Soaking Up Summer’s Splendor

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink in the wild air.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Like a carnival of color and activity, the Summer season sweeps in bringing luxurious growth, abundance and vigorous activity in the natural world!  In this time of warmth and plenty we also are invited to maximize our own growth, expansion and joy.

How can you best keep in step with the rhythms of summer and maximize your health? Check out the following to get started…



According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the sunny summer season is, perhaps not surprisingly, associated with the element of fire. What does this mean for us? The appropriate tilt of the earth and the resulting long, warm days give us a wonderful opportunity to reap some of the benefits, verified through research, of safe sun exposure during the short summer season…

  1. Boosting Vitamin D Stores– Technically a hormone, Vitamin D is essential for life and must be taken in via food or manufactured by the body during sun exposure. Adequate Vitamin D levels are necessary for supporting healthy bone, muscle and neurological function and provide powerful mood balancing, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.  In just 30 minutes of midday summer sun exposure, the body can produce up to 50,000 IU of Vitamin D in a fair skinned person! In those with darker skin pigmentation, it may take up to 2-3 hours to produce the same amount of Vitamin D. Individuals with sun sensitivity, kidney or liver dysfunction or those engaged in shift work may have difficulty producing adequate Vitamin D and require supplementation. The same is true for those living 37 degrees north or south of the equator during winter months. If any of these apply to you, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you consult a doctor for regular testing (every 3-6 months) and use a balanced Vitamin D supplement as needed. Why is testing important? Many individuals are deficient in Vitamin D and excess supplementation of Vitamin D can lead to toxicity via an increase of calcium in the blood and subsequently nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination and kidney stones.
  2. Improving Heart Health- Sunlight stimulates the production of a chemical in skin called Nitric Oxide. Nitric Oxide helps to relax and dilate blood vessels and thereby lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease. No wonder we all feel more relaxed after a sunny getaway!
  3. Improving Immune Function – At latitudes closer to the equator where populations are exposed to more intense sunlight, rates of lymphoma, breast, prostate, colon and ovarian cancers as well as autoimmune conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and  Type 1 Diabetes are significantly lower than in populations living further from the equator with less sun exposure. Increased exposure to sunlight has also been linked to lower rates of  asthma as well as viral and bacterial infectious diseases. What great reasons to enjoy some summer rays and help support your immune system in the process!

Note: It is strongly recommended that after 20-30 minutes of midday sun exposure or your skin becomes flushed, to cover up if you’ll continue to be outside. If you’ll be uncovered while swimming for prolonged times choose a clean sunscreen that utilizes non-nano zinc oxide such as those found here. Most sunscreens commonly found at grocery or drug stores contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and negatively affect hormone function. Yikes!



“Cool as a cucumber” is an apt phrase when we consider food medicine in summertime. Cucumber, melon, lettuces, sprouts, berries and citrus fruits all contain high volumes of water which aids the body in cooling and detoxifying. Conversely excesses of meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and grains tend to cause sluggishness, fatigue and overheating. Therefore it is best to plan your meals around light, fresh and local produce if possible.  If you aren’t already growing some of these foods in your own garden, they are usually readily available at your local farmers market or farm stand. So get out and enjoy the healthy bounty of summer!



For many folks, when they think of cooling herbs, various mints might come to mind. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the incredible cooling effects of a glass of mint tea on a hot summer day….or more decadently some mint-chip ice cream! Why do we feel cooler when consuming mint? Mints contain a natural chemical called menthol that triggers cold-receptors in the body and thereby creates a cooling sensation.  Ahh!

Perhaps less well known, is the power of hot natured spices such hot peppers, cayenne, fresh ginger, horseradish and black pepper to cool the body. While this may sound counterintuitive, these potent herbs induce sweating, thereby cooling the body…and adding lots of flavor in the process! It’s also noteworthy that most culinary herbs contain powerful immune and digestive boosting components so try to include at least one of these on a daily basis to reap the benefits!



In TCM, the summer season is associated with the heart and the emotion of joy in particular. With the extended daylight hours and slower pace, this is an ideal time to reflect on and include activities and connections that energize and bring you joy. Why is this important? Research continues to affirm what many of us know intuitively, that how we spend our time and who we spend it with has a significant impact on our quality of life. So how can you build up your storehouse of joy that will keep giving in the seasons ahead? You might consider the following…


1.What activities make me feel alive and joyful and how can I purpose to include these in my life on a regular basis? This might be a favorite sport, art, craft, project, music, dance, outdoor adventures, gardening, inspirational books or podcasts, volunteer opportunities…


2.What people help me cultivate joy and contentment? How can I regularly plan to connect with these folks in meaningful ways such as book clubs, shared meals, weekly walks or spiritual enrichment groups?


3.How can I change my work or home space to create a more joyful and pleasant environment? You might consider; reducing clutter, adding houseplants, including inspirational artwork,  changing furnishings or detoxifying your space (for tips on how to get started explore here).


4.How can I incorporate a daily gratitude practice into my life? The posture of gratitude has been shown to be incredibly healing, cultivating perspective, contentment and renewed purpose. Try setting aside a few minutes of time in the morning, at a meal or before bedtime to reflect on and speak out what you are grateful for that day. You might also consider developing a written or art based gratitude journal. Having a visual record of things for which you are grateful can be especially helpful, hope inducing and inspiring to look back on in the midst of challenging seasons.



How will you choose to embrace

the invitations of summer today?!


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Spring Into Life!

Spring, glorious spring! … a time when the stored energy of winter rises up and bursts forth in a fantastic array of green shoots and colorful flowers. As animals awaken from their long winter naps or move on to summer territories we are also invited to awaken and begin a new season of growth!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the season of Spring is associated with the Gallbladder and Liver organs. The health of the liver in particular is critical  for proper detoxification, digestion, iron storage, blood sugar regulation as well as the production of cholesterol, protein and beneficial immune factors.  Read on to explore how you can best support these vital organs via food and lifestyle…



Nature once again provides a nod to what will best serve us this season as it springs forth in new growth. We can live in harmony with this example and feel our best by following the suggestions below and eating earlier in the day to allow for proper digestion during sleep.

  1. LOAD UP ON GREENSsprouts, salad and dandelion greens, broccoli and other cruciferous veggies are rich in phytochemicals that aid your body’s natural detoxification processes and aid digestion. If these are new to you, consider starting with a simple goal of including at least one fresh, green plant food each day. Many farmers markets are now open and are great sources of these nutrient dense foods. Sprouting kits are also easy ways to quickly grow your own greens at home!
  2. CHOOSE MINIMALLY COOKED AND RAW FOODCook food for a shorter amount of time such as steaming or water sauteeing to preserve its cleansing properties. Include at least a small amount of raw food in your diet daily unless you are prone to loose-stools. If you have trouble with digestion, consider implementing some suggestions in the link below.
  3. LEAN ON LEGUMES FOR PROTEIN – beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of protein that also contain phytochemicals and high amounts of fiber which aid in removing toxins, feed beneficial gut bacteria, promote regular elimination and maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid excesses of nuts, oils, meats, sugars and alcohol which can make the liver and gallbladder sluggish, impeding digestion and detoxification pathways. Have trouble digesting beans? Be sure that you’re preparing them properly by starting with dry beans and soaking overnight or buying pre – sprouted products. Explore more info here to help optimize your digestion today!


In TCM, the liver and gallbladder are associated with the Wood element and the body’s tendons which are nurtured through movement. A traditional picture of the body and the Wood element in healthy states is that of flexible and resilient bamboo, bending and flowing with the wind. Similarly, we are invited to choose daily movements that promote flexibility, increase circulation and overall resilience. Focus on trying activities that bring you joy… perhaps sports, swimming, hiking, cycling, dance or a hike in nature.Purpose to set aside even a short window of daily activity to reap the benefits Need more suggestions to get started? Consider the following…

  1. START SMALL – If you’ve been sedentary for a while, be encouraged that even a 15 – minute walk has been shown to improve mood and mental clarity, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and improve digestion. Start with small increments of daily movement and increase as you are able!
  2. MASSAGE FOR THE SOLE – Foot massage is an easy and relaxing way to help increase circulation, support detoxification and bring balance to the whole body. Start by soaking your feet in warm water for 5-10 minutes followed by rolling a tennis or golf ball to massage the soles of the feet- spending extra time in the liver and gallbladder areas in the center of the feet as pictured here.
  3. EXPLORE YOGA, TAI QI OR QI GONG – These ancient practices are all centered on balance, flexibility and flow and have a myriad of health benefits for mind, body and spirit. Most local gyms and YMCAs offer at least one type of these classes or you can explore classes online. Keep in mind that any postures or forms that involve gentle twists and  those that open up the hips and sides of the body are especially good at improving circulation to the liver and gallbladder.


A winter of being couped up, especially amidst a global pandemic, can be enough to leave many folks feeling stuck, frustrated or irritated. TCM acknowledges that these negative emotions can cause the liver and gallbladder to become overloaded and stagnant, potentially translating into physical symptoms such as headaches, poor digestion, hormone imbalance, weight gain, skin issues and overall feelings of dis-ease. In addition, to supporting these organs via food and movement, help to cultivate a mindset of kindness and peace  via the following…

  1. GET CREATIVE! Living with a creative intention shifts the focus from old and entrenched ways and leaves space for something new to be born. Work in harmony with the new life of Spring and start a garden or do some landscaping. You might also consider taking up a new art form, learning to play an instrument, exploring photography, trying a new recipe, building that project you’ve been putting off or wherever else you creativity leads. Creativity not only helps us feel better but also translates into greater productivity!

Intentional breath work is a powerful way to shift your overall well-being quickly.

Consider engaging in a simple practice of mindful breath work as follows…

WHILE INHALING SLOWLY: Focus on breathing in thoughts of possibility, kindness and peace

WHILE EXHALING COMPLETLY: Focus on intentionally releasing anger, frustration and stresses 

To explore mindful breathing techniques and to further understand the benefits of proper breathing read more here.

 3. CLEAN IT UP – Research indicates that folks living in clean and clutter – free environments report feeling happier, less stressed, more focused and energetic and reported more restful sleep. So this season is great opportunity to do that “Spring Cleaning” you’ve been putting off. If the prospect of cleaning a whole home is overwhelming, start small with one room, closet or drawer. Be mindful of the cleaning products you choose to use as many conventional products contain harmful allergens, carcinogens and hormone disruptors. This is also a great season to clean out your personal care products as they too often contain harmful chemicals. offers helpful resources to aid in detoxing your cleaning regimes or get more information here for home detox tips and here for cleaning up your personal care routine. 




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The Power of Breath


To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.

– Thich Nhat Hanh


“When one gives undivided attention to the vital breath, and brings it to the utmost degree of pliancy, he can become as a tender babe.”


If you had access to a FREE TOOL that could help induce states of calm, improve your overall health and well – being today and prevent disease would you use it?

If the answer is yes then…

 Breathe in- 2-3-4-5 and out-2-3-4-5 … and again…and again…

Breathing is essential for life and therefore we are designed to do it automatically, without thinking. However, we also have the ability to consciously change our respiration with intention.



Ancient Chinese, Indian and Greek texts are replete with the importance of proper breathing for vibrant health. Likewise, old spiritual traditions have long known that the key to unlock states of calm, greater awareness and connectivity is through mindful breathwork. Essentially the ancients knew that improper breathing prevented healing and was a precursor to disease…or dis-ease. Conversely, mindful breathwork was universally understood as a powerful and immediate way to change the mind and improve overall health immediately. If you didn’t catch that incredibly significant bit here it is again…


Ok, you might say, that worked for the ancients, but we live in a modern world full of technological advances. Is mindful breathing still important today?  Let’s explore what the research suggests…



It seems that what was once true is still true when it comes to the power of breath in maintaining and improving health. Modern research studies have revealed that utilizing ancient breathing practices can provide a myriad of health benefits that include; decreasing stress, relieving anxiety and depression, preventing panic attacks, improving quality of sleep and relieving apnea, improving lung function and reducing or relieving asthma, lowering blood pressure, regulating abnormal heart rhythms, improving immune, digestive and cognitive function, maintaining healthy weight, regulating hormones, increasing athletic performance and decreasing pain.




Our noses are incredible organs that are designed to warm, filter and humidify air to condition it before arriving in our lungs. This helps to protect our delicate lungs from airborne pathogens and SIGNIFICANTLY improves breathing efficiency. Unfortunately, many of us tend to breathe through our mouths while waking or sleeping. Why does this matter? Mouth breathing shrinks our airways, dries out the mucosal membranes in our throats and exposes our lungs to cold, unfiltered air and harmful pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.

  • Nasal breathing provides 20% more oxygen as compared to mouth breathing!
  • Nasal breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Nasal breathing can help to reduce the incidence of snoring and sleep apnea
  • Nasal breathing stimulates the production of Nitric oxide which sterilizes the air, dilates airways and enhances the o2 taken up by the blood
  • Nitric oxide, which is produced via nasal breathing is antiviral and currently the subject of COVID-19 trials
  • Nasal breathing helps to maintain open airways and proper facial bone structure. Conversely, mouth breathing changes the shape of our faces, causing airways to close

In our stressed – out modern worlds, many of us are stuck in chronic over breathing patterns. Over breathing throws off the delicate oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) balance which is necessary to induce states of calm and to properly oxygenate every cell in the body. Spending more time in exhalation allows levels of carbon dioxide to build up which might sound harmful BUT without adequate levels of C02 in our body we will never fully thrive. Why?

  • In a process is known as the Bohr Effect (named after Nobel Prize winning physicist Christian Bohr who discovered it) C02 is necessary to offload 02 from the blood to be used by the cells. More specifically, hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood to the cells and C02 must be present to cause the release of O2 in the blood into the cells.
  • CO2 dilates the smooth muscles in the walls of the airways and blood vessels to increase breathing efficiency and blood flow to all areas of the body. This results in increased O2 delivery to all bodily tissues and organs, and has been shown to improve asthma, heart and skin conditions, improve athletic performance and even help to dissolve fat
  • When we over breathe, less O2 is released to the muscles and tissues and they work less effectively and efficiently. It is noteworthy that over breathing for just a few minutes can reduce blood flow to the brain by 40%!
  • Adequate levels of C02 ensure adequate O2 levels which regulates a neutral blood pH, a necessity to promote cell life
  • Adequate levels of CO2 are necessary to produce calming neurotransmitters and human studies reveal that long slow exhalations increase CO2 and helps to prevent panic attacks!

Not only is thorough chewing essential for proper digestion, it is vital for the formation of healthy airways and dentition. Skeletal records show that as little as 400 years ago, before the advent of braces, human skulls had completely straight teeth, broad faces and well – defined jaws. Records show that the diet of ancient civilizations included large amounts of fibrous vegetables, nuts, seeds animal matter and ligamentous animal protein that required a significant amount of chewing. Compare that to a standard modern diet that is highly processed, soft and fiber poor which results in a need to chew very little. What affects does chewing less have upon our health?

  • Chewing causes the release of stem cells in the skull that help to build new bone in the face, resulting in better jaw alignment, improved head posture, wider and stronger airways and a more youthful and balanced appearance. Contrary to previously thought, humans are capable of regenerating facial bone well into their 70s and possibly beyond
  • Breast fed babies have a significantly lower incidence of crooked teeth, snoring and sleep apnea as compared to bottle fed babies. This is due to the increased positive stress of chewing and sucking during breast feeding that does not occur with bottle feeding
  • Lack of chewing can lead to facial bone loss which results in not only “sagging” faces but also airway obstruction as the soft tissues in the throat have less bone to attach to, often resulting in increased incidences of snoring and sleep apnea
  • Chewing gum (especially harder varieties like mastic gum) and a variety of palate expanders have also been shown to build facial bone, even in adults. To explore the latter, contact a dental professional who specializes in functional orthodontics.




Maximize your breathing efficiency by focusing intentionally on nose breathing even for just a few minutes at a time. You may choose to do this while on a walk or during a prayer or meditative practice. You might also begin to simply observe yourself throughout the day and notice how often you find yourself breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. If you have trouble breathing through your nose, you can explore the resources listed below for tools. Both books offer simple techniques that may be helpful in clearing your nose. If these are not helpful you might consider booking an appointment with Dr. Schmidt to assess possible causes of nasal obstruction and treatment via acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle change.


There are limitless ways to do this, but you may start by experimenting with either of the following commonly used patterns…

  • EXHALE MORE FOR GREATER CALM – experiment with a breathing cadence that focuses more time in exhalation. Try inhaling to a count of 4 and exhaling to a count of 6 or longer. Experiment with extending your exhalations with the intention of fully emptying the lungs of breath
  • EXPLORE THE OPTIMAL CADENCE – 5.5 -6 BREATHS/MINUTE – try breathing in for 5-6 seconds and exhale for 5-6 seconds for several minutes. This pattern has been shown to be the most efficient breathing rhythm with a myriad of health benefits and is interestingly the cadence of many ancient mantras and prayers such as the Catholic rosary.

Be a curious observer of yourself and pay attention to how experimenting with different breathing practices affects your physiology either through subjective observation or with the use of a tool.

  • SUBJECTIVELY – after several minutes of breathing you may note increased feelings of calm, sensations of warmth, a rosy color in the cheeks, reductions in tension and pain or increased saliva in the mouth. All of the above are signs that your nervous system is shifting into a calming parasympathetic state, where healing, rest and proper digestion can occur!
  • VIA TECHNOLOGY – Want to measure the physiological changes mindful breathing makes? Consider using a simple and easily accessible tool such as a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter or a heart rate variability monitor. Take a measurement before beginning a breathing practice and then again after 5 or more minutes of practice and observe the differences.



WANT TO LEARN MORE? Check out the following resources full of research references and practical tools…

Krasowski, J. A. (2020). Breath, The new science of a lost art: by James Nestor, New York, NY, USA, Riverhead Books.

McKeown, P. (2015). The Oxygen Advantage: The simple, scientifically proven breathing technique that will revolutionize your health and fitness. Hachette UK.


Restoration: Winter’s Invitation



The thought of Winter might bring to mind images of still and snowy landscapes, relaxing days on skis and skates or perhaps a bear slumbering away in the safety of its den. In nature, Winter is a season of quiet, of storage, of renewal and a preparation for the rebirth of Spring. It is a time where the lifegiving energy of plants goes inward and many animals burrow away in states of hibernation to rest and await the exuberance of a new season.



In our modern world where productivity is often praised as the highest goal, the quiet rhythms of winter may not often be valued. Wisdom traditions however have long known that winters’ rest and restoration is a prerequisite for summers bounty. One might say that winter holds the potential for summers growth in its storehouses of water and nutrients. If you doubt the truth in this, talk to any seasoned farmer or gardener and they’ll be quick to affirm that any patch of ground that isn’t amended and allowed to rest won’t be worth “a hill of beans”.

Similarly, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long understood that without proper rest and renewal our health will begin to fail. Taking the cue from nature, TCM prioritizes the Winter season to focus on restoration and highlights the importance of nourishing two organ systems in particular, the Kidneys and the Urinary Bladder. In TCM both organs are associated with the Water element, their renewal analogous to filling of lakes and reservoirs or a deepening snowpack in order to nourish growth in the hot days of Summer. From a Western Biomedical viewpoint, the association of the kidneys and bladder to water will perhaps make intuitive sense as both organs are involved in fluid metabolism and urine production. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and send them via urine to the bladder which marvelously expands to store this waste until we reach the nearest loo.  However. There’s more to the story…


In TCM the kidneys are also grouped with the adrenal glands and are collectively regarded as the roots or energy storehouses of the body, that govern growth, bone health, reproduction and aging in the body. A quick review of modern physiology will help remind us why the ancients held these organs in such high esteem and prioritized the importance of their revitalization.

The adrenal glands, also known as the suprarenal glands as they sit atop the kidneys, produce an array of valuable hormones including cortisol, DHEA, epinephrine, norepinephrine and aldosterone that regulate:

  • immune function
  • metabolism and healthy weight
  • blood pressure
  • response to stress

The kidneys also serve a variety of critical functions including:

  • filtering the blood and removing waste products from the body via urine
  • removing toxins and drugs from the body
  • modulating the levels of potassium, calcium, sodium and phosphorus.
  • balancing the fluids in the skin and rest of the body
  • releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • releasing hormones that control the production of red blood cells

When the adrenal glands, kidneys or bladder are in states of dysfunction a myriad of debilitating conditions can ensue including: osteoporosis, nerve damage, high blood pressure, nutritional problems, cardiovascular disease, extreme fatigue, urinary disease, hormone imbalance and even life-threatening kidney failure.


THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THERE IS MUCH WE CAN DO TO SUPPORT THE HEALTH OF OUR “WATER” ORGANS! Check out the following tips on how you can fill up your own reservoirs today…



PRIORITIZE THIS! If we don’t have a “well” to draw from we will most certainly experience disease in one form or another so recharge your vitality by…

*Getting to bed well before midnight and allowing yourself as much sleep as you need.

* Giving yourself permission to take breaks and short naps as needed

* Letting go of  tasks or relationships that are energy drains

* Getting massage, acupuncture or other bodywork to help support your body’s built in systems of renewal

* Planning a day or weekend away by yourself or with an encouraging companion where the only goal is to simply enjoy and unwind…no work allowed!



*Make soup the star of supper:

Focus on rich and warming organic bone or root broth – based soups. These one – pot meals provide vitamins, minerals and collagen to help energize and nourish bones, joints, skin, smooth muscle (your bladder thanks you!) teeth and raw materials to support healthy organ function.So, load up that slow cooker with quality raw materials in the morning and ladle up a heaping, hot bowl to enjoy fireside come evening!

 *Include dark colored produce and grains in your diet:

You’ve likely heard the nutritional advice to “eat the rainbow”, which is wise as various colors of plants contain different phytochemicals with unique nutritional benefits. In TCM, Winter is associated with the colors black and blue (picture the depths of the ocean) and is a time to highlight the antioxidant rich plants such as blue and blackberries, black rice and sesame seeds, dark leafy greens and beans, dark purple cabbages and cauliflower, dark mushrooms and seaweeds. These dark pigmented plants contain the highest amounts of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are incredibly cell protective, prevent urinary and other infections, aid detoxification, lower cholesterol and are powerful cancer fighters. The value of these rich pigments is not recent news, in ancient China black rice was so valued for its nutritional content that it was forbidden for anyone to eat except for the Emperors…and thus it developed its alias as “forbidden rice”. Thankfully this superfood is available to even us commoners these days!

*Bring on the bitters!

The bitter flavor is often left out in the standard western diet in favor of sugar or salt. This is unfortunate as bitter compounds have a slew of health benefits. TCM holds that bitter flavors have a downward and clearing action. Probably the most familiar application of this are digestive bitter tinctures that sometimes show up in aperitifs. This time old tradition was and is still used because upon tasting bitter compounds our digestive systems begin to excrete acid, enzymes and bile in preparation to digest whatever meal was to follow. But bitters go beyond digestion. Bitter compounds have also been shown to help regulate immune function and to help improve the detoxification capability of the kidneys and liver! Great! How do you work these helpful compounds in? They are found in great amounts in leafy greens, root vegetables and in the skins of citrus fruit. Unsure of how to use citrus peel? Try including the zest of citrus in your favorite dressings or dishes, add some orange or tangerine peel when brewing herbal tea or simply eat a bit of the natural “wrapper” with that next delicious orange.

*Just One Cup thanks… and Hold the Goodies:

Allow your adrenal glands a chance to be restored by minimizing caffeine and refined   sugars, both of which cause excess cortisol releases, taxing the precious adrenals. Stick to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea in the morning when your cortisol naturally peaks and if you want a second cup, switch to warming herbal teas such as ginger, cinnamon, clove or orange that are nourishing but don’t cause cortisol spikes and adrenal depletion.



We are designed to move daily for health, but winter is a time to focus on moving in ways that conserve and restore energy. Consider the following …

*Reduce the intensity of your workouts at least one-two days per week to allow for repair and recovery

*Include practices such as yoga, qi gong or stretching that serve to balance, strengthen and restore the body, mind spirit connection

*Practice self-massage – soak your feet in mineral or Epsom salts (skip if prone to loose stools as Epsom salts are laxatives) and follow up with massage by rolling a golf or tennis ball on the soles of your feet. This acupressure technique will help to bring balance to the entire body and strengthen both the kidneys and bladder as their nerve pathways run through the soles of your feet.   Spend a little extra time massaging Kidney 1, also known as Bubbling Springs using the guide for location. In TCM this point is well known for its ability to for cleanse, rejuvenate and awaken up the entire body.



In TCM the ears are associated with kidney health so the relative quiet of winter is an excellent time to nourish your spirit via reflective questioning and listening. Spiritual traditions have long known that without these intentional and meditative “pauses” it is difficult to be aware of and learn from where we’ve been in order to thoughtfully decide where we’d like to go.

 In your reflections you might consider the following meditations…

*What slowing and nurturing rhythms help me to feel calm, peaceful and nourished? How can I be intentional to engage one of these practices this week ?

*What draining habits or relationships am I being invited to let go of or address that I might rest and experience peace more completely? What is a next step I can take  toward being free of these obstacles in order to experience restoration?

 *What tools, support or perspective do I desire to help develop more resilience to stressors?Whether you’re already engaging in restorative practices or haven’t even begun to consider them, be encouraged that any ways you choose to replenish your well of reserves today will provide refreshment come Spring and Summer. Purpose to include even one small, 2 minute change this week that can intentionally nourish your mind, body and spirit!

NOTE: As with all our posts, the information presented here is not intended for diagnosis or treatment. If you are need of support in your healing journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for our help. We’d be happy to schedule an appointment or give you referrals as needed. You are not alone!


Creating Healthy Habits That Stick!

A new year is here, ripe with fresh opportunities to cultivate changes for a more balanced and vibrant life. Why is this important to consider?


Research indicates that what we think about and how we spend our time determines who we will become. In other words, the daily choices we make and habits we follow are forming who we will be for better …or for worse.


You may have already set some “resolutions” for the New Year or perhaps are still considering what healthy changes you’d like to incorporate into your daily rhythms. Whatever your good intentions, consider applying these science – backed tips to help your new habits survive the long haul…


  1. Create GOALS that are MEASURABLE and EASILY ACHIEVED IN 2-3 MINUTES. Why? HABITS STICK when we FEEL SUCCESSFUL! When we succeed at something it positively reshapes the way we view ourselves which encourages more healthy habits. Starting small may seem silly but oftentimes people create goals that are unrealistic then feel defeated when they don’t achieve them and subsequently give up entirely. Want to avoid that pitfall? Consider modeling your goals after the following examples…If you want to work out more, consider a goal of doing simple exercises for 2 minutes 1-2 x/week. Similarly, if you want to include more healthy food options consider a goal of eating 1-2 vegetables / week. Small successes really do compound to create big, long term dividends!
  2. REWARD THE NEW BEHAVIOR IMMEDIATELY and TANGIBLY. Why? Our brains respond to a rewarded behavior by releasing This helps us FEEL HAPPY and creates a DESIRE to do the SAME BEHAVIOR AGAIN to receive the reward. It’s important to make the reward VISIBLE and TANGIBLE as our brains are encouraged by VISUAL PROGRESS which drives us to repeat the new behavior. Consider keeping a tally sheet, marking a calendar or a using a marble jar to keep track of your successes. Be sure to make a check mark or add a marble to the jar IMMEDIATELY after doing the new habit. This will help your brain connect the new behavior with the reward. After you’ve accumulated a week’s worth of marks or marbles you might reward yourself with something that aligns with the overall goal. For example, if your intent is to implement stress reduction practices such as prayer or meditation you might reward yourself by getting a massage, taking a luxurious bath, or downloading some new music that is calming or brings you joy. After completing your daily goal for a longer period of time such as a month, you might consider treating yourself to a relaxing weekend away.
  3. Make NEW HABITS YOU’D LIKE TO CREATE OBVIOUS AND APPEALING and keep HABITS YOU’D LIKE TO GET RID OF OUT OF SIGHT AND UNATTRACTIVE. Why? Our brains follow the path of least resistance so whatever is most visible and easily accessed is what we will innately choose. Therefore, if your intent is to read more in place of scrolling on social media you might create a special reading area or room and leave engaging books in plain view while keeping your cell phone turned off and in another room. You can also PIGGYBACK A NEW BEHAVIOR ONTO AN ESTABLISHED HABIT. This established habit will act as a CUE to remind you to implement the new behavior you’d like to establish until it too becomes engrained. For example, if you regularly have tea or coffee in the morning, utilize the time it takes for water to boil to pray, meditate, make a healthy lunch or do some simple exercises. Following this with your favorite healthy morning beverage can also serve as the reward for the new behavior!

Whatever new habits you are being encouraged to develop, know that you hold incredible power and freedom to change the trajectory of your life through your daily thoughts and the choices.

How will you harness this power to grow in 2021?



Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: Tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Fogg, B. J. (2019). Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.



Ah… autumn is in full swing which means changing leaves, cool, crisp days and all the pumpkin spice you can handle.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the season of autumn is an opportunity to intentionally nourish and detoxify the lungs and large intestine.  And whew! With a global pandemic, cold and flu season around the corner and unprecedented wildfires and smoke in the Western US there couldn’t be a better time to focus on the health of these vital organs!

The lungs and large intestine both share the functions of taking in nourishment via water and oxygen or nutrients and filtering out toxins that don’t serve us. When these organs are in a state of dis-ease, respiration and elimination are often impaired, and the immune system can become weakened leaving us susceptible to pathogenic invasions, cancers and autoimmune conditions. Yikes!

Since food can be such incredible DAILY medicine, what follows are some general guidelines to optimize lung and large intestine health, that will also benefit your overall well – being!


  1. Pungent Flavors: radishes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, horseradish, ginger

Pungent or spicy flavors have a dispersing or moving nature and can help to break up and clear out excess mucous and phlegm. If left unchecked phlegm can impede proper organ function and provide a breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. In TCM the lungs are said to “open” to the nasal passages and radishes, horseradish and ginger are especially helpful at relieving sinus congestion. These can be grated and added to food or juiced for extra potency. Use these and hot peppers with caution if you tend to have a “hot” constitution (red face, chest, sweat easily) or excessively dry throat.  Regular consumption of the particularly pungent allium family, that includes garlic, onions, leeks and chives has been associated with significant reduction in cancers of the esophagus, stomach and colon, lung, breast, pancreas and prostate. With the incidence of various cancers on the rise, be sure to include these tasty, sulfur rich foods on a daily basis!

  1. White Colored Produce: daikon radish, turnips, white fleshed fruits such as apples and pears, onions, garlic, white pepper and mushrooms

According to TCM, white is the color associated with the autumn season and interestingly, if you explore your local farmers market, many white or white fleshed foods can be found this season. Apples and pears have the ability to mitigate dryness that often accompanies the season and are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps feed beneficial gut bacteria, normalizes digestion and aids in detoxification. These fall favorites are also rich in antioxidants such as quercetin that reduce inflammation and slow aging and their skins contain valuable insoluble fiber…so leave those peels on! Turnips are high in immune boosting Vitamin C, rich in fiber and as a cruciferous vegetable have been linked with cancer prevention. While Shitake and Maitake mushrooms are well known for their immune supportive beta glucans, the more commonly found Crimini or white button mushrooms are also wonderful choices. These little guys are an affordable and excellent source of immune supportive Vitamin D and are rich in trace minerals, B vitamins, fiber and protein. Consider adding to your next soup, stir fry or simply as a meat alternative.

  1. Cruciferous and Orange Root Vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, turnip and mustard greens, carrot, pumpkin and winter squash

Vegetables in both of these categories are rich in protective antioxidants such as beta- carotene which helps to nourish healthy mucosal membranes, boost immune function and has been linked to the reduced incidence of both lung and colon cancers. The green cruciferous veggies are also rich in chlorophyll and sulfur compounds which help to inhibit viruses and aid the body in detoxifying harmful chemicals that are ingested, inhaled or absorbed on a daily basis. Boost your capacity to cleanse naturally by adding in at least one cruciferous vegetable per day, ideally steamed or sautéed rather than raw to optimize absorption. Pumpkin, carrots, and other squashes are strengthening to the digestive tract and help to regulate bowel movements. They may be easily prepared by baking or consider utilizing them either chopped or puréed in soups for a delicious autumnal meal.

  1. Mucilaginous Foods: seaweeds, flaxseed, okra, slippery elm and marshmallow root

For proper function, the lungs and large intestine both require the maintenance of a light, and moist protective mucosal coating. The mucous layers that line our respiratory and digestive systems act as protective barriers from pathogenic or toxic substances that can be taken in via air, water or food. Supporting mucosal health protects not only the health of the lung and large intestine but also our entire bodies.  Foods that are rich in mucilage have the ability to sweep out old and pathogenic mucous and help to restore a clean and healthy mucosal layer. These foods are likely less common in your diet so try working them in via the following suggestions. Seaweeds can be added to soups or eaten as a snack, flax seed can be ground and added to oats, okra is a natural thickener for soups (think gumbo!) and slippery elm and marshmallow root can be purchased raw or found in many prepared organic teas.

  1. Fiber Rich Foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains

Fiber is found only in plants and is interesting in that while it is indigestible by our bodies, it plays a critical role in human health. Almost all plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber that occur in varying proportions.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is helpful in maintaining normal cholesterol and glucose levels and is found in foods such as apples, citrus, carrots peas, oats, garlic and onions. In addition, soluble fiber plays the vital role of feeding beneficial gut bacteria which aid in nutrient assimilation, hormone and immune modulation, cancer prevention, regulation of inflammation and maintenance of healthy weight. Insoluble fiber is found in the bran of grains and plant cell walls, does not dissolve in water, helps to create the bulk of stool and to regulate normal movement through the digestive tract. Studies indicate that high fiber diets have value in preventing various cancers, diabetes, heart conditions and are helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.  To maximize the health benefits of fiber, shoot for 30g/day of a mix of insoluble and soluble fibers. To get started you might utilize a fiber calculator to see how much fiber you are already getting per day.  If you fall short consider slowly adding in high fiber sprouted legumes for one meal or mix in ground hemp, flax, nuts or seeds to your oatmeal or salad or switch out white rice for quinoa.  In general, the more you can stick to an unprocessed plant – based diet the more easily you’ll reach the 30g/day mark and reap the health benefits of fiber!



  1. Refined Sugars, Pocessed and Fried foods, Alcohol

These “party foods” are all inflammatory in nature and tend to cause the production of pathogenic mucous and suppress immune function. In addition, these essentially “dead foods” contain little to no nutrition and cause a net loss of nutrients as they require B vitamins, zinc and minerals in order to be digested. If these foods make up more than 20% of your diet, consider swapping out one processed meal per week with an unprocessed vegetable – based meal to start. Or for a larger step, consider limiting these foods and alcohol to just the weekends or special occasions. Even small steps can help to reduce your inflammatory load and benefit your overall health today!

  1. Animal Dairy

Dairy, especially pasteurized, can cause congestion and excess mucous production in some individuals. Telltale signs of an intolerance to dairy include sinus congestion, runny nose, headache, phlegm that can’t be cleared from your throat or digestive disturbances. If you are still inclined to eat dairy, consider raw (unpasteurized) forms or fermented products such as unsweetened yogurt of kefir that still contain enzymatic activity and beneficial bacteria respectively. You might also consider sourcing goat or sheep -based products as their proteins are more similar to those found in human milk and tend to cause less reactivity. For a more sustainable alternative, there are also a wide variety of plant- based yogurts and milks that may be more easily digested and tolerated. If you’re lost and don’t know where to look, the suggested alternatives above can be often found at your local health food store or farmers market.

  1. Non – Organic and Grain Fed Animals

Animals, including humans, store toxins in their fat. Therefore, when we consume conventionally raised (non -organic) meats we end up taking in whatever toxins were stored in that tissue such as antibiotics, hormones, chemicals and pesticides. Since the goal is to help aid detoxification and not impede it, be intentional to choose 100% organically fed animals. Also opt for animals that are 100% grass fed or wild caught fish from sustainable sources as they contain anti-inflammatory Omega -3 oils linked with a myriad of health benefits. Conversely, grain fed animals contain high amounts of pro- inflammatory Omega -6 fats that when consumed in excess have been linked with increased incidences of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune conditions, mood disorders and cancer. Yikes! For a more cost- effective, sustainable and health boosting alternative you might also consider substituting a fiber rich, plant -based protein such as lentils for one meal a day or week. Think hearty lentil soup, three bean chili or black bean tacos!


As you eat to nurture your lungs and large intestine, note that their physiology is a reminder that autumn is a season of refinement for not just body but mind and spirit as well. A call to create life giving rhythms that filter out obstacles to healing and embrace what serves to nourish us and create well -being amidst turbulent times. So, as you take in dietary nourishment you might consider what specific activities, places, people, readings, meditations nourish your soul? And similarly, as you notice your body’s processes of elimination, what patterns, habits or unhealthy relationships are you being invited to let go of in this season?


Please note that the information listed above is not intended to diagnose or treat. To set up a consultation to determine the most applicable dietary protocol for your constitution you may contact Dr. Schmidt here….



 Donaldson, M. S. (2004). Nutrition and cancer: a review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutrition journal3(1), 19

Elizabeth, L., Machado, P., Zinöcker, M., Baker, P., & Lawrence, M. (2020). Ultra-processed foods and health outcomes: a narrative review. Nutrients12(7), 1955.

Hanson, C., Lyden, E., Rennard, S., Mannino, D. M., Rutten, E. P., Hopkins, R., & Young, R. (2016). The relationship between dietary fiber intake and lung function in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Annals of the American Thoracic Society13(5), 643-650.

 Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. 3rd ed., rev., updated, and expanded. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books.


10 Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships are meant to be life giving, challenging and give a sense of connection and belonging. Unfortunately, I see many clients who are stuck in“toxic relationships” that often do the opposite. When I say toxic relationship, I mean any relationship whether it is a significant other, friend, child or family member. Toxic literally means poisonous. It is something that is harmful to us and our health and functioning. Therefore, a toxic relationship will interfere with our mental and emotional health and keep us from thriving. I also use toxic relationships and emotionally abusive relationships synonymously.

Another way to define a toxic relationship is relationships that involve emotional abuse. If a relationship has any kind of physical or sexual abuse, of course it is unhealthy and unsafe. I focus here of emotional abuse, however, because emotional abuse can often be very difficult to identify and is often a precursor to or a part of physical and sexual abuse. Many times emotional abuse can be just as damaging to a person as more overt forms of abuse. One way to define patterns of emotional abuse that characterizes a toxic relationship is any behavior or attitude that emotionally damages another person, regardless of whether there is conscious intent to do so.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that we do not need to demonize those who have hurt us or who we have been in a toxic relationship with. People who emotionally abuse often do so because that was what was modeled to them. They may not even realize that their behaviors or patterns in relationships are harmful and hurtful. This does not excuse their behavior but can help us have more compassion and realize that it’s not all about us. In addition, I often hear people use the term “toxic” in a very dismissive way (ie: Oh she is so toxic), as if that person should be quarantined and ignored forever. It also seems like using this word is a get out of jail free card to not look at ourselves and what part we have played in a toxic relationship. Of course there are cases when someone is so abusive or sick that there is nothing you can do to change things other than leave the relationship completely, other times, however, we can empower ourselves to change our patterns in our unhealthy relationships if we know what to look for and how to respond. If you are concerned that you might be in a toxic relationship or are unsure, read on to learn some common signs and ways to deal.

Identifying Abuse

Before we jump into some very specific forms of emotional abuse, take a moment to check in with yourself and by asking these questions:

How do I feel after spending time with this person?

Have I changed since spending time with this person? How?

What do my trusted friends and loved ones have to say about my relationship with this person?

Do I feel/believe that I have as much to offer them as they offer me?

Do I feel/believe that my opinion, ideas and feelings matter to them?

How do I feel while I am spending time with them? How does my body feel? (Relaxed, tense?)

You may notice that after spending time with certain people you feel peaceful or fulfilled while after spending time with others you feel drained or unsure of yourself. These are important feelings to pay attention to. Of course if you have one negative interaction with someone that makes you feel uneasy, that does not necessarily mean they are toxic and you should end the relationship. We are all imperfect humans and all good relationships have conflict and discomfort at times. However, if you find your interactions with someone consistently result in you feeling down, drained or insecure, there might be some toxic, emotionally abusive dynamics. Since some forms of toxicity in relationships can be so subtle, it can be helpful to check in with ourselves and our feelings. We might feel nervous or tense when we are about to see a certain person but not know why. What is fascinating is that our emotions and bodies can often pick up on emotional abuse before our conscious minds can. One possible reason is that we have been in these kinds of relationships most of our lives and think they are normal. Or the negative patterns started so small and grew at such a gradual pace that we have not realized how toxic our relationship has become. We can build up a tolerance to being treated poorly. And, the very nature of emotional abuse often leads to self doubt in the abused.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves clear and consistent patterns that I will list and go over below. These dynamics are destructive and often the intent is to make the other feel badly about him or herself. Remember, emotional abuse is any behavior or attitude that emotionally damages another person, regardless of whether there is conscious intent to do so. It can be overt and very openly demeaning or covert (more subtle). And as the definition says, it can be intentional or unintentional. You may realize there are some very subtle forms of one of these characteristics that simply need to be pointed out in order to make a change. If you identify any of these dynamics in one of your relationships, you do not necessarily need to immediately cut that person out of your life. It may mean that you need to reassess the relationship and make some changes, however.

These 10 types of emotional abuse are described in The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel.

Domination: attempting to control another’s actions and always have their own way. The abuser may use threats and/or manipulation to get their way.

Verbal Assaults: Berating, belittling, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, shaming, using sarcasm in a cutting way, verbal abuse disguised as jokes. The abuser may then belittle you for being hurt by their words and taking it so seriously.

Constant Criticism/Continual Blaming: This can be difficult to identify. The person might put you down under the guise of humor, similar to verbal assaults, or claiming they are just trying to help you to be better. Engle describes this dynamic’s effects, saying “When someone is unrelentingly critical of you, always finds fault, can never be pleased, and blames you for everything that goes wrong, it is the insidious nature and cumulative effects of the abuse that do the damage.”

Abusive Expectations: When someone places unreasonable demands on you (ie: expecting a friend or partner to put aside everything in order to satisfy their needs, demanding a partner’s undivided attention, demanding constant sex, or requiring a friend/partner to spend all of his or her time with them.) Usually they react strongly when you do not meet these expectations.

Emotional Blackmail: Coercing another to do what you want by playing into their fear, guilt or compassion (ie: one partner threatening to end the relationship or withholding sex if they don’t get what they want, silent treatment, guilt trips, making you feel selfish when you do something they don’t want you to do, asking you to give something up as a way of proving your love/friendship/loyalty to him/her.) Again, this blackmail may be subtle or overt.

Unpredictable Responses: This is characterized by drastic mood swings, sudden emotional outbursts for no apparent reason and inconsistent responses. They may react to a situation fine one day and then explode at the same situation the next day. This causes others to feel constantly on edge-waiting for the other shoe to drop. This behavior is common with alcohol and drug abusers/addicts or those with various forms of mental illness. This form of emotional abuse keeps you in a hypervigilant state, needing to be ready to respond to the other’s explosions or mood swings.

Constant Chaos/Creating Crisis: This is characterized by continual upheavals and discord. The abuser may deliberately start arguments with you or others or seem to be in constant conflict with others. The phrase “addicted to drama” fits here. This behavior may serve to distract from their own problems, feelings of emptiness or feel more comfortable for those who were raised in chaotic environments.

Character Assasination: Constantly blowing someone’s mistakes out of proportion, humiliating, criticizing, making fun of someone in front of others, or discounting another’s achievements. This can also involve lying about someone to negatively influence others’ opinions of them and gossiping about their mistakes and failures.

Gaslighting: This term comes from the classic movie Gaslight in which a husband uses a variety of insidious techniques to make his wife doubt her perceptions, memory and sanity. The abuser may continually deny that certain events occurred or that he or she said something you both know was said or he or she my insinuate that you are exaggerating or lying. The abusive person may be trying to gain control over you or avoid taking responsibility for his or her actions. This often results in the abused doubting themselves and less likely to speak up when future abuse happens.

Sexual Harassment: This can occur anywhere, even with a romantic partner. Unwelcome sexual advances or any physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that is uninvited and unwelcome constitutes sexual harassment. The perpetrator may coerce you into becoming sexual against your will or into doing sexual acts you have no desire to do or are even repulsed by. Often other forms of emotional abuse go hand in hand with sexual harassment such as gaslighting or constant criticizing. They may claim that they are helping you to be less repressed and more sexually free and criticize you for being uptight and prudish. Or they may claim they were just being friendly and that you are blowing their actions out of proportion. But if it makes you uncomfortable and is unwanted, it is harassment, no matter their intent.

Now What?

Maybe you are seeing that some of your relationships has one or multiple forms of emotional abuse at play. Maybe you are recognizing that you are the abuser. So now what do you do? If you are identifying yourself as the abuser, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up will not help you become more healthy. Most likely there is a reason you engage in these abusive, toxic behaviors in your relationships and now you can work to discover what that reason is. You can do this within the confines of a safe and empathetic therapeutic relationship. Many people seek therapy over talking to a good friend because there is no judgement and instead there is unconditional positive regard. That means us therapists believe the best about you and that while you may do bad things you are not yourself, bad. If you want to stop being emotionally abusive to people you care about, find a therapist who can help you be more aware of when you are engaging in these behaviors and what is driving them.

If you are seeing that you have been emotionally abused there are multiple helpful ways to respond. First, you probably need to set some boundaries with this person either directly or just in your own mind. This involves being clear about what you will and will not accept. This may be letting the person know that you do not like being talked down to or being called names and if they start doing that again, you will get up and leave. Many times people feel mean when they hold boundaries, but boundaries are not an ultimatum or empty threat. Instead, they are a way to emotionally protect yourself. Boundaries are also loving towards yourself and the other person and not done as a punishment. When you change what you will and will not put up with it gives the other person an opportunity to change for the better as well.

It is also important for you to be aware of how the abuse has twisted your perception of yourself. Most likely you have received countless subtle or overt messages that you are not good enough, incompetent, unattractive or any other number of negative things. This is going to take a toll on your sense of self, so be aware of any negative self talk and ask yourself, “Is this me or this other person’s voice?” Awareness is the first step to taking control over your mind again. From here you can work to rebuild what the abuse tore down: your self esteem, self confidence, passion, silliness, creativity, etc.

While you are recovering from this toxic relationship, it is immensely helpful to surround yourself with safe, supportive people who can remind you of who you really are and want to build you up. Sometimes we need others to remind us of what is true about us before we are able to do it for ourselves. Setting boundaries and changing our own patterns can be very difficult so it’s also helpful to have people cheering you on and reminding you of why you are making these changes.

You also may need to grieve the relationship as you adjust your expectations and hopes for this person or relationship, especially if it is someone very close like a spouse or parent. You may also experience strong anger as you realize how poorly you have been treated. Anger is an appropriate response and will demand to be felt. As you work through your anger you can eventually move toward forgiveness towards yourself for allowing yourself to be treated so poorly and possibly also towards the abuser. Forgiveness does not mean they have to remain in your life or that you think everything they said and did is okay. Forgiving them is releasing them and believing that you will be okay no matter what happens or doesn’t happen to them. Forgiveness is really for your well being, not theirs, though it may have positive effects for them as well.

Finally, rather than kick yourself for not realizing how bad this relationship was sooner, allow this experience to teach you what to look out for in the future so it doesn’t happen again. I work with many people who are struggling to get out of a pattern of toxic relationships. They wonder why they keep choosing emotionally abusive people. Often it is because they just focus on the other people and not themselves. There is something in us that draws us to these kinds of people and until we address that the cycle will continue. We also need to learn to trust our gut when it tells us something is off about this person. When we can use our previous experiences to inform our current actions in relationship we can make different choices that will lead to better relational outcomes.


cleaning up “toxic thoughts”

The great Greek philosopher Epictetus is credited with saying “it is not events that disturb us, but our interpretation of the event”. I love this quote, because it outlines a core concept of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is a modality of psychotherapy that I draw upon frequently in my practice because it powerfully guides us to identify the connection between what we think, how we feel in response to the thoughts we think, and what we can choose to do behaviorally in response to our thoughts and feelings.


Just as environmental toxins can harm us physically, toxic thought patterns have the power to wreak havoc on our mental/emotional health. So, what can we do? Physically, if I learn that a substance in my lotion is harmful, I can take action. I can remove that product from my shelf and find a cleaner option. Similarly, psychotherapy can be a life-changing process where a person is guided to identify the onset and impact of specific thought patterns in their lives, which helps get to the root of many “problems”/symptoms and identify a way forward toward the changes they may desire to make. We can feel and act differently, which can noticeably improve quality of life!


First, we start with awareness. We act like curious scientists, searching out the “toxic” thoughts that are negative, distorted, untrue, inaccurate, and have potential to powerfully and negatively impact how we view ourselves, the world, and our future.


Let’s say that I recognize some repeating thoughts in my mind are, “If I make mistakes I’ve failed, people will judge me harshly, and I need to be perfect”. In examining the impact, I may realize that these specific thoughts cause me to feel anxious and behaviorally I may keep a guard up in relationship with others. From this step I can work to question the validity of these thoughts and implement/practice new ways of thinking and behaving.


There is so much I could expound upon here.   To simplify it to basics, it comes down to awareness, analysis, and choice.

  1. Awareness: what am I thinking? What thought popped into my mind when I noticed I was experiencing strong emotion?


  1. Analysis: once you have identified the thought, question it. Analyze it and evaluate it for truth. Identify distortions. What is the impact of this thinking on my feelings and behavior? What are the consequences?


  1. Choice: what do I choose to do now with this information? Do I want to keep this pattern? Work to purposefully replace thoughts? Develop truths/affirmations to think on purpose?


With practice and intention, we can change what we think, how we feel, and what we do. We can be transformed through the renewing of our minds.


Resources for further information:

National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists:

David Burns website:



A Clean Sweep: Practical Tips for Home Detox

In last month’s post we explored ways that you can minimize your toxic load with an overhaul of personal care products. This month we’ll expand on that journey by identifying common toxins found in homes and discuss ways that you can protect and enrich the health of your family and the environment.


Many of the TOXIC CHEMICALS IN QUESTION HAVE BEEN LINKED TO VARIOUS CANCERS, REPRODUCTIVE ABNORMALITIES, OBESITY, DIABETES, ASTHMA, ALLERGIES, ECZEMA, HEART AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES AND NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS.  It’s important to note that the effects of many toxins may not be felt or experienced immediately or in the short term. However, long term exposure even in small doses can pose serious health threats.




The EPA estimates that INDOOR AIR CONTAINS 2 TO 5 TIMES MORE POLLUTANTS THAN OUTDOOR AIR due to chemicals in SYNTHETIC CLEANERS, PAINTS, CARPETING AND SMOKE AS WELL AS MOLDS AND VIRUSES just to name a few16.Lest you be tempted to simply mask those unwanted particles a and smells with a scented “Plug in”, spray or candle, beware that most air fresheners and candles don’t’ clean the air but actually contribute to a host of health concerns due to the SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES they contain.

(Read more here:

In addition, candles are commonly made of PARAFFIN wax, which presents other problems. Paraffin is an unsustainable petroleum byproduct and studies have shown that burning PARAFFIN CANDLES RELEASES TOLULENE AND BENZENE FUMES THAT HAVE BEEN LINKED TO ASTHMA AND LUNG CANCER 6

VENTILATION:Instead of using synthetics to cover up scents, promote clean air in your home by REGULARLY OPENING DOORS AND WINDOWS DAILY, even for a short period of time to allow ventilation.

PLANT POWER:Consider adding air cleaning varieties of plants such as BROMELIADS, DRACAENA, PEACE LILIES, ENGLISH IVY, JADE AND SPIDER PLANTS in all rooms of your home. These plants have been shown to be naturally effective at FILTERING OUT MANY COMMON HARMFUL VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCS) INCLUDING ACETONE, BENZENE AND FORMALDEHYDE17.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND CANDLES: If you enjoy scents in your space, utilize a DIFFUSER FILLED WITH PURE ESSENTIAL OILS. If burning candles, choose those that are paraffin free. Non – GMO soy candles are safe options but those made of BEESWAX are even better and also support the care and cultivation of our necessary pollinators, bees!

AIR FILTERS:Mold due to water damage, bacteria, germs, dust, dander, viruses and VOCs are common contaminants that can compromise the quality of the air in your home. Utilizing a HEPA FILTER AND/OR AIR SANITIZER can significantly increase air quality and would be recommended especially for INDIVIDUALS WHO STRUGGLE WITH CHRONIC SINUS CONGESTION, ALLERGIES, ASTHMA, HEADACHES, FATIGUE AND INFLAMMATORY CONDITIONS OF THE EYES, MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. You may ALSO CONSIDER PURCHASING AIR FILTRATION SYSTEMS IF YOU LIVE IN A PARTICULARLY COLD CLIMATE which inhibits open window ventilation a good portion of the year.  If you’re in the market for an air filter, Intellipure, IQ Air and Guardian Molekule all offer good quality and highly recommended options.


Word on the street is that we are mostly water, therefore utilizing and protecting clean water as medicine is critical to vibrant health. Tap water quality can vary greatly depending on where you live but even in the United States, with some of the cleanest water supplies, CONTAMINANTS can frequently be found. These most often include LEAD, COPPER, ARSENIC, BACTERIA, VIRUSES, PARASITES, PHARMACEUTICALS, HERBICIDES, PESTICIDES AND RADON. If you are tempted to reach for bottled water in response I’d strongly advise you to turn elsewhere for a solution. BOTTLED WATER has been shown to absorb the ENDORCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS from its plastic containers that can have significant negative impacts on our health and that of the environment.

(Read more here:

In addition, consumer watch groups have revealed that in a majority of products, BOTTLED WATER IS SIMPLY BOTTED TAP WATER… JUST SIGNIFICANTLY MORE EXPENSIVE!

A better solution is to invest in a quality WATER FILTER. These come in a variety of forms. If possible installing a whole house water filter is best as it filters not only drinking water but also shower and bath water. If you rent or are unable to purchase a large – scale system, there are plenty of counter or sink mounted filters available to meet your needs.




CURIOUS WHAT’S IN YOUR CLEANERS? EXPLORE THEIR SAFETY rating at the Environmental Working Groups Guide to Cleaners:  If your products don’t score well then considering switching to one of the EWG.ORG recommended products or reduce your cleaning costs by switching to BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR as your primary cleaners. These two basic components can clean just about anything. You can also ADD QUALITY ESSENTIAL OILS such as lemon or orange to up the cleaning power. In addition, most essential oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties that help kill non- beneficial bacteria on contact.


Everybody seems to love that “clean” smell of their freshly washed clothes and linens but many commonly used detergents and dish soaps contain a variety of harmful CARCINOGENS and ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS also found in personal care products such as SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES, PHTHALATES and PARABENS. Similar to your cleaning arsenal CHECK OUT THE SAFETY OF YOUR LAUNDRY PRODUCTS STACK UP HERE :

Keep in mind that whatever detergent you wash in will be carried out in the wastewater as well remain in contact with your skin and inhaled during use. Look for POWDERED OR TABLET FORMS OF DETERGENTS AND DISH WASHING SOAP packaged in easily recyclable paper and free of all the offending chemicals and plastic containers. Making your own detergent is also simple and cost effective. Or consider switching to a MAGNETIC LAUNDRY WASHING SYSTEM that requires no detergent at all! If whitening or stain removal is required UTILIZE A HYDROGEN PEROXIDE BLEACH AS OPPOSED TO CHLORINE. Also DITCH THE LAUNDRY SHEETS IMMEDIATELY as they typically contain a host of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors that remain on your clothes and get vented into the air while drying.  Opt instead for WOOL DRYER BALLS which work wonderfully to fluff and soften your clothes and reduce static. Even better, save energy and cash by LETTING CLOTHES AIR DRY outside, or in a well- ventilated area inside.


AVOID pans with PLASTICIZED NON- STICK COATINGS SUCH AS TEFLON and OPT FOR STAINLESS, CAST IRON OR ENAMEL INSTEAD. Teflon is made of the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid(PFOA). PFOA is not a naturally occurring compound and yet it is found in the blood of most people living in industrialized countries. Animal studies with rats and primates have shown that PFOA CAUSES CANCER, LIVER DAMAGE, GROWTH DEFECTS, IMMUNE SYSTEM DAMAGE AND DEATH. PFOA has also been LINKED TO HIGH CHOLESTEROL in humans and an EPA advisory board reported that PFOA IS A “LIKELY” CARCINOGEN IN HUMANS 14. NEWERNON – STICK COOKWARE CONTAINING PFCS (PERFLUORINATED CHEMICALS) ARE ALSO BEST AVOIDED as their use has been linked to CANCERS, HORMONE AND REPRODUCTIVE ABNORMALITIES as well as DISEASES OF THE CARDIOVASCULAR AND IMMUNE SYSTEMS in humans 7.In addition, DITCH PLASTIC CONTAINERS AND BEVERAGE BOTTLES and STORE FOOD IN GLASS OR STAINLESS instead to avoid the toxic effects of chemicals leaching into food and drinks.

(Read more here:


AVOID cutting boards made of PLASTIC and those containing the ANTIBACTERIAL CHEMICAL TRICLOSAN which has been banned for use in soaps in the US but still shows up in a variety of other products including home utensils, trash bags and toothpaste ( Read more here:

TRY UTILIZING GLASS OR CERAMIC as they are easy to sanitize and do not incur the knife damage or pose the health threats that plastic cutting boards do. Cutting boards made of a HARDER WOOD SUCH AS BAMBOO are also good choices as they resist scarring from knives and absorb very little moisture. SEALING YOUR CUTTING BOARDS ONCE PER MONTH helps restore the bacterial and moisture resistance capabilities. When sealing, choose a food grade oil such as rice bran, coconut, lemon oil or beeswax when sealing to prevent introducing toxins to your food. If you’re extra concerned about wood boards harboring bacteria, UC Davis researchers recommend “SANITIZING” small wooden cutting boards in the microwave since they do not tolerate being cleaned in the dishwasher 2.


Did you know that conventional TOILET PAPER, FACIAL TISSUES AND PAPER TOWELS OFTEN EXPOSE YOU TO HARMFUL CHEMICALS EVERY TIME YOU USE THEM?  These include SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES AND LOTIONS as well as FORMALDEHYDE which is used to improve the strength of the paper product and CHLORINE employed to whiten paper products. Minimize your toxic exposure by purchasing products made of 100% RECYCLED, CHLORINE AND BPA FREE PAPER OR MORE SUSTAINABLE BAMBOO PRODUCTS.

When it comes to cleaning, consider utilizing old newspaper instead of paper towels for cleaning mirrors and glass and recycled old clothing cut up into rags for cleaning surfaces.


Getting out and digging in the dirt is good for your soul but synthetic pesticides and herbicides are definitely not! GLYPHOSATE the active component in ROUND UP, a commonly used herbicide on wheat, corn and soy crops as well as home gardening, can now be found widely in air, soil, food, water and human urine 9,13,3  and it’s producer Monsanto is currently in litigation in multiple cases linking the use of Round Up to Non – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In response to the significant health threats Glyphosate poses, Germany and Austria have already banned its use in their countries but at this point the EPA in the United States has failed to follow suit. Protect yourself and your surrounds today by opting for ORGANIC garden products instead. Create your own nutrient dense fertilizer by starting a WORM BIN or COMPOST PILE and thereby keep food waste out of the landfill. Also consider PLANTING NATIVE SPECIES in or around your garden to ATTRACT NATURAL PREDATORS and keep pesky pests at bay as well as ATTRACT NATIVE POLLINATORS to help make your harvest abundant. NOT SURE HOW TO GET STARTED?



We love those critters in our lives and choosing non- toxic products to aid in their care is beneficial for them and for our families.

*IN GENERAL: Start by making quality food and filtered water in non-plastic bowls the base of care. Also keep in mind that the chemicals that negatively affect us as humans also typically have negative effects on our pets. For example, when selecting grooming products, choose those free of chemicals that you would also avoid using on yourself (Read more here:

*FLEAS: If you live in an area where fleas are common consider utilizing essential oil soaps, sprays and diatomaceous earth preventatively. If you choose to use flea medications on your cat or dog opt for an oral version if your pet is able to handle them as opposed to topical varieties which can be absorbed by family members after touching their pets.

*DOGS:  When headed out on a dog walk choose compostable dog waste bags as most of these are made of plant fibers that break down easily as opposed to plastic that never goes away. Chew and other toys are helpful entertainment for Fido, when purchasing, choose non-toxic options such as rubber, hide, bones, or natural fibers to avoid your pooch getting a stomach full of harmful synthetic chemicals

*CATS: When it comes to litters, avoid most conventional brands as they typically contain HARMFUL SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES AND HIGH LEVELS OF SILICA DUST that have been linked to pulmonary disease 10.Instead choose litter made from natural materials such as WOOD PELLETS, GRAINS OR PUT THOSE OLD PAPER SHREDS to work and make your own!


Carpeting, furniture, mattresses, paint and electronics are just a few home items that are notorious for their ability to “off gas” HARMFUL VOCS such as flame retardants like Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). PBDEs are abundant in: house dust, water, soil, animals and human tissues and have been shown to be DEVELOPMENTAL NEUROTOXINS AND ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS4. Some VOC off gassing can be easily noticed via phenomenon like that “new carpet smell” but many escape conscious detection. In order to protect yourself from these ubiquitous chemicals, utilize some of the above strategies of proper VENTILATION, AIR CLEANING PLANT SPECIES AND AIR FILTRATION SYSTEMS. In addition, consider REMOVING POTENTIAL KNOWN SOURCES OF TOXICITY. Before buying anything new check out THE HEALTHY LIVING HOME GUIDE AT EWG.ORG FOR TIPS ON WHAT TO AVOID AND HOW TO MINIMIZE VOC EXPOSURE IN NEW PRODUCTS.


Be empowered that you have ample choices in materials and methods that will be beneficial for

Your family and that of the environment. Need a place to start? Check out Green Built Alliance’s homeowners resources here:


As you eliminate hazardous household products such as cleaners or paint please be sure to dispose of them properly to avoid environmental contamination. For a list of guidelines on recycling household products and a resource to locate the nearest facility to your home go to:


It’s virtually impossible to avoid toxins in our current age but the good news is, we are hardwired to detox! IT’S ALSO CLEAR THAT YOUR ABILITY TO DETOX, WHILE SOMEWHAT SUBJECT TO GENETIC VARIATION, CAN LARGELY BE INFLUENCED BY YOUR DIETARY CHOICES!!!  An organic, plant – based diet rich in dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions and at least 25 grams of fiber per day will naturally support your body’s own systems of detox. Adding in dandelion tea or greens and turmeric also directly supports the liver which bears the brunt of detox and is easily overloaded.


Knowledge IS power. Power to change. Power to enrich your life and the lives around you. Power to create a cleaner and more vibrant future…



1.CDHS (California Department of Health Services, now California Department of Public Health). 2007. Glycol Ethers: Fact Sheet: California Department of Health Services, Occupational Health Branch, Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS).

2.Cliver, D. O. (2002). Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards. University of California—Davis Food Safety Laboratory.

3.Conrad, A., Schröter-Kermani, C., Hoppe, H. W., Rüther, M., Pieper, S., & Kolossa-Gehring, M. (2017). Glyphosate in German adults–Time trend (2001 to 2015) of human exposure to a widely used herbicide. International journal of hygiene and environmental health220(1), 8-16.

4.Costa, L. G., Giordano, G., Tagliaferri, S., & Caglieri, A. (2008). Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants: environmental contamination, human body burden and potentialadverse health effects. Acta Bio Medica Atenei Parmensis79(3), 172-183.

5.EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2006. Boric Acid/Sodium Borate Salts: HED Chapter of the Tolerance Reassessment Eligibility Decision Document (TRED). PC Codes: 011001 (boric acid), 011102 (sodium tetraborate decahydrate), 011110 (sodium tetraborate pentahydrate), 011112 (sodium tetraborate anhydrous), 011103 (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate), 011107 (disodium octaborate anhydrous), 011104 (sodium metaborate).

6.Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals. (2009, August 24). Retrieved September 27, 2019, from

7.Jogsten, I. E., Nadal, M., van Bavel, B., Lindström, G., & Domingo, J. L. (2012). Per-and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in house dust and indoor air in Catalonia, Spain: implications for human exposure. Environment international39(1), 172-180.

8.Kano, H., Umeda, Y., Kasai, T., Sasaki, T., Matsumoto, M., Yamazaki, K., … & Fukushima, S. (2009). Carcinogenicity studies of 1, 4-dioxane administered in drinking-water to rats and mice for 2 years. Food and chemical toxicology47(11), 2776-2784.

9.Mercurio, P., Flores, F., Mueller, J. F., Carter, S., & Negri, A. P. (2014). Glyphosate persistence in seawater. Marine pollution bulletin85(2), 385-390.

10.Musk, A. W., Greville, H. W., & Tribe, A. E. (1980). Pulmonary disease from occupational exposure to an artificial aluminium silicate used for cat litter. Occupational and Environmental Medicine37(4), 367-372.

11.Obadia M, Liss GM, Lou W, Purdham J, Tarlo SM. 2009. Relationships between asthma and work exposures among non-domestic cleaners in Ontario. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 52(9): 716-723.

12.Sherriff A, Farrow A, Golding J, Henderson J. 2005. Frequent use of chemical household products is associated with persistent wheezing in pre-school age children. Thorax 60(1): 45-49.

13.Simonetti, E., Cartaud, G., Quinn, R. M., Marotti, I., & Dinelli, G. (2015). An Interlaboratory comparative study on the quantitative determination of glyphosate at low levels in wheat flour. Journal of AOAC International98(6), 1760-1768.

14.Steenland, K., Fletcher, T., & Savitz, D. A. (2010). Epidemiologic evidence on the health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Environmental health perspectives118(8), 1100-1108.

15.Swenberg, J.A, Moeller, B.C, Lu, K., Rager, J. E., Fry, R.C. & Starr, T.B. (2013. Formaldehyde carcinogenicity research: 30 years and counting for mode of action, epidemiology and cancer risk assessment. Toxicologic pathology, 41(2), 181-189.

16.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary and analysis. EPA/600/6-87/002a. Washington, DC.

17.Yang, D. S., Pennisi, S. V., Son, K. C., & Kays, S. J. (2009). Screening indoor plants for volatile organic pollutant removal efficiency. HortScience44(5), 1377-1381.


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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