Toxins are all around us and your lifestyle is often a big culprit for increasing the amount that you’re exposed to. We often worry about the food we’re putting in our bodies and pay a lot less attention to what we’re putting on our skin and exposing ourselves to when we clean our homes. Personal hygiene products, cosmetics and cleaning products are full of chemicals and other toxins that have scary effects on health and wellbeing. Taking steps to reduce your exposure to toxins by swapping toxin laden products for more natural alternatives can go a long way towards avoiding the health risks associated with toxins.
A lot of personal hygiene and toiletries contain nasties, which is scary stuff when you consider how many products the average person uses. Here are just a few of the toxins you’re being exposed to:
Formaldehyde is often produced as a byproduct of ingredients found in deodorants, liquid soaps and shampoos.
Phthalates are an endocrine disruptor and are known to be able to mimic estrogen and other hormones, which can affect lots of processes in the body. You’ll find phthalates in many shower gels, shampoos, hairsprays, perfumes and nail polishes.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is found in most products that foam and lather and is a common culprit for skin irritation. Its effects could be much worse though and there are fears that it could be carcinogenic.
Toluene is featured in a lot of hair gels, hairsprays and perfumes. It’s a neurotoxin that mimics the effects of estrogen. It’s also linked to liver damage and asthma.
Propylene glycol is another common ingredient in toiletries. It’s also used in industrial antifreeze!
Triclosan is another endocrine disruptor. Thanks to its antibacterial qualities, it’s included in deodorants, hand soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash and even vaginal washes. It can potentially break down into dioxin, a carcinogenic.
How to avoid toxins:
There are lots of natural and organic cosmetics brand hitting the shelves and they’re a great alternative to traditional cosmetics. Check the labels carefully though as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean toxin free. What you really want to look for is “clean beauty” brands and products. For example, clean beauty lipsticks are usually made from a range of natural oils, while powders can be made from cornstarch.
Lots of your favorite cosmetics contain a whole host of toxins.
Some of the big ones include phthalates and Triclosan. These are known to be endocrine disruptors that mimic the effects of hormones such as estrogen. According to research from the University of Maryland, phthalates can cause reproductive abnormalities and stunt testosterone levels and fertility in men. For women, they’ve been linked to an increased risk of premature deliveries.
BHA and BHT are used as preservatives so that your cosmetics have a longer shelf life. They’re also endocrine disruptors and are linked to skin allergies.
If you’re already aware of the risk of toxins in your cosmetics, it’s probably because of parabens. These are also used as preservatives and they can penetrate the skin very easily. So much so that traces of them have been found in breast cancer tissue! It’s thought that they can affect reproduction, the nervous system and the immune system so their effects could be widespread.
A few other nasties that can lurk in your make-up:
How to avoid toxins:
Ideally, you want to be using products with these nasties as little as possible. Have a good look at the ingredients before you buy and avoid anything that you’re not sure about. There are lots of natural beauty alternatives on the market these days but check the labels as they can still contain a few toxins.
Cleaning products are another common culprit for toxins, especially chemicals. This is a big worry when you consider that a lot of the time, you’re cleaning in areas with little ventilation such as bathrooms. This makes it a lot more likely that you’ll inhale chemicals from the products.
A few things to think about when it comes to cleaning products:
How to avoid toxins:
Make your own cleaning products with natural ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. It does require a bit more in the way of elbow grease but you get great piece of mind that you’re not risking your health.
Still concerned about what to do?
If you've made it this far in the article, you may be concerned about the impact of toxic load. If you are, there are a lot of things that you can do to become informed of your current state or to remedy the issue.
First and foremost - Get Tested!!
I offer a variety of private lab testing options that allow you to see the state of your toxic load and to gage your exposure to a variety of chemicals and heavy metals. Some of your options are as follows:
Want to know about more options for decreasing your toxic load? I offer gentle herbal detox programs, and 1:1 coaching for detoxifying your home and lifestyle.
15 minute information consultations are always free. Schedule today!
In Health and Wellness,
How to Control Stress and Anxiety with Good Food!
How Stress Mounts up when you are Busy.
Stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, are rapidly reaching epidemic proportions. Stress can build up in a busy lifestyle when you are not prepared for a looming deadline, have a never-ending-to-do list, have anxious feelings that there is something you have forgotten to do, or perhaps feel that you are falling behind in your work.
When it gets a bit too much for you to handle, you are tempted to throw in the towel and find something decadent, but comforting, to eat. Fries and cakes will probably be your first choice, but filling up on these foods will more than likely leave you feeling more anxious than ever.
Depending on the severity of the stress, which in some cases will definitely need medical intervention and possible medication, research has shown that anxiety and stress can be controlled with food.
Not Just Any Food!
Studies have shown that there are certain foods which have been proved to reduce stress levels. Most of the foods do not take hours to prepare, and for busy folk, will be quick-to-make snacks or meals.
Here are some of the most common foods to use when anxious:
All the above foods, as well as others like avocados, and dark green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce, are beneficial for helping you cope with anxiety. They contain vitamins and minerals that are known to calm the mind and body. At the same time, your energy levels get a boost, motivating you to get some exercise, which will also stabilize your mood.
Foods that should be avoided when you are stressed.
Just as important as it is to eat the right foods to help ease anxiety, it is even more important to make sure you do not eat food that will aggravate your stress.
Here are some critical foods to stay away from:
All refined foods like cakes, pasta, rolls, cookies, and bread. These foods do not have any fiber to slow down the digestion of all the flour and sugar. Glucose levels go through the roof and spike the release of cortisol, which makes you crave even more of the same bad stuff.
Don’t go for a so-called healthy granola bar. It is just a sugar-rich candy bar with a few seeds added. Unless the ingredients are raw without sugars added, avoid these . Avoid other sweets as well.
Skip the deadly, delicious ice cream, universally favorite comfort food of the masses. The high sugar content will raise the cortisol levels, and lead to raised anxiety and more stress. Avoid fried foods as much as possible, as even the ever-popular French fries is a big no-no! This comfort food is little more than unhealthy saturated fats, and greasy carbs.
Finally, something to remember.
Overcoming anxiety without medication, or even with reduced medication, involves making permanent lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to your diet, and getting some exercise.
Healthy eating and exercise are one of the best ways to control stress. Always make sure that you drink enough water, as studies have found that many folks who have persistent stress, are also somewhat dehydrated, which is known to cause more anxiety.
If you are taking medication for stress, do not stop taking it, or even reducing medication, without discussing it with your doctor/practitioner. Getting in a better state of mind by choosing the right foods, is not a call to toss your meds!
Valerian is one of those types of herbs that everyone seems to know about, and everyone seems to have a story about. For me, this herb falls into the subheading of "standard household herb", as it is a critical helper for the nervous system and assists adults and children alike with rest, relaxation, and more substantial sleep.
Despite it being a wonderful sedating herb and an ally to the nervous system, it has a myriad of other uses! The skin, issues with spastic pain, night terrors, migraines, and even epilepsy are some of the traditional ways this plant has been used.
Enjoy this new updated monograph below and let me know how Valerian has helped you! Want to know more about this herbal ally or have questions about options for natural/herbal medicine? Please feel free to reach out.
In health and wellness,
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) has been used as a medicinal for nearly 1000 years and has a tremendously extensive materia medica in a multitude of cultures. In this monograph learn a bit more about this beautiful forest dwelling mushroom, a bit of its history, and what clinical trials and modern science are teaching us about this healing plant.
You have no doubt heard about the importance of mapping your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) when it comes to fertility and ovulation, but did you know that your BBT can also reveal so much more?
Often times our BBT can reveal issues with fertility in regard to missed ovulation months, or chronically low temperature which can potentially point to a thyroid issue. It can also reveal delayed ovulation, commonly seen in older moms.
So why is it important to track your BBT? Obviously if you are trying to conceive its important to know what your cycle is doing instead of just using an online app. Often times I've had patients/clients come to see me who are using online apps to track ovulation, however many of these online programs don't track YOUR body, but instead give you the general ovulation cycles for the physiology of a healthy 25 year old female. Since we are all different, this can often be misleading and disheartening to individuals seeking to track their fertile window or hormonal health.
Since its Wellness Wednesday, I wanted to share with you a bit more info about the BBT, what it is, what it means, how to track it for ovulation cycles, but also how to potentially get a heads up on your hormonal health as well.
I hope you enjoy this article!
In Health and Wellness,
Petra - DNM, CHT
Sure, we receive sex education in school, we of course know the basics of how our body works, but away from anatomy and physiology classes, has anyone ever sat you down to discuss exactly what happens with your hormones during your cycle?
Your body is amazing and creates a harmony and balance all its own throughout the month. However, sometimes due to environmental exposure, hormonal imbalance, dietary issues, stress, or even the rise and fall of daily life, our natural balance can become skewed. When this happens we can run into problems which can manifest as issues with our menstrual cycle. Fibroids, endometriosis, issues with infertility, early onset of peri-menopause, or uncomfortable symptoms associated with peri menopause and menopause (to simply name a few) are some of the many issues that can be impacted by hormonal imbalance.
Unlike in other articles, I will not be offering information on herbs, supplements, or lifestyle modifications, but instead my goal is to educate you on the three stages of your cycle and the various hormones that are released in your body along with what they do and how they work.
I hope you enjoy the article. If you would like to reach out and speak to me more about women's health, please feel free to contact me (contact info in webpage), or send a direct message via one of the clinic's various social media outlets.
In health and wellness,
Petra - DNM, CHT
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), we know it for its beautiful scent and volatile oils. It is one of our basic gentle sedative plants, as it nourishes and sustains the nervous system.
Yet there is so much more to Lemon Balm than calming and fragrant tea. In this monograph, explore the herb for its other properties, such as its anti-viral actions against herpes simplex, its helpful actions in autonomic disorders, neuralgic pains, and its more modern uses as an essential oil and hydrosol.
I hope you enjoy this learning opportunity!
Petra - Doctor of Natural Medicine, Clinical Herbal Therapist
With spring now upon us, we are coming into the time when many of our most familiar herbs are starting to become readily available!
For this Monday's monograph, we will be exploring an often overlooked and very common herb that holds a tremendous amount of healing potential for our digestive tract, skin, and mucosal membranes throughout the body.
Also, chickweed has now been clinically shown to be beneficial in the reduction of lipomas and other fatty tumours, and has been show to help balance fats and lipids and to assist in weightloss.
There are literally hundreds of possibilities for this wonderful herb!
I hope you enjoy this downloadable monograph and enjoy reading about this powerful but common herbal ally.
Please do not self dose, contact an appropriate practitioner for guidance before starting herbal medicine.
In health and wellness,
Doctor of Natural Medicine and Clinical Herbal Therapist
If you could make one small change today, what would it be?
Go to bed earlier and sleep longer – this is what research proposes.
Sleep is one of the few universal behaviors among mammals and birds, which suggests that it performs an important function. Although it feels necessary to recover from moving and exercising our bodies, studies show that sleep deprivation does not damage the body. On the other hand, it appears that sleep is essential for normal brain functioning, and mental exercise increases the demand for deep sleep.
The stages of sleep tend to follow an orderly sequence:
Sleep deprivation studies show numerous negative consequences not only to performance (fatigue, poor decision-making abilities, lack of energy) and memory (difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, trouble remembering), but also to overall health – physical (weight gain, high blood pressure, compromised immune system) and mental (irritability, mood swings, symptoms of anxiety and depression).
Sleep has such a broad and significant influence because during the restoration stages there is a release of a number of hormones, regulating various systems in our bodies, such as ghrelin and leptin (regulating hunger/body weight), cortisol (involved in metabolism, stress and immune response), growth hormone (essential for tissue repair), oxytocin (aka “love hormone” involved in social behavior).
Additionally, both serotonin and dopamine – two essential neurotransmitters for our mental health and digestion (along the Gut-Brain Axis which I wrote about here – link to previous article?) – are also involved in the sleep cycle. Last but not least, during sleep the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the flight-or-flight response gets a rest, and so do we – from various stressors or anxious thoughts we might have on our minds.
Bobbie Miteva, MA, RTC
If you, or someone you know is suffering from sleep issues due to stress, anxiety, depression, or situational difficulties, please reach out to Bobbie for an appointment by clicking here
Spring is a time for renewal, as the snows give way to muddy patches of grass and the emergence of flowers such as crocus and snow drops, it is a time for hope and happiness as the restorative change of the seasons come upon us. There is a resilience of nature that can be seen and not ignored as everything begins to bloom and change, the flowers are opening, the trees are giving life to new leaves, and the birds are eagerly singing in the early morning.
In many places in the world this is also a time when the emergence of pollen from those beautiful blooming things give rise to seasonal allergies. I know that during this time of year I can look outside and see a soft green/gold sheen of tree pollen covering the cars. This is also the time of season when stuffy nosed clients are calling to ask if there is anything they can do naturally to relieve their discomfort. As with so many things, nature seems to have a plant (or many) for every malady.
I think it is so important to know not only what herbs are available to us, but also to know what an allergy is, how the body responds to it systemically, and what we can do to better assist ourselves. In this article, I have discussed allergies beyond seasonal discomfort and have instead tried to give a broader understanding to this very large topic.
Before we begin:
I am not a Medical Doctor (MD), nor are any of the suggestions or recommendations I am about to make meant to be a substitute for advice from your MD, or as a substitute for any prescriptions you may be taking. Any suggestions followed will be the responsibility of the reader, and are stated with the intention of interest and education. If you have a health issue, please see an appropriate practitioner.
A Brief Summary on Allergies:
In medical texts, an allergy is described as an immune response to a foreign antigen that results in inflammation and/or organ dysfunction. Allergies can range from life threatening to annoying and include systemic anaphylaxis (life threatening), laryngeal edema (swelling of the throat), transfusion reactions, bronchospasm (cough or swelling/spasms of the respiratory tract), vasculitis (swelling of the blood vessels when the body’s immune system attacks the blood vessels by mistake), angioedema (swelling of the lower layer of skin and tissue just under the skin – often occurs in the face, tongue, larynx, abdomen, or arms and legs), urticaria (hives), eczematous dermatitis (type of eczema), hay fever (generally an itchy/runny nose), rhinitis (stuffed nose), and conjunctivitis (itchy/watery eyes, can also be an infection).
Allergies can be trigged by many things and include inhalation (pollen, dust mites etc.), direct contact (think of poison ivy), ingestion (eating or drinking), or injection (bee sting, drugs).
Most commonly, allergic responses may be caused and sustained by occupational exposures to allergens, and by foods, animals, fungal spores, metals, rubber products, and other allergy causing agents. The most severe types of allergic reactions are often associated with bee stings, penicillin products, radiological contrast media (the contrast ingested or injected for radiological imaging) and latex.
Since everyone is different it is always wise to find out what your allergy triggers are, this can be done with help from your Medical Doctor and Allergist.
The general cause of allergies is not entirely known, however the incidence of allergic diseases is increasing. This trend, though not fully understood is partially explained by one widely held theory called the “Hygiene hypothesis”. This theory proposes that infections in early life are critically important in maturation of the immune response and bias the immune system against the development of allergies. It is suggested that the high prevalence of allergic disease is the penalty for the decreased exposure to infection that has resulted from improvements in sanitation and health care.
In my own opinion, I feel that the common western lifestyle is another contributor to allergies. Generally, it is very common to have a diet rich in processed foods that have been exposed to chemicals from mechanical processing and other chemicals such as the presence of xeno-estrogens caused by the storage of foods in plastic. I feel that the majority of these chemicals build up in the liver (our body’s main detoxification organ) and cause liver sluggishness and the buildup of toxins which contribute to an over-active immune system.
Normally, the immune system does not make detectable responses to the many environmental substances to which it is exposed to daily. Many of us do not have to concern ourselves when we come into contact with a dog or cat, or if we are stung by a bee. However, in an allergic reaction, initial exposure to an otherwise harmless substance triggers a rapid immune reaction.
The immune system has two main functions: first, to identify germs and parasites that may cause damage to the body; and second, to repel attacks by these organisms with appropriate defense mechanisms.
Allergic reactions can occur when immune functions are turned on by any agent whether it is infection, pollen, pet dander, and so forth- that is rich with allergy causing antigens. Once the immune system has been sensitized, repeat exposures result in the binding of specific immunoglobulins (antibodies) or the activation of immunologically active cells (these can be mast cells, basophils, or killer T-cells).
The unfortunate reaction to all of this is that these can release inflammatory chemicals such as histamines, kinins, leukotrienes, and interleukins that, acting locally or systemically, create various allergic symptoms.
In addition, when we consider food allergies or other environmental sensitivities, if long term exposure to mild allergies continue, then the body’s inflammatory cycle may be triggered, and when the body is in a state of inflammation for an extended period of time, chronic inflammation may lead to systemic complications or disease.
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
Symptoms may vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with the allergen.
Natural Suggestions for Allergies:
Since allergic reactions come from the immune system, there are a few crucial herbal actions that one needs in any formula for acute or chronic allergies. Some of these include adaptogens, immuno-modulators, immune tonics, histamine balancers, liver tonics, bitters, astringents, and anti-inflammatories are all crucial foundational actions in any herbal formulation for allergies.
Before trying any herbal formula, keep in mind that herbs can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Be certain to introduce the herbs slowly and please see an appropriate practitioner before using herbal remedies. Do not self dose.
Commonly Used Herbs:
Commonly Used Supplements:
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, if you have any questions you can contact me directly or reach out to the office.
In health and wellness,
Petra Sovcov is not a Medical Doctor (MD) nor a Naturopath (ND), she is a Clinical Herbal Therapist (CHT) and holds a Doctorate in Natural Medicine (DNM). The suggestions or recommendations made on this site are not meant to be a substitute for advice from your MD, or as a substitute for any prescriptions you may be taking. Suggestions followed will be the responsibility of the reader, and are stated with the intention of interest and education only. If you have a health issue, please see your primary care physician (MD) first and foremost.