink Detox Tea

Enjoy a nice soothing cuppa while also cleansing your body. We recommend trying Yogi Detox Tea that is infused with Burdock and Dandelion, cleansing herbs that have a time-honored tradition of use, are blended with Juniper Berry and the Ayurvedic “trikatu” combination of Long Pepper, Black Pepper, and Ginger. Clove, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Licorice, and Indian Sarsaparilla are also mixed in to complete this spicy and flavorful blend.

You can also partake in Pukka Herbal Tea Detox, this tea flushes out with the old and in with the new. Sweet aniseed, crisp fennel, lush cardamom, and licorice root work to remove those pesky toxins and reset your spirit.

Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal is a form of carbon that has massive surface area and a strong negative charge. It’s been around for thousands of years and is still used by both western and eastern medical professionals.

Activated charcoal contains many small chambers and cavities that ‘capture’ or bind-up unwanted materials and gas and carry it through the digestive system. Try taking a couple charcoal pills along with exercise or a sauna session. They should absorb many of the toxins you release into your gut and GI tract. Try Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal capsules. 

Shower to detox skin and hair

Enjoying a good shower with a multi-use soap that has the essentials needed to help you purge toxins can have some long-lasting benefits.

We recommend the Seaweed Bath Co. Detox Cellulite Soap and Zum Bar Clove Mint that is infused with not clover, but clove, a bud that comes from certain trees. The mix of clove and spearmint soothes damaged skin. Both these bars take a bite out of toxins.

You can also add a little of Aura Cacia’s Clove Bud Essential Oil to your body wash or shampoo. It will help mend damaged skin and hair. Now that’s something you can enjoy from root to tip.

 

Benefits of Rosehip

Aren’t roses beautiful? They’ve been a symbol of love for decades, offering both the color of passion and thorns of pain. They’re one of the few flowers that people know the definition for in the language of flowers.

But as it turns out, the rose is only the beginning. Leave the flower alone long enough and the petals will fall off, revealing little red bulbs. What are these? They’re rosehips! Yeah, roses make fruit. And while a rose by any other name is just as sweet, a rosehip is just as nutritious.

We’ve all seen rosehip in products. It’s very popular, and for good reason. Not only does it have various uses, but people have known about these since the stone age. They weren’t just painting weird little stick figures, they were also discovering that rosehip helps the body inside and out.

Boost Immunity

For such tiny fruit, rosehips are packed and I mean packed with nutrients. Vitamins A, C, E, and traces of B. Minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and more. They aren’t small amounts either. A rosehip bud contains 50% more Vitamin C than an orange. This helps the immune system tremendously with blocking free radicals, which can lead to cancer, diseases, asthma and boost the respiratory system.

Lower Cholesterol

Rosehip contains antioxidants, which are helpful little cells that can, as stated before, block free radicals and lower cholesterol.

Aid in Digestion and Diabetes

Rosehip helps all over the body, from blood to organs to cells. It regulates insulin and glucose in the blood, which is very important for keeping sugar levels steady. If you’re diabetic and prone to spikes/plunges, you might want to try rosehip. As for digestion, it simply eases the process, making it much more comfortable.

Skin Care

Here’s where everyone’s seen rosehip the most. Skincare products are littered with rosehip and for good reason. Due to all that nutrients, rosehip soothes the skin, making it more elastic, and ridding it of wrinkles, scars and other blemishes. Because of its popularity, you’ll have your choice of brands and product types. Like oils? Essential rosehip oil. Like mists? Rosehip mist. The world is your oyster! Or, well, your rosehip.

Some of our favorite rosehip infused brands can be checked out here. 

Navigating Healthy Sun Exposure

This may seem contrary to what we are commonly told, but the sun is actually good for you!

According to vitamincouncil.org, your body is designed to get the vitamin D it needs by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight. Skin synthesizes vitamin D through solar UVB radiation, the factor sunscreen is designed to protect against and the rays that can cause burning.

Vitamin D production is vital to many healthy functions of the body. To list a few:

  • The immune system, which helps you to fight infection
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
  • Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development
  • Anti-cancer effects

“People are spending less time outside and when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D,” says Kim Pfotenhauer, D.O., a researcher on the recent study published by The Journal of American Osteopathic Association.

That being said,  exposure can and should be done strategically. There is no need to tan or burn your skin to get the vitamin D you need. Vitamincouncil.org recommends exposing your skin for a short time (sometimes as little as 6 minutes for the fairest complexions), which will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day! According to Pfotenhauer, “a simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people.” Additionally, Vitamin D supplements can also provide support, if small exposure to the sun is not available.

Check out this source for recommendations on healthy sun exposure for Vitamin D.

Though research now shows that moderate, frequent sun exposure is healthy,  overexposure and intense exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. With overexposure, you begin to burn and inflammation occurs. The inflammation triggers the skin’s natural melanin production which is what creates a tan. Though a tan seems pretty, it is actually functioning as an umbrella to cover and protect the trauma happening underneath that leads to accelerated aging, hyper-pigmentation, and potentially deadly cancers.

According to esteemed sunscreen expert Brian Diffey, Ph.D., D.Sc., “Apprehension about vitamin D status should not be a reason to withhold sunscreen application during extended periods of exposure to strong sunlight.”

So let’s talk about effective application:

  • Enough sun exposure could lead to sunburn and even skin cancer regardless of race and skin tone. Everyone should wear sunscreen when in prolonged sun exposure. 
  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapplication every 2 hours is important and even more frequently if you are swimming or sweating. 
  • Sun protection is no longer allowed to claim “waterproof” or “sweat-proof”. Read the application directions carefully for most will say something like, “water resistant up to 40 minutes even after the skin gets wet” which means you still need to reapply every 40 minutes and definitely once you have come out of the water. 
  • A higher SPF number is not always better. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 will block 97% of the harmful ultraviolet rays. Anything additional has only slightly higher protection and does not make the sun protection last longer. 
  • SPF sprays are rarely my go-to. They are definitely convenient, but an application can be uneven and often not enough.  Additionally, they should never be used on the face. Inhalation of SPF and propulsion ingredients can be potentially harmful. However, if this is your application of choice, it is important to apply a thick layer and rub into dry skin. For face, go to a lotion or stick application.

Last but not least, here are a few of my Soap Hope favorites for great sun protection!

Derma-E Natural Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 30, Face and Body Formulas

This formula utilizes clear, nanoparticle-free Zinc Oxide, for chemical-free broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection without irritating skin or clogging pores. No silicone’s! Plus, it’s fortified with antioxidants like Vitamin C and Green Tea, which are shown to offer an additional layer of UV protection and antioxidant support.

Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen (Unscented)

Known for their solid formulas that support the skin against harsh elements, Badger makes some of the best protection in a simple formulation. Pure Zinc Oxide loaded in a blend of nutritious oils and butters, gives you a healthy, full-spectrum mineral protection with no toxins and no silicones. Not my choice for application to the face but definitely powerful for the body when planning a long day in the sun.

Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen Lotion 30 SPF Spray

For those who love a spray application, this one utilizes full-spectrum mineral protection in a pump…no potentially toxic propulsion ingredients! It is also chemical free and loaded with yummy antioxidants to boost the skin’s protection and recovery from prolonged exposure.

Amy Halman is an award-winning, holistic skin therapist, speaker and product development specialist in the natural beauty industry. As owner of EcoBlend Therapies, she is dedicated to a Deeper Beauty Conversation, connecting each client’s unique body wellness, nutrition, lifestyle, stress and energy levels to optimal health of the skin.

5 Ways to Reuse your Ugly Boxes

Until someone gets on that molecular transporter, we’re going to have to use cardboard to mail packages. But with your help, cardboard can be reused for quite a few different projects. Here are just five ways to use your ugly box.

Check for Leaks
If your car is leaking, slide some cardboard under it so you’ll know what is leaking and where. The downside is that it can only be used a certain number of times, and should be kept in the garage.

Packaging
If you’re sending something, why buy another cardboard box when you can use one you already own. Simply rewrap the cardboard over your new item and tape it up.

Moving Furniture
Even a little cardboard can be placed under the legs of furniture to save wood floors and make moving easier. It can also be used after having carpets cleaned if you don’t like getting the soap on the bottom of your furniture. Just place down the cardboard first, and when everything is dry, remove it.

Organization
Cut down the cardboard and make a custom storage unit. Not only will it keep the cardboard out of the dump, but it’ll give your wallet some relief as well. Just two layers of cardboard can take some weight. Use colored tape and four or five layers to make a stand for your monitor, or some shelf space for under your dorm bed.

Gardening
Want to keep your plants healthy in the harsh winter months? Put cardboard around it to help insulation. Or place it on top of weeds to make them wilt from sun deprivation.