Protect your retinas from blue light

Most of us spend a lot of time with eyes locked on a screen of some sort – computer at work, TV to unwind, smartphone or ipad to keep us busy while we unwind… This excessive percentage of open-eye time dedicated to blue light emitting screens is unhealthy in a few ways. Beyond that, we are exposed to lighting sources such as LEDs and fluorescent lamps which also emit blue light. There’s some evidence emerging which suggests that the blue light that we’re exposing our retinas to may be causing long-term damage and lead to age-related macular degeneration.

So what do we do about it? Like anything else, I believe that if it’s at low cost to us, it’s worth investing in preventative measures to protect our long-term health, even if the research is still unclear at this point.

Steps you can take to clean up blue light:

  • Reduce your screen time! If possible clear your life of some of this clutter. Read books… REAL books! Reserve scanning social media to small sections of the day. Watch less TV. Listen to more radio or music!
  • If you can’t reduce your screen time, make sure to use the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 mins in front of a screen, look away for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. This gives the eye muscles that had been working hard a break, and exercises the other muscles a bit. It’s like having a balanced workout instead of only working your biceps at the gym and letting your triceps wither away.
  • You can purchase light screens that cover your device and filter out the damaging light rays. And there are now apps that will do this automatically – twilight app.
  • You can also get eye glasses with both UV and blue light filters.

To read more in depth about blue light – The Lowdown on Blue Light: Good vs. Bad, and Its Connection to AMD

Toxic co-sleeping: the hidden dangers

Co-sleeping is currently controversial. There was a time when probably no one in the western world co-slept, and there have been MANY times throughout history when there was not one mother that DIDN’T co-sleep with her newborn. At the moment we’ve got a mix of both. Research will report all sorts of things, and there are definitely safe and unsafe co-sleeping practices, but ultimately it comes down to what you are comfortable with as a mom.

co-sleeping toxicI had no plan for newborn sleep. We didn’t even have a crib because I didn’t know if we would need it. We were given a hand-me-down bassinet and that was my backup. It turns out (much to the chagrin of my midwives) that I actually slept sitting up for the first couple of nights with my little munchkin secured to my chest in a Moby wrap. This is officially NOT a safe co-sleeping practice. However, it’s what worked for me. We had a home birth and no family around, so it was just the three of us to negotiate those first bleary-eyed days and nights. There was no one to pass the crying baby to, and she was only content in my arms (which seems fair considering her entire existence up to then was in my belly). So rather than risk falling asleep with her in my arms, I propped myself up safely, wrapped her securely to me (with airway open of course) and let myself lightly doze. I didn’t get any medication in labour so I do feel like I was as alert as a new mom needs to be, just as nature programmed us.

After those first couple of days, I was able to separate her from me by a few inches, swaddled and lying beside me on the floor mattress. As time went on we progressed further and further apart, with her migrating into her crib (yes we bought one!) full-time by the end of the fourth trimester.  I migrated back to my bedroom mostly because I felt all of my tossing and turning was waking her at night. With other healthy sleep hygiene practices we dedicated the effort into, she has very good sleep habits and I’m glad we put in the work so that she gently developed an independent sleep routine that she’ll carry with her throughout life. If she is sick or with travel we co-sleep still, but for the most part she is an independent woman, and is very happy to have her own sleep space in her own room.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t protect her from the harmful chemicals most definitely leaching out of my standard big box store mattress. Mattresses are laden with fire retardants, sometimes antibacterials, and just generally off-gas VOCs from the materials used to fabricate them. My little kiddo was spending between 12-18 hours with her nose centimetres from the source. At least when I’m sleeping on that mattress there is a pillow barrier (assuming the pillow is of good origin). I’m sure she’ll have no long-term health impact from this toxic load, but I’m working so hard on all other fronts to minimize her exposure, that it seems crazy to have missed this intense dose.

Since then I’ve done my research, and here are the two best (and reasonable affordable options available in Canada).

Essentia

Naturepedic

Fatigue: Thyroid vs. Adrenal

Your tired. And it’s more than something a good night’s sleep can resolve. To eliminate fatigue the first step is to make sure the foundations of health are covered; adequate sleep, good nutrition and digestion, moderate exercise, and minimal stress. If the fatigue extends beyond that it’s time to investigate hormones.

The two most likely culprits of fatigue are the thyroid or the adrenal glands. A thorough intake with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor is the most efficient path forward, but to get you started, here is a list of symptoms which usually help to narrow down the root cause —

 

Thyroid-based fatigue

o fatigue thyroid naturopathicBody temp low and consistent
o Sluggish energy – persistent fatigue
o Difficulty losing fat
o BP normal to high
o Cholesterol high
o Facial colour – red
o Hairloss: lateral 3rd of eyebrow loss
o Intolerance to cold
o Muscle aches

Adrenal-based fatigue

o fatigue adrenal naturopathicBody temp low and fluctuates
o Wired and tired or sluggish in late stage
o Bursts of energy – inconsistent fatigue
o Tired in afternoon: second wind late
o Difficulty gaining muscle
o BP low
to normal
o Cholesterol low
o Colour – pale
o Bowel hyper/ibs
o Sparse body hair
o Intolerance to cold or heat
o Back ache and muscle aches
o Frequent urination
o Insomnia
o Weak knees/tired legs
o Hard to focus mind

 

Read my previous blog post about thyroid health to help determine if testing is warranted to determine the root cause of your fatigue.

Postpartum Nutrition

postpartumThe postpartum period is often a blurrrrr… We are running on hormones and no sleep, and despite that we are rapidly transforming into incredible creatures – supermoms! We learn to change diapers in the dark, pee with a babe in arms, keep our cool when a mystery object in baby’s onsie turnsout to be a belly button. And we eat. Don’t we? Yes, I think so. We don’t have the resources to focus on our own nutrition, but we can ask others for help in this department, and we can also plan ahead as best as possible. Here are a few guidelines to follow, not only in the first 6 weeks postpartum, but also to continue as long as you’re breastfeeding.

Caloric intake should not fall below 1,800 Kcal/day + 500kcal/day if breastfeeding

The weight will come off. Don’t even consider dieting until a year postpartum. Your body is intelligent and is managing it’s weight in a specific way. Step back and let it regulate on its own. After a few weeks, when you’re feeling ready, focus more on getting you and baby outdoors for nature walks.

EAT MORE
  • Berries
  • Greens
  • Eggs
  • Bone broth
  • Fermented foods
    • Kombucha, fermented veggies (including saukeraut), apple cider vinegar
  • Antioxidant-rich foods
    • cacao, pomegranate, blueberry, herbs, goji berries, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, parsley, basil, ginger, thyme, pumpkin seeds, chia, dark chocolate, red wine, brazil nuts, hemp hearts, coconut oil, rooibos teas, nutritional yeast, seaweed
  • Healthy fats
    • Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic + onions
  • Fish: large 1-2x per week {cod, haddock, pollock, shrimp, tilapia}
  • Lots of fibre + WATER to keep BMs regular and easy
POSTPARTUM SMOOTHIE
  • postpartum-smoothie1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • handful kale/spinach
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • Option to add: cacao nibs +/or goji berries
DIETARY CALCIUM

Some fantastic dairy free sources are broccoli, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, kale, beet greens, almonds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, sardines, and salmon.

Chia seeds are also a very rich source of calcium, omega 3 and fibre

WHAT TO AVOID
  • postpartum-strawberryMercury-containing fish {tuna only 1x/week, no shark, swordfish,
  • PCB-containing fish {farm-raised salmon, herring, and sardines}
  • Phytic acid {sprout grains}
  • Dirty dozen {ONLY BUY ORGANIC}
    • Strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, kale, collard greens
HERBS
  • Red raspberry
    • to tone the uterus and get everything back in place
  • Fennel tea
    • to improve digestion and digestive health of babe
  • Licorice tea
    • to support adrenal function to help you cope with these new challenges
SELF CARE
  • postpartum-careExercise
  • Drink LOTS of fluid {up to 4L/day}
  • STRESS
    • Eliminating what you can
    • Accepting and managing what you can’t
  • Practice gratitude
  • Be creative
  • Time in nature
  • Laughter
  • Epsom salt + herb bath
  • Massage – breastfeeding posture can wreck your neck and back. Do your best to keep your spine aligned, but for those all-night hunched nursing sessions, book a massage to work it out.
SUPPLEMENTS
  • Prenatal
    • Your diet should give you what you need, but a prenatal will act as a safety net to make sure you’re not being stripped of important nutrients.
  • Vitamin D
    • If you have adequate vitamin D levels (150 nmol/L) your baby gets enough vitamin D via the breastmilk. If it’s lower than that your doctor will recommend that the baby be given vitamin D drops. I believe it’s better to supplement the mom to use her as a filter for any unwanted components in the vitamin D supplement, but also because her body will make sure that the baby is getting exactly the right dose (versus eyeballing it with a ballpark number of drops per day).
  • Omega 3 fish oil
    • This is important for baby’s neurological development.
  • Calcium magnesium
    • You need an extra 250mg calcium per day. This is in addition to the 1000mg per day you should be getting in your diet. It’s helpful to check with a nutrition assessment tool like My Fitness Pal to make sure you’re achieving this.
  • Probiotic
    • Can help with digestion and immune function, at a time when sleep deprivation can lead to stomach upset and increased susceptibility to colds.
  • B complex
    • B vitamins are important for many things, including your stress response. Not sleeping is a stressor. So if you’re not sleeping much, you need to support your adrenal glands. B vitamins can help with this.

 

6-WEEKS POSTPARTUM
  • postpartum-pelvic-floorPelvic physiotherapy
    • To make sure everything is moving back into place. This is especially important if you’re experiencing urinary, bowel or pelvic pain issues.
  • Well child check-up
    • This is the right time to bring your babe in to meet his/her new Naturopathic Doctor, and also a great time to share your birth story and make sure that everything is getting back on track.

Toxins – purging towards wellness

toxinsToxins are all around us. In the air, in our food, in most products we use on and around our bodies, and pretty much everywhere else. We have created hundreds-of-thousands of synthetic chemicals in short period of time, and many of these are toxins. We have not yet evolved to cope with this chemical burden. We must do our best to avoid them when we can, and improve our elimination of them when exposed.

When we are healthy, these toxins are naturally more easily eliminated from our body (although they do slowly accumulate). When we are sick, highly stressed or otherwise compromised the body is unable to eliminate these chemicals, and we sustain damage at a cellular level.

Though it seems obvious, taking care of ourselves means taking care of our environment, and by taking care of ourselves we incidentally reduce our burden on the environment. We buy products that won’t pollute our waters and landfills, we eat locally and reduce the fossil fuel cost of food, we spend more time in nature and connect more deeply with our ecosystem.

Living a low toxicity life is essential for all those wishing to live a truly healthy life.

Steps we take towards cleaning up:

  1. Awareness: we choose to make informed decisions about what we are putting on and in our bodies. We read labels, we ask vendors, and we look things up!
  2. Avoidance: the next step is to put in the effort to find a better alternative to products containing toxins.
  3. Elimination: we also need to purge our home of toxin containing items.
  4. Acceptance: we do our best, but it will be impossible to completely live without toxins, so once we’ve cleaned up as best as we can, we accept that chemicals are around us, and we’ll incorporate regular detoxification practices to reduce the toxic burden on our organs.

Home

Most homes have poorer air quality than most factories. This is because of three reasons:

1: dust (which can contain toxic chemicals)

2: the large amount of synthetic materials we have in our houses which give off tiny amount of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s or toxic gas) and,

3: poor ventilation in getting dust and VOC’s out of the house.

  • Open your windows LOTS. At home, in the car, and at work. Indoor environments have way more airborne pollutants than outdoor air. This is usually from byproducts of “stuff” we bring into them, as well as from building materials.
  • Look into an IQ air filter for the bedroom (the dustiest place in the house). Most airborne chemicals are actually floating around attached to dust particles. Eliminate the dust particles and you significantly reduce your exposure.
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly.
  • Vacuum instead of sweep, and make sure your vacuum has a Hepa filter.
  • Get your air ducts cleaned, and install pleated electrostatic air filters.
  • Eliminate plastic food containers from your life, including water bottles and plastic wrap, and teflon too
  • Choose glass or stainless steel and cast iron instead
  • Reverse osmosis filter at home. Cost = $250
  • Microwaves reduce nutrient intake, heat up in the toaster oven or stovetop instead – DEFINITELY NEVER MICROWAVE IN PLASTIC!!!
  • Eliminate vinyl (a carcinogen and associated with birth defects) from your home as much as possible. Opt for cloth instead of vinyl shower curtain.
  • Get any carpet out of your home. A natural fiber rug that can be hung outside to air out periodically is fine.
  • indoor-plants-reduce-toxinsCarpets are either synthetic, or have been treated to make them more hard wearing and so give off large amounts of VOC’s (this also applies to their underlay or rubber backing).
  • Get indoor plants – these are good at taking the toxic chemicals out of your air and replacing them with oxygen.
FURNITURE

Furniture is actually quite toxic. They are coated in fire retardants and are often made of chemical product that off-gas toxins. We can’t replace all of our furniture, but new items can be purchased from shops that have stopped application of fire retardants.

  • Buy furniture that is made out of natural materials if you can. Plastic gives off a high rate of VOC’s and should be avoided if possible. Wood, wool and leather are good.
  • Mattress options:
  • For your towels, curtains, sheets, etc., use natural fibres. This is worth it, particularly with your bedding and pillows as you spend so much of your time wrapped up in it.
CLEANING

Get rid of your toxic cleaning products. All of them. There are many homemade options or store bought earth-friendly ones too. Cleaning products are not required to list the ingredients in Canada, so even if it’s says bio/eco/ or whatever, we still have no idea what’s in there, and what harm it can do to us over time.

  • cleaning-without-toxinsWater
  • “Elbow grease” (muscle power)
  • Baking soda – great for absorbing smells and is good in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Vinegar – good for polishing glass, tiles, metal, mirrors, ceramic surfaces and floors. It is also a good if you have burned on cooking stains on your stainless steel cookware, soak them with vinegar for several hours, then scrub.
  • Lemon juice mixed with table or sea salt makes a good abrasive scrub for chopping boards and other rugged surfaces.
  • Eucalyptus Oil – removes stains and grease, is a mild antiseptic and an insect repellent
  • Cleaners made from citrus fruits (Orange and Lemon). These work really well for stubborn stains.
  • Borax (use this sparingly) – is a mildly abrasive cleaner, a water softener and an insect repellent.
  • Raw sea salt – a great bleach and stain remover.
  • There are a large number of microfibre cloths available now that clean very well without harsh chemicals. They are especially good for cleaning bathrooms, timber floors and dusting (which is very helpful for asthmatics and those with a dust allergy).
  • Avoid bleach at all costs, it is very neuro-toxic.
  • Dust more often, using a micro fibre cloth. Keep two or three cloths discretely stored around the house so you can whisk dust away before it accumulates. It is easier to dust one room while you’re there than to tackle a whole house once or twice a week.
  • A real bonus in cleaning your home in this way is that you will spend a lot less on cleaning products.
  • No chemical air freshners! Use aromatic essential oils instead.
PERSONAL CARE

Instead of looking for a healthier version of a personal care product, consider not using it at all anymore. You don’t need makeup, perfumes or anything else to shine yourself up. Nourish from the inside out. You’re clean and beautiful just as you are ☺

  • Get rid of anything that you don’t feel good about after looking it up on the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database.
  • makeup-without-toxinsOpt for buffed nails instead of polish.
  • Opt for coconut oil instead of moisturizers with two paragraphs of ingredients. Even the ones that imply healthy usually aren’t.
  • No chemical hair removal.
  • Only use natural deodorant. Showering with a strong tea tree soap will help kill the bacteria that cause stinky pits, thereby allowing a natural deodorant to do the trick.
  • Use natural toothpaste, and make sure you have wax coated dental floss (the fancier kinds can be coated with teflon).
  • Instead of mouthwash, do coconut oil pulling with a drop of antibacterial clove oil. Not only does it kill bacteria and freshen your breath, but it also nourishes your gums and can reverse receeding gums.
    • Coconut oil pulling: 1 tbsp + 1 drop clove oil for 10-20 mins daily (spit out, don’t swallow), following thorough brushing (3 mins) and flossing

GARDENING – Be careful not to expose yourself to toxic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in the garden.

WORK – Do what you can to protect yourself from obvious chemicals in the workplace, and get fresh air as much as possible.

CAR – Open the windows LOTS! Car interiors have some of the highest levels of inhaled chemicals.

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION?

Research about EM frequency radiation is scarce, but better to be safe than sorry later on. There’s no harm in adopting some electromagnetic hygiene practices around the house —

  • Put all electronics (especially wifi router) on timer/power bar that you can turn off when not in use
  • Use headphones when talking on cellphone
  • If you use your phone as an alarm, turn it on airplane mode at night

sudbury naturopathSmall steps really add up. It might be hard to drastically overhaul your routines all at once, so instead pop some of these toxin hygiene practices into your calendar a month apart. There’s no rush to get started, but the sooner you’re living a toxin-reduced lifestyle, the longer the compounding benefit! And don’t forget do see your Naturopathic Doctor about your semi-annual cleansing program to clear your detox pathways, in order to better remove toxins that have already accumulated, and those that are unavoidable.