I grew up with a clever rhyme about beans being a “magical fruit” due to the sounds they often produced after consumption.  Reflecting upon this still brings a chuckle but also is a reminder of how often flatulence, bloating, acid reflux and all sorts of bowel imbalances get normalized in American culture. In my practice, I often hear things like, “oh, this is just how I am” or “some amount of gas is normal, right?” In actuality, all of the above symptoms are signals that your digestion is less than optimal. Why does it matter? In short, poor digestion leads not only to discomfort and potentially embarrassing symptoms but also to systemic inflammation and can develop into more serious disease states. What can you do about it? While every individual is unique and is treated as such in clinic, what follows are a list of some common ways to optimize digestion on a day to day basis.

Build With Quality Raw Materials

Eat a balanced diet composed of fresh, organic vegetables (especially root veggies and dark leafy greens), fruits, nuts, seeds and grains along with grass fed or wild caught meats if you choose to eat meat. These foods provide nutrients for whole body health but also specifically B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and magnesium that are necessary for adequate production of stomach acid and proper assimilation of nutrients. Avoid conventionally grown (non -organic) foods along with processed foods and sugars as they often contain harmful pesticides and herbicides which are known to cause harm to the mucosa of your gut. This disruption of gut mucosa inhibits your ability to absorb nutrients and can further lead to autoimmune and more serious disease states. In addition, processed foods and sugars actually take more energy than they give, depleting your stores of B vitamins and minerals that are critical for normal digestion.

Simply Eat When You Eat

Let eating take center stage by settling down to nosh in a relaxed environment rather than eating while driving, standing or multi – tasking. Avoiding these activities when eating helps minimize the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn helps to regulate levels of stomach acid to ensure proper digestion.  Focus on chewing each bite thoroughly in order to maximize the digestive process that starts in your mouth. Allowing this mindfulness to continue after meals aids in attuning to foods that may provoke digestive upset and would be best avoided or prepared in alternate ways.

Drink Up Between Meals

Imagine concocting a rich, savory stew then pouring a bucket of ice water into it. Ridiculous right? But that’s what we, often unknowingly, do at mealtimes.  Drinking copious amounts of liquids with meals, reduces the production of stomach acid and dilutes the chemical soup of digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bacteria that aid in processing food. Shoot for drinking liquids in between meals in order to stay hydrated but not interfere with the digestive symphony at mealtime. If you desire to have a beverage with meals, choose one with digestive properties such as a cup of ginger or lemon tea, kombucha or occasionally a small amount of beer or wine. If you feel that you need a beverage to swallow your food this is often an indication that you are not chewing your food thoroughly enough.

Befriend Fermented Foods

Have you ever wondered why those little pickles, famously called cornichons, always end up with the charcuterie, the miso soup gets served before your favorite sushi or a bratwurst is often blanketed in kraut? Traditional cultures have long known that the secret to good digestion lies in a bacterial process. Fermented foods are fairly ubiquitous in various cultures, most commonly known in the above examples along with kimchi, yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar and kombucha. These fermented foods and beverages contain the trifecta of factors necessary for proper digestion: acid, enzymes and probiotics. In addition, the beneficial bacteria they contain, often known as probiotics, contribute to a balanced gut microbiome. Modern research has shown that a healthy microbiome is involved in normal function of just about every bodily system and helps regulate normal immune, hormone and stress responses as well as brain function. Want to embrace the power of these foods and beverages? Try adding ¼ to 1/2c cup of unpasteurized, fermented veggies or beverages to each meal and observe how you feel. If you notice that adding fermented food increases your digestive symptoms this is often a clue that you may have a bacterial imbalance that would best be corrected via acupuncture, herbs and dietary change.

Sprout It Out

Grains, nuts, beans and seeds all are contained in a convenient protective coating in order that they may survive until conditions are ripe for germination. If these foods are consumed before they have the opportunity to be sprouted, the protective outer coatings can cause digestive distress and inflammation due to the phytates and lectins they contain.  Once again, we take the nod from traditional culinary systems and see that sprouting these foods not only removes the protective coating with its inflammatory compounds but also improves nutrient assimilation by creating digestive enzymes. Sprouting is fairly easy to do but pre-sprouted products are also available in most health food stores and even some major grocery chains. If you’re keen to give sprouting or fermenting a try, a great resource is the cookbook, Nourishing Traditionsby Sally Fallon.

Aperitif anyone?

Digestive bitters, traditionally derived from plants such as gentian root, have long been utilized to improve digestion, often in pre- dinner cocktails. Their efficacy lies in the ability of the plants’ bitter compounds, once detected by taste buds, to signal a release of stomach acid enzymes, and bile thus priming the body for digestion. Prepared bitters are widely available in a variety of flavors but check to make sure they are free of artificial colorings or flavors. If you feel inspired, you can also make your own concoction.  And no booze is necessary to enjoy. Try a bit of your favorite bitters in a small amount of sparkling or still water with a wedge of citrus. Refreshing and effective!

Harness The Power of Herbs

Once again, we look to the wisdom of cultures past who have traditionally incorporated herbs and spices into daily cooking not only for their flavor but also for their digestive benefits. Chances are you may have some helpful medicine hiding out in your cupboard or fridge right now!  In fact, many commonly used herbs such as ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, black and red peppers, and various mints have powerful digestive properties. If you’d like to explore utilizing culinary herbs as medicine, a great resource is Alchemy of Herbsby Rosalee De La Foret.  This book provides great insight and recipes on how to incorporate common herbs into your diet and also speaks to the unique properties of each herb that may make them more suited to one type of person over the other. If this peaks your interest in utilizing herbs more intensively as medicine, keep in mind that practicing herbal medicine safely and effectively takes years of study. Therefore, it is best to seek guidance from a trained herbalist if you wish to incorporate more concentrated forms of herbs such as pills, powders or tinctures into your treatment regime. A trained professional can best assess what combination of herbs will best support your unique constitution and chief complaints.

Back Away From The Tums!

Antacids and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are often used to treat acid reflux or indigestion. Initially these might sound like a helpful solution as they can neutralize acidity but they in truth make reflux even worse. Here’s why: Adequate levels of stomach acid are crucial to breaking down food, in particular proteins and fats. When the pH of the stomach becomes more basic, food (especially proteins and minerals) will sit and essentially compost, creating heat that rises up in the form of bloating or reflux. In addition, low stomach acid levels leave your body more prone to pathogenic bacteria such as H. Pylori which can cause and exacerbate acid reflux. So instead of reaching for an antacid, focus on utilizing a fermented food or digestive bitters with each meal to help restore the proper balance of stomach acid and bacteria. Sometimes these measures are enough to correct reflux but more stubborn cases respond best to a regime of herbs, acupuncture and dietary change.

Give It a Rest

Minimize snacking between meals and stop eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime to allow your digestive system a chance to rest and reboot. In addition, implementing periods of intermittent fasting of 12 or more hours per day has been shown to not only improve digestion but also to lower insulin and cortisol levels, improve mental clarity and help maintain healthy weight. If you are drawn to try intermittent fasting start slowly, fasting 8-10 hours per day between dinner and breakfast. If you do not experience weakness, headaches or dizziness you can increase the length of the fast slowly. Some patients report feeling their best fasting 14-16 hours per day, but every individual can have a different response to extended fasts. Please note that intermittent fasting is not indicated for everyone. If you are a diabetic, elderly, frail or have a history of eating disorders intermittent fasting is not advised without the supervision of a medical provider.

While this list contains only a handful of suggestions, even these can be overwhelming for some individuals. If you feel led to experiment with some changes, try integrating just one this week and observe how it impacts your digestion and overall well – being. Then try adding in other tools, one at a time. Many patients find it helpful to keep a journal in order to keep track of  strategies they’ve implemented along with the symptomatic changes they’ve observed. Finally, in all things the key to change is mindfulness. Keep paying attention and your body’s inherent wisdom will start to point you to lifegiving dietary rhythms and a more harmonious digestive system!

Cleaning Up Your Personal Care Products


Most of us have a daily routine that includes at least a few personal care products such as deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cosmetics and perhaps perfume or cologne. The question is: have you ever really looked at the ingredients you’re bathing in each day? Many personal care products, unbeknownst to consumers, are chock full of harmful chemicals that are known to cause various hormone imbalances, respiratory disorders, allergies and cancers. Every time we slather these products on the chemicals they contain get absorbed through our skin, inhaled or ingested. The interesting thing is: most of the time the side effects of these chemicals are very subtle or seemingly non-existent. Some people might occasionally notice that personal care products induce skin irritation, headache or allergies but more often these products pose a more silent danger, compounding their toxicity over long term daily exposure.  In addition, many of these chemicals accumulate in our water supplies causing further hazardous exposure to humans and the rest of creatures that inhabit planet earth

So, if these chemicals are dangerous, why are they still on the market? Well, depending on what country you live in, the standards for regulating cosmetics and personal care products vary greatly. The European Union has already banned the use of over 1000 chemicals in personal care products including all in the
discussion below. Unfortunately, in the United States, the FDA and the EPA do not typically operate on a preventative agenda and tend to favor the manufacturer over public health.  In the US, with the exception of a handful of prohibited ingredients and color additives, cosmetic manufacturers can use just about any material without testing or approval from the FDA. Since 2018 there have been multiple pieces of legislature proposed in the US that would tighten regulations and help remove toxic products from cosmetics and personal care items. While none of these have been signed into law, they have caused the EPA and FDA to take more notice and to call for testing and further studies regarding the chemicals in question.

THE GOOD NEWS is that regardless of your country’s regulations regarding chemicals, YOU CAN MAKE CHANGES TODAY TO REDUCE YOUR TOXIC LOAD AND PREVENT DISEASE.  There are plenty of “clean” products available as well as simple DYI recipes to make your own products AND SAVE MONEY! While it is nearly impossible to list all offending chemicals in personal care products, what follows is a summary of the most commonly used and how they are identified on packaging as well as suggestions for safer alternatives.


  1. FRAGRANCE (PERFUME, PARFUM, AROMA)– these are sneaky and can be found in just about everything including soaps, detergents, shampoos, skin creams and of course perfumes. The generalized term “fragrance” was first utilized to protect proprietary perfume formulations but now often acts as a cover up for a host of chemicals including solvents, stabilizers, preservatives, dyes and UV-absorbers. Research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that name brand fragrance products contained an average of 14-17 chemicals and none of them were listed on the label. Why is this a problem? Fragrances and the smorgasbord of chemicals within have been linked with a host of diseases including allergies, asthma, migraines, hormone and reproductive abnormalities and cancers3
  2. PHTHALATES– are widely used to soften plastic containers and as solvents in a variety of goods from plastic packaging to cosmetics and beauty care products. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) is used to soften nail polish and Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is widely used in fragrances. Exposure to phthalates have been correlated with endocrine disruption in humans leading to reproductive and developmental abnormalities and neurological toxicity 7, 8.
  3. PARABENS– are preservatives commonly used in a wide array of personal care products, plastics and pharmaceuticals and are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors, mimicking the hormone estrogen. It is best to avoid all products including paraben (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben) but in particular propylparaben and butylparaben have been associated with reduced fertility 17, increased odds of pre-term birth, low birth weight and an increase in breast cancer cell growth 6, 14. These will likely be buried in the list of ingredients in your products so be sure to read the entire product label.
  4. TRICLOSAN AND TRICLOCARBANTRICLOSAN is an anti-bacterial chemical that was formerly used heavily in hand sanitizers and liquid soaps in the United States until the FDA banned it use 2 years ago in these products. Unfortunately, it is still to be found in toothpastes, mouthwash, shaving gels and lotions and household goods. Triclosan is readily absorbed and is a known endocrine disruptor that has been linked to reduced fertility, increased miscarriage, decreased birth size, thyroid disorders, increased risk of asthma, allergies and food sensitivities as well as an increased risk of various cancers in humans TRICLOCARBAN (TCC)isan another antibacterial used in many deodorants, lotions, detergents and wipes and has been shown to negatively affect hormone, reproductive and developmental function in animals and humans 15.
  5. FORMALDEHYDE & FORMALDEHYDE RELEASERS – Shampoos, conditioners, hair straighteners, soaps, lotions, false eyelash glue, baby products and a host of other personal care products often contain formaldehyde (yep, that same substance the frog from anatomy class was preserved in) in order to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. A 2010 study showed that one fifth of personal care products contain a formaldehyde releaser such as DMDM HYDANTOIN, IMIDAZOLIDYNYL UREA, DIAZOLIDYNYL UREA, BRONOPOL AND QUATERNIUM -15 While the human body produces minute amounts of formaldehyde naturally, formaldehyde in personal care products commonly causes allergic skin reactions and is also a known human carcinogen 18.
  6. METALS– High levels of naturally occurring but potentially toxic metals are common in antiperspirants/deodorants, lipsticks, eye shadows and liners and hair dyes. Heavy metals may act directly on the skin, causing dermatitis or be absorbed into the blood and have toxic effects on various organs. ALUMINUM is often added to widely available antiperspirants/deodorants to inhibit the natural process of sweating. Aluminum has been shown to be neurotoxic at very low levels and to produce changes in the brain consistent with Alzheimer’s disease In addition, while the data is not consistent, some studies have shown a link between the use of aluminum containing antiperspirants and breast cancer 9. Lipsticks, eye makeup, talc powders, medicated shampoos and dark hair dyes often contain the highest amounts of potentially toxic metals, particularly LEAD, IRON, COPPER AND ZINC. Heavy metal toxicity has been linkedto dizziness, vomiting, diseases of the kidneys, liver, circulatory system, nervous system and autoimmune conditions 20.
  7. HAIR DYES– Commonly used hair dyes often contain FORMALDEHYDE (DMDM) and PARABENS, LEAD, both discussed above, as well as several other toxic substances including COAL TAR BY PRODUCTS, AMMONIA and RESORCINOL. While study results are inconsistent, personal hair dye use has been linked to non- Hodgkins lymphoma, multiple myeloma, acute leukemia and bladder cancer in humans, with higher cancer rates associated with darker color dye pigments and among hairdressers and barbers COAL TAR BYPRODUCTS (also used in anti-dandruff shampoos) are generally identified by a FIVE DIGIT COLOR- INDEX (C.I) NUMBERor may be listed as “FD&C”or “D&C”followed by a color name and number. PARAPHENYLENEDIAMINE (PPD), AMINOPHENOL AND DIAMINOBENZENE are the most commonly used coal tar ingredients to watch out for. AMMONIA is utilized in hair dye to break down the cuticle to allow absorption of the dye. This is one of the reasons that repeated hair dye use causes the hair to become dry and brittle as the cuticle integrity becomes compromised, no longer allowing the hair to hold in moisture. Ammonia has been identified as a strong allergen and toxin to the human immune and respiratory systems 1.  RESORCINOL is made from the petrochemical benzene and is used in hair dyes to help bond the dye pigment to hair (and also in acne and eczema topical medications). It has been identified as a skin irritant, as toxic to internal organs and has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor causing changes in the thyroid gland in some human case studies and in animal studies with long term usage 12.
  8. SODIUM LAUREL SUFATE (SLS) and POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG) –  SLS is a surfactant commonly used in soaps, shampoos and toothpastes. In has been shown to be a skin, ocular and mucosal membrane irritant in humans and in animal studies, it is known to cause severe skin mutation, lesions and hair loss. In a recent study with rabbits, the skin changes caused by SLS were so severe the research scientists concluded that all products containing sodium laurel sulfate should be avoided by humans.  PEG is also a surfactant and moisture carrier and has been linked with higher rates of asthma in young children (4).  In addition, both PEG and SLS can be often be contaminated with both ETHYLENE OXIDE a “known human carcinogen” and 1, 4- DIOXANE a “possible carcinogen to humans” as stated by IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) during the manufacturing processes 2.
  9. SUNSCREENS– In addition to PARABENS, PHTHALATES ANDFRAGRANCES, OXYBENZONE, OCTINOXATEand4-METHYLBENZYLIDENE-CAMPHOR (4-MBC) are commonly found UV filters utilized in sunscreen products that have been shown in animal studies to be hormone disruptors, negatively impacting reproductive and developmental health. All three chemicals are readily absorbed in humans, being found in blood, breast milk and urine andare considered “substances of high concern in relation to human risk”. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii, Key West Florida and the nation of Palau due to their lethal effects on coral reefs and marine life PABAis another UV filter that has been shown to have hormone disrupting effects in animal studies and is also best avoided 13.


 START YOUR PERSONAL CARE PRODUCT OVERHAUL BY IS READING LABELS! Begin with the products you use daily and move on to those used less frequently. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it or it looks like a chemical it’s probably best to avoid! A GREAT TOOL TO EXPLORE THE SAFETY OF YOUR CURRENT PRODUCTS AND SEARCH FOR CLEAN ALTERNATIVES: EWG.ORG. When looking for replacement products it’s best to start at your health food store, farmers market or shop online as many drug or grocery store products are likely to contain a variety of harmful chemicals. In addition, to minimize your exposure to and use of plastics (see last month’s blog post), look for products sold in glass containers, buy in bulk or make your own!

*SCENTS: Get rid of all products with the nebulous “FRAGRANCE, PARFUM, PERFUME or AROMA” on
the label. If you desire scents, opt for organic, therapeutic grade essential oils diluted in a food grade carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. As a bonus, most essential oils have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well as beneficial effects on mood and stress levels. CAUTION:Essential oils are concentrated and incredibly potent, so it is never recommended that you apply them undiluted to the skin.

*MOISTURIZERS: Use pure oils such as coconut, avocado, olive, sesame or jojoba to moisturize. Oils are often best absorbed by damp skin so applying after a shower or in combination with a hydrosol is helpful. Also, be wary of antiaging creams as many contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids which have been shown to accelerate UV skin damage.

*SOAP, SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER:  Look for products that are free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, SLS and synthetic fragrances and buy in bulk when possible. Consider switching to bar soap, shampoo and conditioner. Many varieties of chemical free soaps are available at health food stores and are often sold without packaging or come in a paper wrapper that is easily recycled. If purchasing online, look for a company that utilizing compostable packaging and reusable shipping materials if possible. If bar conditioner isn’t quite doing the trick for you, consider switching to a hair oil.

*DEODORANT: Stay away from antiperspirants as they often contain Aluminum and impede your body’s natural process of detoxification through sweating. In addition, look for deodorants that are free of chemicals and synthetic fragrances and use natural deodorants such as baking soda, bentonite clay, charcoal, coconut oil and magnesium… or make your own blend. There are plenty of DYI recipes out there!

*ORAL CARE: Nix the mouthwash as they often contain a host of harmful chemicals including the antibacterial Chlorhexidine, which kills beneficial bacteria in your mouth that aid the start of the digestive process and help maintain healthy teeth and gums. In toothpastes especially avoid Triclosan. Since most toothpaste tubes aren’t really recyclable, consider switching to a store- bought tooth powder or make your own. Tooth powders are often made from some of the same ingredients as deodorants with the addition of things such as calcium carbonate, xylitol and essential oils. Tooth powders help whiten teeth with natural abrasives, help keep bacteria in check that cause tooth decay and bad breath and reportedly can aid in the remineralization of tooth enamel.

*SHAVING AIDS: Choose a shaving soap or oil as they tend to contain the safest ingredients. Avoid commonly found shaving creams and aftershaves as they often contain: synthetic fragrances, oxybenzone, PEGs, parabens, DMDM hydantoin and triclosan. You can easily make your own scented shaving oil by blending a carrier oil like olive, coconut or jojoba oil with a few drops of a quality essential oil such as rosemary, cedarwood, melaleuca or lavender.

* COSMETICS: In the US, the cosmetic industry is the least regulated so do your homework and choose a
clean cosmetics line free of all the aforementioned offenders.
There are plenty out there to choose from online and in health food stores. Ask to see a full disclosure of ingredients, sourcing and environmental impact before purchasing.

*SUNSCREEN: Minimize exposure during the most intense periods of sun (10 am- 4 pm) by covering up with loose layers and a hat. For any exposed areas or while swimming, use NON-NANO PARTICLE MINERAL SUNSCREENS CONTAINING ZINC OXIDE OR TITANIUMdioxide on exposed areas of skin. Non – nano zinc oxide and titanium sunscreens are regarded as safe because they sit on the surface of the skin and are not absorbed. Nano forms of the same minerals can be absorbed in small amounts and have been shown to be harmful to aquatic life. Also opt for cream or lotion – based products as harmful chemicals can be inhaled with spray sunscreens.

*HAIR DYES/STRAIGHTENERS:Especially avoid dark hair color pigments and chemical straighteners. Switch to a henna -based dye. Work with a stylist experienced in “clean” products to help maximize your natural color and texture.

*NAIL CARE: Avoid formaldehyde or formalin, toluene, triphenyl phosphate (TPP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in nail polishes and products.  Consider just allowing your nails to breathe and go bare. Nourish cuticles with a mix of natural oils such as jojoba, almond or coconut and beeswax instead of store – bought products.


Change tends to happen from the ground up so here are a few ways you can help build a new foundation regarding personal care product safety…Love your hairdresser or esthetician but are concerned about the products they use? Ask them to switch to non – toxic versions for your benefit and theirs! Write your favorite product line and ask for them to reformulate and remove toxic substances. Let your money speak by investing in companies that are transparent with their ingredient lists, utilize plant based, organic, raw materials grown sustainably and avoid using harmful chemicals. Write your politicians and ask them to lobby for more strict regulations on personal and home care products.


As in all things, the closer you can stick to natural rhythms and care products the lower your toxic load will be and the better your health. Also keep in mind that your external state reflects what’s happening internally. In other words, chronic dry, flaky skin or scalp, eczema, brittle nails or bad breath could be helpful warning signs inviting you to address an internal imbalance instead of just treating the symptoms.  As you reflect on the products you use, what external symptom(s) may be trying to teach you something about your internal condition? What tools do you already have to heal and what tools or support do you need? In your journey to address imbalances, never underestimate the power of fresh, plant – based foods, clean water, restorative movement, mindful breaks, connection with community and purposeful work to heal. If you need support in the process, give us a ring! We’d be happy to set up an appointment to help you along the way.


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2. Bondi, C. A., Marks, J. L., Wroblewski, L. B., Raatikainen, H. S., Lenox, S. R., & Gebhardt, K. E. (2015). Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. Environmental health insights9, EHI-S31765.

3. Bridges, B. (2002). Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns. Flavour and fragrance journal17(5), 361-371.

4. Choi, H., Schmidbauer, N., Sundell, J., Hasselgren, M., Spengler, J., & Bornehag, C. G. (2010). Common household chemicals and the allergy risks in pre-school age children. PloS one5(10), e13423.

5. De Groot, A. C., & Veenstra, M. (2010). Formaldehyde‐releasers in cosmetics in the USA and in Europe. Contact Dermatitis62(4), 221-224.

6. Geer LA, Pycke BFG, Gee Waxenbaum J, Sherer DM, Abulafia O, Halden RU. Association of birth outcomes with fetal exposure to parabens, triclosan and triclocarban in an immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. J Hazard Mater 323(Pt A):177-183.

7. Greenspan, L. C., & Lee, M. M. (2018). Endocrine disrupters and pubertal timing. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity25(1), 49-54.

8. Katsikantami, Ioanna, Stavros Sifakis, Manolis N. Tzatzarakis, Elena Vakonaki, Olga-Ioanna Kalantzi, Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, and Apostolos K. Rizos. “A global assessment of phthalates burden and related links to health effects.” Environment international97 (2016): 212-236.

9. Klotz, K., Weistenhöfer, W., Neff, F., Hartwig, A., van Thriel, C., & Drexler, H. (2017). The health effects of aluminum exposure. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International114(39), 653


11. Krause, M., Klit, A., Blomberg Jensen, M., Søeborg, T., Frederiksen, H., Schlumpf, M., … & Drzewiecki, K. T. (2012). Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV‐filters. International journal of andrology35(3), 424-436.

12. Lynch, B. S., Delzell, E. S., & Bechtel, D. H. (2002). Toxicology review and risk assessment of resorcinol: thyroid effects. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology36(2), 198-210.

13. Ozáez, I., Martínez-Guitarte, J. L., & Morcillo, G. (2013). Effects of in vivo exposure to UV filters (4-MBC, OMC, BP-3, 4-HB, OC, OD-PABA) on endocrine signaling genes in the insect Chironomus riparius. Science of the total environment456, 120-126.

14. Pan S, Yuan C, Tagmount A, et al. 2015. Parabens and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Ligand Cross-Talk in Breast Cancer Cells. Environ Health Perspect 124(5):563–569.

15. Rochester, J. R., Bolden, A. L., Pelch, K. E., & Kwiatkowski, C. F. (2017). Potential developmental and reproductive impacts of triclocarban: a scoping review. Journal of toxicology2017.

16. Rollison, D. E., Helzlsouer, K. J., & Pinney, S. M. (2006). Personal hair dye use and cancer: a systematic literature review and evaluation of exposure assessment in studies published since 1992. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B9(5), 413-439.

17. Smith, K. W., Souter, I., Dimitriadis, I., Ehrlich, S., Williams, P. L., Calafat, A. M., & Hauser, R. (2013). Urinary paraben concentrations and ovarian aging among women from a fertility center. Environmental health perspectives121(11-12), 1299-1305.

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What’s the Problem with Plastic?

   What’s the Problem with Plastic?

Plastics have become a ubiquitous part of life and you’ve likely heard at least some rumblings about their health hazards. You may already be on a mission to kick all species of plastic to the curb or you may be blissfully unaware of the effects of that plastic bag cradling your favorite snack. Wherever you find yourself in the conversation, THERE IS REASON TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF PLASTICS. Based on the evidence thus far, PLASTICS ARE MAKING US AND OUR WORLD SICK. I hope the following will help inform and inspire you to explore ways to reduce your toxic load for the benefit of you, your family and the world we share.

BPA (Bisphenol – A)

BPA, perhaps the most commonly discussed chemical used in plastics, was developed in the 1890s as a synthetic estrogen and studied for its effects on the female reproductive system in rats. BPA entered the mainstream in the 1960s in the manufacture of plastic, in dental resins and in the lining of food cans. Concerns with BPA arose when studies indicated that the chemical could leach from containers into foods and beverages and was subsequently measured in human blood, urine, amniotic fluid, follicular fluid, placental tissue and umbilical cords.This finding prompted further research which has since linked BPA to a range of health problems including: Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, cancer, liver damage, ADHD, thyroid and immune dysfunction, infertility, miscarriage, endometrial disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), decreased sexual function, and early onset puberty (1)

How Has BPA Been Shown to Contribute to Disease? 

BPA is one of many chemicals used in plastics (phthalates are another common culprit) that are classified as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals interfere with normal endocrine (hormone) function by disrupting a hormone’s signaling pathways. More specifically, chemicals such as BPA are also known to have Estrogenic Activity (EA), mimicking or antagonizing the actions of naturally occurring estrogens 6. In healthy states, hormones, such as estrogen, act in very small amounts at precise times to regulate all of the body’s development, growth, reproduction, metabolism, immunity and behavior. BPA is known to disrupt these normal processes by binding to estrogen receptors resulting in an imbalance of hormone levels. Proper levels of estrogen in particular play a critical role in many processes from bone growth to ovulation to heart function. Alterations in these levels, particularly in utero or during early childhood, can alter brain and organ development, leading to disease later in life. In addition, the endocrine disrupting effects of BPA go beyond estrogen. BPA has also been shown to have disruptive effects on androgen and thyroid hormones and can negatively impact all three hormones even at the very low dosages most humans are exposed to on a daily basis 5. Research also indicates that continuous low dose exposure to BPA can be particularly harmful to pregnant women, the developing fetus and to infants 7. Perhaps even more disturbing is that BPA and two other plastic derived compounds (DEHP and DBP, both phthalates) have been shown to cause genetic changes that promote the inheritance of adult onset diseases such as obesity and diseases of the testes and ovaries in offspring 4.

Are “BPA – Free” Plastics Safe?

In response to concerns over the safety of BPA, the plastics industry has developed an array of “BPA- Free” plastics. But are these really any safer than BPA? A 2014 study put commonly found “BPA- free” objects such as baby bottles, food and beverage containers, assorted bags, “clam shells” and food wraps to the test. Shockingly researchers found that of the BPA alternatives tested, Tritan TM as well as Polystyrene (PS) leached EA chemicals even without a heat stress such as a microwave or UV radiation. As expected, when a heat stress was applied to the same BPA – free plastics, the percentage of EA chemicals leached rose significantly.  The study authors also cautioned that the although the plastic resins, glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate (PETG), cyclic olefin polymer (COP) or copolymer (COC), did not leach EA chemicals, they should not necessarily be classified as “EA -free”. This is because various resins are not always synthesized using the same chemicals or processing methods and the smallest change in composition can cause the leaching of EA chemicals.

Is it possible then to find plastics that are truly “safe” and “EA- free”? Some plastic manufacturers might claim so, but due to the manufacturing differences mentioned above and the fact that many plastics are proprietary compounds, the exact composition of each plastic product and its effects on health may never be known to the consumer. Troubling.

Environmental Impacts of Plastics…Here Today, Here Tomorrow

Unlike that banana peel you just tossed, plastics never really go away. Plastic items simply break down into tiny particles, or microplastics. Not only do microplastics contain all the same harmful chemicals discussed above, they have also been shown to absorb and harbor several types of bacteria that are harmful to humans and marine life. Research conducted by the National University of Singapore found that among the 400 plus species of bacteria living on microplastic at their local beaches, three were well known species that cause gastroenteritis (Arcobacter) and wound infections (Vibrio) in humans. Among these species was also found a bacterium well known for the bleaching of coral reefs (Photobacterium rosenbergii) 2Which opens the door to a whole other topic ….

Every year 8 million metric tons of plastic debris makes its way into our oceans and increasingly causes harm to marine critters.  Varying sizes of plastic are often mistaken for food and ingested by anything from tiny shrimp to humpback whales.resulting in decreased digestive and reproductive capabilities as well as fatalities. In addition, ingested microplastics, can accumulate with each trophic level on the food chain, providing a concentrated dose of plastic toxins and bacteria for larger predators, including humans. Plastic debris, is also a well- known cause of entanglement for a variety of seabirds, turtles and seals, including some threatened species, and increasingly results in injury and death 3.   And if you have trouble relating to the above, but love your beach getaways, know that a smorgasbord of micro and macroplastics can now be found strewn across even the most remote beaches in the world. How inviting.

Finally, aside from the direct effects on marine life, plastic production is energy intensive and as of late presents a significant recycling challenge. Countries like China, that previously purchased much of the world’s scrap plastic, are enacting their own single use plastic bans and will no longer accept used plastic from other countries.  So as refuse plastics pile up and pollute landfills around the world, the question becomes: what to do with all this used plastic?

 Summary and Recommendations

While there is need for more unbiased research regarding the safety of plastics, here’s a refresher of what we know thus far…

*Exposure to plastics with Estrogenic Activity (EA) has the ability change the structure and function of human cells and organs and has been linked to a host of diseases from diabetes to cancer to reproductive disorders.

*Plastic chemicals with EA have been shown to increase the rates of inherited adult onset diseases and are especially harmful to pregnant women, developing fetuses and infants

*Research indicates that plastic chemicals with EA produce measurable changes within the health and behavior of human populations, even at low doses.

* “BPA-free” plastics have also been shown to have significant EA even without a heat stressor

* Even if a plastic resin tested as “EA-free”, it will likely not always be so due to changes in manufacturing procedures and changes in chemical composition of plastic resins

*Many plastics are proprietary compounds and therefore their exact chemical makeup of and whether they have EA is difficult to determine

*Micro and macro plastics are significant causes of marine animal injury and mortality annually and is an increasing threat to species survival

*Used plastics present a colossal disposal and recycling challenge yet to be solved

Based on the known health and environmental impacts of plastics, WHY WAIT FOR A GOVERNING BODY TO DETERMINE FOR YOU WHAT, IF ANY, PLASTICS ARE “SAFE” WHEN YOU CAN UTILIZE BETTER OPTIONS TODAY?If you desire health for you, your family, the planet and the generations to come, THE STRONG RECOMMENDATION IS TO ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION AND MINIMIZE YOUR EXPOSURE TO AND USE OF PLASTICS.You can start reducing your plastic consumption one step at a time with some of the following strategies….

Tips for Minimizing Your Plastic Exposure

Start by simply by BECOMING AWARE of how often the products you buy most frequently contain plastic. Plastics are sneaky, inhabiting just about every area of our lives. Make obtainable goals by choosing one area each week or month in which you can reduce your plastic usage. If unsure of where to begin, the following are some practical ways to engage in reducing your plastic footprint, one step at a time.

*PUT DOWN THE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLE OR CUP… AND HOLD THE STRAW! Use your own STAINLESS OR GLASS CUPS, BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS when grabbing that next coffee or water refill. If you or your kiddos can’t part with straws PURCHASE A REUSABLE STAINLESS VERSION or at minimum use paper straws. You can also minimize the need for single use plastic utensils by keeping a set of BAMBOO UTENSILS in your backpack, car or purse for easy access.

* FOR KIDDOS: Choose STAINLESS OR BAMBOO BASED BOTTLES, CUPS AND DINING WARE AS WELL AS NATURAL RUBBER PACIFIERS AND WOODEN TOYS. Remember, young ones are especially sensitive and susceptible to the negative health impacts of plastic chemicals.

* SAY NO THANK YOU TO THAT PLASTIC BAG, which on average is only used for 12 minutes! Many cities, states and countries have already outlawed the use of single use plastic bags and require that customers bring their own or pay a fee for a paper bag. Even if this is not the case in your area, get ahead of the curve and BRING YOUR OWN CLOTH BAGS. Keep a stash in your car, backpack or bike pannier for easy access.

* AVOID COOKING OR STORING FOOD IN PLASTIC CONTAINERS OR BAGS. Use alternatives such as GLASS, PORCELAIN OR STAINLESS -STEEL CONTAINERS. Remember that even without a heat stress, plastics have been known to leach disease causing chemicals into their contents.

* BUY UNWRAPPED FRESH, WHOLE, UNPROCESSED ORGANIC FOODS. Not only are these free of harmful plastics but they are also rich in nutrients and fiber necessary to aid your body’s own detoxification processes! Farmers markets provide the freshest, most nutrient dense sources of food and many markets recycle items such as berry or egg containers for future use.


*Plan ahead and BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH rather than purchasing plastic laden “to go” foods. Packing a lunch saves you cash and allows you time to relax or go for a walk to destress with the time you save not driving to get fast food. If you do wish to eat out, choose a “sit down” restaurant that uses reusable silverware and plates as opposed to disposable varieties.


* Use BEESWAX FOOD WRAPS instead of plastic wraps or ziplock bags to cover cut produce, bowls of leftovers and sandwiches

* SAY NO TO THAT CASH REGISTER RECEIPT AS IT TOO CONTAINS PLASTIC! If in need of a receipt, ask if the vendor offers copies via text or email.

* CLOTHE YOURSELF IF NATURAL FIBERS SUCH AS COTTON, WOOL, HEMP AND BAMBOO. Microplastics in synthetic fibers not only have contact with your skin during wear but also are pulled out during washing cycles and released into the water supply.

* BUY HOME AND BODY CARE ITEMS IN BULK AND IN PAPER OR GLASS PACKAGING. More to come on this in next month’s blog post about cleaning up your home and personal care routine!

A Parting Word

While many of the suggestions here are simple, they take time and a reallocation of energy and resources to implement. So, as with all change, be gracious with yourself in the process, knowing that each small step will benefit your health and that of the global community today and in future generations. And don’t be surprised as you weed plastics out and opt for cleaner foods and products that you feel better. Aligning with the natural rhythms has a beautiful way of leading toward health and well-being!


1.Bittner, G. D., Yang, C. Z., & Stoner, M. A. (2014). Estrogenic chemicals often leach from BPA-free plastic products that are replacements for BPA-containing polycarbonate products. Environmental Health13(1), 41.

2. Curren, E., & Leong, S. C. Y. (2019). Profiles of bacterial assemblages from microplastics of tropical coastal environments. Science of the Total Environment655, 313-320.

3. Gall, S. C., & Thompson, R. C. (2015). The impact of debris on marine life. Marine pollution bulletin92(1-2), 170-179.

4. Manikkam, M., Tracey, R., Guerrero-Bosagna, C., & Skinner, M. K. (2013). Plastics derived endocrine disruptors (BPA, DEHP and DBP) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations. PloS one8(1), e55387.

5. Rochester, J. R. (2013). Bisphenol A and human health: a review of the literature. Reproductive toxicology42, 132-155.

6. Vandenberg, L. N., Maffini, M. V., Sonnenschein, C., Rubin, B. S., & Soto, A. M. (2009). Bisphenol-A and the great divide: a review of controversies in the field of endocrine disruption. Endocrine reviews30(1), 75-95.

7. Vom Saal, F. S., VandeVoort, C. A., Taylor, J. A., Welshons, W. V., Toutain, P. L., & Hunt, P. A. (2014). Bisphenol A (BPA) pharmacokinetics with daily oral bolus or continuous exposure via silastic capsules in pregnant rhesus monkeys: Relevance for human exposures. Reproductive Toxicology45, 105-116.



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