You are Not Just What You Eat: Cosmetics and the Chemical Cocktail Effect

We are all growing increasingly aware of the need to eat well, and to exercise to protect our future health and avoid illness such as cancer. However, it is not just what we eat which finds its way into our bodies. Every day we are surrounded by thousands of chemicals which we rub onto our skin, spray into the air, and soak ourselves in. We cover ourselves in chemical beauty products and keep our houses clean whilst releasing hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals into our personal environment. In order to feel tranquil we fragrance our home with products linked to cancers such as breast cancer. The range of cosmetics and beauty products on offer is now so vast, that choosing shampoo can take hours, but most of these products contain ingredients possibly harmful to health, and few chemicals are tested for the effects of long-term use. Women now use on average 20 different personal care products each day, each of which will contain 10 or more chemicals.

There is growing research to prove the potential harm of the ‘chemical cocktail effect;’ the unknown interactions which occur between chemicals used together in every-day products. It may concern you to know that unlike the food industry, the cosmetic industry is largely self-regulating; there is little control as to what goes into products. But like the food industry, we know that this multi-billion dollar industry is largely concerned with making money, and therefore cutting corners, and using cheap products which are highly-processed and chemical in origin; often byproducts of the petrochemical industry.

Just for fun, here is the list of ingredients in my popular branded ‘Revitalizing’ hand wash with natural essential oils (all of which you will find in many of your beauty products):

o Aqua: it is just water, although aqua definitely sounds more expensive.

o Sodium Laureth Sulphate: this will be in many of your beauty products, and is a foaming agent. The American Food and Drugs Administration rank it as a drug because of its effects on the human body. It is a powerful detergent, and is used by garages to clean oil off the floor; it will strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and unprotected. It is linked to eye problems, and may combine with other chemicals used in the product to produce carcinogens; cancer-causing chemicals. Due to its effect on the natural balance of the skins oils, it is best to avoid products containing this chemical if you suffer from eczema, acne, rosacea, or skin sensitivity.

o Cocamidopropyl Betaine: a thickening, emulsifying and anti-static agent, inexpensive to produce, versatile in its uses, and linked through scientific study to contact dermatitis, eczema and skin sensitivity in some people.

o Methyl Parabens: the parabens family (Methyl, Ethyl, Propyl) are found in a vast array of beauty products and are known to disrupt the natural hormone balance of the body. They are strongly linked to cancers, with a University of Reading study finding parabens present in breast tumors, and may cause problems with fertility or the development of the foetus. They are often found in baby and child products, and many skin lotions and creams. They are classified as toxic and are also known to cause skin problems such as skin sensitivity, itching, burning, blistering and rashes.

o Sodium Chloride: salt.

o Parfum: a synthetic fragrance. These chemicals are largely derived from petrochemicals (nice) and enter the body through the skin absorption, inhalation, or ingestion. It is thought that 1/3rd of synthetic fragrances cause skin sensitivity and skin problems, and the American Food and Drugs Administration list them as the primary cause of allergic reactions to beauty products. There is no evidence of the possible long term effects of these drugs. Some synthetic fragrances such as musks can bio-accumulate in the body, and concentrate in fats (including breast milk). Most people will accumulate significant quantities of these chemicals in their bodies, which has led Germany and Japan to ban many of them from beauty products. They will be widely used in room fragrances.

o Citrus Aurantium Dulcis : Sweet Orange extract- at last something natural!

o Citrus Aurantium Amara: Bitter Orange oil.

o Cymbopogon Schoenanthus: Lemon Grass Extract.

o Olea Europaea: Despite the fancy name it is just Olive extract.

o Tetrasodium EDTA: thought to be safe when used in the small amounts present in cosmetics, it is used also in large amounts in household detergents. This chemical compound may affect the body on a cellular level allowing chemicals to more easily enter cells. It is removed quickly from the body through urination, and accumulates in the environment in groundwater, rivers and drinking water, and as such is of great concern environmentally. More studies are needed to determine any potential health effects on humans, and throughout the food chain.

o Sodium Lactate: a known irritant to the respiratory system, eyes and skin in large amounts. Is also used in the food industry.

o Polyquaternium-7: this chemical may break down into chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems. It is thought that safety tests conducted within the industry may not be sufficient to determine a true risk-factor.

o Sodium Benzoate: This chemical is only safe in small quantities, and is a classified toxin. It is suspected to have a toxic effect on the brain, skin, blood, liver, kidneys, and gastro-intestinal system. Due to concerns about toxicity it has a safe limit for addition to cosmetics, although has not been given a safe limit for products where it may be inhaled.

o Citric Acid: this ingredient has not been assessed for safety as it is thought to be entirely safe for use.

o Propylene Glycol: a by-product of the petroleum industry, also used in anti-freeze and brake fluid. It may cause skin sensitivity, and allows the skin to be more easily penetrated by other chemicals. In large quantities, this chemical must be handled only with protective clothing, gloves and goggles, and skin contact may result in liver, brain and kidney abnormalities. Luckily for you it is used is much smaller quantities in cosmetics and household products; still I think I will try and give it a miss under the circumstances. There is no data for the long term use of this chemical.

o Methylchloroisothiazolinone: sounds nasty, and it is. This one is linked to skin sensitivity, lung sensitivity and is toxic to the immune system. It has two safe limits, one for things which are washed off, and one for things which are left-on. I don’t know about you, but if it isn’t safe to be left on my skin, I am not sure that I want it there at all.

o Hexyl Cinnamal: This is registered as an allergen in America, where it must be listed on product information by law, although it is thought to be safe for cosmetic use.

o Citronellol: another fragrance linked with skin sensitivity.

o Citral: this fragrance may cause skin sensitivity, and is an irritant. It is subject to restrictions if it is not of a sufficient quality, and is also used in food products. It is a classified toxin and suspected of causing liver and immune system toxicity.

o Limonene: this fragrance is similar to the above and causes skin irritation, burning, itching and hives in susceptible individuals. It is a registered chemical hazard with handling restrictions, and is an environmental toxin, dangerous to wildlife where it contaminates the water system (i.e. when it goes down the drain).

Well after all of that I am not feeling as much revitalized as revolted. There are 21 ingredients in my hand wash, 14 of which may cause health problems ranging from dry and irritated skin to cancer. As a hand soap, I may use this product up to 10 times a day, that is 70 times a week, and yet it contains many chemicals which at best are not doing me any good, and at worst are bad for me. There are also the other products which I come into contact with throughout the day; shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, face and body moisturizer, fabric cleanser and conditioner on my clothes, washing-up liquid on my kitchen things, hair spray in the changing rooms; the list is endless. All of these chemicals have the potential to get into my body through my skin, lungs and digestive system, and there is growing evidence to suggest that this chemical cocktail may be of short and long-term harm. It is certainly true that these chemicals will have a more marked effect on children and babies. It seems that you are not just what you eat!

Healthy Home and Family And Toxic Threats – What To Do

I am a concerned mother and I thought everyone should know that a lot of very harmful chemicals have found their way into our common household products. Apparently, the FDA claims that they only monitor foods and drugs (not household cleaners and other household items) as stated in their name, Food and Drug Administration. So guess who is left monitoring non-food and drug items? You go it, no one. So it is up to us, the consumer to check these things out for ourselves, like we do not have enough to do without this. Hard to believe? Do you have any Johnson and Johnson baby wash lying around? It contains Quaternium-15, a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. You go it, the stuff they use to preserve dead bodies. Well, it is not so healthy for live bodies either.

Actually, it is a known and proven cancer causing agent, a carcinogen, and it becomes a gas that stays in the air of our homes, so that all our dearest loved ones and our selves can breathe it in. I am not just talking about one manufacturing company; they all have not so well known ingredients and surprise toxins. I am not saying I blame them either. They want to make money and these chemicals are known to achieve the goals of the product and they are cheap to produce. But that does not mean that I want to use them to poison MY family. The EPA says that indoor pollution is two to five times worse than outdoor pollution. It is therefore not hard to understand how a 15 year study found women that stay at home are 54% more likely too die of cancer than those that go out of the house (for a job, for example).

We do not even realize what kinds of poisons we are bringing into our homes. I have decided for myself to get all these toxins out of my home but I do not have time to check out every product and each of its individual ingredients. What is needed is a trustworthy green company that is manufacturing wellness products that are not killing us, our family, the environment, and the world. But things also need to be affordable. I found one company that looks pretty good. I now use these products. I have done a lot of research and have not been able to find better products anywhere. If I do find better products, I will use them instead. I will list the link in the Author section, in accordance with the rules of this site.

What is an Aphrodisiac Food?

Gently poached shrimp in red curry over grains of fragrant, jasmine rice. Freshly shucked oysters served ocean-side with a glass of golden Sauternes. The meat of crushed cocoa pods steeped with flecks of chile and sweetened by sugar cane. Aphrodisiac foods have been celebrated by the greatest cultures in recorded history. Today, modern science is proving the nutritional validity of foods historically regarded as aphrodisiac. So why does the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) say there is no such thing as a culinary aphrodisiac?

The FDA not just dispels a belief but also in fact warns consumers against natural aphrodisiacs, maintaining that no over-the-counter product works to treat problems with sexual function. Of course, the FDA is trying to protect consumers from products like the manufactured packets labeled “Spanish Fly,” sold at the checkout counters of seedy convenience stores in Chatsworth, California (heart of the American porn industry). But it also tends to define aphrodisiacs rather narrowly as products that only those directly improving sexual hormone levels.

It is true that until recent years, no controlled studies discovered even the hint of such a culinary Viagra, directly impacting sexual hormones. However, a study completed in 2005 by a group of Italian and American scientists inadvertently discovered that a rare amino acid raised sexual hormone levels in rats. The study was investigating the amino acids of a Mediterranean variety of mussels and the sexual health discovery was simply a sideline of the group’s true goals. So, unfortunately, no follow-up studies have endeavored to harness the Viagra-like potential of not just mussels but all bi-valves, (including oysters and clams), containing this miracle amino. However these initial findings, without a doubt, shoot a few holes in the FDA’s story.

Despite the FDA’s cold shoulder toward the world’s most “exciting” foods, people around the world continue to define culinary delights as aphrodisiacs. Some foods earn their title for their ability to produce an immediate physiological effect on the body. Chile peppers, for instance, have been used as aphrodisiacs throughout the Americas and Asia for centuries for their ability to raise body temperature and bring a blush to the cheeks similar to a sexual flush. Ginger, another warming spice, can make the eater’s tongue tingle with anticipation and lips plump to proportions that could meet any Angelina Jolie fantasy.

Alcohol is also considered aphrodisiac for its physiological effects. We all know what happens when the first sips of a drink hit the blood stream and the world becomes a warm and glowing place. Champagne is a particularly effective aphrodisiac. The delicious “pop” of a cork and the tickling of bubbles on the nose make the drink much more than an inhibition assistant. Life becomes a celebration with Champagne in the glass. The teasing notion in the back of the mind that the entire bottle really must be drunk right away less it lose its cheerful effervescence brings to the moment an air of indulgence. But, of course, the aphrodisiac of alcohol must be administered in careful doses. As Shakespeare warned of the temptation of the bottle, ‘It increases the desire, but it takes away the performance.’

Thanks to the work of two rather quirky figures in the world of science, we now know that the mere scents of some foods can evoke sexual arousal. In the late 1990’s, Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago completed a study in which food aromas caused sexual arousal in subjects in both waking and sleeping states. The most successful scent tested in the study to tempt men was a combination of pumpkin pie spice and lavender. For women, it was cucumbers and Good and Plenty candies. Other scents, such as glazed donut, buttered popcorn and vanilla also offered arousing results.

In a series of slightly less formal studies, Dr. Max Lake, an MD and vintner from Australia’s Hunter Valley, discovered similarities between the scents of certain foods and the aromas of human pheromones. In his book Scents and Sensuality, Dr. Lake describes the aromas of some Blanc de Blanc Champagnes as well as ripe cheeses as being startlingly similar to female pheromones. He also discusses the aromatic similarity between truffles and the male pheromone androstanone. (Ever stop to ponder why truffle hunters employ female pigs? Those randy girls are after the scent of androstanone!)

Other foods are considered aphrodisiac for their appearance. This, I believe, is the weakest definer for declaring a food aphrodisiac. For example, I’ve heard a European belief from a previous century that strawberries are aphrodisiac for their resemblance to a woman’s nipples. This rumor was clearly started during a time period in which nudity was frowned upon, because I’ve looked in the mirror and can assure you that there is absolutely no resemblance.

The same goes for phallic foods. I was under the impression that size matters, so why would any man want to compare his anatomy to a stalk of asparagus?

It is my belief that foods with nutritional content essential for sexual health were, in previous centuries, often explained by appearance since the science of the times did not allow for nutritional analysis. Celery, for example, another one of those rather thin phallic foods, contains natural plant estrogens.

In fact, if you look at the nutritional makeup of most foods celebrated as aphrodisiacs throughout the course of history, you will find ingredients rich with vitamins and nutrients essential to a healthy libido. We now know that oysters, the most clich├ęd of all aphrodisiac foods, contain that aforementioned amino acid promising to raise sexual hormone levels to new heights. But they are also an excellent and easily digestible source of zinc, an ingredient that promotes blood flow to the body’s every region.

Oysters are not the only food to get your blood pumping. Almonds, eggs, pumpkin seeds and shrimp are also aphrodisiac foods serving up your daily dose of zinc. Other nutrients that work to embellish your sexual self include – but are not limited to – vitamin C, iodine, omega 3’s and magnesium.

Many ingredients probably became known as aphrodisiacs because of their ability to provide sustained energy. Lean proteins like wild boar, fish and fowl give the body energy for an all night pas de deux. Foods with natural sugars and caffeine can give the body a surge of energy when it is needed most. This explains the aphrodisiac reputation of decidedly un-sexy ingredients like yams and beets, as well as that of some of the food world’s sexiest players. Imagine honey drizzled across warm flesh or fragrant coffee served in bed on a cold morning, which, I promise you, tends to rouse more than a lover’s tousled head.

As we learn more about brain chemistry and its impact on the games of love, we will likely discover more reasons to toss out the prescription pad and haul out the grocery list. We now know that certain foods can trigger chemical reactions in the brain to send a flood of happy hormones through the body. (Yes, I speak of the legend of chocolate- unfortunately, you would have to eat a diabetic coma-inducing quantity of chocolate in one sitting in order to ingest enough of the needed compounds. Sad, but true). As more and more secrets of the brain are unlocked through the miracles of modern science, it is very likely that we will discover a dazzling array of foods with abilities to balance mood, invoke romance and trigger sexual desire.

In the meantime, however, we must swallow the bitter pill of the FDA and, at least from a marketing perspective, deny foods their aphrodisiac allure. I look forward to the day when the American government comes to a less simple minded understanding of the relationship between food and romance. After all, wouldn’t you rather sit down to a dazzling dinner than pop a blue pellet?

That being said, I believe there is more to the success of aphrodisiacs in romantic relations than the administration of foods from a prescription checklist. For a romantic meal to achieve the desired results, the experience itself must be an act of pleasure. When planning a night of culinary temptations, I recommend carefully contemplating not just a menu of aphrodisiac ingredients but elements of indulgence, surprise and even downright daring. After all, as Dr. Ruth Westheimer famously quipped, “The most important sex organ lies between the ears.”

What is the Healthy Way to Lose Weight?

Since America has the highest percentage of people per capita that are considered obese (at least twenty percent over their ideal weight) losing weight is on many people’s minds. You can not walk into a pharmacy or grocery store with out going past the aisle that has all of the diet aids. Nutri Systems, Slim Fast, energy drinks, Colon Cleanse, Fat Burners and more clog the shelves vying for our discretionary dollars.

Since most diet formulas are not available via prescription the Food and Drug Administration can not regulate their claims as well. There are no multiple year clinical trials telling you that the 14 day Acai Berry Colon Cleanse will help you lose twenty pound in those two weeks. That is what they would like you to believe but there is no clinical evidence supporting any of the claims of the various nutraceutical and nutritional supplement companies out there.

For decades traditional medical advice has been that losing two pounds a week is the most healthy way to lose weight. How can you lose two pounds a week? There are hundreds of ways to lose weight with out endangering your health no matter what your current physical situation is. If you have arthritis and it has been keeping you from exercising on a regular basis you can always use stationary or recumbent bikes and water exercise programs to alleviate joint pain while elevating your calorie consumption through exercise.

If you have never taken a look at your diet and what you eat on a regular basis examining the kinds of food you eat is an excellent healthy way to lose weight. By eliminating those foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, reducing prepared foods (high in sodium) and increasing your fruits and vegetable intake you will not only reduce the total number of calories consumed you will jump start your metabolism and use up calories at a higher rate as well.

A good combination of physically appropriate exercise along with a diet that reduces your caloric intake is the most healthy way to lose weight. Not only will you feel better because of the exercise but your body will respond and heal more quickly as well if your diet contains more healthy foods.