Monthly Archives: October 2012

Who “owns” your health?

 

diagram of health responsibility matrixWe sure have come a long way since the days of the Barber-Surgeon. Back in medieval times, that was who you went to if you needed a tooth pulled, your gangrenous limb taken off – or a haircut! Wow, talk about one-stop shopping!

Luckily, we have made huge strides in medicine, where now it’s possible for surgeons to do microsurgery through a laparascope, or even in-vitro for life-threatening conditions in fetuses.
Although medicine, in general, has made some wonderful strides, it’s all the choices we have now that I think are most exciting. No longer do we only have our Family Doctor to visit if we have something wrong with us. There are a plethora of alternative medicine practitioners available for any ailment.
In my own case, I feel incredibly privileged to have an alternative doctor as my Family Doctor. He is also a Reiki Master. Besides that he works in an office full of alternative practitioners – a Chiropractor, a Massage Therapist, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, a Naturopath and a heart disease prevention specialist. It’s like going to a medical “Mall”.
I think because of my upbringing, I do not automatically seek out my Family Doctor if something ails me. For instance, my knee was really bothering me last week, so I went to my Chiropractor, who diagnosed it as “runner’s knee”, although it could just as easily be called “hiker’s knee” as that is what caused it in my case. With icing, rest and a few simple exercises it already feels better.

(Update Jan. 2013, it turns out that the runner’s knee was just a symptom of a more complicated dis-ease of my body: Pyriformis syndrome, a spasm of the pyriformis muscle which is a small triangular muscle within the gluteus maximus. The spasming is caused by me overpronating my right leg to the outside both while driving and walking. I have been consciously rolling my leg inward both when walking and driving, with complete relief of my symptoms)

I’m not saying my Doctor wouldn’t have come up with the same diagnosis, I’m sure he would, but I think he also would have suggested I go for more testing (to make sure there’s nothing else going on) and anti-inflammatories to bring the inflammation down, etc. Well, I don’t want to waste tax-payers money on expensive tests and I don’t want to take anti-inflammatories, because they bother my stomach. I’d rather try the simplest possible methods first, then if they don’t work, try something more aggressive. I also asked my Yoga Teacher who gave me a number of exercises as well. If none of that worked to relieve my pain, I would have sought out my Acupuncturist for help and relief.
It never fails to amaze me, however, how many people I know who just blindly follow “Doctor’s orders”, taking whatever pills/tests are prescribed them, without even questioning, and in some cases, becoming dependent on proton pump inhibitors, or anti-depressants, when these were only prescribed to mask the symptoms, but the underlying cause was never diagnosed in the first place.
In some cases, you really do need to go for more testing, even at tax-payers expense. This was my case a couple of years ago, where I had some extreme gastric symptoms. A different doctor than mine may have prescribed a PPI, but my Doctor, being like a wolverine when it comes to finding the root cause of something, prescribed me some (quite invasive) tests, and then my Gastroenterologist found a huge overgrowth of H.Pylori bacteria which was causing all my symptoms. This is the same bacteria which causes ulcers and stomach cancer, so even though I hate taking antibiotics, I had to go on a major triple-antibiotic regimen, then more testing to make sure they were eradicated. If I hadn’t gone for more testing, I may have been on proton pump inhibitors for the rest of my life.
I urge you – please, please, please – just question your Doctor.
Why are you prescribing this? What would happen if I didn’t take it/do the test? How long will I have to take this medicine? (if the answer is for the rest of your life, I would seriously question why and what alternatives there might be). Seek a second opinion if the answers you get don’t make sense to you. If your Doctor is not open to your questions, or to alternatives, consider changing doctors if possible. If not, then at least ask your Pharmacist (they are fantastic in their knowledge of drugs and interactions with other medicines and herbs) Don’t be afraid to try out alternative medicine. Often times a Chiropractor is exactly what you might need for a musculo-skeletal problem. Think about it, you don’t go to a Doctor to get a tooth filled, or a haircut (anymore), so there are definitely alternatives out there if you are open to them.

Consider that your health is your own responsibility, with your Doctor and other practitioners as your coaches. Make prevention of disease your mantra. Keep an open mind to alternatives in your health care, but carefully discern for yourself the tried and true from “quack” cures and use modern technology to educate yourself.

Which Countertop to choose? It’s so confusing!

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to counter tops, that’s for sure. There are so many different products on the market and it becomes confusing if you are trying to figure out which way to go because it’s such a major decision. A counter top is not something that is easily changed when you get tired of it.

Image of lots of different colour choices for Difiniti Quartz

Lots of Colour and Texture choices from Difiniti Quartz

Also, which choices are better for the environment?
Here is a listing of some of the major choices and their environmental impact:
Concrete: the “greenest” choice by far, if it’s produced properly with less Portland cement and more recycled glass content. This choice has come a long way since the days when if you wanted concrete counters, you pretty much had to do it yourself. It is warm to the touch. Similar pricing to high-end granite, depending on complexity of design. Locally manufactured.
Cons: counter edges, especially fancy designs, are prone to chipping and can be repaired, but not invisibly. You do have to reseal, but only every 3 years, depending on usage.
Granite: very popular because it provides that natural, stone look. Extremely durable – it is stone, after all! Easy maintenance – contrary to popular belief, it does not stain, nor do you have to seal it every year. I have had mine for 15 years, never sealed it, nor do I do anything other than wipe it down with a natural cleaning product and I use Method “the daily granite” spray once a week.
Cons: it comes from overseas so the impact on the environment because of shipping it is huge.
Quartz: Brand names are Zodiaq, Cambria, Silestone, Caesarstone, Difiniti.
All quartzes are basically recycled glass/minerals held together by resins of some type. Zero maintenance, does not stain, comes in a great variety of colours, and is warmer than granite to the touch. Manufactured fairly locally and re-uses glass. Difiniti quartz uses up to 43% recycled glass (in the Evolve line), and is 40% less expensive than Cambria.
Paperstone: fabulous, truly “Green” product made of 100% recycled paper. It is extremely tough and durable but the major “con” is it’s so prohibitively expensive that most people are not using it yet. It likely will come down in price eventually.
Laminate: Brand names are Formica, Wilsonart. Price-wise, it is the cheapest choice of all and is very durable if taken care of properly. Not heat-proof so you cannot set a hot pot down on it, and the surface wears off with time and cleaning. Comes in the largest variety of colours and finishes with Formica180FX looking so much like granite you have to touch it to believe it.
Major con: the substrate beneath the laminate is almost always either particleboard or MDF, which off-gasses for years. However, it’s really easy to avoid this off-gassing by using a zero-VOC sealer, available at any paint or hardware store, all over the bottom of the countertop, preferably before it’s installed, but I have heard of people getting into their kitchen cabinets and doing it after the fact too.
Soapstone and Slate: both are natural, locally mined products that look quite similar, with the major difference being that soapstone is extremely durable, does not stain and requires no sealing (Chemistry lab counters are made of soapstone) while slate scratches, dents and stains easily and is the most expensive countertop material.
Cons: more expensive than granite, comes in two colours: grey and grey.
Corian: My least favourite. It’s expensive, stains, scratches easily so you are forever sanding it. I don’t know why people are still using it with all the newer quartz products on the market.
Marble: not a good choice for kitchens as it stains very easily and looks very grungy around the sink in less than a year. Better for use in a bathroom instead, although you do have to seal it periodically. Also a huge environmental impact due to shipping it.
Whichever countertop you decide on, make sure your contractor uses zero-VOC adhesive, to install it. These types of adhesives can be used in all countertop installations and make a big difference to your comfort and health after the product is installed.

Announcing Exciting News!!

I am thrilled to announce that I have created a brand new self-hosted website on WordPress.org
My blog, Vibrant Weekly, will now reside over there, so if you would care to continue reading, please click here to be redirected to my new website and sign up to the Vibrant Weekly newsletter using the subscription box in the right sidebar.
Thanks, and see you over there…………

Natural Cleaners

Isn’t it wonderful that four times a year – Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter, our bodies follow a natural circannual rhythm to prepare us for the season ahead. In the Fall it causes us to want to eat more carb and fat-laden foods and to want to clean up our “nests” to prepare for hibernation.
This rhythm is regulated primarily by the amount of sunlight hitting the retina, so if you are experiencing sleep abnormalities at this time of year, you might want to take an early morning walk without wearing sunglasses. I’ve tried doing that for a week and it has certainly helped.

This is the second great clean-up time of the year. The first being Spring, when we really want to clean up from the Winter’s excesses, and the second in the Fall, when we want to clean up from Summer’s excesses.
The garden has pretty much died and needs to be cleaned up.
The house is looking pretty grimy and needs more attention than a weekly “going over”. Windows need washing, closets need going through, with summer clothes cleaned properly, stored and exchanged for winter ones.
Furnace filters and smoke alarm batteries need changing.
When it comes to cleaners – buyer beware! There are a lot of cleaners out on the market today that purport to be “all natural”, “green”, “phosphate free”, “biodegradable”, etc. etc. Sometimes, they just have a picture of flowers on the packaging, but they’re not “green” at all.
Like with anything else, you must use your common sense and read the labels. Considering that phosphates have been banned for more than 20 years, the value of the term “Phosphate Free” on advertising is nil.
What you really need to look for on the package is:
Third party certification: look for logos such as the Ecologo or Ecocert.
Biodegradable OECD 301 E or D in 28 days or less
Recyclable packaging, also made from recyclable materials.
Phthalate free, petrochemical free.
A list of all the ingredients. This is not mandatory yet, but some companies disclose them.
Some odd but effective cleaning materials I have found to work well:

Image of soapnuts
Don’t try to eat these soapnuts!
Image of Himalayan Soapnuts
Himalayan Soapnuts for Laundry

Ecoideas Himalayan Soap Nuts. They are the outside part of the seed of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, a relative of the Lychee nut native to India.
You put 4-6 of these dried soapnuts in with your load of washing in cold water. They work well in an HE machine, as well as a regular machine and are great for preserving the colours of clothes. They come with a little cotton bag to put them in but I have found through experience that a piece of old panythose works much better at keeping them contained.

Image of pantyhose with soapnuts inside
soapnuts in pantyhose, ready for the washer

You can dry and re-use the nuts (right in the pantyhose) another 4 times. Then you just cut open the pantyhose and dispose of them with your kitchen compost. This product is also available as a liquid if you don’t like the idea of putting soapnuts in your washer.
Another product that I think is really great, for many reasons, is Ecoideas BioGreen crystals. Along with being very effective cleaners, they are completely non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and come in a small package. You drop the concentrated crystals into an empty spray bottle, top up with water and you have a whole bottle of cleaner, or stain remover or window washer or what have you.
Both these products are available at Goodness MeImage of  Biogreen crystals

If you’re ready to give up using dryer fabric softener sheets (which aren’t that good for you, or the environment), try Natura fabric softener cloths. They are available at Home Hardware. You just leave them in your dryer permanently, and they last for years and years.
No, I don’t work for or get endorsements from Ecoideas, or Natura, I just like their products.
Or – Make Your Own!
Since you may have already cut up some panythose to put your soapnuts in, you might want to try making your own dryer balls. I have not tried this yet, but I intend to as, apparently, using 3 of these recycled wool balls with your dryer load allows you to consume 30% less electricity. And you know what an electricity miser I am!
Check out this website as well for tips and tricks on making your own natural cleaners. It seems simple enough, and I like the idea of having a spray bottle of (safe) cleaner on my counter all-purpose spraycleaner recipe. For a recipe for homemade, natural liquid laundry detergent that seems very simple to make, check out this link
I haven’t tried these recipes yet, but I intend to, just to see how effective they are.

Natural Cleaners

Isn’t it wonderful that four times a year – Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter, our bodies follow a natural circannual rhythm to prepare us for the season ahead. In the Fall it causes us to want to eat more carb and fat-laden foods and to want to clean up our “nests” to prepare for hibernation.
This rhythm is regulated primarily by the amount of sunlight hitting the retina, so if you are experiencing sleep abnormalities at this time of year, you might want to take an early morning walk without wearing sunglasses. I’ve tried doing that for a week and it has certainly helped.

This is the second great clean-up time of the year. The first being Spring, when we really want to clean up from the Winter’s excesses, and the second in the Fall, when we want to clean up from Summer’s excesses.
The garden has pretty much died and needs to be cleaned up.
The house is looking pretty grimy and needs more attention than a weekly “going over”. Windows need washing, closets need going through, with summer clothes cleaned properly, stored and exchanged for winter ones.
Furnace filters and smoke alarm batteries need changing.
When it comes to cleaners – buyer beware! There are a lot of cleaners out on the market today that purport to be “all natural”, “green”, “phosphate free”, “biodegradable”, etc. etc. Sometimes, they just have a picture of flowers on the packaging, but they’re not “green” at all.
Like with anything else, you must use your common sense and read the labels. Considering that phosphates have been banned for more than 20 years, the value of the term “Phosphate Free” on advertising is nil.
What you really need to look for on the package is:
Third party certification: look for logos such as the Ecologo or Ecocert.
Biodegradable OECD 301 E or D in 28 days or less
Recyclable packaging, also made from recyclable materials.
Phthalate free, petrochemical free.
A list of all the ingredients. This is not mandatory yet, but some companies disclose them.
Some odd but effective cleaning materials I have found to work well:

Image of soapnuts

Don’t try to eat these soapnuts!

Image of Himalayan Soapnuts

Himalayan Soapnuts for Laundry

                                                                                                                                                                                 Ecoideas Himalayan Soap Nuts. They are the outside part of the seed of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, a relative of the Lychee nut native to India.
You put 4-6 of these dried soapnuts in with your load of washing in cold water. They work well in an HE machine, as well as a regular machine and are great for preserving the colours of clothes. They come with a little cotton bag to put them in but I have found through experience that a piece of old panythose works much better at keeping them contained.

Image of pantyhose with soapnuts inside

soapnuts in pantyhose, ready for the washer

You can dry and re-use the nuts (right in the pantyhose) another 4 times. Then you just cut open the pantyhose and dispose of them with your kitchen compost. This product is also available as a liquid if you don’t like the idea of putting soapnuts in your washer.
Another product that I think is really great, for many reasons, is Ecoideas BioGreen crystals. Along with being very effective cleaners, they are completely non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and come in a small package. You drop the concentrated crystals into an empty spray bottle, top up with water and you have a whole bottle of cleaner, or stain remover or window washer or what have you.
Both these products are available at Goodness MeImage of  Biogreen crystals

If you’re ready to give up using dryer fabric softener sheets (which aren’t that good for you, or the environment), try Natura fabric softener cloths. They are available at Home Hardware. You just leave them in your dryer permanently, and they last for years and years.
No, I don’t work for or get endorsements from Ecoideas, or Natura, I just like their products.
Or – Make Your Own!
Since you may have already cut up some panythose to put your soapnuts in, you might want to try making your own dryer balls. I have not tried this yet, but I intend to as, apparently, using 3 of these recycled wool balls with your dryer load allows you to consume 30% less electricity. And you know what an electricity miser I am!
Check out this website as well for tips and tricks on making your own natural cleaners. It seems simple enough, and I like the idea of having a spray bottle of (safe) cleaner on my counter all-purpose spraycleaner recipe. For a recipe for homemade, natural liquid laundry detergent that seems very simple to make, check out this link
I haven’t tried these recipes yet, but I intend to, just to see how effective they are.