Archive for the ‘Health Tips’ Category

Break The Plastic Wrap Habit!

Plastic wrap is convenient, inexpensive and deeply ingrained as the way to cover and store food. According to Earth911.com, “we use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.”  Yikes! Plastic wrap is also non-biodegradable, rarely recycled, a derivative of petroleum, and can leach chemicals into the food especially when heated. With a little knowledge and some imagination, you can cover and store your food far more safely and just as conveniently without plastic. Here are some ideas:

  • Glass storage containers like Pyrex, which are stackable, sturdy and microwave safe are a good solution. You can buy them new at any kitchen or home goods store, or take a trip down memory lane and look for the colored pyrex dishes from the 1950’s found at flea markets or consignment shops.  
  • Reusable silicone lids that fit most bowls are another good solution.  They are 100% airtight and are dishwasher and microwave safe.  They come in a variety of sizes and are even sold in the shape of lily pads. You can find them at most kitchen shops.  
  • Bee’s Wrap is a clever new product made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over. Bee’s Wrap comes in 5 sizes and can be found at most specialty kitchen stores or on line.  
  • If you need to cover food after preparing but before serving, why not simply place a dishcloth over it? No need to waste plastic wrap.
  • When transporting a salad or a dish to a friend’s house, cover the bowl with a lovely dinner plate. It makes a much more impressive presentation than plastic wrap!

The challenge is breaking the plastic wrap habit! It’s easy if you remember that food and plastic don’t go together. I’d love to know your ideas for alternatives to plastic wrap. Email me!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Some information compiled from http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401234/Is-Plastic-Wrap-Safe.html, earth911.com.

Safe Cosmetics

You might not realize that the make up we put on our faces or the hair and body products, sunscreens, and nail polish we use on a daily basis have a host of dangerous chemicals, endocrine disruptors and allergens like mercury, lead, parabans, pthalates, and others.   According to watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, “On average, a woman puts 168 chemicals on her body each day.” In addition to the many known hazardous chemicals, there are many other synthetic compounds, like fragrances, without enough information to know whether they are safe or not because federal legislation regarding product safety hasn’t been updated in 75 years. The Environmental Working Group estimates that of the more than 10,000 chemical ingredients in personal care products, 89 percent have not undergone safety testing.

Are these chemicals necessary?

Given the known and unknown dangers of all these chemical additives, I think not! Who needs cherry-scented rubbing alcohol? Some American cosmetic companies sell the same products in Europe without the chemical additives. That’s because the European Union strictly regulates the extremely hazardous chemicals found in everyday products in the United States and has banned about 1,100 chemicals, while the FDA has banned only ten!

Safe Alternatives? Of course!

The average woman “eats” more than 6 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime, just one of many cosmetics used.  Fortunately now there are many lines of organic personal care products. Whole Foods Markets and independent natural food stores carry several, like Dr. Hauschka, Mychelle, Badger, Burt’s Bees.  Local farmer’s markets often sell homemade and all natural insect repellant, body scrubs and soaps.  CVS also carries Burt’s Bees.

Be sure to read the labels however, some products are “cleaner” than others and be wary of names too long to pronounce.  A knowledgeable sales person will be able to help you find the safest products.

Organic cosmetics and personal care products are not only better for your health, but better for the earth too!  When discarding them, fewer chemicals will go down the drain or in the trash, seeping into our valuable water supply and landfills.

For more information or to rate the toxicity of your personal care products, visit www.safecosmetics.org, which does an online safety assessment of 75,223 products.

 

Information from ewg.org and ecosalon.com.  

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Your Bedroom!

If you want to seriously reduce chemical exposure in your home, then switching to an organic bedroom is the most effective place to start.  We spend approximately one-third of our life sleeping – that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 (and leading an organic lifestyle you have a better shot at it), so it clearly makes sense to start there.

The Problem?

Conventional mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillowcases contain a lot of chemicals.  Cotton accounts for up to 25% of the insecticides used worldwide and many are classified as possible human carcinogens.  Cotton is also usually bleached and treated with chemical dyes and color fixers.  Synthetic fabrics such as polyurethane foam and polyester are made from petroleum and can cause allergic reactions and even initiate cancer.  Mattresses and pads must be treated with fire retardants, which emit formaldehyde and pose additional health risks.  Less expensive bed frames use plywood and particle board containing formaldehyde that is off gassed into our bedrooms, also contributing to allergies and potentially other illnesses.

The solution?

Buy untreated or natural bedding such as organic cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo.   Often more expensive, but definitely healthier, you can transition slowly.  First buy a chemical free pillow, ideal for allergy sufferers.  Next try organic cotton sheets and mattress pads.  Finally make the switch to an organic mattress made from natural rubber and covered in organic cotton and wool. Wool has superior insulating qualities and believe it or not is comfortable all year-long.  It is also naturally dust mite and fire resistant. Latex mattresses are:

  • resistant to moisture buildup
  • naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
  • mold and dust free
  • with little or no toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress

 

You will find many choices in organic mattresses and bedding online, designed for all preferences and all budgets. Retail outlets are also beginning to carry organic bedding.  Target has an attractive line of organic sheets, and with the demand for organic everything increasing, many local mattress stores now carry natural latex mattresses.  Make the switch and have a safe night’s sleep!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Mark your calendars for an engaging evening with Captain Richard Phillips presented by Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod  on April 18 @ 6:00pm.  He’ll be speaking at the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center on Cape Cod about his life experiences and the dangers he faced on the high seas with Somali pirates.  Following the talk is a dinner at the Yarmouth House along with a meet and greet and book signing by Capt. Phillips of his book “A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS,and Dangerous Days at Sea”.  Tickets for talk only are $25.00 and available on-line at www.lymeticks.org or at the Brewster Book Store, $30.00 at the door.  

 

Watch out -deer ticks are here!  My cousins and I were enjoying a beautiful Easter walk in the woods and near the marshes on Cape Cod when we discovered several deer ticks.  Already? Yes!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is one of the fastest spreading infectious diseases in the United States.

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4...

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4 categories of risk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deer ticks in the Northeast carry the illness, where 90% of all US cases are reported.  Lyme disease has become more prevalent partly because suburban neighborhoods have expanded into wooded areas where ticks thrive.  Deer, mice and pets carry deer ticks, about the size of a poppy seed. If a tick bites you, remove it right away, identify it and have it tested if you suspect a deer tick. One in four nymphal deer ticks can infect you with some kind of disease if they feed for more than 24 hours.  (Some sources say they only have to  be attached for as little as two hours to transmit the disease.)

Ticks

Ticks (Photo credit: Kriatyrr)

 

I had Lyme disease a few year ago and was the sickest I had ever been with a severe headache, joint pain, high fever and flu-like symptoms.  I was one of the lucky ones however, with a defining bull’s eye rash and was able to get on antibiotics right away, which cured it.  But many people don’t get the rash and it’s easy to confuse body aches and fevers with other diseases. The blood tests are often inaccurate too; you can still have Lyme disease even with a negative blood test.

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a...

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a “bull’s-eye” from Lyme disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As with anything else, prevention is your best medicine.

What you can do to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease:

  • Avoid being bitten by a tick, which is most plentiful where woodlands transition into fields, meadows or yards.
  • Avoid tall grasses.
  • Avoid deer paths in the woods, which are usually loaded with ticks.
  • Avoid places where mice are abundant like leaf litter, woodpiles, mulch beds, gardens, rock walls.
  • When you are in high tick area, wear light-colored clothing to spot them easier.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants with your pants tucked into your socks when working outside or hiking in tick-infested areas.
  • Use insect repellant; clothes can be sprayed directly.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Always do tick checks after being outside in a high deer tick area.  Magnifying glasses help with spotting deer ticks.
  • Shower after being in a tick-infested area.
  • Putting your clothes in a dryer at high heat for 35 minutes will kill ticks.  Most ticks are very sensitive to heat.
  • Take garlic supplements daily to help repel insects and ticks.
  • Treat pets to minimize risk. Pets can get Lyme disease too and bring ticks into the house.

Cultural Practices you can do in your yard to help eliminate ticks:

  • Mow along boundary lines of your yard.
  • Treat your yard with a professional spray or do it yourself.
  • Keep grass mowed regularly.
  • Install a low brick wall where your yard ends and woods begin.
  • In high tick areas, get guinea hens – they eat deer tick.

Visit Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod for more detailed  information.  The University of Rhode Island has a comprehensive website as well.   tickencounter.org

Lyme disease is a dreadful disease which left untreated can cause chronic major problems seriously affecting your health.  Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help cure you.

Be vigilant and don’t let ticks ruin your summer!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Thieves Oil To The Rescue!

After speaking with one of my teacher friends who was frustrated at getting one cold after another from her students despite taking every precaution to keep germs from spreading, including Clorox wipes, I decided to repost my entry about Thieves Oil, an amazing non-toxic germ-killing spray! It is that time of year!     

Thieves Oil is a powerful blend of germ-killing essential oils – clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary – that help eliminate airborne bacteria and boost the immune system. Research conducted at Weber State University, as well as other documented research, shows that most viruses, fungi, and bacteria cannot live in the presence of many essential oils. When bacteria cultures were sprayed in an enclosed area, Thieves Oil had a 99.96% success rate against airborne bacteria.

The name comes from the legend of four thieves who were captured and charged with robbing dead and dying victims during the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people in Europe and Asia for about 600 years. In exchange for leniency, the magistrate wanted to know how the thieves escaped from contracting the plague.  They confessed to rubbing themselves with a special concoction of aromatic herbs, including garlic, cloves and rosemary.  Hence, the name Thieves Oil.

There are a variety of Thieves® antiseptic products such as household cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, toothpaste, and mouthwash. All are formulated from the essential oils mentioned in the legend that help fight against bacteria, fungi and viruses and ward off disease.

As germs become more virulent and antibiotic resistant, it’s more important than ever to support your immune system and ward off bugs, and anything is worth a try! Do so with Thieves® products, especially during cold and flu season. Keep some in your natural medicine cabinet, at your office, in your car, and at school. I use it, my kids use it, and I can tell you it works. And the spray smells great…….

Information compiled http://www.secretofthieves.com.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Nutrient-Dense Chocolate For Valentine’s Day!

Red HeartThis Valentine’s Day, indulge in a bit of nutrient-dense chocolate. Hailed as a super food as scientists begin to identify all the benefits of the cacao bean, it’s loaded with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can help ward off many common lifestyle diseases. The key is consuming the right chocolate – raw, unprocessed cacoa beans or nibs, or at least 70% cocoa dark chocolate. Not your typical candy bar loaded with fat, sugar and other fillers!

Some of the potential benefits of eating chocolate are:

  • Lowering cholesterol levels and relaxing blood pressure
  • Preventing cognitive decline – Scientists at Harvard Medical School suggest that drinking two cups of hot chocolate “can help preserve blood flow in working areas of the brain”. Compounds in chocolate may reduce or block damage to nerve pathways in the brain.
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems
  • Protecting against type-2 diabetes – due to the high levels of flavonoids in chocolate (also found in tea, berries and wine)
  • Preventing obesity – certain antioxidants in chocolate are said to lower blood sugar levels and possibly prevent weight gain

As most people instinctively realize, chocolate also releases certain feel good chemicals, or endorphins naturally produced by the brain “that generate feelings of pleasure and promote a sense of well being.”

On Valentine’s Day, promote well-being and buy your loved ones some healthy chocolates! And, when you next crave a cup of steaming hot chocolate on a snowy day or a piece of chocolate to boost your mood, go for it. Your body knows what it needs. Just make sure it’s a moderate amount of the right kind. Moderate amount?  That’s not always easy for chocoholics like me!

Watch this short video on the amazing benefits of eating a little chocolate everyday!

Information compiled from: http://www.medicalwellnessassociation.com/, http://www.organicauthority.com/, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

The Safety of Plastic Dental Appliances

A reader asked me about the safety of the plastic used in mouth guards, retainers and other dental appliances.

It seems like dentists tell everyone to wear a mouth guard, even my 25-year-old son, because they grind their teeth, which is either a testament to our high stress society or a dentist up sell. I use one because I clench my teeth and it was affecting my bottom teeth. It helps, but I too get concerned about the safety of the material used.

A wide variety of materials is used to manufacture dental devices and it’s hard to find information about the exact materials and their safety. According to the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center, or PPRC, a nonprofit organization that is a leading source of high quality, unbiased pollution prevention, “Sealants, fillings, mouth guards and other dental appliances can and may contain bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and other chemicals of concern.”

The BPA chemical is a synthetic hormone and endocrine disruptor used in plastics, and has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. It has been under scrutiny and has now been removed from many plastic products including baby bottles, water bottles, and plastic toys. The FDA does not require testing for BPA exposure however, for dental materials. New federal regulations have required that manufacturers also stop using phthalates (Chemicals used in plastic household and personal care products linked to hormone changes, lower sperm count, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities) in children’s toys, but again, it is unclear whether these new regulations pertain to mouth guards. The PPRC states “ The ADA (American Dental Association) and other authorities suggest that the risk of contamination from dental materials is low compared with other sources of BPA in the environment and food supply.” I hope so!

I did read that the store-bought boil and bite guards like the ones used for sports protection are problematic since BPA is more likely to leach from plastic when it is heated.  Amazon FYI, sells a BPA-free, FDA-approved soft material tooth grinding and athletic mouth guard.

The solution?  Ask your dentist about the materials used in his/her dental appliances, about the effectiveness of store-bought guards, and request BPA-free ones. As with anything, you have to outweigh the risks vs. the benefits.

Information compiled from: http://pprc.org/research/rapidresDocs/Dental_Guard_BPA_RR_FINAL.pdf and ewg.org.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

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