Category Archives: Rants/Research/Reports

A Fishy Revelation

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My sister’s fish just had babies. As I write this there are perhaps a dozen teeny little guppies the size of rice grains bobbing to and fro among the plastic lotus flowers and fake rocks in the fish tank. My sister and I squealed with delight when we saw this. We crowded around the tank like children and stared in awe at these tiny little fish babies.
The problem we encountered last time “Aphrodite” gave birth was that she and pappa “Hermes” started to eat their babies! I looked on a guppy forum and this is actually completely normal behavior for some reason or another. So we swooped to the rescue and transplanted the babies into a flower vase that we put into the tank so that they can still be in the tank with maternity ward type situation until they are big enough not to get eaten by mom/dad.
We spent at least 30 minutes carefully scooping up each of the fry, taking care not to hurt them or make the transition all the more traumatic.
The reason I’m blabbing on about these guppies (which aren’t even mine) is because I had something of a mini revelation. After my sister had gone to a friends house, I came in the room and noticed that several of the guppies didn’t make it into the vase. I was pretty worried that they would get eaten, so I carefully scooped them out making sure that I wasn’t hurting them and that their time out of the water would be minimal. Instead of just plopping them in, I submersed the net so they could swim out themselves. While sitting on the floor staring up at the stupid tank with a picture of the golden gate bridge as the backdrop I realized how incredibly ironic this whole situation was.
Here I was so concerned over these guppies as if they were my own children, yet I didn’t bat an eyelash at the salmon salad I had for lunch yesterday. I’ve heard enough “bad” things about the food industry to make me never want to eat meat again, or any other type of food actually (from bleached soaked baby carrots to cinnamon with ground wood chips it’s a terrifying world we live in folks) but the truth is meat is delicious. I’ve been down the vegetarian route and I’m not going to deny that I always come back, tail between the legs, if only for a juicy grass fed cheese burger… with avocado. So I won’t ever scoff at anyone who does eat meat (because I am one of you… if only on the inside)

The truth is I just can’t justify eating that hamburger when I feel this feeling in the pit of my stomach… past the rumbling hunger pains… that it’s just not in my own nature to eat animals.

I just hate the whole mantra surrounding vegetarianism.

I’m going to go watch Finding Nemo now in celebration of the fish babies… and maybe in the hopes of convincing myself that these little guppies are more than just complete spazoids who swim into the tank walls all day. It’s not their fault, I would probably do that too if I were stuck inside of a tank. Fish tanks depress me a little bit… And animal enclosures in general.

On that cheery note ❤

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“Fish are friends not food!”

Going With The Flow (Mindful Menstruation)

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Warning: The following post is about the menstrual cycle. If you are uncomfortable with the words menstrual cycle, period, uterus, vagina, blood, ovary, fallopian tube, VAGINA, then I don’t suggest reading on.
I want to share my thoughts about a woman’s monthly cycle. Specifically, I am going to talk about the ways that I  handle my period without using pharmaceuticals, synthetic pads and tampons, and birth control.

I was partially inspired to write this post by a booklet that I own titled: “Sacred and Mysterious: Healing Wisdom and Herbal Lore For Those Who Menstruate” by Brittany Wood Nickerson.
I will pull on a few different herbal remedies that I have found to be useful.

To begin I will give a brief run down of the menstrual cycle just so we are all on the same page.
The start of a woman’s cycle is known as her menstrual period and typically lasts 4-7 days. This is when the thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) begins to shed. After the lovely times of blood and cramps are over the ovary gets ready to release an egg and the uterus builds its lining back up. Around day 14 the matured egg is released from the ovary and travels down the fallopian tube  where it awaits its sperm in shining armor. In most cases said sperm is not present so the unfertilized egg hangs out in the uterus for a bit then breaks apart. Hormone levels drop and the uterus prepares to shed its lining once again signaling the start of a new cycle.

Typical girl from a tampon commercial. I don't know about you but this does not correctly encompass how I feel when I'm on my period.

Typical girl from a tampon commercial. I don’t know about you but this does not correctly encompass how I feel when I’m on my period.

That was just a very brief insight into what it means to menstruate. I left out most of the gory details but the reality is that having a period is not always about eggs and fallopian tubes. For me, having a period means cramps (my uterus literally shredding itself apart to get rid of the dead tissue),  voracious mood swings, acne, wanting to eat 15 reese’s peanut butter cups in one sitting, countless pairs of favorite panties ruined, tampons that run a risk of toxic shock syndrome, pads that feel like a diaper, and birth control being pushed on me by parents, doctors, and friends.

I don’t want to have to fight my body. Menstruating is something that nature intended so I am learning how to “go with the flow” so to speak. Here’s how I deal:

Raging Hormones: Hormones fluctuate wildly during all times of the month. Before ovulation I might be feeling like a sex goddess tigress on top of the world. Then within a few days the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone post ovulation make me feel anxious, depressed, irritable, and overwhelmed.
I find the two most important things that help curb these extreme fluctuations are food and exercise. It’s hard to sum up exactly how to eat right in just a few sentences, but I feel like it should be a pretty intuitive thing. Your body already knows what it needs, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to listen to it. Exercise should not be brushed off either. Whenever I feel that overwhelming sense of frustration that can come from nowhere else but my hormones I slap on my running shoes and just try to break a sweat. It always makes me feel better. My herbal booklet recommends several tonic herbs (basically another word for tea). These are two of my favorites:
Red Clover Blossom“Red clover nourishes the hormones and helps restore hormonal balance, providing relief to symptoms of menopause and premenstrual tension.”
Oatstraw/Milky Oats: “When taken over time, oats help to nourish and rebuild the nervous system and improve the body’s ability to cope with the everyday stress of life. Consistent consumption can help to curb anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and exhaustion.”

Acne: Right around ovulation is when a lot of women experience a breakout or a single pimple in the same area of the face. I’m still learning how to deal with this one, but it is all linked back to hormones. The most I can do at this point is to make sure I am washing my face enough. My skincare is pretty basic at this point. I’m done with using harsh facial scrubs and suds. I use Dr. Bronners as shampoo and soap for my whole body including my face. I moisturize with an unscented lotion or some coconut/olive oil. Once a week I’ll do a facial with an egg and whatever else I have in my fridge (yogurt/honey/lemon/oatmeal/ etc.) I notice when I don’t eat sugar my breakouts tend to be very small/non existent, but I work in an ice cream shop, so this might be one thing I just have to cope with.

Sweet Cravings: And speaking of sugar! The week leading up to my period is when I have crazzzyyyy cravings for anything with sugar. I’m not a big candy fiend so chocolate is usually my go to choice. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the 15 reese’s in one sitting. The thing about succumbing to these cravings though, is that it is not going to do anything to alleviate the chemical reaction of those pesky hormones (aka make the cravings worse.) But rational explanations will not pacify the pms monster. In these situations this is how my thought process usually goes:
Me sitting on the couch doing something on the computer, reading a book, or maybe even mid conversation when…
Hormones: Chocolate
Brain: Okay hormones try to eat a piece of fruit before you do anything rash
Hormones: There might be a year old chocolate bar in the back of the cupboard
Brain: You don’t need to go there. Wait, why are you getting up. PUT THE HERSHEY’S DOWN STEPHANIE
Hormones: Numnumnumnumnum sugar chocolate so good
Brain: And you call yourself an evolved human being

One of my typical cravings

One of my typical cravings

Sometimes it’s a losing battle, but having a small stash of high quality dark chocolate (with sea salt… mmmm) on hand never hurts when the craving strikes. The herbal booklet recommends bitter flavor therapy. The idea is that increasing bitter flavors in the diet (such as kale, collards, dandelion greens, lettuce, mustard greens, broccoli, parsley, watercress, and arugula) will enhance liver function which in turn regulates blood sugar levels. This can also be done with herbal bitters (tinctures) taken in water.

Cramps: If I were to start an all-girl combat boot wearing punk band we would be called The Menstrual Cramps. Cramps happen during the first few days of the cycle when the uterus is shedding its lining. The pain ranges from mild to severe. Some women don’t have cramps at all. Some have them so bad it is acute to labor pains. I never had a problem with cramps during the first four years of my period. It was after high school when I stopped playing sports (meaning I was exercising 2-3 hours a day 5-6 days a week) that I began to get pretty severe cramps.  My doctor recommended 600 mg of Aleve (Active ingredient: Naproxen) every 12 hours when I needed a pain reliever. Compared to most pharmameuticals, Naproxen, Ibuprofen, and Ketoprofen (the three drugs commonly used to counteract cramps) are pretty safe to use, but my stance on pharmaceuticals is that I don’t want to take them unless I really need to. If there is another way for me to treat the problem using a natural home remedy, then I would rather do it that way. So far I have had a 100% success rate when it comes to treating cramps the natural way. The supplement that I started using recently is Rainbow Light Food Based PMS Relief Dietary Supplement. I found it at a natural food store by my house. Mainly any supplement you use for cramp relieve will contain some antispasmodic herbs such as Rosemary, Catnip, Ginger, St. John’s Wort, Dandelion, the list goes on) as well as vitamins (E and B6 for example) and minerals (magnesium and chromium) which give total body support. I have also taken just a magnesium supplement and some fish oil caplets and that has done the trick. Compared to taking Aleve, which just masked the pain, I feel like taking herbs and vitamins did more to help the actual process of menstruation.
Also a side note* When I stopped consuming animal products I stopped getting cramps completely and my cycle was the most regular it had ever been (28 days on the dot.) I’m not advocating a vegan diet because I’m not even vegan, it is just an interesting side note I thought I would share*

Tampons and Pads: If you’re like me you might think that tampons and pads are a necessity and that there is not a lot that can be done sidestep this fact. But alas! Gone are the days where the only two options are diaper-pad or chemically laden synthetic tampon. Here are my problems with pads and tampons:
-They are expensive. I usually end of dropping $10-20 every month on pads and tampons
-They are not environmentally friendly. Pads and tampons (as well as wrappers and boxes) wind up in landfills and don’t break down.
-They are not safe. Pads and tampons contain harsh chemicals and are usually cheaply made from synthetic material such as bleached rayon, cotton, and plastic. That is going directly into your vagina. A friend told me that something “the kids are doing now days” is soaking tampons in alcohol in order to get drunk (I was pretty horrified by this) but it works because whatever is in the tampon will enter directly into the blood stream. That made me really ponder how safe it is to be putting this chemical concoction in my system.
And even besides that fact menstrual blood is absorbed into the pad/tampon and then sits for hours, creating a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

There are alternatives to this. Before running away in horror at the thought of a menstrual cup watch this video. It changed my perspective.

Another alternative which I was pleasantly surprised to see at the store was sea sponge tampons. They are honestly only a bit more expensive then the nicest box of tampons, but they are reusable for six months and they are about as natural as you can get. I think that’s pretty awesome.
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Even though there are other ways to go besides pads and tampons, they are what most of us grew up using, and they are extremely convenient in an emergency when your cup or sponge isn’t on hand. In that case look for 100% cotton pads and tampons.

Birth Control: The final topic I will address is birth control.
I had a pretty bad experience with birth control so my opinion is somewhat one sided. Most of my friends are on birth control, and the main reason isn’t to avoid unwanted pregnancy, it is to help regulate their period. Taking birth control gives one complete control over whether to even have  period or not.
I can’t say whether or not birth control is right or wrong, but it is pretty creepy and likened to Brave New World if you really think about it. I went to a gynecologist when I was thinking about going on it. She was extremely pushy bordering forceful and so I took her prescription and tried it out for about two months. It was absolutely awful. I gained weight, I got pretty bad acne, I felt terrible and just something didn’t feel right about taking this tiny white pill every night. I felt like I was trying to control my body, but it just made me confused. It’s true, I was able to control my period and even skip it all together if I wanted to, but it didn’t feel like it was good for me. After I stopped taking it I had my period for 9 days. I realized from then on that my body is not something I need to have reigning control over, it is my link to nature. It’s no coincidence that a woman’s cycle is the same as the moon. I just need to listen to it and appreciate it for what it is.
moon-5-lovely-woman

Resources:
http://women.webmd.com/tc/normal-menstrual-cycle-normal-menstrual-cycle
http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menstruation.cfm
http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/a-month-in-the-life-of-your-hormones-107587
http://www.wikihow.com/Decide-About-Using-a-Menstrual-Cup

5 More Reasons to Avoid Sugar (From a Beauty Perspective)

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The more I hear about the white stuff, the more I think that it should be eliminated from the diet completely, or at least consumed in infinitesimal portions.
I never realized how toxic sugar is because I grew up eating it. Cookies, candy, chocolate bars, cakes, cinnamon rolls, and all of the other devilish Cs made regular appearances in the kitchen. The sugary sweet stuff tainted my taste buds. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the counter while my mom was baking cookies and sticking my hand in the sugar bag then licking it clean. Sugar made everything taste better. A spoonful helps the medicine go down right?
The reason I was able to so readily believe this is because I am young, and I can eat all of the sugary doughnuts my heart desires and not see the effects just yet. But the more I read about sugar, the more I realize just how destructive it can be.

The Breakdown:
There are several types of sweeteners
♦Cane Sugar
♦Raw Sugar
♦White Sugar
♦Brown Sugar
♦Honey
♦High Fructose Corn Syrup
♦Agave

There is much debate about which is the “better” sugar to eat. Super refined sugars have tons of chemicals added to them and are stripped of all nutrients, so in my opinion it is probably not better, but certainly less harmful to stick to natural (aka unrefined) sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. Keep in mind that any type of sugar will cause a spike in insulin levels. My rant today is mainly about processed sugar.

There are a seemingly infinite amount of reasons to avoid sugar that range from diabetes to its addictive drug like qualities. In a nutshell, sugar enters the body void of any nutritious value whatsoever and extracts nutrients in order to make up for it’s deficiencies. So it not only brings nothing to the table, it also takes away valuable nutrients that the body needs. Think of annoying Uncle Ernie who shows up at thanksgiving, eats half the food, makes everyone uncomfortable with some pervy jokes, then passes out on the couch in a turkey coma. That’s sugar.

It’s not easy to avoid the stuff though. Some of my favorite foods have sugar as the first or second ingredient. Creme Brulee? Frappuccinos? Even Kombucha. And I can usually rationalize it by telling myself “Okay this one cookie isn’t going to give me diabetes” which in retrospect is true, but using that rationalization is dangerous when sugar is lurking at every meal. I find it helpful to remember that I love my body and I don’t want to undo all of the goodness I put into it, both inside and out. So here are five more reasons you might want to remember the next time that cookie is staring you down.

1. Aging- There is a slew of sciencey stuff that can explain why it is that sugar is linked to aging. I won’t break it down on the molecular level but I can tell you that I have experienced this first hand.  One morning after a “sugar hangover” I looked in the mirror and literally jumped back. For a split second it looked as if I had aged twenty years! Upon closer inspection I realized that I had just imagined it, but my skin definitely lacked it’s normal glow, and took on a dullish grey tinge. It was not flattering. Even my eyes weren’t as clear as they usually were. I knew sugar was the culprit.

2. Acne- Another direct correlation that I have experienced first hand. During my first year of college I was eating absolute crap. I hated the food in the dining commons and I was too lazy to hoof it on the bus to go buy groceries so I pretty much lived off of reeses pb cups and gummy worms from the vending machine. ACK! My skin was constantly breaking out from all of the sugar. Again sugar makes it impossible to have a clear complexion

3. Weight Gain– This one is given. The idea of carbs making you fat or fat making you fat are both debatable ideas. Overconsumption of sugar leads to weight gain. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. At the end of the day sugar is just empty calories and those empty calories have to get stored somewhere.

4. Teeth- Have you ever sucked on a lollipop or drank a soda and felt a film of sticky grainy stuff on your teeth? That’s sugar breaking the enamel down and creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and plaque to build up. Hello yellow teeth and cavities. Your teeth are awesome at masticating food for you. Give them a little love! Brush, floss, and remember that they don’t appreciate sugar.

5. Vitality- That ever elusive word. I think that vitality is someone’s overall well being. It is that luster that makes them glow, that sparkle in their eye. Vitality is in a person’s smile, the way their hair shines, the overall energy they put out. Sugar will put a serious damper on all of the above.

I will leave you with this thought. All things in moderation, but just be conscious of how certain things will affect your body. Ask yourself: Is this really what I want? The answer might surprise you.

Water Fluoridation and Toothpaste

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In case you didn’t already know, the US fluoridates its drinking water. For a more in depth look at this practice you can go to this website, or this one, or read this Harvard University study that concludes that children in communities with fluoridated water have lower IQ scores.
I have two beefs with the government putting a toxic chemical in my water.

1. They’re putting a toxic chemical in my water. This is the water I drink, bath in, wash my face with, cook my pasta, water my herbs, etc. I have absolutely no say in the matter even though it is my body they are poisoning.

2. They are disguising it as a mega health benefit, as if they are doing me the favor even though
a) The “benefits” of fluoride can only come from topical use
b) It is illegal to administer a drug to a patient without their consent. Yes, fluoride is considered a drug by the FDA. Yes, you can buy it in pill form at the pharmacy.
c) The fluoride that has been recognized for it’s health benefits is Calcium Fluoride, a natural occurring element in some spring water. The crap they are putting in my water is Sodium Fluoride, a byproduct of the fertilizer industry (how convenient) also used in rat poisoning and shown to be 85 times more toxic than Calcium Fluoride.

Fluoride also has a nasty little habit of accumulating on the pineal gland. The pineal gland (also known as the “Third Eye,” referred to by Descartes as “The principal seat of the soul”) is critical in producing melatonin (The stuff that regulates sleeping patterns and sexual development) as well as a slew of other super important functions. Even more creepy than this is that fluoride used to be prescribed as a drug to combat patients with an over-active thyroid, and it worked. The best part is that the amount that was prescribed was pretty low- about 2-5 milligrams per day over several months- which is well within the range of the amount ingested by people in fluoridated communities. Wow, and I didn’t even need a prescription! Thanks but no thanks, the last I remember my thyroid does not need to be suppressed. An under-active thyroid can lead to a whole bunch of junk including fatigue, muscle/joint pain, depression, weight gain, menstrual disturbances, impaired fertility, impaired memory, and inability to concentrate. Hmmm… sounds familiar.

And on top of everything else fluoride is found in extremely concentrated amounts in… where else but the stuff I use to brush my teeth. Obviously toothpaste is not meant to be ingested, but let’s be honest it’s nearly impossible to not swallow just a teeny bit. But in that teeny bit is probably more than I would get drinking tap water all day. Here are a few of the things that I do in order to squelch my fluoride intake:

1. I buy non-fluoridated toothpaste. I stopped using any fluoridated toothpaste about a year ago and I will never go back. It was weird at first because it’s not the chemical laden crap I was used to, but recently I used some crest at a friends house and I was so surprised at how awful it tasted. My favorite brand is Jason’s non fluoridated line. There are quite a few other brands that make natural toothpaste (Tom’s does and I’ve seen a few at Trader Joe’s) but Jason’s Sea Fresh is the best toothpaste I have ever tried. It is so fresh and pleasant and it gets all foamy, which aside from it being non toxic is probably my favorite part.

2. I don’t drink tap water because I know that my community fluoridates its water (I found out by going here and selecting my state). The thing about tap water is that fluoride is not the freakiest thing in there by far cough* Chloramine cough*. A friend of mine is currently in the process of building a distiller for me (so pumped!) Other ways of getting access to non toxic water include reverse osmosis (I really have no clue what that is), buying spring water (be weary of plastic though, there are water stores and machines where you can bring your own container), having a well, trading a kidney on the black market, and living on an iceberg.

3. Processed foods and beverages more often than not contain fluoride if water is a main ingredient (grape juice, soda, gusher’s, whatever)

I’ve spoken my piece about fluoride. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter.