Health & Nutrition Blog – Healthy Planet Canada
Now that summer is upon us and the hot summer weather is enjoyable, we are spending more time outdoors. It’s time to stock up on the essentials – sunscreen, hats, insect repellent…and don’t forget, a deodorant that does its function well. It’s only normal that the more time we spend in the sun, the more we may sweat. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about – in fact, sweating is your body’s natural mechanism to help cool itself down. The goal is not to reduce your sweat, but to prevent unpleasant odors. And yes, natural deodorants are just as capable as conventional ones! Why conventional deodorants have a bad rep Many conventional deodorants rely on aluminum salts as their active ingredient. Aluminum acts as a plug for your sweat glands, which is why they are so effective. On the other hand, natural deodorants are made without aluminum and use other ingredients like clay or baking soda to prevent your sweat from smelling bad. One of the main reasons people want to switch to a natural deodorant is to avoid aluminum products. Because they go directly on the armpit, a location of major lymph nodes, this heavy metal can enter the bloodstream and increase the risk of toxicity. Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer in particular have been linked to aluminum in deodorants. Which natural deodorants can deliver on their promises? Crystal deodorants If you’ve never tried natural deodorants, the idea that a crystal-looking piece of salt can be used to get rid of your odor may seem far-fetched. But it’s true! Crystal deodorants are the most minimal and safest option because they only contain one ingredient: mineral salt. It’s a piece of white salt that you wet under your tap, then swipe under each pit 10-20 times. Salt is a natural killer for the bacteria in your armpits that might cause smells. You can also find crystal deodorants that are made into sprays for convenience, though the crystal option lasts longer. Because this type of deodorant is as natural as it gets, there is no scent, no residue and will not stain your clothes. For children or young teens looking to try their first deodorant, this is the best option. Best options: Lafe Deodorant Crystal Rock 120g, Lafe Deodorant Roll-On 71 g, Lafe Deodorant Spray 118mL Clay-based deodorants Clay is an extremely effective ingredient for keeping armpits from stinking up. It acts as a natural detoxifying agent and can absorb moisture. Clay is great for sensitive skin and even safe to use for baby’s skin on diaper rashes. Clay-based deodorants typically come in a jar and is rubbed on the armpits. All you need is a pea-sized amount for each armpit. The most natural and well-known deodorants are from the Routine line. They have various scents created by using different essential oils, are best known for being able to work even on the sweatiest armpits. If you’re sensitive to baking soda, they have a baking soda-free version for their popular scents. It’s the perfect deodorant to use on days when you will be spending the whole day outdoors, or before a high intensity workout. Once you try this brand, it’s hard to go back to other options! Best option: Routine Deodorant Superstar 58g Finding your best option The search for an effective natural deodorant often leaves people feeling discouraged. But don’t give up yet – the benefits of natural deodorants are worth waiting for, and there are some amazing options out there, waiting for you to try! More and more companies are coming out with their own formula, you are bound to find something that works for you. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
For the first time in many years, Health Canada has changed the official maximum vitamin D dose allowed by supplement companies. Health Canada rarely changes their recommended vitamin doses, so this change surprised many people. What does the increase in dosage mean for us? As of February 24, 2021, we are now allowed to buy over-the-counter vitamin D supplements that are 2500 IU. Previously, we were only able to buy supplements that contained a maximum of 1000 IU. Soon, natural health brands will be releasing new, upgraded versions of their vitamin D supplements. Is this new dose safe? Although 2500 IU may seem like a big jump from the previous recommended dose, this increase has been a long time coming. In the US, vitamin D supplements up to 10, 000 IU are sold over the counter regularly. Evidence that supports the safety of allowing higher vitamin D limits has been collected for many years. Health Canada has been receiving requests from consumers, physicians, and the natural supplement industry for a long time, and it’s finally been approved, finally. To note, the maximum dose of vitamin D allowed does not represent the maximum amount of vitamin D you can take in one day before reaching toxicity. Instead, it “represents the highest average daily intake of a nutrient that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects in the general population”, according to Health Canada. As such, it is the maximum dose of vitamin D you can legally buy in Canada, without a doctor’s prescription. However, if your doctor has used a blood test and concluded your vitamin D levels to be low, they can certainly prescribe you a dose higher than 2500 IU. Who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Vitamin D is a unique nutrient. Although we can consume it through our diet, our primary source comes from the sun’s UV rays. As the rays hit your skin, the inactive vitamin D in your skin cells are converted to the active form. In order for this conversion to occur, you must be outside during the sun’s strongest hours, and be mostly uncovered. Both clothing and sunscreen can prevent your skin from making vital vitamin D. You may be a risk of vitamin D deficiency if you: Rarely spend time outdoors Are living in an institution like a care home Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when you’re outdoors Have darker skin Live in a country where the winter months are long How to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D year-round To prevent vitamin D deficiency, the most important step is to determine your reason for the deficiency. If you don’t go outside frequently, you may choose to make a daily routine of taking walks outdoors every morning. If the culprit is something that cannot be changed, such as having darker skin or being confined indoors, you may consider adding a daily vitamin D supplement. The most bioavailable vitamin D supplements contain a fat source as an added ingredient. Because vitamin D itself is fat-soluble, pairing the vitamin with a fat enhances its absorption. Popular pairings include coconut oil, MCT oil and sunflower oil. If you can’t stand the taste of oil as a supplement, emulsified liquids or softgels are just as effective. Best options: Genestra D3 K2 Mulsion 20mL, CanPrev Vitamin D3 & K2 + MCT 120 Softgels The superstar vitamin Whether you chose to increase your time outdoors in the sunlight or add a new supplement to your regime, the benefits of vitamin D have been evident year after year. You can rely on vitamin D to balance your immune system, keep your teeth and bones strong and regulate your hormones. Health Canada’s increase assures us that vitamin D is an important supplement to consider – try it and you’ll see! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Is your digestion system working optimally? Even though we eat every day, most of us do not know what normal digestive function looks like. How do you know if your symptoms are a result of your body digesting food, or the opposite? Digestion is the process of breaking down food so that your body can used the nutrients for various organ functions. When you eat, the food travels from your mouth through the esophagus, and into the stomach. It will move through the small intestine and large intestine (colon) before exiting via the anus. But that’s not all – your pancreas, liver and gallbladder all play important roles in your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients properly. When digestion issues occur, it may be a sign that one of these organs need extra support. Normal Digestive Sensations Having 1-3 easy bowel movements per day Bloat or gas after eating foods high in sulfur (ex: onions, beans, garlic, lentils, asparagus) Feeling fullness after a large meal Abnormal Digestive Sensations Feeling bloated after only a few bites of foods Nausea after eating Bloat or gas after every meal Acid reflux Stomach pain or cramping Mushy or lumpy stool Solving Abnormal Digestive Symptoms If you are experiencing abnormal digestive symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to consider supporting your digestive system strategically. From a holistic perspective, taking digestive bitters and digestive enzymes before meals are popular options. Digestive Bitters Digestive bitters are a blend of herbs that will simulate digestion – everything from the production of stomach acid, to stimulating the liver, to producing your own digestive enzymes to break down food. Our bodies have bitter receptors in the mouth, so when you taste these herbs, digestive juices and enzymes receive a kickstart and run more smoothly. As a result, symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion can be eased. These tinctures consist of bitter herbs soaked into organic alcohol, creating a potent extract. You only need 1-2mL of this tincture before meals to experience amazing effects! Unlike digestive enzymes, digestive bitters can be taken long term because the body will not become dependent on them. Digestive bitter blends: St. Francis Canadian Bitters 100mL, Botanica Digestive Bitters 50mL Bitter herbs: dandelion, artichoke, chicory root, gentian root, licorice, burdock Digestive Enzymes While digestive bitters encourage your body to make its own digestive enzymes, you may choose to supplement directly with a blend of digestive enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for chemically breaking down food in the digestive tract in order to be fully absorbed. The pancreas makes many of these enzymes naturally and sends them to the intestines, where most of the absorption occurs. However, certain health conditions such chronic pancreatitis, can interfere with this production. Without sufficient enzymes, you cannot absorb nutrients, even if you have a healthy diet. For those who have poor digestion or malnutrition, digestive enzymes can be supplemented to help your own enzymes. The main types of enzymes are amylase, lipase and proteases, which break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins, respectively. Some blends may also include hydrochloric acid (HCl), making it a great option for those that experience heartburn due to low stomach acid. Digestive enzyme formulas can also contain ox bile, which is needed to break down fats. People who have had their gallbladder removed will have difficulty storing bile, and may want to supplement with a digestive enzyme containing extra bile. There are many formulas available – finding the perfect one will depend on your specific digestive needs. It is important to take digestive enzymes before or right after eating, so that they have time to break down the food. It is not recommended to take these enzymes long-term, as it can affect your body’s ability to produce its own. Instead, use them when digestive symptoms are flaring up, or to combat a deficiency caused by a specific health condition. Digestive enzyme formulas: Enzymedica Digest Gold 45 Capsules, NOW Super Enzymes 180 Capsules A Permanent Solution? While both digestive bitters and digestive enzymes offer relief from digestive issues, they are not a primary treatment. They can be used to boost the digestive process, but if symptoms persist, please consult your primary health practitioner. Author Grace Tien is a dietetics and holistic nutrition grad. She creates sustainable, delicious meal plans to help clients with their health goals. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Have you ever heard the saying, “more is not better”? When it comes to conventional moisturizers, you may be surprised at the long list of ingredients on each bottle. Even if the product is labeled “natural”, it may still contain alcohol, phytates, xanthan gum, sesame oil, fragrances, and sunflower oil the list goes on. Unless you pay attention to the ingredient list closely, natural health companies can sneak a few questionable substances into your daily products. Many are fillers, while some may also be used as preservatives or emulsifiers. How can you avoid going down a rabbit hole trying to avoid every potential harmful ingredient? Instead of looking for a particular brand that meets your standards, why not go back to the basics? Mother nature has already provided us with the best moisturizers. These natural fats and oils can act as effective moisturizers on their own, or you can mix them together to make the ultimate blend. Did you know that natural oils and fats can replace your body lotion? They don’t need any preservatives or fillers – not to mention, they are full of nutrients such as vitamin A, E, and omega-3 fats. Don’t miss out on trying these moisturizing powerhouses Shea butter Shea butter is a thick butter-like fat that comes from the shea tree nuts. You can find it in bulk as large chunks, though it usually requires some chopping before using. Luckily, many skincare companies are recognizing the amazing benefits of shea butter and are whipping it into a texture that is easier to scoop out of the container. Shea butter acts as a powerful moisturizer, forming a skin barrier between the skin, locking in moisture for even the driest skin. It is naturally anti-inflammatory, making it a great moisturizer for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Shea butter option: Maiga Shea Butter Raw 1lb Cocoa butter Cocoa butter has a similar texture to shea butter; it is thick and solid at room temperature. It comes from the cocoa bean. Sound familiar? Cocoa powder and chocolate are made from the same plant! Just like good-quality chocolate, cocoa butter contains a variety of antioxidants that help nourish your skin from the inside out. Antioxidants protect your skin from sun damage, skin aging, dark patches, and even dull skin. Cocoa butter is the go-to moisturizer to keep your skin young and supple. Cocoa butter option: Eli’s Pure Cocoa Butter 115g Coconut oil Even though coconut oil is typically solid at room temperature, you can find fractionated coconut oil that will remain liquid. This makes it easier to apply – they often come in a squeezable tube, like a lotion bottle. For those that don’t like the coconut smell, you can look for oils that are refined. They are specially processed in a way where they won’t contain a strong scent of coconut. If you choose to use coconut oil as your moisturizer, make sure to try out a patch on your skin first. It is great for moisturizing the body, but some people may find that it clogs the pores. Others find that it helps reduce redness and inflammation. It’s best to try a skin patch to see which group you belong to. Coconut oil option: Prairie Naturals Coco-b Coconut Oil 100mL Jojoba oil Jojoba oil comes from the seed of the jojoba plant. It is full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps your skin cells regenerate faster, resulting in glowing skin. Jojoba oil is not as thick as the other fats and oils, but it is a potent moisturizer, nonetheless. Like the others, it can be used on the body, though jojoba oil shines best as a facial moisturizer. It is the closest oil that resembles your own skin oil – instead of clogging your pores, it balances the oil produced by your own skin glands. When you apply jojoba oil, it tricks your skin into thinking your skin already has enough oil, so it doesn’t need to produce more. This is helpful in preventing acne, which is often caused by an overproduction of oil. Jojoba oil option: Aura Cacia Organic Skin Care Oil 118mL Do I need to change up my whole skincare routine? If you have never used these natural ingredients before, do not fret. They are great additions to your skincare routine and can help build your foundations before you make the full switch to natural skincare. They are often cheaper than natural skincare brands, allowing you to dip your toe before you commit. Plus, you’ll save yourself the headache of researching and checking products on the shelves as you search for the best products. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Take a moment and think about this: how many high-sugar foods do you eat in a day? Protein bars, cereals, smoothies, juices, lattes, kombucha…not to mention obvious ones like cookies and cake. Many of these foods are part of our daily diet, even among the “healthiest” nutritionists and dietitians. While it may seem unfathomable to cut out all these foods in the name of health, we have some good news for you: sugar is not the enemy! Cutting out all these delicious foods is not necessarily healthy. There are so many options for sugar these days, and healthier alternatives do exist. Why sugar-free options are not the solution If you have a way of getting that sweet taste without consuming sugar, would you make the switch? You may be familiar with some popular artificial sugars (sugar-free options), such as maltitol, erythritol, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Sucralose, Splenda and Acesulfame K. When they first came out onto the market, sugar-free alternatives were all the rage. After all, they provided that sweet taste without any calories. They were deemed safe for diabetic patients and those who were cutting sugar out of their diet for health reasons. The truth is, sugar-free options are called “sugar-free” because they are made from artificial substances that your body does not recognize. Your body cannot digest it, so it passes straight through the digestive system. And while these artificial sugars do not stay in the body, they can wreak havoc while passing through the digestive tract. These toxic compounds have been linked to changes in the gut microflora, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, increased inflammation and even insulin resistance. Healthier sweeteners to try On the other hand, natural sugars are easy for your body to digest, and are often filled with other minerals and vitamins that are nutritious. Yes, this means that your sugar can be healthy too! Coconut sugar Also known as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut plant. It contains many minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and potassium, as well as polyphenols and antioxidants. Unlike white sugar, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index and will not cause a huge blood sugar spike. Best options: Ecoideas Coconut Sugar Organic 454g, One Earth Coconut Sugar 1.5kg Raw honey Unpasteurized (raw) honey is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is traditionally used for its medicinal effects for wounds, colds and infections. Raw honey is antibacterial and antifungal – you can use it to kill pathogens, topically or internally. It works great as a cough fighter or to soothe sore throats. Even if you’re not sick, adding a teaspoon to your cup of tea tastes delicious! Best options: Dutchman’s Gold Raw Honey 1kg, One Root Raw Wildflower Honey 1kg Maple syrup Pure maple syrup is another natural sugar that contains many minerals. It is a rich source of manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2), copper and calcium. You can bake with maple syrup, or add it to your coffee every morning. However, please note that commercial pancake syrup and pure maple syrup are very different. When looking for a good quality maple syrup, check the ingredients and make sure “maple syrup” is the only ingredient in the list. Bonus points if it comes from a farm! Best options: Canadian Heritage Organic Maple Syrup 250ml, Benefits by Nature Maple Syrup Organic 1L Incorporating sugar into a healthy lifestyle Sweets and desserts may be the first foods that people tend to cut out when starting a new diet. But once you cut out all sugars, this diet is very difficult to maintain. Temptations are everywhere. Donuts at work, birthday celebrations, your best friend’s baking…there will be countless others. It is for this reason that cutting out all sugars is not a long-term solution. Sugar can be part of a healthy lifestyle – it’s all about which options you are choosing! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
When you think about your daily purse essentials, you probably think of having your phone, wallet, keys, lip balm…but have you thought about keeping something for emergencies when you’re not feeling well? Some might call it being over-prepared, but you can’t predict the next time you start to feel a little run down or under the weather. It’s the worst when you’re out of your house and unprepared to start treating your symptoms right away! The solution? It’s as simple as keeping a few ginger chews in your bag. Ginger is the perfect herb to keep on hand for many unpleasant occasions. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial, but you can also often find them as sweet-tasting ginger chews or candies. This means that your ginger stash can be part of your emergency medicine bag as well as your go-to snack option. What’s so good about ginger chews? Soothes nausea Whether you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, feeling carsick, or just eating something that has gone bad, ginger is the best remedy to keep on hand for these uncomfortable symptoms. Ginger contains active compounds that relax the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, blocking the body from producing more nausea-inducing chemicals. It is extremely effective and has even been recommended by doctors to help chemotherapy patients deal with nausea. Relieves period pain As a powerful anti-inflammatory herb, ginger can protect against the inflammatory chemicals that cause period pain. Having a small number of inflammatory prostaglandins is normal, but in the cause of extreme period cramps, there is usually an overproduction of inflammation. Ginger is one of the most studied herbs to decrease inflammation and alleviate period pain. Its effectiveness has even been compared to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aleve and Advil. Reduces bloat Have you ever felt your tummy stick out after a large meal? Feeling bloated after a big meal is common and normal, but bloat and indigestion can occur even if you are not completely full. This uncomfortable feeling of stomach distention can feel leave you feeling tight and unable to go about your daily life. Although some carbonated drinks are known to cause bloat, sometimes you don’t know the cause of your bloat until after you have already eaten. To decrease the chances of unwanted bloat from creeping up, stock up on ginger chews. With ginger in your purse, you can rest assured that your digestion system will be running smoothly, even when you are eating unfamiliar foods at restaurants. Ginger has a calming effect that soothes the digestive tract, alleviates gas and improves blood circulation, making your bloat disappears faster. Fight the first sign of a cold or flu Many cold and cough medicines contain ginger as an ingredient, but why not go straight to the source? As soon as you feel your first sniffle or scratch in your throat, ginger can be used to fight the infection. Ginger chews and crystallized gingers have enough ginger content to exert their antiviral and antibacterial properties. You can also boost your immune system by opting for fresh ginger shots or sipping on hot ginger tea as soon as you suspect an illness. Best options for ginger chews: The Ginger People Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy Original 128g Best options for crystalized ginger (candy): The Ginger People Organic Crystallized Ginger 112g Still not convinced about the benefits of ginger? Even though you can buy ginger in capsule form, finding it in chewable or candy form is tastier. The best part of keeping ginger in your purse is that it comes in delicious options. If you tend to want to chew on gum or eat something sweet when you’re bored, ginger candies or chews can help settle that craving while providing you a boost of immune health. Since the ginger is a little spicy, it’s hard to eat more than the recommended serving! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
If you have a period, this is a sign to consider transitioning to using a menstrual cup. Today, almost all sanitary pad companies have come out with their own menstrual cup. And for good reason – there are so many more benefits. What are you waiting for? Why should you make the switch to a menstrual cup? 12-hour protection Most menstrual cups hold up to 15mL of blood, so you can go up to 12 hours before changing it again. You can change the cup before you leave the house for the day and again when you come home. Most people find they do not have to change their cups when they’re out in public. Because the silicon material is anti-bacterial, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome, even if you leave it in longer than 12 hours. Zero toxins Unlike conventional tampons and pads, menstrual cups are made from 100% medical-grade silicone and are completely toxin-free. Conventional products contain bleached cotton and plastic materials that can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. Organic sanitary products may contain less of these substances but will be significantly more expensive. Save hundreds of dollars If one cycle’s worth of pads or tampons costs $5 per cycle, and you go through an average of 450 periods in your life, you may end up spending $2250 on your period products. If you use organic sanitary products, the cost will be even higher. Compare this with a $40 menstrual cup that lasts around 10 years each. You will be saving hundreds! The most comfortable choice Many people forget they’re wearing a menstrual cup. With a pad or tampon, you may start to feel uncomfortable when they get full. The menstrual cup is inserted into an area where there are no nerves, so you cannot feel it at all. You may even forget you’re on your period! How to use a menstrual cup To correctly insert a menstrual cup, it’s easiest to start by visualizing how the cup will go into the vagina. Your cup should come with instructions and a diagram of the angle to insert the cup (it’s not the same as a tampon, which is inserted more vertically). The easiest position will be squatting over a toilet as if you’re just getting up from the seat. In this position, your vagina opening will be wider. Fold the cup so that the tip is smaller, then insert it into the vagina. You should hear a small “pop” sound if it is inserted correctly. If not, you can use a finger to push the sides of the cup until you hear it. Over time, you’ll be able to get it open faster. Best options: Nixit, Diva Cup (3 sizes available) How to remove the menstrual cup To remove the cup, you must be in the same position, squatting over the toilet. Use your pelvic muscles to push the cup down. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch the base of the cup. This breaks the seal on the cup so that you can pull it out easily. How to clean the menstrual cup It’s easier than you think. The cup can be cleaned and sanitized at the end of every cycle by boiling it for 20 minutes. You can have a pot that you keep just for this purpose. If you’re on the go or don’t have time to boil the cup, you can use special wipes or soap to clean it. Make sure you use brand-specific soap or wipes because normal ones may be too harsh for the material of the cup. Becoming comfortable with using a menstrual cup If you’ve been using pads or tampons for most of your whole period of life, it may take time to make the transition to a menstrual cup. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get used to it after trying it once. Most people need at least 3 cycles to get the hang of it. After that, it’s a seamless process every month! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Many of the products we use on a day-to-day basis are filled with synthetic chemicals. Body wash, shampoos, lotions, spot treatments, and bathroom cleaners… may smell great, but these synthetic substances are often filled with toxic ingredients that have a long-term harmful effect. Not to worry though, essential oils are a great natural alternative to these products. You’ll find much natural beauty, cleaning and skincare products containing essential oils rather than using harsh fragrances. This allows you to enjoy your products to the full extent while avoiding the synthetic ingredients that may interfere with the body’s hormones. What are essential oils? Though essential oils usually come in small bottles, they are full of potent aroma and benefits. When you open a bottle, the scent is immediately noticeable, similar to the perfume. This is because essential oils are made by steaming or pressing plants. During the process, the plant compounds that produce fragrance are captured. Each small bottle can take up to several pounds of the plant – it is extremely potent compared to the plant alone! The most useful essential oils you can start using today Lavender This floral scent is most well-known for its relaxing scent. Add a drop or two on your pillow before your sleep and you’ll be out like a baby. It is also very calming for the skin and can be used to treat skin irritations such as redness or burns. Alternatively, you can use it to calm the mind. During times of stress, you can rub some on the temples or the back of the neck to relax your body. Best options: Aura Cacia Lavender Oil 15mL, NOW Certified Organic Lavender Oil 30mL Tea tree This scent is most well-known for its purifying qualities. Use it to sanitize home surfaces, clean the air or put it on skin infections to kill pathogens. The applications are limitless. The leaves of the tea tree are antibacterial and antifungal, making it a great option to diffuse during cold and flu season. You can also dilute it with a carrier oil and apply to the skin as needed. Best options: Thursday Plantation Tea Tree 100% Pure Oil 10mL, NOW Tea Tree Oil 30mL Frankincense Though frankincense is not cheap, it has many health benefits. Frankincense has been used by the ancient Egyptians who used it for everything from perfume to salves to heal the skin. It is one of the best oils to add to your skincare routine, as it helps reduce the appearance of skin imperfections by rejuvenating skin cells. Best options: Divine Essence Frankincense Oil 5mL, Aromaforce Essential Oil 15mL Lemon If you’re planning to start making your own DIY house cleaning products, lemon is the best oil to add to your collection. It can be added to white vinegar (diluted with ½ distilled water) or diffused to clean virtually all areas of the house. Not to mention, lemon has an uplifting aroma – it’s the perfect mood booster. You can also use it to remove sticky labels from old pasta glass jars. Add a few drops of lemon oil and you can easily scrub off the label. Best options: Aromaforce Essential Oil Lemon Organic 15mL, Aura Cacia Lemon Oil 15mL Eucalyptus One of the main benefits of eucalyptus oil is that it helps clear breathing and open the lung airways. Stuffy noses don’t stand a chance with this calming scent. As you diffuse eucalyptus in the air, you can purify the air and surfaces of pathogens, while clearing your mind. It is a must-have for the cold and flu season! Best options: NOW Eucalyptus Oil 30mL, Aromaforce Essential Oil Eucalyptus Organic 15mL Building a collection of essential oils You don’t have to buy all these essential oils at once – try starting with one or two at a time. As you start incorporating them into your life, you’ll surely want to add more to your collection! They are a versatile and natural way to add some nice smells to your life. The bonus is that they have many beneficial purposes as well. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Can sun exposure cause cancer? Can sunlight boost your immune system? There seems to be a constant debate as to whether sun exposure is truly needed. Because if they are not, why risk the harmful effects such as increasing the risk of skin cancer? Most people know they need to put on sunscreen before they spend the day in the sun, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to avoid the sun entirely. We need sunlight to produce vitamin D, balance our circadian rhythm and keep our bodies strong and healthy. The concern with UV rays Sunlight from the sun is composed of three types of light energy: visible, infrared, and ultraviolet (UV) rays. UVA and UVB rays are known to be light rays that react with the melanin in your skin cells and can cause serious skin damage. Your body’s skin cells are designed to absorb the dangerous UV rays, but there comes a point where the amount of ray exposure exceeds what your cells can absorb. When you develop a red sunburn, it is a sign that your melanin cells have reached their limit. After this point, the UV rays can create free radicals and oxidative damage in your body. Oxidative damage can result in a wide range of conditions – in mild cases, it may increase the levels of inflammation and prevent your organ systems from working optimally. In severe or chronic cases, the DNA in your cells can become mutated and develop into cancerous tumors. Not everyone develops sunburns, but the people who do likely notice it does not take long for their skin to reach this point. One of the reasons why there is so much debate regarding safe sun exposure is because every person has a different risk factor. Heredity and environment play a huge role. If you are fair-skinned and get sunburned easily, sun exposure for long periods may be more dangerous for you. If you have darker skin and do not get sunburned, you can have safer sun exposure. It’s all about knowing your own body! Why natural sunscreens offer a safer alternative There are two main types of sunscreens on the market, physical sunscreens, and chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens are designed to sit on your skin and absorb the UV rays, so they do not enter your cells. However, the active ingredients used to accomplish this important task can also enter your body and bloodstream. These ingredients are not recognized as safe and can be harmful in high quantities or with daily use. The main UV filters oxybenzone, homosalate and octocrylene have been linked to increased risk of cancer, which defeats the purpose of its protective functions. On the other hand, physical (mineral) sunscreens are designed to form a barrier to physically shield the UV rays, which bounce off harmlessly. The ingredients are not absorbed into the skin and are considered more natural because they do not use harmful chemicals. Because physical sunscreens form a barrier, they must be applied as the last layer on the skin, over your daily skincare and makeup. Its active ingredient, zinc oxide, can sometimes have a white cast, though many natural brands have formulas that prevent this from happening. Choosing natural sunscreens ensures you are not applying more toxins and harmful chemicals on your skin, while still protecting yourself from excess UV rays. Best options: Badger Sport Sunscreen Clear Zinc SPF 40 Unscented 87ml, All Good Sport Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 89ml, Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+ 6oz Other ways to protect yourself from the sun Even though sunscreen is the foundation of safe sun exposure, you can take steps to protect yourself on a daily basis. Wearing clothes that cover the areas where the sun is most likely to hit (forehead, shoulders, arms, legs) can offer sufficient protection if you must be outside. Keeping a hat or a light sweater can be great options to keep around. Keep in mind that the sun is strongest from 11 am to 2 pm, so avoid spending time in direct sunlight during these hours, and you’ll be cutting the risk dramatically! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.
Castor oil may be known as folk medicine dating back to ancient times, but today it serves many useful purposes. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to increase healing, reduce inflammation and improve circulation, adding a castor oil pack to your routine will be your best bet. What are castor oil packs? They are not as complicated as they sound. Castor oil packs involve using a cloth soaked in castor oil, then placed on the skin. A heat source such as a heating pack or hot water bottle is then placed over the cloth. The combination of heat and castor oil over your body brings many healing benefits. Benefits of castor oil packs Castor oil packs can be used for a variety of chronic diseases, or simply to support your daily health practices. Many people use their castor oil packs over their liver (area under the right ribcage) to support detoxification, but you can place it on any painful, inflamed area of the body, such as swollen joints and muscle strains. It can also be placed over the abdomen for constipation or indigestion, or over the lower abdomen for uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts. How to use a castor oil pack Start by picking your star ingredient, the castor oil. Only this particular oil should be used because it contains high levels of ricinoleic acid, which is responsible for its beneficial properties. Because the castor oil pack is a therapeutic treatment, it is best to prioritize getting the best quality castor oil. Make sure to choose one that is cold-pressed, organic and comes in a glass bottle. This ensures the chances of the oil being rancid are low. Best options for castor oil: St. Francis Castor Oil 250m, Heritage Castor Oil Black 240mL Next, you’ll need an old cloth big enough to cover your desired area, preferably one that is undyed and cotton, but use what you can find. If you would like to keep electronics out of the pictures, you can use a hot water bottle pack. Otherwise, an electric heating pad can be used. Layout your cloth in a container. Soak it in castor oil so that it is completely saturated. Prepare the area where you will be using the pack. It is best to wear old clothes because castor oil is known to leave stains. Place the castor oil cloth over the desired area. To keep your clothes and heating pack clean, you can lay another old cloth or towel over the castor oil pack, then add your heat source. Lie or sit down, resting in this position for 30-60 minutes. Making castor oil packs a part of your routine If you’ve never used castor oil packs before, they made seem time-consuming. But think of your castor oil pack as your wind-down routine before bed. It can be a very relaxing process once you get the hang of it. Start with using them once a week, then work your way up to three times a week for maximum benefits! Please note: castor oil packs are not recommended for pregnant women or during menstruation. Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.