Category Archives: holistic healing

Sunscreen: Healthy or Toxic?

It’s not an easy question. Most of us know that there is a relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer. But how many know about the problems inherent in many of the lotions that are on the market – there to supposedly limit damage to our skin?

What if the products you were buying and lathering on your face and the skin of your family contained chemicals that when exposed to sunlight actually broke down into compounds that can cause cancer? What if they contained chemicals that could disrupt normal hormonal function? But the government is there to help keep us safe, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the FDA has not made a final ruling on standards for sunscreens for the past 32 years. Proposed standards would require manufacturers to provide proof of their safety, UVA and UVB protection, and waterproof stability if those claims were made.

Research found on the website of the Environmental Working Group shows that 60% of sunscreens in the US contain oxybenzone as the active ingredient, to prevent burning and sun damage to skin. What the purveyors of these products do not tell you is that oxybenzone, which may be easier to apply to the skin than mineral sunscreens – like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – is absorbed into the skin in large amounts, potentially causing allergic reactions and hormone disruption. Researchers now recommend that oxybenzone not be used on children.

Vitamin A is a wonderful antioxidant and has been shown to beneficially reduce free radical damage when taken internally or applied to the skin in night creams. But using Vitamin A in sunscreen has potentially carcinogenic effects. So rather than preventing skin cancer, it actually may be contributing to it. Look for “retinol palmitate” as it is sometimes called on labels.

Much safer products are on the market now. But you have to be willing to do some research and read some labels. The biggest issue with the labels is that most of them have many ingredients. And most of the ingredients are unknown and unpronounceable by the general public.

But here is a good point. We know that our skin is a great delivery vehicle for medications, right? Why else would there be patches for quitting smoking, birth control and other medications? We do absorb substances readily through our skin. And yet we assume that the skin care industry, which is largely unregulated, has our best health at heart. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s not true. We live in a great capitalistic society, and they want to make money. Many of the chemicals and fragrances that are added to make them appealing are very unhealthy.

I don’t expect you to go out and get a degree in chemistry to understand all of this. Here are a few hints to help:

  • More is not better. Aim for labels with fewer ingredients – not so many that you are weary to read all of them.
  • Familiar is good! If it sounds like a strange chemical that you can’t even pronounce, you might want to think twice about it.
  • “Baby” in the name does NOT mean it is safe for kids!
  • Don’t assumethat there is someone knowledgeable at your health food store who prevents the unhealthy ones from being put on the shelves.
  • Mineral sunscreens – zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – provide physical barriers to the sun yet are not absorbed into the skin.
  • Check www.ewg.org to see if your sunscreen is safe, or to find one that is (as well as read more in-depth research on sunscreen ingredients).
  • Use other protective barriers against the sun, such as clothing, hats, and umbrellas. And avoid being in the noonday sun when the UV rays are potentially most damaging.
pink wildflowers

Pink wildflowers

We all love this surge in warm weather and ability to spend some time outside. Spring and summer are a wonderful time for enjoying nature. Soak up your summer rays safely.

Sara Thyr, ND

Willowbend Natural Medicine

www.DrThyr.com

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Natural First Aid

My talk last week at Sky Hill Institute was a huge success. To keep the love going, I will blog this week on the contents of my home first aid kit.

The two things I use the most are undoubtedly homeopathic Arnica and All-Purpose Salve.

Arnica I carry with me everywhere. There is one in the tennis bag, my bike pack, my purse, and both of our cars. I don’t know if I am just a clutz, or if I’m just a huge believer. Giving Arnica immediately after any injury (or surgery) will dramatically spead healing.

There are other homeopathics for after particular injuries. But taking Arnica “no matter what” as quickly as possible is never a bad idea.

Keynotes for Arnica are:

  • any trauma
  • bruised feeling
  • the bed feels too hard
  • person injured says “I’m okay.”

One of my patients who recently feel directly on their tailbone was resistant to taking any homeopathic just after the fall. When she had been suffering for a while, she came in and I gave her one that is more specific to the falling directly on the coccyx. I truly believe that she would not have suffered as long if she’d taken Arnica immediately.

All Purpose Salve is a blend of herbs that is perfect for healing skin rashes and wounds. It seems as though we are forever dealing with some little cut, scrape or rash. The All Purpose Salve (made by Wise Woman herbals) combines herbs that not only reduce the itching and inflammation, but help to heal the skin. No antibiotic/petrochemical OTC ointment can claim that. (And I personally feel that putting antibiotic ointments, as well as using antibiotic soaps, just contributes to antibiotic resistance. You have an immune system! Don’t put that crap on little cuts and wounds!)

Some people have the idea that when you are hurt you need something more powerful than what nature has to offer. Quite the contrary – what nature has to offer is the most effective, as well as naturally safe.

Natural Allergy Relief

It’s still windy here in Petaluma. I keep thinking it is going to ease up. I know that many people are still really suffering from allergies. I want to give you a couple more ideas of how to help.

Vitamin C – good ol’ vitamin C helps allergies because it is a mast cell stabilizer. Mast cells are the ones that release the  histamines that are causing all of the symptoms…watery eyes, stuffed up sinuses, difficulty breathing, etc. Vitamin C is safe for most people. Get 500 mg 3-6 times/day. Just watch out for loose stools – that’s how you’ll know you’ve gotten too much.

Quercetin is another great mast cell stabilizer. It is a bioflavonoid, found in fruits and vegetables. In higher concentrations, like you will find in supplement form, can help decrease symtpoms. 250 mg three to four times/day should be good. Obviously, eating more fruits and vegetables will help as well.

The neti pot – nasal saline rinse – is also fantastic for decreasing congestion. I have seen the little sprays too – and if that helps you then great. I like the neti pot because it will get the saline deeper into your sinuses.

If you have chronic allergies, you may want to come in for a constitutional homeopathic remedy, or figure out if there is anything else underlying that is kicking up your immune system.

Springtime Self Care

I met with my trainer, Michael Finn, on Monday. I love the workouts he designs for me. He makes me feel good about the little progress I have made. He creates adjustments to make the program more difficult (arghhh!). But when all is said and done, nothing will change if I don’t work on my own. Therein lies the rub.

I always encourage my patients to just do the best that they can. I understand that they need support. When women want to start an exercise program, I encourage them to enlist a friend or spouse to make it more fun. For me, I had to ask Michael to babysit me a little bit. At least hold me more accountable on a more regular basis. Now I have weekly check-ins, by telephone – that old fashioned device that actually makes you speak in person to someone. Talk about accountability. I made it particularly difficult on myself because, like most children, I need firm boundaries. Michael is willing to be holder of the boundary.

We all need that from time to time. I firmly believe that we all need to take better care of ourselves. Sometimes that means enlisting some help along the way. Consider asking someone to be your life-line this spring to keep your self care in place. Once you have made it a good habit, then you probably don’t need that as much. But if you are beginning a new program, having support will help to make it stick.

Hormone link to breast cancer

I saw an article in the news paper the other day that a large, federal study was recently released reporting that the link of estrogen therapy for menopausal women and breast cancer is even more certain. This is not exactly a news flash.

What surprised me is that they are still popular. Many women don’t want to suffer with the symptoms that they may experience when they withdraw from the hormones.

Good news, gals! Naturopathic medicine has many tools that can help you. From elimination of hidden (IgG) food allergies, to fiber and herbs and homeopathics. No one should have to be miserable just to avoid cancer (although, honestly, it hardly seems like a trade-off!)

That is why I am here. To alleviate suffering and promote wellness. Naturally. I rarely have to resort to using bio-identical hormones for menopausal women. They aren’t well studied. But the theory is that they are exact replicas of what your body was making when you were younger, so they have less probability of metabolizing into the more dangerous metabolite of estrogen, and therefore less chance of causing cancer.

There are even supplements that can help the metabolic process lean more towards the beneficial metabolite of estrogen.

Get rid of your prescription hormones AND feel great.

Call for a free 15 minute consult today! 707-780-6033.

Naturopathic Medicine Comes to Petaluma, California

Welcome to my blog. Thanks, Kelley, for getting me moving!

My husband and I just relocated from New Hampshire to Petaluma. My practice is now open. It is called Willowbend Natural Medicine.

As a naturopathic doctor I work to find and treat the cause of disease. I focus on women’s health issues, including infertility, menopausal issues, restless leg issues, depression and anxiety. A typical treatment plan will be individualized to suite your needs, and may include nutrition, lifestyle changes, supplements, herbs and homeopathy. Focus on the whole person is critical to the healing process.