Archive | May, 2011

What’s in Your Shampoo?

29 May

Most of us use shampoo every day, or at least a few times a week. We grab for the bottle, squirt a dollop into our hands, lather, and voilà: Clean hair. But do you know what’s actually in it? Let’s take a look at the basic anatomy of a shampoo by breaking down the “recipe” of ingredients: surfactants, actives, preservatives, color, and fragrance. We’ll look at what is used in conventional shampoos—aside from water, which makes up 50 percent of most of them—and what is used in cleaner alternatives.

Deciphering the key components of the shampoos we use on a regular basis helps makes the long names found on their ingredient lists less confusing—and may also give you something to think about when choosing your next one.


Also known as surface active agents, surfactants are necessary for the lathering, cleaning, and degreasing effects of a shampoo. Shampoos usually contain a cocktail of surfactants, artfully combined to strike the right balance.

Conventional: These have the potential for harshness, stripping away fatty acids and usually contain a higher percentage of petroleum-based ingredients and portions. These ingredients can include compounds with environmental concerns. Examples include: sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, cocamide DEA, ammonium xylene sulfonate.

Natural: Your shampoo may not foam like a conventional product because it contains a higher percentage of natural materials, but your hair will still be just as clean, with added natural benefits. Examples include: decyl glucoside, sucrose cocoate, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, sodium lauroamphoacetate.


The main function of preservatives is to prevent microbial growth and to ensure a long shelf life. When it comes to preservatives, none are truly benign. And while preservative systems are a necessary component of most personal care products—and in particular water-based ones such as shampoos—some are worse than others.

Conventional: These tend to be stronger, used to increase shelf life. With this comes allergenic and irritant potential, and there is concern about some preservatives’ hormone-disrupting ability. Examples include: iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, methylisothiazolinone, and methylchloroisothiazonlinone (which are not allowed in personal care products at Whole Foods Market), as well as parabens.

Natural: These preservatives will be milder. They will be ones that have been shown to function properly, yet with a lower likelihood of causing cosmetic-related allergies and sensitivities. Examples include: potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and alcohol.

Active and other Ingredients

These are the ingredients that are intended to nourish and beautify, making your hair shinier, smoother, softer, thicker, and more manageable. Other ingredients, such as thickeners, humectants, pH-control agents or chelators, may be added to stabilize the formula.

Conventional: These products typically contain less natural actives, fewer botanical-based ingredients and more synthetic ones. Examples include: disodium EDTA, polyquaternium-10, and aminomethyl propanol.

Natural: These products will contain high percentages of natural actives such as aloe vera gel, antioxidants, herbal extracts, plant oils, vitamins, proteins, amino acids, and fatty acids.


Along with functionality, fragrance—often a melange of many artificial smells, combined in a proprietary formula—is one of the main reasons we consumers will pick one product over another.

Conventional: Typically, synthetic fragrances are used in conventional shampoos, due to cost, performance, and variety. These have the potential to be irritating and their safety has been questioned.

Natural: Ideally, these are phthalate-free and 100 percent natural. At Whole Foods, only 100 percent natural fragrances are allowed in our Premium shampoos, for philosophical and safety reasons.


In basic shampoos, color is added for decorative purposes only, and is unnecessary for functionality.

Conventional: Synthetic colorants are often added for decorative purposes only. In Premium Body Care products at Whole Foods Market, no colors are allowed, neither natural nor synthetic, as they are not necessary for a shampoo to function at all.

Natural: Most natural brands skirt even “natural” dyes in their shampoo.

So how does your shampoo measure up? Shampoo is one of the most challenging products to make truly natural because functionality is so important for hair products, and so we applaud brands like Depth, Ikove, Alaffia, Mineral Fusion, and John Masters Organics, which prove it is possible to make many good improvements in the area of natural shampoos while keeping your hair clean and looking its best.


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Instructions: How to Green Your Bedroom

29 May

On the hunt for new bedding, one is presented with exhaustive (and exhausting) options. Sateen or jersey? Is there a difference between the 300- and 800-threadcount comforter? What is pima cotton? And how on earth can you choose a mattress after lying on it for five minutes at Sleepy’s? Throw sustainability and organics in the mix and it’s more confounding that ever.

And yet we spend a third of our lives sleeping, so there’s a reason these can be hard decisions to make. It’s also why we should all give a little more thought to chemicals involved in the production of our beds and linens. Cotton farming occupies only 3 percent of farm land, and yet accounts for about 25 percent of worldwide insecticides use and over 10 percent of pesticide use. To help break it down, it takes about a quarter pound of chemicals to produce one cotton T-shirt. So, think of all the chemicals going into a set of sheets and a blanket, and then consider these guidelines to make your bedroom shopping trip a little greener.

1. The next time you shop for sheets, go organic. Organic cotton farming leaves no chemical residue on the finished material, so they are safe for you to cuddle up in at night. This is good for the planet and for you.

2. Think outside the usual material. There are great natural fibers you can try like linen, silk, jersey, and flannel. Online shopping is great when it comes to bedding because of the great selection and with standard bed sizes, fit isn’t a concern.

3. Be a little flexible with colors. Synthetic dyes offer a wide range of colors, but they are just that—synthetic. There is a range of colors offered in organic bedding, but they may not be as easy to find or as vast as the non-organic sheets you find in most stores. You can always get a little help from the internet. Or you can opt for a more neutral hue and spice up the room with paint or other colorful accessories.

4. If have a little Martha in you, make your own duvet cover or pillow cases. For the duvet cover, take two organic flat sheets or blankets and sew them together to create your own duvet for a fraction of the cost. All you need for the pillow cases is some great organic material from the fabric store and a simple pillow pattern.

5. When choosing a new mattress, do your research. Most conventional mattresses are chemical havens. They are often made with synthetic materials like polyester, a plastic that emits gasses, and then they are covered in formaldehyde-based finishes for stain resistant convenience. Many also contain a fire retardant, which is a whole other set of chemicals.  So, opt for natural fibers. They are sometimes more expensive, but arguably a worthwhile investment that will last you a decade or longer.

6. Get a good pillow. Fortunately, there are several options in the eco-friendly department when it comes to pillows. If you prefer firm, look at organic cotton. For a bit of spring, try wool. If you are concerned with proper alignment, look at natural latex foam pillows. There are several more options out there one of which should suit your particular needs.

7. Buy a pillow protector. This may just seem like an extra pillowcase, but a pillow protector will extend the life of your pillow and help to relieve dust mite allergies. Extending the life of our products creates less waste.

Do you have any great natural-bedroom tips to share?

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Proper potassium balance essential to healthy blood pressure and reduced heart attack risk

26 May

by: John Phillip

(NaturalNews) Increasing incidence of high blood pressure continues to be the most significant factor in death from a heart attack and advancing cardiovascular disease. Elevated blood pressure readings cause thickening of the coronary arteries as micro-cracks develop that the body attempts to correct with deposits of coronary plaque. Overweight and obesity, smoking, physical inactivity and stress are known contributing factors to the hypertension epidemic. Researchers publishing in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the imbalance of potassium to sodium in the diet is a significant factor driving high blood pressure. Maintaining an optimized ratio of 2:1 (potassium to sodium) by cutting salty processed foods and increasing natural fruits and vegetables is shown to significantly lower out of control blood pressure readings.

Potassium from natural food sources has been rapidly depleted from the typical diet due to the dramatic rise in sodium-laden processed foods over the past half century. Combined with a reduction in raw vegetables and fruits that are excellent sources of potassium, the balance of potassium to sodium in the diet has shifted from an ideal ratio of 2:1 to a blood pressure raising rate of 2:3. Current potassium intake is fully one-third that of our generational ancestors and is attributed to the skyrocketing increase in high blood pressure incidence and associated cardiovascular risk.

Researchers examining the potassium intake across 21 countries including the US found that average daily consumption of the mineral ranged from 1.7 to 3.7 grams, well below the recommended daily allowance of 4.7 grams. Similarly, sodium consumption averaged 5 grams per day with many individuals taking in as much as 9 to 12 grams. The recommended sodium intake is 2,400 mg daily and 1,500 mg or less is suggested for those with established cardiovascular risk factors.

The study found that only 20% to 30 % of the adult population maintains normal blood pressure readings. The study authors found “An effective way of increasing potassium intake is to follow the guidelines for healthy nutrition more closely, including a higher consumption of vegetables and fruit. In addition, the use of mineral salts in processed foods – by which sodium is partly replaced by potassium – would contribute to an improved intake of both sodium and potassium.”

The study concluded that increasing potassium in the diet has a significant effect on lowering blood pressure and is equal to the effect seen by lowering sodium consumption. Higher potassium intake from natural sources including avocados, spinach, carrots and tomatoes and elimination of sodium-infused processed foods (snacks, soup and fast food) can combine to lower systolic blood pressure readings by 5% to 7%. Improving this single risk factor could reduce hypertension rates enough to dramatically lower cardiovascular risk and heart attack deaths.

Article References:………

Thyroid drug increases risk of bone fractures in women

26 May

by: Reuben Claxton

(NaturalNews) Hypothyroidism is a fairly common disorder, caused by low levels of thyroid hormones. With the availability of either natural hormones taken from animals, or synthetic hormones (levothyroxine), doctors now treat the disorder by replacing the missing thyroid hormones. A recent study for the British Medical Journal found that elderly people with high levels of the artificial hormone may have an increased risk of bone fracture.

Hormones secreted by the thyroid gland are critically important to health because they affect the metabolism of every cell in the body. Thyroid hormones regulate the metabolism of glucose to release energy, as well as affecting protein synthesis and metabolism of fats.

Because the body creates thyroid hormones by using iodine, a healthy level of iodine in the diet is important (…). In addition to the importance of iodine for general metabolism, there is also evidence that iodine in the diet can help in avoiding cancer (…).

The British Medical Journal study was done at the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto, where researchers looked at 213,500 people aged 70 or over. Patients in the study received at least one prescription for levothyroxine (the synthetic hormone) between 2002 and 2007. Results showed a significantly increased risk of fracture in people who were either taking or had recently taken levothyroxine.

As people grow older, there is a greater likelihood of diminished levels of thyroid hormones, with possibly as many as 20% of older people receiving treatment for hypothyroidism. But as doctors treat the disease by administering hormones, one of the possible side effects is a decrease in bone density. In some cases, bone density may reach the point that broken bones become more likely.

A researcher from the British Medical Journal study said that the condition needs more study, as not enough is known about the link between thyroid hormone and bone density in the elderly. A study published in 2010 on the link in elderly men did not find a decrease in bone density, but a study the same year in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism did find such a link in postmenopausal women. A 2010 review article looking at drug-induced osteoporosis also noted high doses of thyroxine as a possible cause of low bone density in postmenopausal women.

Patients who are receiving hormone therapy should have hormone levels checked regularly, to see that levels do not grow too high, or for that matter too low. Some patients may not wish to take hormones acquired from animals, but the synthetic form of the hormone, levothyroxine, like any artificial drug, has the potential for side effects.

One of the researchers, Dr Lorraine Lipscombe, said the study showed a need to more closely monitor medical levels “in this vulnerable population”.

Sources for this article:…………

Mood boosting essentials treat mild depression, anxiety and sleeplessness

26 May

by: Fleur Hupston
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(NaturalNews) The brain is dependent on mood-boosting nutrients. When food lacks these essential nutrients, depression and anxiety can quickly set in. Typically, anti-depressants are prescribed to treat these problems, which in many cases can so easily be remedied by taking the correct nutrients.This article is for information purposes only. Anyone suffering with severe depression should see a qualified naturopath or homeopath to correctly identify the causes. Self-treating even mild cases of “the blues” with the supplements mentioned here is best undertaken with the help of a medical professional.Mood boosting mineralsChromium: This mineral helps to stabilize blood sugar. Individuals experiencing mood swings, who perhaps over-react when it comes to minor issues or feel very tired during the day, may be lacking in this essential mineral. According to Psychology Today, “Duke University scientists found that consuming chromium picolinate, a trace mineral naturally found in whole grains, mushrooms, liver and many other foods, has significant effects on individuals suffering from atypical depression”.Magnesium: Low levels of magnesium in the human body can result in anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. Simply put, magnesium is the mineral needed to make serotonin, the brain’s “happy chemical”.

Amino acids

Most anti-depressant drugs supposedly work by boosting serotonin levels. Raising serotonin levels naturally can apparently be achieved by supplementing with the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. This is sold over the counter in the UK, USA and Canada as a dietary supplement for use as an antidepressant, and it is marketed in many European countries for cases of major depression.

Other amino acids that can make a difference to mood swings include phenylalanine and tyrosine, from which the body makes the neurotransmitter noradrenalin – vital for motivation and drive.

Essential fats and mood

Much has been said on Natural News on the subject of omega 3 fats and the importance of eating oily fish such as wild salmon. Cod liver oil is another rich source of omega 3. Studies have shown that severely depressed individuals consuming a diet high in these fats generally show significant improvement, greater than that reported for antidepressant drugs.

Vitamins B & D

In older people, vitamin B is often missing because this vitamin is not absorbed so well the older one gets. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are often recommended for individuals over 50 years of age, particularly with depression or “brain-fog”.

There is a definite correlation between individuals with a vitamin D deficiency and depression. In cold Northern climes, many people feel low, irritable and angry during winter because of the lack of sunshine. Depression levels can be substantially lowered by taking vitamin D supplements or by getting direct sunlight on the skin each day.


Hurt So Good

26 May

From the desk of Crystal Andrus:

We teach what we need to learn. Or maybe better said, we teach what we’ve just learned. So passionate about our new-found excitement, we want everyone to feel what we’ve just experienced. The feeling of healing, joy, love, and sense of personal power is too good to hoard and hold onto just for ourselves. We blow the trumpets, send out the word, and beg to share our message with anyone who’ll listen.

This is really the case with me and the work that I now do…

I spent far too many years struggling; far too many years desperate for personal peace, acceptance, love, and happiness. Each time I would get a taste of it, I would hunger for it all the more. My appetite never satisfied. My thirst never quenched.

My first real memorable knockout of joy came just after my first daughter, Madelaine, was born. The overwhelming feeling I had for her, literally, bowled me over. I truly wasn’t prepared for it. Love temporarily replaced every bit of anger and fear inside of me. I felt renewed. Alive. Ready and willing.

My heart began to heal. Although my relationship with my mother had become so dysfunctional over the years—so hurt and tattered—I wondered if maybe she too had once felt this same unconditional love for me that I now held for my new child. Deep down, I believed it. I wanted to. I chose to. And even though things had been so strained, I was able to begin seeing my mother through different lenses.

The next punch of power arrived in a very different package. While focused on loving my children (yes, I had another daughter soon after, who filled me with an equally-overwhelming amount of love), I had somehow gained an exorbitant amount of weight through the process. Yet how could that happen? How could loving my children cause me to pack on the pounds? What was going on?

Then, late one night when Julia (my second daughter) was only four months old, I had my next breakthrough. Unsuccessfully fighting back tears, I sobbed as I cuddled my sleeping daughter late into the night. I had never cried so desperately or so honestly.

Really … what was happening to me? Was I having a breakdown? Had the enormity of my past pain finally caught up with me? Or maybe, it was a breakthrough?

I was truly overwhelmed, but in a different way than I had been only two short years before (almost to the day), when my first daughter was born.

The feeling, although quite different than the overpowering sense of love I had experienced with Madelaine, was still nevertheless as overwhelming. It was in that authentic moment of pain that I was able to see things through different lenses.

I loved my daughters so much that I realized I had to heal my own broken pieces—not just for my sake so that I could be a happy, successful, woman but for their sake—so that I could be an empowered role model. It was time to give my daughters the greatest gift I could ever give to them as a mother—self love. It was time to show myself love. Treat myself with love; to be here—fully awake to feel love, receive love, and allow it to blossom in my life.

If you’ve read my “Simply…Woman” journey, you’ll know that I got up the next morning and went for a walk. Those walks soon turned into runs. The runs turned into strength. The strength turned into power, and within a few short months, I became a walking billboard of health, happiness, and vitality, wanting to share my new-found confidence and excitement with everyone I met. I wanted every woman to feel alive, strong, and confident—loving the skin she was in.

Now don’t kid yourself: The 16 years since that journey began hasn’t always been easy. I won’t lie and tell you it’s been all rosy. What I will tell you is that in order to be happy, successful, empowered, authentic, and fully awake in your own life you have to break the bonds that hold you captive … in your own mind. You have to heal the “could’ve beens” and “should’ve beens”. You have to find positive and empowered ways of coping, with not only the past pains but with the new ones, arriving in the here and now. (Yes! Even when your life is happy, successful, and empowered, painful things still happen.)

The secret lies in healing the feeling.

When my daughters were born, I felt the overwhelming feeling of love. When I sat crying in my rocking chair with my daughter cuddled on my lap, I felt the overwhelming feelings of despair and confusion. In order to get where I am (and I’m not just talking about in my career!), I’ve had to actually feel and deal with……

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Could grief be causing your chronic illness?

26 May

by: Larry Malerba, DO

(NaturalNews) Aside from the many self-inflicted and medically induced causes of illness such as smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol and drug abuse, pharmaceutical side effects, allopathic suppression, and surgeries gone awry, perhaps the most common “natural” cause of chronic illness is unresolved grief.

Grief is natural in the sense that everyone is faced with the issue at some point in his or her life. It is a normal human response, which when handled effectively should lead to psycho-spiritual growth and greater awareness.

The problem is that handling grief is easier said than done. The successful processing of grief is a function of numerous factors, including one’s psychological maturity and understanding of the nature and purpose of grief and loss. Other factors include the degree of emotional support from friends and family, one’s own personal state of physical/emotional/spiritual health and well-being, and our prevailing cultural attitudes toward grief.

When the grieving process is short-circuited and grief is not allowed to have its way it can lead to health issues as varied as the individuals that it afflicts. Unprocessed grief is commonly a source of anxiety, irritability, depression, other emotional disturbances, and even mania and psychosis. Conversely, it is quite common for grief to become somaticized. The classic symptom of difficulty swallowing with sensation of a lump (“globus hystericus”) is literally a somaticization of emotion that has become stuck in the throat — an obvious body metaphor for unexpressed feelings and unshed tears.

Likewise, grief can become lodged in the neck and back as muscle tension, in the chest as a cough or bronchitis, in the gut as nausea or intestinal cramps, or in the head as tension headaches or migraines. When grief is particularly traumatic as in the death of a child, or when a person’s health is already compromised, it is not unusual to see somatic manifestations on a deeper level. Thus, grief can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. Again, each manifestation can be as unique as the vital force of the person struggling with grief.

The sources of grief are varied and each situation is unique in the sense that grief is always in the eye of the beholder. The loss of one person’s pet can be just as devastating as the loss of another person’s parent. We tend to equate grief with the death of a friend or loved one, but it can just as easily result from broken relationships, divorce, job loss, or a personal perception of failure. There are no rules; each instance of grief is a subjective experience that must be taken at face value if it is to be respected and handled compassionately by those attempting to comfort and assist the grieving individual.

I recently saw a woman in her 50s who sought help for her depression and chronic intestinal problems. Upon inquiring as to the source of her depression, she said that it was from not having fulfilled her dream of being the mother of a large number of children. When I suggested to her that the so-called depression could more accurately be characterized as unresolved grief, I could see her mind light up as a look of realization came across her face. The healing process had begun the moment she came to a new understanding of her condition. In the course of working with her over the next few months, years of depression and digestive disturbances began to fade into the distance as she gave herself permission to grieve the family that she knew she would never have.

Although individual responses to grief are unique and diverse, my own medical experience has taught me that there are a number of common response patterns or stereotypes, if you will, that can be identified. One such pattern is that of the distraught person who repeatedly cries and sobs for prolonged periods of time, for days, weeks, or even months on end, with no relief in sight. This type of “hysterical” grief can be devastating and exhausting. The polar opposite pattern is represented by the individual who vows to stay strong, shows no “weakness,” and sheds not a tear for months or even years after the original painful loss that caused the grief. These individuals seek to quickly put their grief “behind them,” not realizing that there is no free lunch and that they will someday be forced to deal with it, whether it be in the form of an emotional or physical crisis.

Grieving children commonly exhibit headaches or stomachaches that lead to calls home from the school nurse. Some individuals become worn down by their grief and their emotional state begins to resemble that of a person suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, with its attendant malaise, emotional indifference, and lack of motivation. Some people become stuck in anger, blaming themselves and/or others for their loss. For such individuals, anger is usually a defensive form of denial that protects them from the more painful underlying feelings of grief. Other unfortunate individuals can be thrown into an existential crisis, questioning their very existence, losing their faith in something greater than themselves, and even losing their will to live.

While antidepressants, anxiolytics, and/or sleep aids may temporarily dull symptoms, they will not help to resolve the underlying issues of grief. In fact, pharmaceuticals will tend to enable the person to avoid emotions that must sooner or later be faced. The longer grief is postponed, the more likely it will contribute to chronic disease. The American obsession with productivity is not conducive to the successful processing of grief since the demands of the workplace often take precedence over issues of mental health. There is no set timetable for grief to run its course, and there is no statute of limitations. Fortunately, there are a variety of non-pharmaceutical approaches that can enhance the healing process.

First and foremost, patience, kindness, love, and understanding are prerequisites for a successful outcome. Most people simply need someone to listen to them. Secondly, the person affected by grief must come to understand that grief is a normal and necessary function of the human psyche, and the needs of the psyche will not be denied. Grief must be felt and experienced to the extent necessary to bring about a resolution, and this differs from one person to the next depending upon who that person is and the nature of the loss involved. For somaticized grief, it can be as simple as asking patients to trust their instincts and to name what it is that they believe is the real source of their ostensibly physical illness. Most people intuitively know the answer. It can be surprising how a person will respond when questioned and, frequently, the simple act of verbalizing one’s personal truth will be enough to initiate the healing process.

Good old fashioned counseling or psychotherapy can be invaluable in situations of grief, but for more stubborn cases that persist or that have become somaticized, there are additional methods that can be employed to great benefit. Various forms of bodywork can be particularly helpful in cases that manifest as chronic headaches, neck or back pain. Most massage therapists can relate stories of clients who finally relaxed, “let go,” and had a therapeutic emotional meltdown right there on the massage table. Such “healing crises” are cathartic events that can help break the logjam of unexpressed grief.

Dreams can be very important, especially for those who are grieving the death of loved ones. It is quite common for the deceased to pay a visit to surviving friends and family in their dreams. Sometimes the deceased brings a crucial piece of information that can help the living to understand the circumstances surrounding his or her death. And sometimes departed loved ones seek to reassure survivors that they are doing fine on the other side. To dismiss such an event as just a dream is a serious mistake and a lost opportunity to communicate with the departed. The ingrained materialistic outlook of American culture is a strong deterrent to recognizing that such dreams can assist in the resolution of grief and may also lead to spiritual growth.

When all else fails, a difficult and unresponsive case of grief will often respond quite nicely to a well-chosen homeopathic medicine. Some of the patterns of grief described above correspond to homeopathic medicines that are capable of releasing one from the grips of grief and its effects. It is best to consult a qualified homeopathic practitioner when dealing with long-standing grief.

Many of the lessons that I have learned regarding grief are by virtue of the patients that I have had the privilege to assist in the grieving process over the years. Our own friends, family, and patients can teach us a great deal about grief, an issue that often lies at the center of health, illness, life, and death.

Additional Information for the Homeopathic Management of Grief:
Dr. Ajit Singh, Grief and Its Homeopathic Approach, Homeopathic Journal, Vol 2, Issue 7, May 2009,