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Archive for October, 2011

13 Scary Food Additives to Avoid

13 Scary Food Additives to Avoid

 

Most of the processed foods we eat are studded with mysterious additives. They extend shelf life. They create exciting flavors, colors and textures. But they don’t do great things for our health. Find out which ones to avoid, and why.

Artificial Sweeteners

Acesulfame-K: Used in candies, baked goods, chewing gum, dry beverage mixes, canned fruit, gelatin desserts, diet soda, and as a tabletop sweetener under the brand names Sunette and Sweet One. About 200 times sweeter than sugar, acesulfame-K was tested for safety in the 1970s. The tests were not conducted with gold-standard protocols; however, two rat studies suggested that the chemical could cause cancer. In addition, large doses of a breakdown product from this chemical affected the thyroid in test animals.

Aspartame: Used in breakfast cereals, soft drinks, drink mixes, gelatin desserts, frozen desserts, yogurt, chewing gum, diet foods, and as a tabletop sweetener under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet. Used in more than 6,000 products worldwide, aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Studies have suggested that it might cause cancer — especially with lifelong consumption — or neurological problems. Aspartame also lowers the acidity of urine and may make the urinary tract more susceptible to infection.

Read more about why you should avoid aspartame here.

Saccharin: Used in many diet products as well as a tabletop sweetener under the brand name Sweet’N Low. About 350 times sweeter than sugar, saccharin has been shown in animal studies to cause bladder cancer; rodent studies indicate that saccharin can cause cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels and more. A major study conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that the artificial sweeteners saccharin and cyclamate are associated with higher incidence of bladder cancer. In 1977 the FDA wanted to ban saccharin; however, industry pressure has kept it in circulation.

Dyes and Colorings

Caramel coloring: Found in colas, baked goods, precooked meats, gravy mix, soy and Worcestershire sauces, chocolate-flavored products, liquors, syrups, wine, and beer. The most widely used (by weight) dye, caramel coloring is often made by heating sugars with ammonium compounds, acids or alkalis, and it contains contaminants that have been shown by the U.S. National Toxicology Program to cause cancer in male and female mice. In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, concluded that caramel coloring, when produced with ammonia, contains contaminants that are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Avoid beverages with caramel coloring, since the amounts consumed in one drink are so large.

Yellow 5: Used in gelatin desserts, candy, pet food and baked goods. This is the second most widely used coloring. It causes allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive persons, and triggers hyperactivity in some children. It may also be contaminated with cancer-causing substances.

Yellow 6: Used in beverages, candy and baked goods. This is the third most widely used dye. Industry-sponsored animal tests indicated that this dye causes tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. Like Yellow 5, it may also be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. Yellow 6 may also cause sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions.

Blue 2: Found in pet food, beverages and candy. Some animal studies found evidence that Blue 2 causes brain cancer in male rats. Blue 2 and other artificial colorings are made from petroleum, much of it refined near China’s Yellow River Delta, one of the world’s most toxic polluted areas

Preservatives and Additives

Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil (commonly called trans fats): Used to make packaged foods more appealing and last longer. Trans fats — created by converting liquid oils to solids by adding hydrogen — are found in crackers, baked goods, fried restaurant foods, stick margarine, icing and microwave popcorn. Trans fats can raise blood cholesterol to dangerous levels; Harvard School of Public Health researchers estimate that trans fat has caused about 50,000 premature heart-attack deaths annually, making partially hydrogenated oil one of the most harmful ingredients in the food supply. When the public heard about the danger and the FDA required that trans fats be listed on labels beginning in 2006, consumption dropped and many food manufacturers have moved to safer ingredients. Still, read labels carefully, since even small amounts of trans fats are harmful.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): A synthetic antioxidant found in butter, cereals, baked goods, sweets, beer, vegetable oils, potato chips, snack foods, nuts and nut products, glazed fruits, chewing gum, animal feeds, and sausage, poultry and meat products. BHA slows the deterioration of flavors and odors in foods — especially in those containing vegetable and animal fat — and increases shelf life. In studies, three different species of lab animals developed cancer from exposure to BHA, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Propyl gallate: A preservative used in vegetable oil, mayonnaise, meat products, chicken soup base and chewing gum. Propyl gallate slows the spoilage of fats and oils but can cause stomach or skin problems for asthmatics and aspirin-sensitive people. Studies on rats and mice suggest that this preservative might cause cancer.

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate: Preservatives, colorings and flavorings used in bacon, ham, hot dogs, cold cuts, smoked fish and corned beef. These chemicals give certain foods their characteristic flavor and color; they also prevent botulism, although critics argue that safer ingredients do the same thing. Several studies have linked consumption of cured meat and nitrite by children, pregnant women and adults with various types of cancer.

Other

Monosodium glutamate (MSG): A flavor enhancer used in meats, condiments, soups and baked goods. Tests in the 1960s showed that MSG caused brain damage in lab animals; after that, baby-food manufacturers removed it from their products. Perhaps the biggest danger MSG poses
is to people with asthma, who may suffer a temporary increase in symptoms after consumption. MSG is what’s called a “free glutamate” — one of the amino acids. There are other forms of free glutamates present as additives in processed food, including hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, soy extracts, protein isolates and “natural flavorings.”

Mycoprotein: A synthetic meat marketed under the brand name Quorn, it can be purchased in the form of sausages, burgers and other meat-like products, or folded into vegan and vegetarian meals, such as casseroles and curries. Fabricated from fungus grown in vats and then dried and woven into “meat,” mycoprotein, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, can provoke allergic reactions as powerful as those caused by more common food allergens such as peanuts, soy and dairy. To date, the CSPI has received 1,500 adverse-reaction reports to mycoprotein, including accounts of severe vomiting.

by Megan, selected from Experience Life

8 Foods that Fight Fat

8 Foods that Fight Fat

8 Foods that Fight Fat

Tired of that spare tire? Sick of your love handles? You can increase your body’s fat-burning power by eating more foods that strengthen your liver (your body’s main fat-metabolizing organ) to burn fat better. The result? A leaner you! There are many great liver boosting foods, but here are some of my favorites:

Leafy Greens: Spinach, spring mix, mustard greens, and other dark leafy greens are good sources of fiber and powerhouses of nutrition. Research demonstrates that their high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants helps prevent hunger while protecting you from heart disease, cancer, cataracts, and memory loss.

Beans and Legumes: Legumes are the best source of fiber of any foods. They help to stabilize blood sugar while keeping you regular. They are also high in potassium, a critical mineral that reduces dehydration and the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Garlic and Onions: This dynamic duo of foods contains phytochemicals that break down fatty deposits in the body, while also breaking down cholesterol; killing viruses, bacteria, and fungi; and protecting against heart disease. With a little help from garlic and onions, you can burn fat while warding off illness.

Cayenne: This hot spice lessens the risk of excess insulin in the body by speeding metabolism and lowering blood glucose (sugar) levels, before the excess insulin can result in fat stores. Spice up your next meal with cayenne and lessen those love handles.

Turmeric: The popular spice used primarily in Indian cooking is one of the highest known sources of beta carotene, the antioxidant that helps protect the liver from free radical damage. Turmeric also helps strengthen your liver while helping your body metabolize fats by decreasing the fat storage rate in liver cells. Add a teaspoon of turmeric into your next curry dish to help your body fight fat.

Cinnamon: Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture showed that a quarter to one teaspoon of cinnamon with food helps metabolize sugar up to twenty times better than food not eaten with cinnamon. Excess sugar in the blood can lead to fat storage. Before you sip that chai tea latte or eat your oatmeal, sprinkle on the cinnamon.

Flax Seeds and Flax Seed Oil: These seeds and oil attract oil-soluble toxins that become lodged in the fatty tissues of the body. Once attracted, they help to escort fat-soluble toxins out. That spells fewer fat stores and a trimmer you.

Adapted from The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook.

by Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and eleven-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme Cure. Check out her natural health resources and free e-newsletter at www.WorldsHealthiestDiet.com.

Brilliant Tip to Cut Down Snacking

Brilliant Tip to Cut Down Snacking

In a new paper by USC researchers, bad eating habits were shown to persist even when the food didn’t taste very good; but the best nugget of the study, perhaps, is the revelation of a surprisingly easy way in which to counter bad eating habits.

Researchers gave people entering a movie theater a bucket of either just-popped popcorn or week-old popcorn. People who don’t generally eat popcorn during movies ate much less of the stale popcorn, but moviegoers who indicated that they typically had popcorn at the movies ate about the same amount of popcorn whether it was fresh or stale. The conclusion: for people accustomed to eating popcorn at the movies, it made no difference whether the popcorn tasted good or not.

“When we’ve repeatedly eaten a particular food in a particular environment, our brain comes to associate the food with that environment and make us keep eating as long as those environmental cues are present,” said lead author David Neal, who was a psychology professor at USC when the research was conducted.

“People believe their eating behavior is largely activated by how food tastes. Nobody likes cold, spongy, week-old popcorn,” said corresponding author Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at USC. “But once we’ve formed an eating habit, we no longer care whether the food tastes good. We’ll eat exactly the same amount, whether it’s fresh or stale.”

According to a press release for the paper, the researchers also gave popcorn to a control group watching movie clips in a meeting room, rather than in a movie theater. In the meeting room, a space not usually associated with popcorn, it mattered a lot if the popcorn tasted good. Outside of the movie theater context, even habitual movie popcorn eaters ate much less stale popcorn than fresh popcorn, demonstrating the extent to which environmental cues can trigger automatic eating behavior.

“The results show just how powerful our environment can be in triggering unhealthy behavior,” Neal said. “Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead.”

Also surprising is what researchers found by testing a simple disruption of automatic eating habits: Once again with stale and fresh popcorn, the researchers asked moviegoers to eat popcorn either with their dominant or non-dominant hand.

When using the non-dominant hand, moviegoers ate much less of the stale than the fresh popcorn, and this worked even for those with strong eating habits. Using the non-dominant hand disrupted eating habits to cause people to pay attention to what they were eating.

Could mindful eating be as simple as switching hands?

by Melissa Breyer

10 Things Your Bladder Says About Your Health

10 Things Your Bladder Says About Your Health

Bladder problems are often associated with the very old and infirm. But guess what? Adults of all ages, including many who are seemingly healthy, can have unusual bladder symptoms — and they can be warning signs of problematic health conditions.

“The urinary system can be a real canary in the coal mine,” says Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care and urogynecology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Hyde Park, New York, and coauthor of Mind Over Bladder. “If you have a significant change in your bladder habits, you may have a problem with the bladder itself or the pelvic organs, or it may be a sign of a larger systemic problem.”

Here are ten problems that unusual bladder symptoms may signal:

1. Possible bladder message: Sleep apnea

What it is: Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep can last a minute or longer, causing the person to abruptly wake up. (Apnea is a Greek word “meaning without breath.”) “Untreated sleep apnea is becoming more and more commonly diagnosed by urologists,” says Adam Tierney, a urologist with Dean Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. That’s because regular doctors can’t see it during checkups; it’s the night urination that’s noticed first.

More than 12 million people have sleep apnea, and many more are thought to have it but not know it. In March 2011, Israeli researchers reported that in a group of men aged 55 to 75 who had benign prostate enlargement (BPE) and reported nocturia — the need to get up at night to urinate — more than half of their night wakings were probably actually attributable to sleep apnea.

What you may notice: Awakening at night to urinate as often as every two or three hours. With sleep apnea, the person wakes up because of the breathing lapse and then decides almost on autopilot to use the bathroom. By morning, he or she is aware that, “Gee, I’m getting up at night to pee a lot,” rather than that breathing has been briefly stopping. Other sleep apnea symptoms include snoring and daytime sleepiness.

What you can do: Report excessive night urination to your doctor so its true cause can be pinpointed. Sleep apnea is treatable with several different devices designed to facilitate breathing, as well as surgery.

2. Possible bladder message: Out-of-control diabetes

What it is: When blood sugar is poorly controlled, nerve damage can result. Diabetics usually know that this can result in a loss of sensation in the extremities. But nerve signals may also be unable to appropriately reach the muscles that govern urination, Rabin says.

What you may notice: A frequent feeling of needing to use the bathroom, even when you don’t, or a lack of sensation that it’s time to void, which causes you to wet yourself. You may also be excreting larger-than-normal amounts of urine with poorly managed diabetes. That’s because the body tries to rid itself of excess glucose through the urine.

What you can do: Talk to your doctor about ways of better controlling blood sugar through diet and exercise. Many diabetics don’t think to report incontinence symptoms because they don’t link them to their disease.

3. Possible bladder message: Hypothyroidism

What it is: Untreated hypothyroidism — slow functioning of the thyroid gland, which helps regulate metabolism — can also cause problems in the way that nerve signals reach muscles, says urogynecologist Jill Rabin. Women are affected more often than men.

What you may notice: Urge incontinence, or the need to “go,” whether there’s an actual need or not. This is usually a secondary symptom of hypothyroidism, the primary symptoms being extreme fatigue, a sense of being cold, weight gain, dry skin, and sometimes hair falling out.

What you can do: Report symptoms to your doctor, and be sure to mention any other unusual symptoms you are experiencing. Treating the hypothyroidism usually eases incontinence symptoms.

4. Possible bladder message: Prostate problem

What it is: The prostate, a doughnut-shaped gland that encircles the male urethra and plays a role in both urination and reproduction, tends to enlarge over time. This squeezes the urethra (urinary passage), causing a relatively harmless condition called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is most common in men over 50, as is prostate cancer. Another common prostate complication, more common in younger men, is prostatitis, an infection. One of these conditions doesn’t necessarily lead to the next.

What you may notice: A sudden and urgent need to pee (urge incontinence), night waking to use the bathroom, dribbling urine after you think you’re finished, difficulty beginning to urinate, and more frequent urination day or night.

What you can do: Because prostate problems range in seriousness but can manifest in many different ways, any change in urinary symptoms is worth reporting as soon as you start wondering or worrying about it. Prostate cancer is typically ruled out first through an exam that includes a digital exam and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

5. Possible bladder message: Chronic urinary tract infection

What it is: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common kind of infection in the human body. Both men and women get them, though they’re most common in women.

What you may notice: A persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation while urinating, frequent urination, or urine that’s reddish or cloudy and sometimes foul-smelling. You may also experience fever, localized pain, and a sensation of pressure.

What you can do: See your doctor. Prescription antibiotics usually clear up the infection within a day or two. When infections are continuous, a stronger drug or longer regimen may be prescribed. People who get repeated UTIs tend to have an underlying condition that predisposes them (such as diabetes or pregnancy) or have habits that promote them. Women with chronic UTIs should use sanitary pads rather than tampons; avoid douching; urinate before and after intercourse; and avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine, which are bladder irritants.

6. Possible bladder message: You weigh too much

What it is: You probably don’t need your bladder to tell you what your mirror and scale already know. But the effects of obesity are sometimes easy to ignore, at least until everyday functioning is affected, all day long. Excess weight means that the pelvic-floor muscles involved in supporting a woman’s urinary system are under extra pressure. Over time, they can weaken, especially the urinary sphincter, which keeps the urethra capped when you’re not urinating.

What you may notice: Leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, exercise, or move the wrong way — any kind of physical stress can produce what’s known as stress incontinence.

“People don’t often connect weight and urine, but there’s a clear association,” says urologist Adam Tierney. “And overweight people are more likely to have diabetes, which can cause urge incontinence on top of the stress incontinence.”

What you can do: Pelvic floor exercises and other therapies for stress incontinence can help shore up weak musculature and lessen episodes of leakage. Not smoking is another remedy, since the cough that smoking produces further aggravates weak musculature.

But the very best remedy for stress incontinence for those who are overweight is to work to achieve a body-mass-index in the normal range. A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that overweight women who lost an average of just 8 percent of their body weight (17pounds) saw their weekly incontinence episodes cut in half.

7. Possible bladder message: Interstitial cystitis

What it is: A chronic inflammatory disorder of the bladder, including irritation of the bladder lining and wall, interstitial cystitis (also called painful bladder syndrome and bladder pain syndrome) affects both sexes, especially women. The cause isn’t fully understood.

Interstitial cystitis is often associated with sleep disorders, migraines, depression, and other pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Tierney says.

What you may notice: Very frequent urination (several times an hour, all day), pain on urinating, general pain in the pelvic area. (Normally, people need to urinate no more than seven times a day, according to the American Urological Foundation Association.) Pain is usually experienced in flare-ups that can be related to menstruation, having sex, stress, and illness. It often resembles a urinary tract infection, but testing shows no evidence of bacteria.

What you can do: There are no reliable tests or remedies for interstitial cystitis, but a thorough medical exam can point to treatment of other possible causes of the symptoms. Treatment of interstitial cystitis itself often focuses on medications and lifestyle changes that can help sufferers better manage their symptoms. For example, many people have success with dietary changes, avoiding foods that irritate the bladder, such as caffeine and acidic items.

8. Bladder message: Falling organs

What it is Especially following childbirth, women are vulnerable to a condition called bladder prolapse — which refers to the dropping of the organ from its customary position, sometimes into the vaginal opening. This happens because the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments of the “hammock” that supports the bladder have been weakened by stress. Heavy lifting, chronic coughing (as by a smoker), obesity, and menopause (because of shifting hormones) can also lead to prolapse.

What you may notice: Frequent urination or urge incontinence; not feeling relief after urinating; discomfort or pain in the vagina, pelvis, groin, or lower back; heaviness in the vaginal area (which may ease when lying down).

What you can do: For mild cases, shoring up weak muscles with physical therapy can be effective. More extreme cases may need estrogen replacement therapy, electrical stimulation, or a pessary (vaginal support device) to provide better support for the organs. Surgery can be an effective last resort.

9. Possible bladder message: Dehydration

What it is: Dehydration simply means the body doesn’t have as much liquid as it should. Anyone can become dehydrated, although older adults are especially vulnerable. Common causes: having diarrhea and/or vomiting, sweating a lot through exercise or because of fever, and being diabetic (elevated blood sugar levels lead to more frequent urination as the body tries to get rid of the excess).

What you may notice: Abnormally dark (amber to brown) or strong-smelling urine. The appearance of urine isn’t a highly reliable indicator of health problems (aside from blood in the urine), says the Dean Clinic’s Adam Tierney. Whether it’s cloudy or fizzy or a particular hue often has more to do with diet and medication than an underlying disorder. When it looks dark and concentrated, however, dehydration is a concern.

Other symptoms of dehydration: Decreased urine output, headache, lethargy or sleepiness, dry skin and dry mouth, dizziness, and increased confusion.

What you can do: Fluid replacement resolves dehydration. The form of fluid may depend on the severity of the situation. An IV, for example, is used in advanced cases. For more mild dehydration, consuming frequent, small amounts of clear liquids helps, or a doctor may suggest an oral rehydration solution. To avoid dehydration, make sure older adults, in particular, drink six to eight cups of liquid a day or consume foods high in liquid content, such as soup and watermelon.

10. Possible bladder message: Cancer

What it is: Cancer can develop in the bladder, the kidneys, the renal pelvis (the area of the kidneys where urine is collected), or the ureter (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Transitional cell cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter is a common form of cancer, where cancerous cells in the lining of these parts travel to other parts of the body.

What you may notice: Blood in the urine (which may appear pinkish, brownish, or red), pain while urinating, or a frequent urge to urinate whether or not anything is produced. More often in men, tumors may also block the normal traffic of urine and cause overflow incontinence, in which you can’t control output well.

What you can do: See a doctor. Symptoms that might signal cancer of the urinary system can mean many other things besides cancer. But they always merit medical help, to rule out other problems and to pinpoint a diagnosis.

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

The Hidden Time Bomb Within You

The Hidden Time Bomb Within You


A key biochemical process inside every one of us, inflammation is the cornerstone of health and healing — and yet — unless you learn the secrets to managing it – it will also probably eventually kill you.

The good news: As scientists slowly but surely uncover how the inflammatory response works, they’re learning how we can influence it to our benefit.

Here, five surprising — and life-changing — facts:

Inflammation: It’s All in the Diet

Inflammation surprise #1: Inflammation is both your body’s best friend — and its worst enemy.

Inflammation is what happens when a bee stings, a paper cut slices your skin, or pollen or a virus land up your nose. Your body reacts. More specifically, your white blood cells issue a short-term response to defend your body against the assault and help it heal. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, sometimes this process goes haywire. In a classic “too much of a good thing,” certain triggers create chronic inflammation — the body’s defense team doesn’t quit. Immune cells never wind down, causing damage to various body systems and, ironically, leaving them more vulnerable to attack.

Why it’s important

“Inflammation is the basic mechanism that maintains the well-being of our cells,” says Janko Nikolich- Zugich, chair of the department of immunobiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and codirector of its Arizona Center on Aging. “But pretty much every disease is also connected to it.”

Luck (good or bad) is a factor; some people are genetically prone to inflammation overload, Nikolich- Zugich says. But within the span of your genes, you have a lot of individual control, he adds. “The key is to have well-controlled inflammation, to keep it regulated so that it switches on when you need it and switches off when you don’t need it anymore.”

Action step: Consume healthier fats.

Fats we eat are the building blocks of both proinflammatory hormones (needed to fight the invader) and anti-inflammatory hormones (needed to calm down the healing process after the wound or other threat is gone), says Beth Reardon, director of integrative nutrition at Duke University. We need both kinds.

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The trouble: We live in such an inflammatory environment (from pollution, germs, diet, and other sources) that it’s tough to keep the inflammation process in balance. The best way to do this is with diet: Decrease the inflammatory fats you eat (called omega 6s, found mostly animal fats from meat and dairy) while increasing anti-inflammatory fats (called omega 3s, found mostly in cold-water fish such as salmon and herring or in fish-oil supplements).

A tricky point: You need two kinds of omega 3s. There are long-chain omega 3s (from fish) and short-chain omega 3s (from flax, seeds, and fortified products, like omega-3 eggs or juice). The two types work in different ways in the body. “People think if they eat foods fortified with omega 3s, they’re doing enough. But most people don’t get enough long-chain omega 3 fats,” Reardon says. Eating cold-water fish twice a week does the trick.

Beware inflammatory foods and extra weight

Inflammation surprise #2: Chronic inflammation contributes to almost every major disease.

Most people have heard of so-called autoimmune diseases, when the body turns on itself with a hyperactive defense mechanism. Common examples include hay fever, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pelvic inflammatory disease, colitis, and bursitis.

You can add to this list cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, and even depression. “The one thing that unifies most major diseases is inflammation,” says the Arizona Center on Aging’s Nikolich-Zugich. “Whether inflammation is the root cause or whether these diseases are made worse by the inflammatory process isn’t entirely clear yet — but inflammation is almost always a factor.”

Why it’s important

Scientists believe that the key to extending lifespan and late-life well-being lies in figuring out how to manipulate and cut off chronic inflammation. While all the diseases listed above manifest themselves in the body in very different ways, they seem to share many commonalities down at the cellular level.

Action step: Eat a more anti-inflammatory diet.

Because our bodies are exposed to more damage at the cell level than they can handle — a process called oxidative stress — shoring up defenses is key. And there’s no easier way to do that than by carefully choosing what we eat and drink.

What foods contain the most antioxidants? You needn’t be a chemist. Just think three words: color, taste, aroma. In whole (not processed) foods, these traits signal high-antioxidant chemical content, Duke University’s Beth Reardon says. This means:

  • Bright or deep-hued fruits and vegetables (berries, eggplant, purple grapes, sweet potato, dark green leafy veggies)
  • Foods with strong flavors (bell pepper, watermelon, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables)
  • Foods with powerful odors (garlic, onion, chives)

Other beneficial foods: the spices turmeric, ginger, cinnamon; curry; tart cherries; green tea; red wine; dark chocolate. These help inhibit the formation of inflammatory prostaglandins and COX inhibitors (the same enzyme-inhibiting substances in medications such as Vioxx or Celebrex).

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At the same time, avoid highly processed foods full of sugar and saturated fats. These so-called high-glycemic index foods (chips, cookies, crackers, cakes) pour sugar into the bloodstream, upping inflammation.

Inflammation surprise #3: It’s not the look of your body fat but what’s inside it that really hurts you.

Little wonder obesity is linked with so many damaging diseases, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. In just the past five years or so, researchers have discovered that being overweight is a huge cause of inflammation.

“We tend to think of body fat as an inert, annoying consequence of eating too much and not exercising enough,” Beth Reardon says. “We need to think of it as what it really is: metabolically active tissue that’s actually a source of the compounds that trigger inflammation.”

Why it’s important

Having too many extra fat cells basically amps up the inflammatory process. That’s because fat cells are producers of hormones, such as estrogen and leptin, and other molecules that signal the immune system. Excess fat creates excess inflammation.

Belly fat (accumulated around the abdomen) may be especially dangerous, compared with fat in the hips or rear, because midsection fat tends to produce even more estrogens and inflammatory compounds called cytokines, Reardon says.

Weight Loss After 40: Why It’s So Hard — and What Works

There’s a silver lining to perimenopausal weight gain, though, she adds. A stubborn muffin top may be nature’s way of trying to hang onto estrogen when hormone levels shift as the ovaries close up shop, in order to protect heart health and make symptoms like hot flashes less severe. (Postmenopause, though, you still want to maintain a healthy weight.)

Action step: Aim for a healthy weight.

Possibly the single best health move you can make: Keep moving. Why? In addition to burning fat and warding off unhealthy fat cells, vigorous exercise three to four times a week subjects the body to controlled stress. That trains the immune system to deal with high-energy demands followed by lower, maintenance levels of functioning. “This allows inflammation to recalibrate,” says Janko Nikolich-Zugich.

Exercise also produces hormones like endorphins, which make you feel good and therefore encourage you to continue this important, immune-boosting activity.

Watch out for stress and allergies

Inflammation surprise #4: You can’t control everything that trips inflammation — but you might want to conquer that fear of public speaking.

Inflammatory agents (things that set off our immune system) are all around us — in the air we breathe, the UV rays we absorb, the cleaning agents we use, the makeup we wear, the candles we light, the germs we encounter.

Another surprising source of chronic inflammation: chronic (long-term) stress. Know how some faces flush and palms sweat before the person gives a speech? That’s an inflammatory response. So is breaking out in
hives during an argument, or getting a headache and racing heart when pulling an all-nighter.

Why it’s important

In concentrated doses, emotional stress is no big deal. But when the stress is constant — as when dealing with a ongoing personal crisis — it trips a constant inflammatory response.

You can’t control the fact that your aging skin or gut may be a “leaky barrier,” for example, letting in more invaders that cause the body to mount an inflammatory response, Nikolich-Zugich says. Also, as we age, changes to the immune system itself may make it harder to fight familiar bugs and viruses. But, as with diet and exercise, emotions and stress are areas most people can control. And when it comes to inflammation, the body needs all the help it can get.

Action step: Sweep your life of stressors as much as you can.

In addition to following basic advice about using sun protection, washing your hands, exercising, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and avoiding known toxins (don’t smoke and don’t live with someone who does!), it pays to curb your emotional stress as much as you can.
Some areas many overlook:

  • Don’t scrimp on sleep.
  • Get depression symptoms treated; it’s a form of chronic stress on the body.
  • Know that short-term anxiety is unavoidable, but seek confidence-building help if you’re constantly in an edgy situation (the frequent flyer who hates to fly, the CEO who’s terrified of public speaking).

Inflammation surprise #5: Many of us have infections and allergies we don’t know about, which send us into a state of constant high inflammation.

Here’s a classic case: Someone has inflammatory bowel disease, migraines or other chronic headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome. The various maladies are treated with medications, but the underlying cause of the problem — an undiagnosed food sensitivity, for example — goes untreated. Get to the root of the problem (the food sensitivity upsetting the balance of bacteria in the gut, say) and you’re closer to a cure.

Our medical system tends to treat specific issues rather than the whole person. “When things go wrong, we take something to fix it, instead of trying to control the underlying cause: inflammation,” integrative nutritionist Beth Reardon says.

Why it’s important:

Up to 40 percent of the population has a gluten sensitivity, Reardon says. That’s different from a full intolerance (celiac disease), but enough to notice brain fog, bloating, gastric distress, or fatigue after eating wheat. Dairy sensitivity (lactose intolerance, which is short of true milk allergy) is similar. Both sensitivities tend to grow more common as people get older.

Are These Whole Foods Making You Sick?

Human bodies evolved to eat dozens of grains, but modern society focuses on one — wheat — and a high- gluten type at that (all the better for fluffy bread and crispy snacks). The problem: Protein in wheat risks irritating the gut (where the immune system mostly begins), causing inflammation. Substances the body believes shouldn’t be there aren’t absorbed well; instead, these undigested proteins work their way into the bloodstream, where the white blood cells react as if they were a virus or any other foreign substance.

Ditto with milk: We evolved to consume fatty breast milk for the first years of life, not to subsist on milk, cheese, and ice cream. Too much of these foods overwhelm a system that’s sensitive to them.

Action step: Pay attention to what your body’s telling you.

You can tell if you have a food sensitivity by how your body reacts. Try eliminating a food type (wheat, dairy, soy, meat) for two weeks. See how you feel. Do symptoms disappear or fade? Now add back the potential allergen and see what happens.

Avoid writing off uncomfortable reactions to fibromyalgia or migraines or some other specific disorder until you’ve experimented with the possibility of a more global root cause. Even if you don’t have a food allergy, replacing problematic foods with the healthier options within a low-fat, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet will be a win-win for your body, Reardon says.

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

5 Foods That Sabotage Your Sleep

5 Foods That Sabotage Your Sleep

 If you’re having trouble sleeping, what about a midnight snack? Think twice–here are five foods that can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest:

1. Chocolate.
Love an evening cup of cocoa? That sundae in front of the TV? Be careful of chocolate in all its disguises. Many people are increasingly sensitive to caffeine as they get older, and even the little chocolate chunks in chocolate chip ice cream could zap you just enough to prevent ZZZZs. Chocolate also contains tyrosine, a stimulating amino acid.

2. Preserved and smoked meats.
Slap your hand away when it reaches to make a ham sandwich as an evening snack. Ham, bacon, sausages, and smoked meats contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that makes us feel alert and wired.

4. Tomato sauce, chili, pizza, and spicy foods.
Digestive disturbances are a common source of sleep problems, but many people fail to make the connection. Acidic and spicy foods can cause reflux, heartburn, and other symptoms that interrupt sleep.

5. The nightcap.
A drink or two may make you feel more relaxed after dinner, but it comes back to haunt you–literally–a few hours later, by preventing you from achieving deep sleep. And because alcohol both dehydrates you and makes you have to pee, it wakes you up, too. Wine is high in the stimulant tyrosine as well.

By Melanie Haiken, Caring.com

8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid

8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid

The average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals, say environmental experts. We’re exposed to them routinely — from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity.

Manufacturers argue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients aren’t likely to be a problem, but when we’re exposed to them routinely, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to accurately gauge the risks. While a few products cause immediate reactions from acute exposure (headaches from fumes, skin burns from accidental contact), different problems arise with repeated contact. Chronic exposure adds to the body’s “toxic burden” — the number of chemicals stored in its tissues at a given time.

No one can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, but it is possible to reduce it significantly. In the following pages, experts weigh in on the worst toxic offenders commonly found in household cleaning products, and offer ways to swap them for healthier, safer options.

How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit

1. Phthalates

Found in: Many fragranced household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.

Health Risks: Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Men with higher phthalate compounds in their blood had correspondingly reduced sperm counts, according to a 2003 study conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health. Although exposure to phthalates mainly occurs through inhalation, it can also happen through skin contact with scented soaps, which is a significant problem, warns Alicia Stanton, MD, coauthor of Hormone Harmony (Healthy Life Library, 2009). Unlike the digestive system, the skin has no safeguards against toxins. Absorbed chemicals go straight to organs.

Healthier Choice: When possible choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic products. Beth Greer, author of Super Natural Home, recommends bypassing aerosol or plug-in air fresheners and instead using essential oils or simply opening windows to freshen the air. Besides causing more serious effects like endocrine disruption, “Aerosol sprays and air fresheners can be migraine and asthma triggers,”  she says. Also consider adding more plants to your home: They’re natural air detoxifiers.

Gender-Bending Phthalates

2. Perchloroethylene or “PERC”

Found in: Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.

Health Risks: Perc is a neurotoxin, according to the chief scientist of environmental protection for the New York Attorney General’s office. And the EPA classifies perc as a “possible carcinogen” as well. People who live in residential buildings where dry cleaners are located have reported dizziness, loss of coordination and other symptoms. While the EPA has ordered a phase-out of perc machines in residential buildings by 2020, California is going even further and plans to eliminate all use of perc by 2023 because of its suspected health risks. The route of exposure is most often inhalation: that telltale smell on clothes when they return from the dry cleaner, or the fumes that linger after cleaning carpets.

Healthier Choice: Curtains, drapes and clothes that are labeled “dry clean only” can be taken instead to a “wet cleaner,” which uses water-based technology rather than chemical solvents. The EPA recently recognized liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) as an environmentally preferable alternative to more toxic dry-cleaning solvents. Ask your dry cleaner which method they use. For a safer spot remover, look for a nontoxic brand like Ecover at a natural market, or rub undiluted castile soap directly on stains before washing.

3. Triclosan

Found in: Most liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Triclosan is an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Explains Sutton: “The American Medical Association has found no evidence that these antimicrobials make us healthier or safer, and they’re particularly concerned because they don’t want us overusing antibacterial chemicals — that’s how microbes develop resistance, and not just to these [household antibacterials], but also to real antibiotics that we need.” Other studies have now found dangerous concentrations of triclosan in rivers and streams, where it is toxic to algae. The EPA is currently investigating whether triclosan may also disrupt endocrine (hormonal) function. It is a probable carcinogen. At press time, the agency was reviewing the safety of triclosan in consumer products.

Healthier Choice: Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists, and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use. If you’re hooked on hand sanitizer, choose one that is alcohol-based and without triclosan.

Triclosan Found in Dolphins

4. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”

Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”

Health Risks: Quats are another type of antimicrobial, and thus pose the same problem as triclosan by helping breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re also a skin irritant; one 10-year study of contact dermatitis found quats to be one of the leading causes. According to Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they’re also suspected as a culprit for respiratory disorders: “There’s evidence that even healthy people who are [exposed to quats] on a regular basis develop asthma as a result.”

Healthier Choice: You don’t really need fabric softener or dryer sheets to soften clothes or get rid of static: Simple vinegar works just as well. “Vinegar is the natural fabric softener of choice for many reasons,” explains Karyn Siegel-Maier in her book The Naturally Clean Home (Storey Publishing, 2008). “Not only is it nontoxic, it also removes soap residue in the rinse cycle and helps to prevent static cling in the dryer.” White vinegar is your best choice for general cleaning; other types can stain.

Alternatives to chemical disinfectants abound, including antibacterial, antifungal tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.

5. 2-Butoxyethanol

Found in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.

Health Risks: 2-butoxyethanol is the key ingredient in many window cleaners and gives them their characteristic sweet smell. It belongs in the category of “glycol ethers,” a set of powerful solvents that don’t mess around. Law does not require 2-butoxyethanol to be listed on a product’s label. According to the EPA’s Web site, in addition to causing sore throats when inhaled, at high levels glycol ethers can also contribute to narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage. Although the EPA sets a standard on 2-butoxyethanol for workplace safety, Sutton warns, “If you’re cleaning at home in a confined area, like an unventilated bathroom, you can actually end up getting 2-butoxyethanol in the air at levels that are higher than workplace safety standards.”

Healthier Choice: Clean mirrors and windows with newspaper and diluted vinegar. For other kitchen tasks, stick to simple cleaning compounds like Bon Ami powder; it’s made from natural ingredients like ground feldspar and baking soda without the added bleach or fragrances found in most commercial cleansers. You can also make your own formulas with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils. See “DIY Cleaners” on page 5 for a list of clean concoctions.

6. Ammonia

Found in: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.

Health Risks: Because ammonia evaporates and doesn’t leave streaks, it’s another common ingredient in commercial window cleaners. That sparkle has a price. “Ammonia is a powerful irritant,” says Donna Kasuska, chemical engineer and president of ChemConscious, Inc., a risk-management consulting company. “It’s going to affect you right away. The people who will be really affected are those who have asthma, and elderly people with lung issues and breathing problems. It’s almost always inhaled. People who get a lot of ammonia exposure, like housekeepers, will often develop chronic bronchitis and asthma.” Ammonia can also create a poisonous gas if it’s mixed with bleach.

Healthier Choice: Vodka. “It will produce a reflective shine on any metal or mirrored surface,” explains Lori Dennis, author of Green Interior Design (Allsworth Press, 2010). And toothpaste makes an outstanding silver polish.

7. Chlorine

Found in: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.

Health Risks: “With chlorine we have so many avenues of exposure,” says Kasuska. “You’re getting exposed through fumes and possibly through skin when you clean with it, but because it’s also in city water to get rid of bacteria, you’re also getting exposed when you take a shower or bath. The health risks from chlorine can be acute, and they can be chronic; it’s a respiratory irritant at an acute level. But the chronic effects are what people don’t realize: It may be a serious thyroid disrupter.”

Healthier Choice: For scrubbing, stick to Bon Ami or baking soda. Toilet bowls can be cleaned with vinegar, and vinegar or borax powder both work well for whitening clothes. So does the chlorine-free oxygen bleach powder made by Biokleen. To reduce your exposure to chlorine through tap water, install filters on your kitchen sink and in the shower.

8. Sodium Hydroxide

Found in: Oven cleaners and drain openers.

Health Risks: Otherwise known as lye, sodium hydroxide is extremely corrosive: If it touches your skin or gets in your eyes, it can cause severe burns. Routes of exposure are skin contact and inhalation. Inhaling sodium hydroxide can cause a sore throat that lasts for days.

Healthier Choice: You can clean the grimiest oven with baking-soda paste — it just takes a little more time and elbow grease (see recipes in “DIY Cleaners” on page 5). Unclog drains with a mechanical “snake” tool, or try this approach from the Green Living Ideas Web site: Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain and plug it for 30 minutes. After the bubbles die down, run hot water down the drain to clear the debris.

Beware of Greenwashing

If a cleaning product at your supermarket proclaims itself “green,” “natural” or “biodegradable,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nontoxic. In 2010 the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice Group produced a report called “The Sins of Greenwashing.” In it the group found more than 95 percent of so-called green consumer products had committed at least one “greenwashing sin,” like making an environmental claim that may be truthful but unimportant. “CFC-free,” for example, is a common one, since CFCs are banned by law. Donna Kasuska of ChemConscious offers this advice: “When gauging ecological claims, look for specifics. ‘Biodegradable in three to five days’ holds more meaning than “biodegradable” as most substances will eventually break down with enough time.”

DIY Cleaners

Clean your home safely — and cheaply — with the following recipes:

Basic sink cleanser – Combine ½ cup baking soda with six drops essential oil (such as lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime or orange). Rinse sink well with hot water. Sprinkle combination into sink and pour ¼ cup vinegar over top. After the fizz settles, scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse again with hot water. (From The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier.)

Oven cleanser — Put a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease. Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar, and scrub. (From Super Natural Home, by Beth Greer.)

Bathroom mildew remover – Good ventilation helps prevent mildew and mold. When they do occur, make a spray with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon each of tea-tree and lavender oil. Shake first and spray on trouble spots. The oils break down the mildew so there’s no need to wipe it down. (From Green Interior Design, by Lori Dennis.)

Carpet shampoo – Mix 3 cups water, ¾ cup vegetable-based liquid soap, and 10 drops peppermint essential oil. Rub the foam into soiled areas with a damp sponge. Let dry thoroughly and then vacuum. (From The Naturally Clean Home.)

Laundry soap — Try “soap nuts” made from the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree. Available in natural groceries and online, the reusable soap nuts come in a cotton sack that goes into the washing machine with clothes.

Dusting — Skip the furniture polishes. Instead, use a microfiber cloth. Made from synthetic fibers that are then split into hundreds of smaller microfibers, they capture dust more efficiently than regular rags. If necessary, a little olive oil makes a fine polishing agent. 

 By Jessie Sholl, Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

5 Natural Treatments for Sinus Infection

5 Natural Treatments for Sinus Infection

True misery is the pain and swelling caused by sinus inflammation. The bones around the nose, the eyes and the cheeks are lined with membranes that produce mucus, which function to warm and moisten inhaled air, plus to filter out any germs. When congested and unable to drain properly the mucus continues to accumulate, stagnate and become infected. There are a number of causes for chronic sinus infections:

  • Excessive dairy consumption (cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt)
  • Environmental allergies
  • Tobacco and pollution irritation
  • Food allergies
  • Dental infection
  • Fungal infection in the sinus cavity
  • Systemic Candida albicans (overgrowth of yeast)
  • Colds and flu symptoms

 Typical allopathic treatments for sinus inflammation can include prescription antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, and in some cases, surgery. In fact it is common for people to be taking five different medications to treat their sinus infection. Even with the medications, relief is minimal until milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt are first eliminated from the diet. This will help cut back on the production of mucus and allow the sinuses to clear. There are also herbal and homeopathic remedy’s, nasal sprays and aromatherapy oils that can help reduce the swelling and speed recovery.

1. Diet: During infection eat in moderation, with an emphasis on whole grains, beans, lentils, lightly cooked vegetables, soups, and cold-pressed oils. Avoid mucus-forming foods such as, flour products, eggs, chocolate, fried and processed foods, sugar and dairy products. Drink plenty of pure quality water.

2. Herbs: include cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, and horseradish in your soups and meals, to help dissolve and eliminate excess mucus. According to the self-care guide, Prescription for Natural Cures, a powerful drainage remedy is to eat a small spoonful of crushed horseradish mixed with lemon juice, but make sure to be near a sink when your nose starts running. Japanese horseradish in the form of Wasabi paste taken with meals can also provide a quick release to the nasal passages. Just remember, “a little dab will do ya.”

3. Neti pot: dissolve a teaspoon of sea salt in 2 cups of warm water. Standing over a sink fill the neti pot with one cup of water and place the tip of the spout into one nostril. Tilt your head to the side and allow the water to run out through the opposite nostril. Careful not to tilt your head back and up or the water will reroute down your throat. Refill the neti pot and repeat with the other nostril.

4. Apple cider vinegar: At the first sign of infection combine 1-2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in 6 ounces of water, a teaspoon of raw honey or stevia to sweeten and drink 3 times a day for 5 days. The apple cider vinegar helps to thin congested mucus, so it can be easily eliminated.

5. Grapefruit seed extract (GSE): this citrus extract is a powerful natural antibiotic and is used to inhibit microbes, parasites, bacteria, viruses and 30 types of fungi including Candida yeast. For sinus infections you can purchase GSE as a nasal spray and use it as an adjunct to your treatment protocol.

Approximately, 37 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis, many of which can be alleviated with a change of diet and a few natural remedies used as a daily protocol. I have mentioned five treatments that have proven effective in clearing sinus inflammation, but I am aware that there are others. If you have found natural ways to cure or control sinus infections for yourself or family please feel free to share them with Care2 readers in the Comments section below. And, as always, many thanks for your contribution.

by Delia Quigley

Delia Quigley is the Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include author, holistic health counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker. Follow Delia’s blogs: brcleanse.blogspot.com and brokenbodiesyoga.wordpress.com. To view her website go to www.deliaquigley.com

6 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Fabric Softeners

6 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Fabric Softeners

6 Natural Alternatives to Toxic Fabric Softeners

According to the Allergy and Environmental Health Association, both liquid and dryer sheet fabric softeners are “the most toxic product produced for daily household use.”  Most of the popular brands of fabric softeners contain many neurotoxins (substances that are toxic to the brain and nervous system) and other types of toxins. 

So, you’re ready to forego commercial fabric softeners but you still want soft clothes.  What are your options?  Well, here are my 6 suggestions to detox your laundry:

1.  Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine and let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes.  This is my preferred method since the baking soda acts as a water softener and helps makes clothes super soft.

2.  Some people toss tennis balls or other rubber balls into the dryer with clothes.  I’m not a huge fan of this method since the heat of the dryer can cause the rubber to off-gas onto your clothing.  If you have an allergy to latex, this is definitely not the method for you.  Plus, I wouldn’t choose this method if you’re drying delicate clothing items.

3.  Adding a cup of vinegar to the wash water can also soften clothes but I don’t find this method as effective as the baking soda technique.

4.  To help with static, there’s the aluminum foil ball technique.  Tightly scrunch a piece of foil to form a ball.  Throw it in with clothes in the dryer.  There is some possible concern with increasing your exposure to aluminum (which has been linked to some brain disorders).  It can also snag delicate clothes.

5.  Try to keep synthetic fabrics out of the dryer since they are the culprits when it comes to static.  Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, hemp, and linen are best dried on their own.

6.  And, of course there are natural fabric softeners available in most health food stores.  I must admit, though, that I don’t find them necessary.  I try to purchase clothing made of natural fibers as much as possible and find my clothes are soft regardless whether they go through the dryer (free of fabric softeners) or are hung to dry.

As you can see, there are plenty of options when you want soft clothes and to be free of toxins.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and eleven-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme Cure. Check out her natural health resources and free e-newsletter at www.WorldsHealthiestDiet.com.

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