Health Alert

What Are You Doing To Prevent Breast Cancer?

How many times do we read something in the paper or see a news item and realize that we’ve been eating something or not eating something or doing something or not doing something that can have a big effect on our health? Happens to me all the time.

That’s why I was so chuffed recently to find out that I’ve been doing several things that could help prevent me from having breast cancer. I watched my mother go through a mastectomy with lymph node resection and it wasn’t something I ever wanted to go through myself, but I must confess that I didn’t give prevention much thought. I guess I thought, like many women, that it’s all a roll of the dice whether we get breast cancer or not.

Well, au contraire to the max, as my daughter says. It turns out that I’m doing several things that might lower my chances of getting breast cancer or give me a better chance of surviving breast cancer if I do develop it. This is a good thing, because, unfortunately, I’m also doing several things that increase my chances of getting it. But, first the good news for me and any of you who are doing these good things.

I drink green tea, take Vitamin D daily, take Black Cohosh for menopausal symptoms and take Omega-3 in addition to eating fish at least twice a week. All of these things are proven to reduce my chances of getting breast cancer. I also eat lots of cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, lightly steamed to preserve their good phytonutrients. I don’t eat much red meat and I try to eat organic produce and naturally raised meat.

Recent studies have shown that all of these things significantly reduce breast cancer risk, so if you’re not doing them, here’s your chance to change your lifestyle and increase your odds of living to a ripe old age. So, what am I doing – and what may you be doing – that ups our chances of developing breast cancer?

Well, I don’t exercise nearly enough. I spend hours everyday in front of my computer, which is packing on the ol’ pounds. Lack of exercise and being overweight are both risk factors for breast and other cancers. Worse, I drink more than one glass of wine at a time.

I don’t drink everyday – more like Friday night and the occasional dinner out, and I don’t drink more than two glasses, but I should stick with one glass at a time if I want to stay on the safe side. I’m also trying to walk down our half-mile long driveway at least a couple times a week to get the mail. I figure that’s a start toward a more extensive walking campaign, but this is complicated by the start of hunting season here in Maine.

Walking is healthy exercise, but not if people are shooting at you, in the mistaken belief that you’re a deer. Nor is it likely that I’ll continue walking when the snow drifts are over my head in a couple of months. So, I guess I’ll have to join the kids in front of the Wii, which is so much fun that I don’t realize that it’s exercise until my aching muscles let me know about it the next day.

With all the pink ribbons flying around lately, thoughts of breast cancer are on our minds, so I thought it might be a good time to review some concrete, practical things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. I’m much more in favor of using natural methods to prevent breast cancer, rather than focusing on chemo and radiation and chemicals to “cure” it. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Health Alert, Natural weight loss

Xeno(estrogen) Phobia

Every day, most of us unwittingly put toxic substances into our body. These substances – xenoestrogens – increase our risk of everything from obesity to cancer. They’re in our food, our water and our personal care products. They’re even in the washer, so while you’re washing out the dirt, you’re washing IN toxins that are worse than any mud stain you’ve ever encountered. No one ever died from a grass stain, but people die from the effects of xenoestrogens in increasing numbers.

They also get fat. Xenoestrogens, which mimic the natural estrogen that our body needs and produces in appropriate amounts, increase belly fat. For this reason, alone, even without the extra risk of cancer and reproductive system problems, it would be a good idea if we could avoid them.

Unfortunately, that’s very hard to do. They’re in plastic, pesticides, animal feed, dish and laundry detergent and too many of the lotions, potions and cleansers we pour onto our skin every day.

When we eat xenoestrogens, they go through our liver, as it tries to detoxify them and eliminate them from our bodies. Our livers know what’s good for us and what’s bad and it valiantly tries to get rid of the bad stuff. It does a pretty good job and may eliminate up to 90% of xenoestrogens. But the other 10% gets into our system.

When we apply xenoestrogens to our skin though, they go into our bloodstream without going through the liver at all. That’s why we get 10 times as high a dose as when we ingest them. So, pour some dandruff or body shampoo on your hair and it goes right to your scalp and into your bloodstream. Because almost all commercial, non-organic shampoos – even the so-called “natural ones” contain xenoestrogens, there’s a pretty good chance that you got some along with the nice shiny body the shampoo promised you.

What to do? Well, there are a lot of things you can do to avoid this fat-increasing, cancer causing menace. Stop storing, freezing, cooking, eating or microwaving food in plastic. As much as possible, use alternatives to plastic. Glass or ceramic is the best choice.

Eat organic. This avoids pesticides, herbicides and the xenoestrogens in animal feed that gets into your steaks, chicken breasts and eggs. Also avoid using pesticides or herbicides at home. Buy personal care products that are certified organic by the USDA. Ditto for detergent for dishes and clothes. Avoid caffeine, because it raises estrogen levels in the body, which can contribute to the effect of xenoestrogens.

The best way to minimize damage from the chemicals and harmful substances in our food supply and in what comes in contact with our bodies, is by being very aware of what’s in them. Read labels. Research before you buy. Most of all, realize that it’s your responsiblility to do as much as you can to avoid what makes you fat and sick.

Eco-Conscious, Great Green Sites, Green Consumer, Health Alert, In the News

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Into The Water – 1,4-dioxane

Sometimes I feel like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, running just to keep up with developments in Green products. Bisphenol-A is discovered, then it’s banished, then we find out it didn’t really go completely away.

We learn which companies to trust – then find out that some of them have been lying on their labels or just leaving ingredients out of their label list. What’s a concerned consumer to do?

Take 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen and petrochemical. Now, wouldn’t you think that companies like Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Nature’s Gate and Aura Cacia – to name just a few – would do the right thing and list it on their products that contain it? And how can they get away with NOT listing it if it’s in their products?

Well, there’s a little loophole in the labeling laws – one that I wouldn’t expect ethical companies to take advantage of – but they do. 1,4-dioxane is considered a “contaminant”, not an ingredient. So, it doesn’t have to be listed as an ingredient. It’s produced as a by-product when a process called “ethoxylation” is used to cheaply make products milder when they contain harsh ingredients.

So, it’s in the product, but they don’t tell you it’s in the product, so you don’t KNOW that it’s in the product and that makes everything all right. Right? After all, consumers won’t mind when they find out that they’ve been putting this carcinogen in their dishpan, in their washer, on their kids, on their pets and on themselves.  And, so what if a little bit of it gets into the environment and filters through to the water table and into the soil. It’s not on the label, therefore, it’s not really there and it can’t hurt anyone, right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty burned up about this. If you can’t trust supposedly ethical, Greener than thou companies like Seventh Generation and Ecover, who can you trust? I’ve been paying more for their products over Clorox and other mega-companies who’ve just jumped on the Green bandwagon, because I wanted to support the companies who were Green before it was popular. Now, I’m rethinking that whole idea.

Do they really deserve my loyalty if they’re willing to lie by omission about a known carcinogen? I expect this kind of thing from mainstream manufacturers who have been doing it for years and getting away with it. It’s not a shock when I find that Dial, Lever, Johnson and Johnson, Ajax, Palmolive and Olay, for instance, also sell products with 1,4-dioxane in them and don’t list it on the label.

I need to hear from these companies that they’re not going to do this kind of thing again. I want to be assured that they’ll tell me everything – and I do mean everything – that’s in their products, no matter if it’s an ingredient, a contaminant or something that leeches out of the container into the product.

In the meantime, if you’d like to make sure that your personal care and cleaning products don’t contain 1,4-dioxane, The Organic Consumers Association, where I got most of this information, has a really nice Pocket Safety Guide to Personal Care and Cleaning Products that you can print out and take with you when you shop.They also have a lot of information on this and other subjects of interest to Green consumers.

Or, if you’d like to read about alternatives to products with carcinogens and hidden ingredients, you can stop by “Best of Mother Earth” where my friend, Karen recommends and sells several. I’d like to thank her for her post which alerted me to the 1,4-dioxane scandal in products from “natural” companies and for all the posts she writes about something she’s passionate about – the earth and all who live on it.

Health Alert

Trash That Plastic And Get Real

I don’t think there’s any question that plastic is losing its appeal with consumers. Like a lot of other things, plastic’s true cost on the environment and our bodies is making it look a lot more expensive when compared to natural materials. Bisphenol-A leaching from baby bottles and soft drink cans has recently been identified as a health threat and so have phthalates, which are used to soften plastic. Baby bibs made of polyvinylchloride were recalled because they contained lead.

Many of us are trying to eliminate or at least reduce the plastic items in our lives, but it’s not easy. When you look around your kitchen and bathroom, it may seem as though almost everything comes in plastic containers these days. Detergent, lotions, potions and food. For instance, where in the world can you find a bottle of ketchup that isn’t made from plastic? Or a bottle of shampoo?

If you’re under 45, you may not remember a world without plastic, but those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s remember when plastic was the alternative rather than the first choice for many things that are made from plastic now. The most common materials in those days were glass and stainless steel. Maybe it’s time to reconsider those two materials, along with other natural substances, as you try to remove plastic and its chemicals from your environment.

Impossible, you say, to find substitutes for plastic? Difficult, maybe, but it can be done. Let’s start with kitchen plastics. Many people started to use plastic when the microwave oven became the most common way to cook. Not a good idea. Heating plastic releases bisphenol-A and other toxins. Much better to use glass or corning ware. If you’re addicted to frozen dinners, at least remove them from their plastic trays and cook them on a dinner plate. I use an old glass crockpot cover over the plate also, instead of a plastic microwave cover.

For storing food, why not use glass jars? I use large pickle jars to store flour, grains and coffee. They make good cookie jars also. You can often find them or something similar at yard sales, where I find a lot of natural material containers. For drinking bottles, we use stainless steel bottles from Kleen Kanteen. Ditto for travel mugs for coffee. And for making the coffee, we use a stainless steel percolator that makes much better coffee – and keeps it hotter – than those drip coffeemakers with the plastic baskets and water reservoirs.

For dish soap, I use liquid glycerine soap. I bring it home from the local natural products store, where I fill my own glass container from a bulk barrel. At home, I use a funnel to pour it into stainless steel bottles with small tops. It’s easy to pour out a little at a time that way. One goes to each bathroom sink and tub to be used like any liquid soap, while one stays at the kitchen sink for dishwashing. I do the same for natural laundry soap, which I also buy in bulk.

Toiletries are a real problem when you’re trying to cut down on plastic, because almost everything comes in a plastic bottle, and glass isn’t practical in bathrooms, where it could be a safety hazard. One approach is to buy plastic bottles, but then pour everything into stainless steel bottles. Another approach is to cut down on unnecessary products by using dual purpose things.

Do you know that you can use one bar as a shampoo and a bath soap? Burt’s Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar With Oat Protein and Pro Vitamin B5 smells divine, lathers amazingly and cleans hair and skin without drying or irritation. There are other brands out there also. Shampoo bars don’t need preservatives because they don’t have water in them and they don’t need plastic packaging. They’re great for traveling and last just as long as a bottle of shampoo, if not longer.

But what about all those lotions and potions that we slather on our skin everyday? They’re all in plastic bottles and we need them, don’t we? Well, maybe not, but we sure do like them. So instead of giving up skin softeners, why not go natural and soften your skin at the same time? Olive oil, coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature and smells really nice), jojoba oil, almond oil, cocoa butter and shea butter are all wonderful for softening and conditioning skin and many of them come in non-plastic containers.

Buy them in large containers and put them into smaller containers that you can stash where you need them. I keep a container of jojoba oil in my shower, so that I can pour a couple of drops into my wet hands and apply it to my face. I have Rosacea and jojoba oil is very soothing. It moisturizes without making my skin oily. I have coconut oil in a little tin next to the sink, so that we can apply it after we wash dishes. My daughter, who gets chapped skin in the winter, has a small glass bottle of olive oil next to her bed, so that she can put it on her lips and cheeks at night.

These are just some of the ways you can reduce the plastic stuff in your life. As you add more naturally derived materials to your world, you’ll find that it’s easier to think of ways to do without plastic. The human race has only had plastic for about a hundred years, and it’s only in the last forty or so years that it’s become so much a part of our lives. Almost everything that’s made of plastic has a better, more natural counterpart. We just have to use our ingenuity and find it.

Health Alert, In the News

Health Care is Neither, Here’s Why

Everyone is weighing in on what type of health care plan we should have. Some people think it should be universal – a government funded and run system that covers everyone from cradle to grave. Other people think that’s too radical and prefer a system that more closely resembles what many people have now – privately run, for-profit health care insurance companies funded by employers and employees. My opinion is that it doesn’t much matter which of the current versions of health care plans eventually gets through Congress and into circulation. None of them will help very much because they don’t address the real health problems in America.

They’ll work for the pharmaceutical and food companies, who are the real cause of our health care crisis. They’ll work for the lobbyists who make sure that the drugging of America and the sorry state of our food supply aren’t even mentioned as a contributing factor in why so many people are sick in America or not as healthy as they could be. They’ll work for the Cancer Society and the Heart Association and the other organizations that have people wearing pink and donating money to “cure” the big diseases that kill so many of us. But they won’t help most of us get cured or – more importantly – prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the conditions that are so intimately connected with the “Big Three”: Obesity and Poor Nutrition. Nor will they do anything to address the fact that almost half of the population takes at least one prescription drug and almost all of us eat way too much sugar, empty calories and food with pesticide, fungicide and herbicide residue in it.

How in the world can we expect to be healthy when we eat crap? Sometimes, in the case of animals that have eaten feed made from other animals – literally. Does no one else think that it’s ironic that so many people take prescription medicine for heartburn, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes rather than make better food choices, eat less or exercise so that they’d lose enough weight to reduce or eliminate these problems?

And, even if everyone of us gets a health care plan, where are the doctors who will care for us? There aren’t enough general practice physicians now to see everyone who can afford to go to them. So, if all of a sudden there are millions more people able to go to a doctor, how will this work? It’s obvious that the educational system we have for producing doctors needs an overhaul immediately and that should be part of any health care plan. However, there are still quotas for how many doctors can be trained and it still costs way too much for that training. How about if doctors could get subsidies if they “gave back” to communities that need physicians? That would allow them to start their professional lives without the burden of huge loans to pay back.

And, how about if we go back to billing for doctor’s visits and not for procedures? That all started when insurance companies got involved, because the bean counters needed to have a code for every little thing that happened during a doctor/patient visit. It’s also how visits went from around a half hour to between ten and fifteen minutes. And, back to increasing the number of doctors again, that also would help with the time factor. A doctor just can’t get to know a patient in fifteen minutes. A patient can’t cover everything they need to say in that amount of time. Maybe if doctors had more time to talk to patients about eating healthier, losing weight and exercising, more people would get the message.

Unfortunately, because most people spend a lot more time watching TV than they do in their doctor’s office, it’s the drug companies with their endless commercials that are listened to and taken to heart. When did we accept the completely irrational idea that most of us need a prescription drug every day? Think back to as recently as twenty years ago. How many prescriptions did it take to keep you alive then? How many pills did our parents and their parents take? My grandfather lived to be 89 and never took so much as an aspirin. My mother lived to be 87 and, until the last few years of her life, never took anything except for two prescriptions for antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. When I heard about it, I told her about how cranberry juice can prevent them and she started drinking a small glass daily and never had any more problems.

And this leads to my last concern about how health care is viewed in this and other industrialized nations. Natural is bad and unreliable and only doctors and pharmaceutical companies know what’s good for us. Now, I’m not advocating that we completely avoid allopathic drugs. There’s a place for them in modern medicine and it would be foolish to say that they’re bad or worthless. On the other hand, I’m really tired of reading about how dangerous it is to rely on natural methods, because they’re unproven, don’t work and are outright dangerous. Dismissing all naturopathic treatments, herbs and home remedies as worthless is just wrong. There are many time-proven natural remedies that work as well – or better – than anything. I’m thinking of a recent study I just read about that found that dark honey worked better than dextromethorphan for coughs in children and another study on Manuka honey’s ability to cure MRSA infections – even ones that are resistant to Vancomycin.

I know from personal experience that drinking vinegar and honey helps my digestion and lowers my blood pressure. I also know that ginger helped my friend’s morning sickness and that cinnamon lowers blood sugar. Not all natural treatments are worthwhile, but then again, neither are all allopathic drugs and treatments. We need to use common sense for health care, which brings me back to why our nation’s brand of “health care” doesn’t care for our health. It focuses on fixing what’s wrong with us, instead of preventing what goes wrong if we don’t eat and live the way we should. Until we understand that, we’ll just keep getting sicker and no amount of drugs or money will be able to save us.

Health Alert

Is Your Baby’s Bottle Safe?

What is Bisphenol-A and why should you be concerned about it?

Bisphenol A is a hormone disruptor. It mimics estrogen in the human body and can have an estrogenizing effect on animals and humans when it’s absorbed into their bodies. In animal studies, it causes diabetes and disrupts the endocrine system. It leaches from polycarbonate, which is what most baby bottles are made from. All 5 of the major brands -Avent, Dr. Brown’s, Evenflo, Gerber and Playtex – leach Bisphenol-A, according to a recent government study.

Scientists and researchers warn that Bisphenol-A could have dangerous health problems like cancer, developmental delays and immune and neural system disorders. Because it’s used in so many products, it’s one of the top fifty products that the chemical industry produces and generates several million dollars a day in profits in Europe, Asia and the United States.

What are some other products that you might not want in your baby’s bottles?

Phthalates, which cause cancer and early puberty in animal studies are added to plastic to make it flexible. Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium often find their way into plastic as part of the molding process, and many chemicals are used to un-mold the products.

Is it possible to live without plastic and what are some alternatives?

Glass is a good alternative to plastic. For those of us over fifty, glass baby bottles were the norm and we managed to survive babyhood just fine. Breastfeeding, of course, is the best option for babies, but even so, bottles are needed sometimes. And for many reasons, breastfeeding isn’t always an option. Surely, your baby’s health is worth a try with using glass bottles.

If you can’t bring yourself to give up the light weight and shatterproof plastic, there are plastic bottles that are Bisphenol-A and phthalate-free. There are also safer sippy cups available for toddlers. And while you’re eliminating these plastic toxins from your baby, you might want to think about getting rid of plastic entirely, at least as much as possible.

Our planet is clogged with plastic. Our landfills are overflowing with plastic bags and junk that won’t go away for generations. Our oceans have more plastic than plankton in them. Sea creatures and fish choke to death from plastic six-pack rings and from eating plastic bags and packaging that looks like food to them. It’s not only our babies and children who are being harmed by plastic toxins. It’s our earth and our future that’s at stake.

activism, Eco-Conscious, Health Alert, In the News

Some Companies Will Do Anything to Keep BPA in Their Products

Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown,Del Monte, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council… These are the companies that met recently to come up with strategies to keep BPA from being banned in CA. According to an article at the Environmental Working Group’s web site, they also put up $500,00 to implement their plans.

One of their ideas is having a young pregnant woman giving speeches around the country in support of BPA’s good points. I’m not exactly sure what good things she could say about something that’s a proven endocrine system disruptor, but I’m sure they’d come up with something. They’re good at marketing slogans. Maybe, “Without BPA, What Would You Have to Worry About?”

At any rate, prepare yourself for whatever  the BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy comes up with to keep making money from something that poisons baby formula, soda and canned fruits and vegetables. While you’re waiting, you might want to totter on over to the EWG site and sign up to do some campaigning of your own against Big Business and its slimy tactics. Oh yes, and an email to the companies who think BPA is just ducky wouldn’t go amiss either. Tell them Lill – the DES Daughter – sent you.