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Switch to All-Natural Cleaners, Recipes Included! (Health Hacks, Volume III)

All natural cleaners are better for household useFor years I’ve had a thing. I’ve loved walking in to a recently cleaned room that smelled of bleach. Oh sure, my nostrils would burn, but in direct proportion to the degree to which my face was on fire I’d feel this satisfying sense that everything around me was sterile. I could eat off this floor! As much as this catch phrase makes me laugh, I’ll admit there’s something comforting about being in a perfectly sanitized environment.

All of that changed the day I walked into a space that smelled like lavender and tea tree oil. It was subtle and oh-so-pleasant, a stark contrast to the nose hair-singeing experiences of my past. So imagine my surprise to discover that this room was just as sterile as the bleach-soaked example above.

So for the latest installment of tiny-changes-you-can-make-that-will-impact-your-life-in-a-big-way, I want to ask you, dear reader: If you could get the same efficacy from non-toxic, all-natural cleaners, would you make the switch?

The Big Why

I hear people joke that everything causes cancer. Pesticides, air pollutants, skincare chemicals, plastics, food additives, and industrial compounds are just a few that come to mind. That sentiment is usually piggybacked by some variation of the following: Womp womp, it’s all just a lost cause.

I beg to differ, however. If we are exposed to cancer- and other disease causing-toxins day in and day out, shouldn’t we try to eliminate as many as we can control? Let us not throw our hands up in the air and proclaim keeping ourselves healthy an impossible task. Let us instead come from the perspective that every little bit matters.

Are They Really That Dangerous?Commercial cleaning products are highly toxic

Environmental experts say the average household contains 62 toxic chemicals. Typical cleaning products have been linked to acute hazards such as chemical burns and respiratory irritation, as well as chronic effects like asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, neurotoxicity and hormone disruption.

Let’s look at just one of these long-term effects more closely. Hormone disruptors either block messages the body is sending or mimic the hormones themselves. So we’re talking a high possibility of male birth defects and greater incidence of breast cancer as a potential cost of refusing to throw out your Clorox. Yikes.

Of course manufacturers argue that modest amounts of exposure to their products isn’t likely to be a problem, but what about the notion that frequent use of these chemicals adds to the body’s toxic burden–aka the number of chemicals stored in its tissues at a given time? It follows logic that consistent exposure has a cumulative effect.

And if that’s not scary enough, these same chemicals change the way our immune cells function, which regulates our reactions (or over-reactions) to the foods we eat. This indicates that exposure to toxins could be a major cause of the unprecedented increase in celiac disease and food intolerance.

But Is All-Natural Really Effective?

Lavender essential oil is a powerful antibacterial agent to use in your natural cleanersThe US National Library of Medicine published a study showing that certain plant essential oils, including those from lavender, have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are affective against salmonella, E. coli bacteria and even some strains of staph. The first two are the most common strains of food-borne bacteria, so if my Lavender Antibacterial Spray recipe can combat those, it’s ideal for use in my kitchen. (1)

Author Annie Hauser did a trial run of homemade all natural cleaners versus corporate chemicals and had this to say: “On the whole, homemade cleaning products are worth the effort. Not only do they save money, but also they can provide the same cleaning power as store-bought brands without harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia. Plus, despite what advertisers want you to think, you really can use the same natural products for multiple surfaces around your home.” (2)

I’ve been using all natural cleaners in my home for well over three years now and I’ve been thrilled with the results. But don’t take my word for it…it’s high time you see for yourself.

All Right, How Much is This Gonna Cost Me?

All of the ingredients in the recipes listed below can be acquired at your local grocery store and at online retailers. Buy them once and they will last a ridiculously long time—and as an added bonus, the cost savings will boggle your mind. An initial investment of about $30 will bring the cost of your cleaning supplies to mere cents per bottle over the lifetime of the ingredients.

It Sounds Like a Lot of Work

Trust me, it isn’t. Twenty minutes or so is all it takes to make all your products the first time, and then plan on about five minutes to throw together a refill. I use a label on each bottle large enough to include the recipe along with the cleaner’s name, so I don’t waste any time looking up what ingredients I need.

The five recipes that follow are sure to cover 95% of your home cleaning needs. I have yet to try a floor cleaner, wood polisher or laundry detergent that I love, but I will update when I do:

All-Purpose Cleaner
Since this gets near constant use in my house, I double this recipe and put it in a commercial-sized spray bottle.
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl to account for a LOT of foaming.
  2. Pour into a spray bottle.

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Lavender Antibacterial Spray
This super easy antibacterial spray smells amazing!
  1. Mix ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.

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De-greaser
Works like a charm on the stove top. Wipe with a slightly damp towel after using to remove all soap residue.
  1. Mix ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.

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Bathroom and Tile Cleanser
This creates a paste, so use a squirt bottle or a tub for storing. It also settles as it sits, so it needs to be well shaken before use, and occasionally requires more water to reconstitute the paste.
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl to account for foaming.
  2. Pour into a squirt bottle or tub for storing.

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Window Cleaner
Shake this one well before using. And for super streak-free windows, use newspaper for wiping.
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  1. Mix ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.

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Detoxify Everything (Health Hacks, Volume II)

It seems appropriate, in light of the fact that I have never consumed more cheese (chocolate/bacon/eggnog) than I have in the last two weeks, to do a post on detoxification. Around the holidays it’s easy to be aware of how polluted you feel, when indulgences wait around every corner, and your waistband gets tighter by the hour.

But even in our normal, mostly “healthy” lives, we are subjected to toxins on a daily basis—from pesticides on our veggies, to allergens in the air, to chemicals in our food-storage containers.

So this month’s health tip is to create detoxifying rituals to combat this constant exposure.

I’m going to start with the obvious one: drink more water. Drinking lots of water not only flushes toxins, it keeps our digestion regular and helps with weight loss. Furthermore, it makes our skin supple and allows our brains to run at maximum efficiency. Read tips on how to adopt this healthy habit into your routine here.

Then, Sweat It Out

You knew this was coming: of course exercise is on this list, because at the end of the day, strengthening your heart and circulatory system and maintaining agility is the key to vitality. But eliminating toxins is yet another bonus of working up a sweat.

A study published in Scientific World Journal (1) compared the amount of phthalates (a toxin found in personal care and household items) eliminated from the body based on the type of elimination—sweat or urine—and found that sweating was the superior method. In fact, the amount of toxin present in the sweat was twice that found in the urine. So flush your system with water, but don’t think that replaces a trip to the gym.

I’ve got great news though: even sitting in a sauna is an effective detox. As your body gets hotter and blood flow increases, toxins that are stored in body fat get released. These toxins might include pesticide residues and drugs—legal or otherwise.

Take Epsom salt baths to detoxifyThen, Soak It Away

I love any health tip that includes adding baths to the repertoire. The key here is to add 2 cups of Epsom salts, which contain magnesium and sulfate. The sulfates in Epsom salt help flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells. Your skin is highly porous, and adding the right minerals to your bathwater triggers reverse osmosis. This process actually pulls salt out of your body, and harmful toxins along with it.

As an added bonus, Epsom salt absorbed through the skin replenishes magnesium levels in the body. This helps produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical in the brain that creates feelings of calm and relaxation. Research shows that magnesium also increases energy and stamina. Experts believe that bathing with Epsom salt at least three times a week helps you to look better, feel better and gain more energy.

And get this! There are a gazillion more uses for Epsom salts, so please go read about them here. Then I bet you’ll want to thank me for telling you to take more baths and proving that they’re soo good for you.

You’re welcome.

Try Something Different

“So drink water, work out and take baths, that’s it?” you might be saying. “Those are things I already do!”

I know, isn’t that awesome? Just ramp it up a notch. And then check out these two things you might not be doing.

Take Activated CharcoalActivated charcoal flushes toxins

Activated Charcoal—not to be confused with charcoal used in your grill (giggle)— has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it. This in turn helps promote a healthy digestive tract by removing the very toxins that cause allergic reactions, oxidative damage and poor immune system function, in addition to reducing bloating and gas. Hurray!

To optimize your health, routinely cleanse the digestive tract by taking 10 grams of activated charcoal 90 minutes prior to each meal for two days, according to Dr. Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine, chiropractic and clinical nutritionist. During the cleanse, eat only organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat, and wild fish.

Oh and guess what else?

Activated charcoal can prevent hangovers. Dave Asprey, of Bulletproof Coffee Fame, suggests 2000 mg after you’re done drinking, in order to feel, well, bulletproof the morning after.

I like it.

Eat Broccoli Sprouts

There is so much talk about super foods it’s overwhelming to know where to begin. So if you only add one new thing to your diet, it ought to be these babies.

Broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane which greatly enhances detoxification, excreting mercury, carcinogens and air pollutants, just to name a few. Compared to vitamin C, which fights free radicals directly for approximately six hours after exposure, sulforaphane prompts our cells to make antioxidant proteins that can fight for more than 72 hours. Not only are these little powerhouses thought to combat cancer in multiple ways, studies suggest they contain 1000 times more nutrients than mature broccoli, and can even cause a reduction in symptoms of autism.

With a little patience, broccoli sprouts are easy to grow in your kitchen. You can get organic broccoli seeds here. Visit Ali and Tom’s amazing Elimination Diet site for instructions on how to grow them, and start reaping the benefits today of this simple addition to your wellness routine.

For a great list of other foods you should eat after a binge, check out this article.

And Now For Something Delicious

If you’re kicking off 2017 with a cleanse, juicing is probably top of your list. For that reason, I wanted to include one of my all-time favorite juice recipes, that just so happens to have extra detox properties due to the addition of beets. Since beets tend to have an earthy flavor (I’ve been told by more than one picky eater that they taste like dirt), the addition of fennel and apple work against that flavor profile, resulting in a juice that is just slightly sweet, deliciously refreshing, and not remotely dirt flavored. During a cleanse where grass-flavored green juices abound, I consider this combo almost a dessert-like treat.

Beets contain antioxidants and minerals that have been shown to be cleansing and detoxifying. These include betaine, which helps the liver cells eliminate toxins; pectin, which clears the toxins that have been removed so they don’t reincorporate back into the body; and betalains, which have high anti-inflammatory properties that encourage the detox process.

And there’s no need to peel raw beets before juicing. Just give them a scrub, roughly chop, and juice away.

 

Beet-Fennel Detox Juice
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds included
  • 1 small beet, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1 sweet apple, like Fuji or Honeycrisp, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 handful parsley, with stems
  1. Place all items into a high powered juice extractor and turn it on.
  2. Pour into a chilled glass, or place in freezer for 20 minutes before enjoying.

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*Of course, I should remind everyone that this blog is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.

 

 

 

Health Hacks You Need Now (Volume I): Drink More Water

Water Trio

We all know we should drink more water. And yet I still hear this craziness to a shocking degree:

“I hate water.” 

Say what?

First of all, to my mind, that is like saying you hate air. Air is—generally—odorless, just as water is typically flavorless. How can you hate the taste of…nothing?

Unless what you really mean is that you are bored. Bored by the blandness, the simplicity, the utterly unassuming quality of water. Water doesn’t come to the party wearing bubbles, or Red Dye No. 5. It won’t give you a buzz or make your booze taste anything but more, erm, watery. When your taste buds are used to partying with the likes of Mountain Dew and Gatorade, or Diet Coke and Snapple, water is like the wallflower that’s all too easy to ignore.

If this sounds like you, I beg you to indulge me. After all, you know how we sometimes drink nasty-tasting cough syrup because it will banish our cold symptoms and restore health? Or get painful shots to prevent diseases? How about imbibing ener-G concoctions the color of battery acid in order to get a quick pick-me-up during the 3 o’clock slump? None of those acts is as pleasurable as a massage followed by a nap, but we do them anyway, in the name of increased productivity, greater health and well-being, and higher energy.

So why this resistance to water–which is surely less grotesque than some of the above scenarios–when it is just so dang obvious that it’s good for us?

Here are a few tips and tidbits designed to abolish your excuses. And if you already subscribe to the notion that water is the JAM, then hopefully these hacks will help you drink even more of it and be an even bigger badass of wellness.

Invest in a Quart Jar

And then fill it up and place it next to your bed at night. The next morning, don’t begin your day until you’ve consumed the entire thing. It’s surprisingly easy to drink that much water in a sitting (I like to challenge myself to drink a quarter at a time–and mason jars have cute little lines to help you keep track), and you’ll be halfway toward your daily water goal before ever getting out of bed.

Just don’t forget to add in eight extra ounces for everything else you consume throughout the day that acts as a diuretic (in other words, causes dehydration)–things like coffee and alcohol.

Break the Chapstick Habit

The first thing I noticed when I started using the quart jar hack was that I no longer had a need for lip balm throughout the day. I still use it (because I’m an addict) but the point is, I don’t need it. That’s revelatory! So if, like me, you suffer from chronic chapped lips, take it as a sign! Don’t waste another minute! Run–don’t walk–to the water cooler! Your skin will thank you.

Purity is King

Raspberry waterCity water is full of chlorine, which is great for sanitation purposes but bad for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. It often contains pharmaceuticals like antibiotics and antidepressants as well. With options for re-filling your 5-gallon bottles with reverse-osmosis water for as little as $2 each, it’s easier than ever to drink the stuff your body wants.

What to do on the go? Brita makes super cool, BPA-free bottles that filter up to 40 gallons of tap water, like this one here. Replacement filters are affordable too—at $4.98 for two—which makes investing in one sort of a no-brainer.

There’s An App For That

How cool is it that there exist in the universe apps that allow you to track your water consumption,  monitor your hydration in real time, upload pics of your drinking glass, and help you stick to your hydration goals? Try Waterlogged (free) or iDrated ($0.99).

Boost Your Brain

Seriously, this is one of the simplest ways you can improve your health and it can be done for cheap or free. Here’s what science is telling us:

Drinking lots of water keeps our digestive systems healthy and regular, helps to flush out toxins, and facilitates the loss of unwanted pounds. I can dig it.

But here’s the really important part:

Your brain uses 30% of the water in your body in order to function at maximum capacity. This means that dehydration has exponentially degrading effects on your brain’s performance. When you are as little as 5% dehydrated, your brain is 30% less efficient. At 10% dehydration, you are 50% less efficient. Which begs the question, have any of us ever in our lives functioned at full tilt? Wowza!

Even crazier is the fact that dehydration can actually cause your brain to shrink! I’m pretty sure I’m willing to drink a hippopotamus’ bath water to prevent that from happening.

Infuse It

If you feel the need to give water a makeover in order to fall in love, this is the move. And if you are already having an affair with the stuff, this will become your go-to way to refresh yourself throughout the day.

Grab a glass pitcher (or a Voss water bottle for on-the-go), and fill it with your organic fresh herbs and fruit. Frozen fruit works best because cell walls are more broken down and therefore infuse more readily. You can also gently muddle the fruit to get even more of that yummy flavor. Rosemary has antimicrobial properties that help maintain a healthy gut. So you can chew on the sprigs for added health points after you’ve finished your water.

I was feeling summery (what? Los Angeles is FREEZING so I’m channeling the Bahamas) so I created this Peach-Rosemary Water and declared it good enough to bring naysayers to the dark side.

Muahhhhhahhahhahha.

Ok, that’s enough. Go do something delicious!

*Of course, I should remind everyone that this blog is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.