Home Is Where The Health Is

Home Is Where The Health Is

We spend so much of our lives in our homes, yet  do we ever really consider their role in supporting our health? Here are a few simple tips for making your home environment healthy as can be.

In the kitchen

Swap plastic for glass

It’s really important to swap all plastics out of the kitchen, Use glass or stainless steel water bottles, glass food containers and steel lunchboxes. Teflon non-stick pans should be swapped for steel or something from Greenpan (greenpan.co.uk) which makes brilliant frying pans. Plastic water bottles may contain bisphenol A which, we all know can be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor.

BPA has been proven to leach into food, enter our bodies and mimic the hormone oestrogen. Because of this some experts believe it may be fueling the rise in hormone-driven cancers. It’s also implicated in obesity, neurological disorders as well as thyroid problems, male infertility and asthma. Currently, the charity Breast Cancer UK is campaigning for a ban on BPA use in food packaging – it’s already banned for use in baby products in all EU countries and a total ban for all food products in France. Avoid ingesting this toxic health hazard by using glass containers to store food, and never heating, microwaving or freezing any food contained in plastic – always spoon food out into glass or porcelain. Some companies have stopped using BPA in tin linings, but the majority still do. If in doubt, google a tinned product before you buy it. Keep clingfilm away from food too. Try sustainable food storage Bee’s Wrap instead (£15, notonthehighstreet.com) and never heat food wrapped in tin foil – aluminium leaches into the food and this heavy metal is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

Swap regular for organic

And of course, what you put in your pans to cook is even more important: Organic food is higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides which may be toxic. If cost is an issue, concentrating on the dirty dozen and clean fifteen (the crops that have the most vs the least pesticide residue) is a very good start.

Swap white for brown

White bread, pasta and flour should be swapped for wholegrain as the nutrients and beneficial fibre is contained in the husk which is removed during the refining process.

In the garden

Swap out the weedkiller

If there’s one change you need to make it’s this: get rid of glyphosate. What’s that you ask? It’s the potent toxic ingredient in weed killers like Roundup and it’s implicated in all kinds of horrible diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer. Recent independent studies showed farm workers exposed to glyphosate or Roundup are at least twice as likely to develop lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). Roll up your sleeves and yank weeds out, or pour boiling water on them to kill them first.

In the bathroom

Swap antibacterial cleaner for natural

There’s a new warning about infertility, and your household cleaner is in the frame. Researchers at the University of California have found that exposure to common products damages human cells. Certain hand wipes, disinfectants and mouthwash contain things called quaternary ammonium compounds which kill germs by dissolving their cell membranes. But the latest findings suggest they do this by damaging the powerhouses of cells, known as the mitochondria, and they do the same to our cells too. This means the sex cells needed to start a family are at risk. Offending products named in the study include Tesco Fresh antiseptic disinfectant, Dettol surface cleaner and antibacterial wipes, Lemsip Max All In One Liquid, plus various Colgate mouth products. Also check all of your products for the ingredient triclosan – linked to cancer and used in Colgate Total, for example.

The solution? Go natural of course! There are hundreds of DIY cleaning product recipes online, or try Dr Bronner Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner (£8.95, dolphinfitness.co.uk), and all-purpose cleaner which you can use for laundry, cleaning surfaces, washing the dishes, mopping the floor, or to clean bathrooms and sinks.

In the living area

Swap man-made for natural

Embrace the principles of biophilic design, the idea of using natural materials to bestow wellbeing benefits upon inhabitants and improve the human connection to nature. It’s backed by science, with several studies proving that homes based on biophilic design has wide-ranging psychological and physical benefits, from improving sleep to reducing stress levels. Using natural materials, like silk or wool, or even water-based finishes, can do a lot to reduce toxins in the home, many artificial materials give off toxins throughout their lifespan, creating poor indoor air quality, and as a result negatively impact on the overall health and wellbeing of the occupants.

Throughout the home

Use eastern wisdom

A healthy home is one where the positive qi energy is flowing calmly and smoothly around each room, without obstruction. Large pieces of furniture that block doorways or routes around the house should be repositioned or removed. Systematically declutter under the bed, stairs and in any junk rooms or cupboards. Even if you can’t see the mess, it will still be stagnating the energy flow!

Boost natural light to stimulate the qi. Regularly clean windows and mirrors, and position mirrors to maximise the light in all rooms. Brighten darker rooms with lighter coloured paints, wallpaper and fabrics. Nature in your home will also uplift the energy. Use houseplants with soft, rounded leaves or fresh flowers. Avoid artificial ones and quickly remove any that are dying or dead. Natural, non-synthetic scents and oils will help stimulate or slow down a room’s energy. Carefully choose energising or calming fragrances to harmonise with the desired function of each space.

Rachel x

4 Beauty Ingredients To Avoid

Do you know what’s in that tub of cream you rub into your face every day?

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If you haven’t already gone natural it might be time to consider making the switch, as there are a lot of nasty chemicals in your beauty bag that could be doing your body real harm.

INGREDIENT: PARABENS (BUTYL-, ETHYL- OR METHYLPARABEN)

Harm: Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.

Found in: makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers.

INGREDIENT: PROPYLENE GYCOL

Harm: Polyethylene when it is not combined with glycol, is the most common form of plastic used in the world. Moreover, according to a report in the International Journal of Toxicology by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, it often includes ethylene oxide (which The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as group 1, meaning it is a proven carcinogen) as well as heavy metals (lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, cadmium and arsenic).

Found in: shampoo, soap and shower gel.

INGREDIENT: PETROLATUM

Harm: Petrolatum comes from crude oil and while it is classed as non-toxic, there is a risk of contamination from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil and its by-products.

Found in: most commonly, Vaseline, but also skincare and eczema products.

INGREDIENT: SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE OR SODIUM LAURETH

Harm: A former industrial degreaser now used to make soap foamy, large quantities of it could be absorbed into the body and irritate skin, causing inflammation. It seems to be quite low risk but this increases the longer it’s left on the skin, the more concentrated it is and the more often it’s used.

Found in: shower gel, shampoo and lathering, cleansing products.

And the ones that sound bad, but aren’t:

• MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a special biological sulfur found in plants, soils, fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, meats, and milk and could help joint pain and clear your skin.

• Hyaluronic acid is a type of carbohydrate (made up of simple sugars), that occurs naturally in our bodies and binds to water, helping to lubricate eyes, muscles, and our skin.

• P-Anisic acid (also known as draconic acid) is derived from anise, a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region and southwestern Asia and has antiseptic properties.

Rachel x 

10 Beauty Tricks With Coconut Oil

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When you think about the health benefits of coconut oil, the last thing that might come to mind is rubbing the edible plant grease all over your face! Or your arms. Or coconut oil for your hair. But a growing body of research, countless experts, and an army of natural-beauty devotees swear by the stuff for just about everything!

Coconut oil is used in many natural beauty products, and for good reason: It’s naturally antibacterial and anti fungal, coconut oil for skin is an excellent moisturizer, it can penetrate hair better than other oils, and, well, it smells amazing!

Here are my favorite 10 beauty uses for coconut oil that don’t require spending a fortune on store-bought products. In fact, all you need is one thing: Raw (and preferably organic) virgin coconut oil.

1. Deep-condition your strands overnight

There’s a reason many conditioners contain coconut oil: It’s better able to penetrate hair (and prevent protein loss) than mineral and sunflower oil, according to research. Apply a 10p sized dollop to your hair, comb it, and then pile it into a loose bun. You’ll want to place a soft towel over your pillow or sleep in a shower cap. In the morning, shampoo as usual.

2. Tame frizz

If you struggle with taming your mane, coconut oil can definitely help. Calm your frizzy, flyaway strands with just a bit of oil to leave your hair looking smooth and polished. As an alternative to straightening serum.

3. Add shine

Smooth a tiny amount of organic coconut oil onto your ends of your hair to add a little shine if you have dark hair. Remember that a dab will do you: Any more and your hair might appear greasy

4. Remove eye makeup

Yes, coconut oil even works on waterproof mascara! Put a little on a cotton ball and gently sweep it over your eyes, paying attention to your under-eyes as well. The oil does a great job breaking down waxy, inky eye makeup, and leaves the delicate area hydrated, too. Once you’re done, wash your face as usual.

5. Freshen your breath

Remember oil pulling? Turns out, swishing coconut oil around in your mouth may actually pull the toxicity out of your mouth. Just swirl it around your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes until it turns a milky white color, then spit it out into the trash and rinse with water. If this sounds like a gross way to spend 15 minutes, you’d be surprised—it becomes routine fairly quickly and can even feel meditative and relaxing.

6. Soothe dry hands

This won’t work for dry hands when you’re on the go, but at home, coconut oil for skin can work wonders on your dishwashing-parched hands. You can get a jar at your local grocery store, keep a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil by the kitchen sink and put a little on after washing hands to keep them soft. And if you cook with coconut oil—you can sub it for butter in baking recipes because it’s solid at room temperature—scoop out a little extra for your hands, too!

7. Moisturize your body

A recent study found that when applied topically, virgin organic coconut oil for skin can speed up wound healing, and found it to be effective in increasing hydration and reducing water loss in seriously dry skin.

8. Have a little rubdown

Many store-bought massage oils have either coconut or jojoba oil as their base. Cut out the middleman and go straight to the bottle. It’s slippery, skin-friendly, and moisturizing.

9. Nourish cracked cuticles

Massaging coconut oil into your cuticles and the skin around your nails can bring some much-needed moisture to an often overlooked part of the body.

10. Relieve psoriasis

Apply coconut oil to relieve itchy, scaly skin caused by psoriasis.

Rachel x

My Top 5 Natural & Organic Shampoos

While we often worry about what goes in our cosmetics and skincare, we neglect to check the ingredients of a product we all use every day: shampoo. And unfortunately, almost all commercial shampoos contain ingredients that can harm your health.

The main such ingredient is sodium laurel sulphate (SLS).

With sodium laurel sulphate, dioxins are created – and they are some of the most potentially dangerous carcinogens in the world.

SLS is commonly used,  because it’s cheap and has the ability to foam up when mixed with a bit of salt. Unfortunately, many consumers have the perception that lots of foam=cleaner hair, but this is not the case: the foam itself doesn’t help clean your hair much. But SLS does get rid of grease, which is why it is used for cleaning engines and in kitchen floor cleaning products.

If you’ve ever wondered why shampoo labels always warn against getting the product in your eyes, it’s not because it stings–we all know that–it’s because SLS is highly irritating.

It’s also damaging to hair follicles, corroding the follicles and impairs their ability to grow hair. One study showed that if you use pure SLS on your scalp it will cause hair to fall out! Some Trichologist’s (hair specialists) believe that increasing use of SLS and the salt that is added to it to make it foam is leading more women to lose their hair (or to have it thin out) than ever before.

There are however other more profound health hazards associated with SLS. Scientists have studied the effects of SLS extensively, and their studies reveal compelling and alarming evidence indicating that it should be avoided. Among the findings is that SLS is rapidly taken up by eye tissue and retained; this is even more so for children. SLS is absorbed through skin contact, not just through the eyes, and has been documented to enter and maintain residual levels in the brain, liver, heart, and lungs. It can damage the immune system and cause severe inflammation of the skin, but scariest of all, the damage is accumulative, and once your immune system is damaged, it takes a long time for it to recover. This can lead to a form of suppression of your body that allows you to become more vulnerable to viruses or bacteria.

Unfortunately, it’s not only shampoos we have to watch out for. SLS is in a lot of other personal care products as well, including toothpaste, hand and body soaps, bubble baths, facial cleansers, shaving gel. But don’t worry – I will be posting healthier product alternatives for you all over the coming weeks. In the meantime, bin the SLS-laden shampoos in your bathroom and replace them with one of the fantastic SLS-free shampoos, all of which contain at least some organic ingredients, and which I have tried and tested myself, below.

Please note: I was not paid for any of these endorsements. 

Faith In Nature

Faith In Nature has an award winning natural shampoo range. Their shampoos contain herbal extracts and essential and organic oils to leave your hair feeling both smooth and glossy.

Their natural vegan shampoos are cruelty free, SLS and paraben free and are vegetarian. They use no synthetic colouring, fragrances or artificial preservatives in their shampoos to ensure that they are as natural as possible.

Price: Around £5.50

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Dr Organic Shampoos

Dr Organics uses a combination of bioactive, organic and natural ingredients, such as argan oil, Manuka honey and aloe vera to get your hair clean and soft, but be warned: it also contains some synthetic surfactants like cocamidopropyl betaine, which some may find irritating but which has been given a low hazard rating (4) by the Environmental Working Group. Still, Dr Organic shampoo cleanses and foams up well, and the presence of humectants like Argan oil leave hair soft and tangle free. The shampoos also have a  lovely scent based on different natural ingredients such as mandarin peel oil, geranium oil, patchouli and cinnamon. My favourite is the Manuka Honey, which really does smell like you just fell into a honey pot!

Price: Around £6.29

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Green People Daily Aloe Shampoo

Apparently a fave of Kate Moss’s, this is a soothing natural shampoo for all hair types, but especially for those with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Green People make a range of shampoos with various ingredients, and their products have no SLS or no foaming agents at all, and are also free of drying salt. I found a little of this lavender scented product went a long way.

Price: Around £12.50

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John Masters

John Masters really is the ‘Master’ of natural hair care. His wide range of shampoos, conditioners, hair masks and styling products are fully based on natural ingredients, with many of these being from organic sources. I’ve tried and tested a good many of these, and have several favourites, including this Honey and Hibiscus Shampoo, which can be used every day. Fortified with soy, rice & oat proteins to renew and reconstruct damaged hair, this SLS-free shampoo permeates the hair shaft with nutrients and of course, the added organic honey and hibiscus make your hair smell wonderful!

Price: Around £20.00

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Weleda Baby Shampoo & Body Wash

Looking for a shampoo for the baby? Or just have fine hair? Or maybe you want an all natural shampoo that won’t break the budget, and can also double up as a body wash? This shampoo really does tick a lot of boxes, which is why it’s been a European top seller for almost a century (that’s right – it’s been around for nearly 100 years!).This is a gentle, tear-free formula with anti-inflammatory calendula, and moisturising almond oil. It offers a highly gentle cleanse that will never strip your hair, and is kind to even the most sensitive skins. It leaves your hair with a slightly sweet, chamomile like scent.

Price: Around £7.50

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Rachel X