Reduce your toxic load with seven natural skincare and cleaning product suppliers

Reduce your toxic load with seven natural skincare and cleaning product suppliers

Women are exposed to more chemicals than men as we use on average twelve personal care products daily which exposes you to up to 168 different chemicals according to the Environmental Working Group.

One of the best ways to reduce your toxic load is to minimise exposure to chemicals. Most people think about reducing their exposures by buying organic foods however it might be time to look at what you are using on your skin and to clean your house. This list is based on many product suppliers I have trialled and use as well as a few other recommendations from practitioners in this area.

Topical use of products like skincare is one of the biggest sources of toxins for many people. A few of my favourite options are Simplicite Skin Care, Gypsy Rose Haircare , Weleda and Grants. We can absorb up to about 10% of substances applied to the skin and so sorting out your personal care is a big priority when it comes to reducing your toxic load.

Personally I have used Simplicite Skin Care since having a mini facial with their products at Nature Care College when I was studying. At the time I was looking for something which wouldn’t cause my skin to breakout badly or come up in a rash. The range from Simplicite is formulated by an experienced herbalist and, as well as smelling amazing, is also therapeutic. David Lyons, the naturopath who created the range, has worked on skin problems for two decades before formulating these products and it really shows in the effectiveness.

On a number of occasions when I have contacted the company the advice has always been really helpful. My top tip is to try one of the packs for your type of skin before committing to purchasing the full range. It’s also worth trying out some of the serums in particular the capillary repair serum if you suffer from redness or superficial veins. It’s a lovely combination with two types of chamomile and lavender oil. The Rehydration serum is also very effective if you are prone to drying skin and the Antioxidant serum worked well for me on scar repair post surgery.

Weleda has a range of beautiful creams, lotions, oils and deodorants. The texture of the creams is particularly good and they spread well which is a really significant benefit when you are using Calendula cream on a wound. They also produce some very useful combinations for creams like Urtical which combines Calendula for healing and Urtica Urens for itching.

Over the years we have tried a number of hair care products and whilst the Alchemy range has been good Gypsy Rose Haircare has reduced the need to wash hair in terms of both frequency and number of washes. The original recommendation came through colleagues on Facebook who found it beneficial for those with dandruff and psoriasis. It uses ingredients like essential oils, kombucha and apple cider vinegar to improve the quality of the scalp. The website is a bit clunky but it is worth persevering and ordering enough to use it for at least a month. The combination of apple cider vinegar and kombucha gives white or grey hair real brightness as well which is a nice additional benefit.

The other aspect that is well worth considering is using a low tox toothpaste and Grants of Australia make a range of different toothpastes using includes 10 toothpaste flavours: Mild Mint, Fresh Mint,  Cinnamon, Xylitol, Propolis, Whitening, Sensitive, Fresh Mint with Fluoride, Kids Blueberry Burst and Kids Strawberry Surprise, along with Xylitol Natural Mouthwash. The products use natural anti-virals like aloe vera, neem oil and tea tree oil.

Natural cleaning options

In terms of cleaning products there are a number of companies with low tox options, such as Abode Cleaning Products and Dr Bronner’s and for those who are really inspired there is a useful blog on making your own cleaning products on the Low Tox life blog, Keep your cleaning toxin free with these 7 easy home made cleaning products.

Abode Cleaning Products is produced by Building Biologist Nicole Bijlisma and puts into practice many of the things that she has learnt through her training. One of the best products they make is called Mould Control and this blog gives you some great information about cleaning mould effectively Hazards in the Home Mould . Products are available through a range of suppliers nationally as well as many health food stores.

Dr Bronner’s produce a range of pure soaps with bases such as coconut oils, olive oils and jojoba oil. The ingredients are used depending on the specific lathering and other properties. Dr Bronner’s also use organic ingredients and advocate for the appropriate regulation of those products in cleaning and personal care products.

What are your favourite low tox products for cleaning and personal care ? Please post any useful ideas in the comments below if you have any thoughts.

For more information on supporting natural detoxification have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. If you would like to work with me directly at my clinic at Elemental Health, St Ives, you can book appointments on (02) 8084 0081 or book online.

Do you really understand how to use Probiotics and do strains matter ?

Do you think you have been fed a few misstatements about probiotics ? If you have been you probably aren’t the only one! There were a few myths busted at a recent conference that I have also been guilty of believing in recent years. So what were those myths and what’s the real story ?

Have you ever been told that your probiotics need to be kept in the fridge ? (Was it me?) Turns out that many strains are heat resistant and don’t need to be kept in the fridge including the range from Activated Probiotics. Probiotics are living organisms and so are sensitive to heat, moisture and oxygen, however if appropriately treated and packaged the product is heat stable. Activated Probiotics freeze dry the probiotic and use specific packaging technology to encapsulate it so that it survives stomach acid and is effective in the gut. The best advice generally is to follow the advice on the packaging, however when travelling a heat stable option is usually better as its less likely to be left behind (in the mini bar fridge!).

The other common myth is that you should take probiotics separately from antibiotics or even after you have finished the antibiotics. Actually since antibiotics are designed to be absorbed into the bloodstream and probiotics into the gut then it really doesn’t matter. For the best result with probiotics ideally they are taken with food and that food contains a little fat.

For many people they may be a little concerned about taking medications with probiotics so it might be a good idea to review the strategies in my recent blog Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well? . When you do have specific side effects from your medications probiotics can be of use in managing those symptoms where they is specific research to support use for those conditions.

One of the big ones is that probiotics replace “lost bacteria” but it turns out that whilst probiotics have a therapeutic effect they do not stay permanently in the gut. Estimates of how long the probiotics will last are usually between 1-3 weeks. The point is that whilst the strain is there it is having a therapeutic effect, for example a lactobacillus plantarum strain which is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBS. Therapeutically we might use this strain whilst making dietary changes to reduce systemic inflammation, so that you do not need to be on a probiotic permanently.

This probably brings us to the biggest myth – isn’t a mix of strains better ? Really it is a bit like spraying buckshot you might get lucky but the reality is a specific strain or strains based on the research and your signs and symptoms will result in better outcomes for you.

So what about prebiotics should I just take those instead ? A prebiotic is different to a probiotic, the easiest analogy is that its a bit like fertiliser in the garden. It doesn’t create a broader range of plants but it does feed the useful ones. If you want to improve the diversity of your gut flora you really need to look at supporting it with a wide range of vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ? covers this topic in more depth but in addition to variety of vegetables it is also useful to add in organic sources as much as possible.

For more information on maintaining or improving your health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, improving gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Are your medications impacting your ability to age outrageously well?

Supplements

Many people over fifty are on a range of medications to manage chronic health problems. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 47% of the population is managing chronic health conditions which include arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, mental health conditions and osteoporosis. Whilst these medications are often essential the side effects of some of these common medications can have negative impacts on your overall health.

What can you do to manage these risks? First up make sure that your GP is aware of all the medications you are taking and that they are still appropriate. Secondly if you are having noticeable side effects with a medication see if your GP can recommend an alternative. The next step, if the medication is creating side effects, is then to consider looking at supporting yourself nutritionally to minimise the impact. Below are five common medications that may have side effects that impact your brain or physical health (1) and some strategies for managing them.

  1. Statins. A common problem for people on statins (cholesterol lowering medication) is that they start feeling less energetic as the statins deplete the levels of Co Q 10. Some people can also suffer from muscle aches and pains and develop memory problems. CoQ10 is important for energy production within the cell. Dosage is a little dependent on weight however generally 150-300 mcg is useful and its recommended that you start at a lower dose and build up slowly.
  2. Metformin which is often given for Diabetes can reduce levels of both B6 and B12. Low B12 may lead to peripheral neuropathy which can cause loss of sensation in the feet or tingling or burning sensations. Again a Multi vitamin with adequate B12 is essential . Depending on your other medications and any possible interactions you may need to use individual supplements rather than a multi-vitamin. Balancing your blood sugar is also essential when you are on these medications so have a look at the dietary recommendations in my blog Are you missing out on ways that you can start ageing outrageously well ?
  3. Anti-depressants need B vitamins for optimal effect and whilst they may not reduce levels specifically they may be less effective if you are not taking a multi vitamin at the same time. In addition your mood may be helped by considering an anti-inflammatory diet and according to the Mayo clinic, walking at least 30 minutes daily (2).
  4. Antibiotics Antibiotics can disrupt the natural bacteria flora in the digestive system, reducing beneficial bacteria, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum , this may result in symptoms like persistent diarrhoea or constipation. Use a good quality brand of probiotics such as Inner Health with at least 5 billion live organisms for effective management. Nutritionally make sure you are having at least 3 cups of vegetables a day to feed beneficial bacteria and consider a range of prebiotic fibres as well. There is a lot more information on the best options in my recent blog What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?
  5. Hormone Replacement Therapy impacts on folic acid (B9), B6 and B12 as well as magnesium levels. A good multi vitamin plus between 400-800mg of magnesium can be useful in managing the side effects. HRT can be useful to manage significant symptoms post menopause and it is adviseable to ensure that if you are using it long term you look at liver support, such as St Mary’s Thistle, to minimise adverse effects longer term.

Food sources for some of these key nutrients such as Co Q10 can be a little challenging. CoQ10 is found in organ meats like kidney, heart and liver. Whilst you could look at including a nice pate on a regular basis, to include liver for example, it is hard to get sufficient levels without a supplement if you are vegetarian or can’t stomach organ meats. There are some organ supplements on the market which could be a good option, just make sure they are organic wherever possible.

Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods, but inadequate intake is common and is associated with a greater risk of osteoporosis. Food sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, legumes, quinoa, dark chocolate, brown rice and other unrefined whole grains (3). People who benefit from a magnesium supplement are prone to headaches and cramping and have difficulty staying asleep. They usually find that magnesium reduces cramping with supplementation. Ideally look for a form of magnesium that is combined with a citrate or an amino acid chelate as magnesium combined with oxide is usually only helpful for constipation as it has laxative qualities.

For more information on maintaining or improving Brain Health have a look at my program Ageing Outrageously which covers six key areas for ensuring that you age well. These include improving brain health, balancing blood sugar, appropriate movement, gut and digestion as well as strategies for assessing and monitoring your health. The program has been designed for people who may not have the time or resources to work with me directly but would like to invest in improving their health. The program cost of $249 is similar to the cost of my initial appointment but you can run through the program under your own pace at home and it covers content from a series of 6-8 appointments .

Key sources

(1) https://www.drugs.com/drug_information.html

(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

(3) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318595

Five simple ways to make balancing blood sugar easier

Five simple ways to make balancing blood sugar easier

Salad Nicoise

One of the most essential ways of ensuring that you are ageing outrageously well is to manage your blood sugar effectively. Whilst I cover the best strategies for this in my program there are a few additional strategies you can use when you aren’t able to eat in an optimal way. Just to review the basics on balancing blood sugar you might want to quickly review my blog: Are you missing out on ways that you can start ageing outrageously well ? which does cover off on the basics.

Why the focus on balancing blood sugar ? Mainly because it’s one the most significant areas to resolve to ensure that you age in the best way possible. Poorly controlled blood sugar may result in the development of Type 2 diabetes, which increases your risks for many serious health problems including conditions such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

How do you know you are at risk for blood sugar issues? The type of symptoms we see include shakiness or headaches if you haven’t eaten for a few hours, increased thirst or frequent urination or energy swings and crashes. It can also be a concern when you are doing all the right things and still struggling to lose weight, particularly if your waist circumference is over 88cm for a male or 82cm for a female.

Apple cider vinegar

So what are five quick hacks for managing blood sugar? These are my top five suggestions;

  • Vinegar is your friend when it comes to balancing blood sugar. The advice that is often shared to improve digestion is that you have a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water before meals. This is a good strategy for increasing stomach acid so that you can digest more of your meal and reduce symptoms such as reflux and may explain some of the benefit that is seen with vinegar reducing blood sugar levels as well. In some recent research a reduction of up to 20% was seen in blood sugar levels after a meal provided that the meal was a higher glyceamic index meal (1). For most people this means if you are having a meal with some simple carbohydrates adding a salad with a vinegar and oil dressing may help reduce blood sugar levels.
  • Start with your vegetables as it turns out that the fibre in your vegetables will slow down the release of glucose from your meal and reduce the blood sugar level peaks subsequently. Start with two mouthfuls of your broccolini or another green leafy vegetable to moderate blood sugar levels after a meal.
  • Add cinnamon which not only tastes amazing but is also a useful culinary spice for regulating blood sugar levels. Fresh cinnamon added to porridge or oats can add an amazing flavour and is even better with some extra fibre in the form of grated apple. Cinnamon has a long history of being used in herbal medicine however a recent review of its use in PCOS (which involves significant insulin resistance) found that it assisted in improving blood sugar metabolism (2). Typically you need the equivilant of a teaspoon for therapeutic value.
  • Cool it first as many high glycemic index starches such as potatoes and white rice can have their glycemic index reduced by precooking. Cooling before use will increase the level of resistant starch which will slow down the release of glucose. White rice has a glycemic index of 89 versus brown rice 53, so using brown rice will also reduce the release of blood sugar. However a small study showed a real benefit from cooking the rice and allowing it to cool for at least 24 hours before use, resulting in a very significant increase in resistant starch. This would also work for something like potatoes, so if you can’t manage without potatoes cooking them up to 24 hours in advance and cooling them down to use in a potato salad will result in a slower release of blood sugar.
  • Good quality fats slow down the release of blood glucose. Simply adding a tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil or a sprinkling of good quality nuts and seeds is a good way to avoid the spikes.

If you think its time to really start managing your blood sugar then it might be a good idea to check out my Ageing Outrageously program which is available in eight online modules with specific resources on balancing blood sugar including meal plans. Click on this link Ageing Outrageously to receive regular updates.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives and is available for consultations online and in clinic. Contact her clinic on 02 8084 0081 or book online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

  1. Liatis S, Grammatikou S, Poulia KA, et al. Vinegar reduces postprandial hyperglycaemia in patients with type II diabetes when added to a high, but not to a low, glycaemic index meal. European journal of clinical nutrition 2010;64:727-32
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874119350159

Heat and cold, stressors which boost energy and slow ageing

Looking for a way to improve your energy levels ? Turns out we can certainly benefit from some of the strategies from Nordic countries particularly in regards to saunas and cold plunging. Mild hormetic stressors such as heat and cold can be really beneficial (and enjoyable).

What is a hormetic stressor ? It’s a mild stress to the body which actually generates a low level of free radicals. In the presence of a low level of free radicals we produce more mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy producing part of a cell and as we age we tend to start losing them. The major hormetic stressor which we are all familiar with is exercise and the reason this is beneficial is it encourages the body to make more mitochondria which in turn means we can produce more energy. Stimulating these processes gives us improvement in both our short term and long term health.

Often we talk about stress as being negative for our health however it really comes down to the type of stress and the dose. Prolonged stress of any type can have negative implications for our health in the same way that prolonged exposure to cold water can result in hypothermia. A few minutes in the cold water is beneficial, too long an exposure is a problem.

What are some other types of hormetic stress ? The top 10 include the following;

  1. Intermittent Fasting
  2. Cold
  3. Heat
  4. Hypoxia
  5. Red and near infrared light
  6. Exercise
  7. Dietary Phytochemicals
  8. UV light
  9. Xenobiotics
  10. Intermittent Nutrient Cycling

In this blog we are going to focus on the benefit of Heat and infrared light however there is more information on some of these options in my blogs such as Is Fasting for me ? and Six ways to increase your energy If you are interested in looking at cold hormetic stressors the latest blog on my clinic page is also useful Is it good to have a cold shower every day

Infra red light such at that from an infra red sauna penetrates soft tissue up to 3 centimetres warming the body and opening blood vessels in a process called “vasodilation.” The blood vessels on the surface expand and as the body heats it encourages sweating. Spending 30 minutes in a sauna is believed to increase heart rate and improve your exercise tolerance. A small study in 2005 showed that a month of sauna bathing in a group with Chronic Heart Failure saw improvements in 13 of 15 participants. In addition to a reduction in blood pressure and improved exercise tolerance they also say reduced levels of stress hormones. (1)

Recently my husband decided to see if a month of infra red sauna was beneficial and he found after a few weeks that his heat tolerance had improved, he felt his stress levels had reduced and he was noticing less muscle pain. He is a much smaller study group but still interesting to see the benefits over a short period of time. He is also quite keen to continue so expect an update on his progress in a couple of months.

A recent article in The Conversation “Can’t face running try a hot bath or sauna” looks at some of the benefits of hot bathing and also the advantages of using sauna to build up your tolerance when you are unable to exercise. In this way it could be useful for those people suffering from Chronic Fatigue for slowly improving resilience and assisting in recovery so that they can start to exercise. It is important if you suffer from Chronic Fatigue that you build up very slowly and gently with any new routine.

Need more assistance with improving your energy levels ? Book in with Christine Pope at Elemental Health at St Ives on Tuesday or Wednesdays. Bookings online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or by phone on (02) 8084 0081 .

(1) https://www.onlinejcf.com/article/S1071-9164(05)00108-9/fulltext