Category Archives: organic

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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Spring Cleanse is here at last

I can’t believe it is the middle of March! But here is sit with a table of vegetable sprouts, daylight that stretches well past winter’s 5 pm shut down, and 17 brave souls starting together the spring cleanse!

I am really excited about this cleanse. I always am. I love doing the twice/year detox classes. It’s fun to work with a group and commiserate together. And it is just time. I am ready for the straight and narrow path that doing a detox pushes me into.

I am happy for this blog to be a forum for anyone to comment if they want to share and stay connected during the process. Feel free to comment about how things are going, questions, concerns or general whining! And as much fecal discussion as you can handle.

I’m off to make my green smoothie to take for lunch, get a massage, and buy more paint. Maybe I’ll take a little more detox powder today! :’)

Like Water Off a Duck’s Back, or “Just Chill”

I have always wished that I were a more mellow person. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let it go like water off a duck’s back. I love those snappy little sayings. Love them until I try to embody them, that is. They make it sound so easy. Like that is just the way it happens. Water rolls right off.

Today I was vindicated. At least for the idea that it isn’t that easy. It takes practice and work.

On Thursday I was in my office when I received an alarming and disappointing email. There I was, all alone, nashing my teeth and crying in frustration. I knew it would blow over. But in that moment I thought to myself, “Why can’t this be easier? Why can’t I let it go like water off a duck’s back?”

Today I went on my usual Saturday sojourn to Cotati to pick up my fabulous organic eggs (at StonyBrookSustainables) and check on the new baby chickens and ducks. As we stood and watched the 6 week old “babies” (who mostly look like adults now), Suzi pointed out that they preen all the time. They have these oil glands on their backs by their wings, and they preen to get the oil to cover their backs.

Ah ha! That is how they do it. It is NOT so easy. It takes them the entire friggin’ day! That is all they do. They eat, swim and smooth oil onto their backs so that the water will just run right off.

I think if I worked at it all day, I might be cooler of the head. So red heads, fire signs and general over-reactors unite. Don’t let people tell you it’s simple.

Consider preening all day. I do think that will help.

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.

Liver Detox last day! Hooray!!

I have to say, I have been much better on the detox than I have been about the blog. I mostly just didn’t want to whine. It is difficult to continue this so diligently as well as being the cheerleader.

I feel great. Am soooo happy that I participated with the group. I’m ever so grateful that I have the support of my husband in the food prep. He doesn’t always follow the detox perfectly himself. But does support me and bring and make lots of cleanse-friendly food.

I am excited to be done, and not have to be so so perfect. I will continue to avoid sugar. That has not been difficult. Perhaps some dark chocolate during that one special week of the month.

I also don’t miss caffeine. I may have occasional green tea. But never back to the Peet’s habit that we’d fallen into. We also have an espresso machine at home, which can get dangerous. But honestly it is pain in the butt, and I don’t feel that good when I drink coffee.

As for the alcohol, I feel that most of us can get away with having a social cocktail or wine here and there. But more than that is just a waste of liver function, brain cells and calories.

We will start reintroducing the foods we’ve avoided tomorrow. I am a big fan of introducing certain things back in one at a time. I feel that we get the most information that way.

I am really glad I did the detox with the group. Happy as I am to be done, it always feels good to have successful completion.

If you have comments about doing a liver cleanse, I’d love to hear them. If you are interested in doing a detox, I’d be happy to work with you.

Day one on Detox – looking forward

So far so good. I had brown rice tea with morning with just a little green tea mixed in. I must wean off caffeine. I haven’t had much lately anyway. I realize that overall i feel so much better without coffee.

We had oatmeal, lemon water, and some detox tea. Cleaned a bit of the house.

It’s interesting how spring inspires all of that type of cleaning. Both inside and out. I want to get rid of all of the dust and clutter.

We’ll also plan ahead a bit better. To be disciplined in a body that requires fuel for survival, one has to make sure to have plenty of healthy snacks and meals on hand.

Spring Detox is Here!

I have been preparing over the past few weeks for this spring’s group detox program at the Lucchesi community center in Petaluma. I am so excited. I have a new and improved guidebook, lots of free passes for health clubs, and interesting samples to try. We start tonight (Thursday, March 5) and meet for three consecutive Thursday evenings. (See my website http://www.DrThyr.com) for more information.

This afternoon we’ll make the Fruit Nut Spread from Lisa Allen’s inspired book Eaing Clean. It’s just too delicious! Hard to believe it is “legal” on the detox.

Most of all I am looking forward to doing the cleanse along with everyone else. Each time new things happen. New habits are created. Old ones that don’t serve me are tossed out.

Doing a cleanse with a group is always great fun for me. I love to teach people about toxic exposure. It renews my inspiration to start a detox center of my own.