Why You Shouldn’t Use Conventional Sunscreen (And What to do Instead)

This post was originally published in July of 2014. It has since been updated and re-purposed.
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I used to spend a LOT of time in the sun. Between competitive swimming and water polo in high school, life guarding nearly every summer as a teenager, and years of shameless sun bathing in an all-out effort to become the darkest version of myself possible, I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of sun exposure.

Looking back on my years of reckless sun worshiping, I kick myself. Not just for spending more than a healthy amount of time in the sun, but more so for not paying any attention to all of the dangerous chemicals that I regularly applied to my body and face (thinking it was the healthy thing to do).

I’m talking about harsh acne creams, unnatural tanning oils, and…dun dun dun — sunscreen.

“But you NEED sunscreen! Without it, you’ll get skin cancer and die!”

That’s what I thought too. So I spent the majority of my life covering myself in misty clouds of chemical-laden aerosol sunscreen spray in an effort to prevent sun damage and skin cancer.

Back then, I had no idea that everything I had been told about sunscreen and sun exposure was wrong.

All of us have bought into the anti-sun hype at some point or in some way. We’ve been religiously slathering on the ‘screen and spending more time indoors than ever before, yet skin cancer rates continue to skyrocket.

We live in a society that’s civilized beyond common sense. And instead of taking a reasonable and sane approach to subjects like food, medicine, and sun exposure, we rely on quick fixes and listen to what “experts” say we should do to be healthy without ever digging any deeper or figuring out what our bodies intuitively need.

Many of these quick fixes have been created with a greater interest in our bank accounts than in our health. And they just can’t compete with a good ol’ fashioned natural approach to health and wellness.

Conventional sunscreen is one of the quick fixes I’m talking about. It really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s a lot worse (and more dangerous) than it’s cracked up to be. Here’s why:

  • Sunlight is good for you (in moderation). Unprotected sun exposure stimulates Vitamin D production within the body. Vitamin D is a big deal. Trust me — you don’t want to be deficient. Sunscreen blocks the UVB rays that are responsible for stimulating Vitamin D production. Constant use of sunscreen = not enough Vitamin D.
  • No sunburn DOES NOT = no sun damage. As I wrote in a recent post, “Sunscreen is great at blocking the UVB rays that cause us to burn (and produce cancer-fighting Vitamin D). But it does almost nothing to protect against the UVA rays that penetrate much deeper than UVB rays, damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside.”
  • Conventional sunscreen is not safe. It contains a number of harsh, hormone disrupting and cancer-causing ingredients that we thoughtlessly slather all over the largest organ on our body before venturing out into the sun. And ingredients like Oxybenzone, Retinyl Palmitate, and Titanium Oxide aren’t the only culprits. According to Chris Kresser,

    For one sunscreen that was analyzed for aluminum concentration, a single application would provide 200mg of aluminum. (1) Another concern is that, as an oxidant, the aluminum in sunscreen might contribute to oxidative damage in the skin, increasing the risk of cancer.

Sunshine is indeed a wonderful thing, but too much of it can also be damaging.

We all have occasions that require us to spend prolonged amounts of time in the sun. And when covering up or finding shade isn’t an option, using a product that offers sun protection is definitely the way to go.

You might be confused (and rightfully so), as I just finished pointing out the dangers of conventional sunscreen. The important word here is conventional (Banana Boat, Coppertone, Bullfrog — I’m talking to you)!

But not all sunscreen is bad.

Sunscreens made from natural, non-toxic ingredients that use non-nano Zinc Oxide as the main active ingredient can be a great option for days when we spend long periods of time in the sun.

Non-nano Zinc Oxide protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Non-nano (or non-micronized) means that the particles are too large to be absorbed by the skin. Because of the large particles, sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide may leave a slight whitish film on the skin. And since the large particles sit on the skin and aren’t absorbed, they do a much better job of protecting against UVA and UVB rays than products that contain nano particles.

A few years ago, I started making and using my own sun lotion with only a few simple and effective ingredients (coconut oil, mango butter, shea butter, non-nano zinc oxide, arrowroot powder, beeswax and essential oils). And after a lot of prodding and encouraging from my husband and other family members, I finally started selling it (along with a number of other products) on our family farm’s website (you can check out Primally PURE Outdoor Lotion and the rest of the Primally PURE line by clicking here).

Of course, you don’t have to buy my products in order to get adequate protection. You can also purchase non-nano zinc oxide and add it to your favorite lotion or creme. Or experiment with making your own using some or more of the ingredients listed in the paragraph above!

But if you don’t want to deal with the hassle and uncertainty of doing it yourself and want a silky smooth product that’s made with organic and fair trade ingredients (and lots of love) I would highly recommend checking out Primally PURE Outdoor Lotion.

Have you tried making your own sunscreen? Or do you already have one that you love? Let me know with a comment!

Why I Stopped Caring About Being Skinny

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During my late teens and early 20’s, I desperately longed for a slim waistline, lean arms, and a bunch of other idealistic things that I thought were important at the time.

But since I’m not naturally built like a stick, getting the slim figure I wanted was a struggle. And I was willing to try just about any diet or quick fix I could find in order to achieve a body type that I was never meant to have.

It didn’t help that during the times I was able to get down to what I thought was my ideal weight (which usually only lasted a few months or as long as I could stand to deprive myself before going on an eat-everything-in-sight binge), I would always get positive feedback from others.

Isn’t it funny how skewed the correlation is between how healthy we are and the amount of fat we have on our bodies?

By most people’s standards, it probably seemed like I was healthy and thriving when I was at my thinnest. But in reality, I was more unhealthy than I’ve ever been during those times.

I was sick with a cold or sinus infection at least every other month, had constant stomach issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation), and terrible allergies. I got very little sleep (4-7 hours most nights), and energy drinks were the only reason I was still able to get up for class in the mornings.

But instead of focusing on improving my health, I continued on in my futile attempts to control my weight the only way I knew how — restrictive and nonsensical fad diets.

I jumped on a number of different bandwagons (cabbage soup diet, the Kellogg’s cereal diet, Atkins, etc.) hoping they would help me lose that extra 3 pounds (or whatever trivial number my heart was set on losing at the time). I did obscene amounts of cardio just to stay thin and had no interest in lifting weights or getting stronger — because then I might get bulky, and that was definitely not something I wanted.

Before I continue, it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with being skinny, doing cardio, etc. But the reasons behind why I was doing these things, the way I was doing them, and my mindset at the time made for a disaster that it would take me years to fully recover from.


Skinny Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy

Weight and body fat can certainly have an impact on health. There’s no denying that. But it isn’t always so black and white.

Like I said above, I was actually pretty unhealthy during the times when I looked my “best” (by other people’s standards). Today, I weigh a good 10-15 lbs. more than I did when I was at my thinnest. A lot of that is muscle, but not all of it. And I’m a-okay with that! These days, performance-based goals (like how much weight I can overhead squat) are a heck of a lot more important to me than appearance-based goals.

And you know what else? I actually like myself.

But let’s back up a bit. In a way, I’m glad that I was so set on getting skinny at one point. Because if it wasn’t for my desire to lose weight, I never would have found paleo.

Yes — I’ll admit it. I started doing paleo to lose weight. That was pretty much all there was to it. And although the concept of eating the sorts of foods our ancestors ate for thousands of years made a lot of sense to me, my true intentions didn’t go too far beyond shedding belly fat and getting a thigh gap.

Making the transition to paleo was hard. And I wasn’t able to do it all at once. Instead, I started by just going gluten free. Within a few weeks, I lost 5 lbs. This was encouraging. But what really had me excited was the difference in how I felt (something I didn’t even know I cared about until I experienced what it was like to not feel like crap all the time). I was no longer constantly tired. My digestion was improving. My allergies were getting better.

For the first time ever, feeling good started to matter more than looking good.

This motivated me to take my new “diet” to the next level and eliminate all grains, dairy, legumes, and processed junk. After 30 days of this, I knew there would be no going back. Ever. My energy was through the roof. My digestive system started functioning how it was supposed to. My allergies ceased (only to flare up again after moving to a farm, but that’s another story). Colds and infections became rare occurrences. My mood improved. I could really go on and on.

Real food transformed my health in big ways. But it also changed my relationship with food and how I saw myself. It empowered me to stop chasing society’s impossible ideals of perfection and start appreciating, loving, and supporting my body and health in ways I had never even conceptualized before making the switch.


Negative Self-Talk — Breaking The Cycle

Goals based on negativity and self-sabotage will never yield positive results. For awhile, my dieting philosophy was based on a series of successes, rewards, failures, and punishments which usually went something like this: If I ate the wrong thing or too much of something, I forced myself to do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical, another mile of running, or extra of whatever else I was into at the time.

But if had been “good”, I would allow myself to have a treat of some sort. At one point, I’m embarrassed to admit that I even printed out a picture of myself (one that I thought I looked fat in) eating a piece of cake and hung it up on the back of my bedroom door to remind myself of what I didn’t want to be.

So trust me — if I can break free of self sabotage, so can you. Here’s how.

  • Don’t punish yourself. Exercise shouldn’t be used as a means of self-discipline, just as industrial garbage crap food shouldn’t be thought of as a reward. Eating too much didn’t make me a bad person or less worthy of being happy and feeling good about myself, but that’s exactly the association I used to place on it. (All. The. Time.)

    This sort of thinking leads to a downward spiral of emotional distress surrounding food choices where every slip-up is blown way out of proportion. Placing that much pressure on something that should be a positive experience is no way to get healthy. In fact, it’s extremely un-healthy.

  • Eat real food. Once I learned and experienced the power of real food, it completely changed the way I felt about health and body image. And it wasn’t long before I no longer wanted to eat garbage! It wasn’t that felt like I couldn’t or that I was scared to gain weight. But once I began listening to my body and paying attention to how certain foods made me feel, it became pretty easy to avoid fake, processed foods.

  • Don’t call yourself fat.There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight (if necessary), but calling yourself derogatory names isn’t the way to do it. I used to complain about being fat all the time, as did many of my friends. But once I made the decision to end the negativity I directed at myself on a daily basis, my self-confidence skyrocketed. I stopped resenting my body for everything it wasn’t, and began appreciating it for everything it was.

I’m not perfect. I don’t make the best food choices 100% of the time. And while there are many foods that I always avoid (soda, Twinkies, Frosted Flakes, etc.), I thoroughly enjoy eating gluten-free pizza once or twice a month or having ice cream every once in awhile.

Stressing over food choices and body image is no way to live. And while it’s important to eat well for health purposes most of the time, it’s also critical to be okay with those times when we eat foods that aren’t necessarily the best thing for us. The human body is incredibly resilient. And in most cases, it can handle the occasional treat or indulgence.

Negative thoughts and self-sabotage will always lead us down the wrong path. But once you accept, appreciate, and love your body for the brilliantly designed masterpiece that it is, it will love you back in ways you never knew were possible.

Overcoming TBI and 14 Broken Bones: Maggie’s Story

Left: Maggie in the hospital with a feeding tube; Right: Maggie today

Left: Maggie in the hospital with a feeding tube; Right: Maggie today

I met Maggie a few months ago when she stopped by the farm to pick up an order. Her bubbly, inviting personality made it super easy and fun to chat with her. After a little while, she opened up to me about her incredible story (which we’ll talk about below). It completely blew me away!

I was so imporessed not just by what Maggie had been through, but also by her positive outlook and persevering spirit. Ever since then, it’s been a joy to keep in touch with Maggie and see all of the amazing things she’s doing to empower and inspire others to live healthy lives. She even started a blog about it (check it out at mywholehealthy.com)! I hope you’ll enjoy learning about Maggie and her story as much as I have!


Let’s start from the beginning. Can you give us a bit of background on where you were at in life before the accident?

First of all, I just want to say thank you for having me on From The Pasture! It’s no secret that I love your blog and the Primal Pastures farm. I’m honored to be interviewed by you!

So the accident happened in Nov. 2007 and the summer before, I was living in the San Diego area and working at SURFER Magazine. At the end of the summer I also got engaged to the man who is now my husband! It was an amazing few months. That fall, I returned to Montreal, Canada to start my final year of university and I was focused on completing my journalism degree so I could get married and move to California as soon as possible! My life seemed to be lining up in a pretty spectacular way.

Tell us a bit about the accident and what kind of a state you were in as a result of it.

Maggie's car after being hit by a drunk driver

Maggie’s car after being hit by a drunk driver

The accident was horrible. I won’t sugar coat it. I had flown home to Nova Scotia from Montreal for the weekend to see my dad, and driving from the airport to my house in a rental car, I was struck head-on by another vehicle that veered suddenly into my lane, giving me no time to react. I remember the collision and deep, paralyzing terror that engulfed me. It was awful and there was nothing I could do. It was soon discovered the other driver was drunk and they did not survive the collision.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI suffered 14 broken bones, a severe traumatic brain injury, lost 9 teeth in front and had a lot of difficulty seeing well for weeks. I still get double vision. The brain injury put me in a coma that rated a 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale and a 3 is the least responsive you can be without being dead.

I stayed in the coma for about a week, with some tense moments for my family when I had additional brain bleeding and extremely high blood pressure in the ICU that set off the alarms.

I was hospitalized for 3 months, with an 2 additional months of outpatient rehab at the hospital before being released and going off to figure out on my own what I needed to achieve a full recovery. I did not stay in Canada, instead immediately coming to California and getting married so as to not be away from the man I loved. So I had no support network here except my husband, no doctors I knew, no therapists. I didn’t want to be anywhere else, but it was tough and I was a long way from “better”.

I remember you telling me about how a doctor once said that you would never get 100% better. What allowed you to persevere and stay hopeful in spite of such unfavorable circumstances and negativity from your doctors?

My new fiancé immediately flew to Canada as soon as he heard the news of my accident and stayed with me the entire time I was in the hospital and beyond. I know, without a doubt, that I would not have healed the way I have without his unwavering love and support. I do remember from the early days in the hospital, I always had a “of course I’m going to get better” attitude and maybe a lot of it was the brain injury itself that actually made me excessively happy and agreeable, but I’ve always been a pretty positive person, so maybe it’s just how I’m wired.

Learning to walk again

Learning to walk again

I did have moments of doubt and deep sadness and fear, but my family was there, and my mum and dad made sure that no matter what happened, whether I recovered or not, I knew they would be there for me and they would take care of me. So that gave me a real safety net that allowed me to relax and focus on healing.

To be fair, I didn’t really get negativity from my doctors and the one who told me (after I asked him point blank) that I could not expect to get 100% better was my neurosurgeon who sees these injuries every day. All he had to draw from was what he has seen and maybe it’s true that people never feel like they “get better” and perhaps always have visible signs of their brain injury.

The area where I’m from does often have the attitude of accepting bad news as just the way it is. Like it can’t be changed. And I’m sure many people would have heard the surgeon say, “no, you won’t get 100% better” and thought to themselves, “oh. okay…” but my reaction was the opposite. I smiled politely and listened, but my attitude was “WATCH ME. I’m going to get 110% better because I have to work at it and no one else does.” It also helped that I had just started reading The Brain That Changes Itself (thank goodness I could still read!) which has case studies of the remarkable things the brain can do and how it can overcome, so I was full of hope, and the surgeon’s comment just made me mad.

Tell us about how you’re doing today!

I’m doing well! A couple of years after the accident, I completed my journalism degree and graduated with a B.A. I have freelanced a bit and volunteered with the Wounded Warriors at Camp Pendleton, along with keeping my healing and recovery my number one priority.

It’s been 7 years now since the accident happened and I am still married to the same incredible man. I have healed A LOT and while there are still things I want to improve in my mind and body, most people tell me they can’t tell I ever suffered the injuries I did. I recently earned my certification as a personal trainer and launched a health and wellness blog that I’m really excited about! I hope to start training clients soon and when I open the doors to accept those clients, I will announce it in my newsletter, which people can sign up for on the website if they’d like.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to go through something so terrible that was also completely preventable. I’m sure you went through a period of feeling angry at the drunk driver and perhaps even angry at the world. Is this something you still deal with? How have you been able to work through those emotions?

Ahhh I love this question! I WAS extremely angry for a long time. I wanted someone to PAY for what had happened to me, even though the other driver had paid the ultimate price with their life.

It was my mum who told me about a Hawaiian ritual for forgiveness called Ho’oponopono that changed my entire mindset and allowed me to completely forgive and let go. When she told me it involved picturing the person I needed to forgive and saying, “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you,” I balked. I said “I’m supposed to say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness?! But I didn’t do anything wrong!!!” I was outraged at the idea.

But then she explained that it didn’t need to mean I was apologizing for wrongdoing. It could mean “I’m sorry for what happened” as a kind expression of empathy for us both, and forgiveness to let go of anger, asking for the driver’s spirit, and my feelings toward myself, to let go of all anger around what had happened.

So I started doing it, saying the words without meaning them at first, but soon found that I did mean them and I felt real empathy for the other driver instead of hate and anger. I kept saying the words until I felt that all of my anger had dissipated and I was no longer clinging to feelings that were really only hurting me. It really worked!

Physically, what have you done to heal yourself from your injuries? Food, exercise, etc.?

WarriorOneYogaPoseThere are so many things that have helped me in different ways but the biggest, most helpful thing I can say I did was practice yoga. One person I did know here when I moved to California was my husband’s yoga teacher, Summer. My heart felt pulled to go to her yoga classes, and when I started, I could soon feel neural synapses in my brain reconnecting. It felt like puzzle pieces falling into place with a CLICK. It was pretty profound. Along with the cognitive healing I could feel happening, it also benefited my body awareness and range of motion immensely.

I didn’t start working out until a few years ago but the other big player in my recovery was getting to work with and ride horses again. I’ve been riding since I was 7 and one of my biggest fears in the hospital was not that I might not be able to walk, but that I might not be able to ride. That possibility terrified me. For any horse people out there, they’ll know how horses are in our blood and not much matters more to us than those beautiful creatures! Working with horses and getting back in the saddle helped me in much the way yoga did. Body awareness, balance, divided attention, flexibility, core strength… these were all strengthened by being with horses. And the horses know… they are big and can definitely hurt you if you’re not careful, but they are so aware and in tune with your needs. Just being in their presence was extremely healing.

PigeonWithABindYogaPoseBeyond those two activities, changing my diet was the other big player. My doctors had all told me that the majority of my cognitive healing would happen in the first two years after the accident. The big stuff would heal and all that would be left was the smaller, more subtle things that would just continue to heal for years.

So as I approached that two year milestone, I found I was still tired all the time, struggling to focus and complete my correspondence work for my degree. I didn’t understand why if my brain was supposed to be mostly better, why didn’t I feel better? Like, at all?

And then I had a conversation with my best friend, whose boyfriend suffers from severe celiac disease. We somehow got on the topic of gluten and its effects of the body and after she relayed some of the symptoms of celiac and gluten intolerance to me, it was like a huge light bulb lit up for me. I researched it more and saw the symptoms corresponded with exactly what I was feeling.

So I started paying close attention to what I was eating, and within days I found that any time I ate something that contained gluten, I would be sick within 15 minutes. Thick, heavy brain fog that felt like cotton candy coating my brain, headaches, extreme fatigue, difficulty focusing and thinking, crankiness… it was awful. So I cut all gluten out of my diet! Within two weeks I felt like a person again. It was a drastic turnaround. I still wasn’t better by any means, but now I could feel the difference between real mental fatigue caused by my brain injury, and cognitive function breakdown caused by gluten.

I have been 100% gluten free since 2009. Other grains don’t seem to bother me so I’m not paleo but I do eat almost 100% organic produce and pastured meats and eggs from people/farmers I know, like you guys! My brain has to work harder than it used to as it is, why would I make that harder by eating things like toxic pesticides or meat from unhealthy, medicated animals?

Talk to us about your blog and everything you’re doing now to share your story, knowledge, and passions with others!

MaggieLaughTreeThe blog is called My Whole Healthy and I chose that name because I wanted to create a sort of online oasis of healing information that focuses of everything that contributes to whole health. It’s not just fitness, it’s not just diet, it’s not just meditation… it’s all of that and much, much more. I want people to feel like the “My” is not just about me, it’s about and for them too.

I’m excited to have a place to share the things I’ve learned over the last 7 years and throughout my life that have benefited my health, in the hopes that others will connect with what I’m saying and be able to use what I share to help themselves! As someone with a print journalism degree, it’s actually really hard for me to write from a personal perspective because all of my training was to do the exact opposite of that! But I know that the only way to authentically share what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned is to let people in a little bit so they can get a real sense of who I am.

I just recently found out about another SUPER exciting new development in your life! Care to let everyone in on your not-so-secret little secret?

Haha, I ALMOST said it in one of my earlier answers but my husband and I are going to have a baby this spring!!! It is our first child and we have wanted this for years but were forced to wait due to the level of healing I needed to achieve first. Now, finally, I am pregnant and about half way through the pregnancy already, and so far everything is great! The baby and I are healthy and happy and I am over the moon with happiness at the thought of being a mama to this little soul. Even though life threw some of the worst stuff imaginable at me, I got through it and am now living a life more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Feel free to ask Maggie any additional questions you may have in the comments section below. And be sure to stay in touch with her on instagram, facebook, twitter, and through her blog!

10 Simple & Cheap Ways to Boost Your Health in 2015

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You avoid fast food and processed junk. You don’t eat grains. You always chose butter over vegetable oil, and you try your best to eat animal products that were responsibly and healthfully raised. And if you don’t, you may want to check out this post, this one, and this one.

If you’re already doing these things, great!

But if you’re doing all of this and a) still aren’t seeing/feeling as many changes as you’d like or b) want to feel even more amazing, this list is for you!

This isn’t a do-or-die list. And although I’ve seen big improvements in my health from incorporating each of these habits into my lifestyle, I don’t do most of these things every day or even every week.

I DO however, try my best to be mindful of them and add them into my schedule whenever possible. And the more mindful and aware I become, the more often I remember to act on each of these health-promoting habits.

So I figured, what better time to revisit them than the new year? Since most of our bank accounts are pretty much empty after the holidays (or maybe that’s just me), I chose things that don’t cost a whole lot. So here goes — I hope these will help you as much as they’ve helped me!


10 Simple & Cheap Ways to Boost Your Health in 2015

    Image courtesy of nomnompaleo.com

    Image courtesy of nomnompaleo.com

  • #1: Drink Bone Broth. I’ve sung the praises of this magical bone-juice many times on instagram and in my newsletter. (Did you know that I have a newsletter? It’s great — you should definitely sign up for updates!).

    Since bones are cheaper than meat, bone broth is one of the most cost-effective ways to add nutrients from healthy, pasture-raised animals into your diet. These nutrients include gelatin (good for joints, hair, skin, nails and gut), minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as the amino acids glycine and proline.

    I usually make one batch of bone broth every week and a half or two weeks, which makes enough for my husband and I to each have one small cup per day.

    This awesome recipe from Nom Nom Paleo will walk you through the process of making bone broth at home (it’s super easy)!

  • #2: Take Apple Cider Vinegar. Organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I like this brand) has been shown to kill bad bacteria, improve insulin sensitivity, and aid in digestion (among other things).

    I take a teaspoon in the morning and before bedtime most days and have also had success using apple cider vinegar to treat infections. It also makes a great toner when mixed with water!

  • #3: Go Outside. Not only does being outside in natural sunlight provide us with immune-boosting vitamin D — it also makes us feel good. For more information on why we so desperately need sunlight (in the right amount), check out this post.

  • #4: Eat Sardines. These little fishies (skin, bones and all) are rich in hard-to-find nutrients like omega 3, zinc, taurine, selenium, vitamin D, and much more! Even The New York Times thinks you should eat them!



    Plus, they’re inexpensive and PACKED with protein. Vital Choice is an extremely reputable & responsible seafood company with an AMAZING selection of tasty, wild-caught Portuguese sardines to choose from (click on the banner above for 10% off your first order)! I usually go through 2-3 packages of this super-food every week!

    Traditional Medicinals Tea

    Traditional Medicinals Tea

    #5: Drink Tea. I just started getting more into teas after listening to to Dr. Terry Wahls’ Ted Talk and podcasts in which she has appeared as a guest (her story is amazing — definitely check it out). Dr. Wahls is a big proponent of getting as many species (plant and animal based) into your diet as possible.

    This really resonated with me. There are so many different organisms out there, each with their own unique nutritional profiles. Why not try to take in as many of those nutrients as we can?

    And one of the ways to do that is by drinking teas. I really like Traditional Medicinals Tea. They have a ton of top-notch organic teas that can be found online and in most health food stores. Since I recently started cutting back on coffee, I’ve been drinking a water/full-fat coconut milk mixture with honey and Traditional Medicinals tea in the morning — heaven!

  • #6: Move Your Body. This one is obvious, but it can also be a challenge, especially for folks with office jobs (been there).

    While organized, planned, intentional exercise is great, it isn’t always a possibility for everyone. The most important thing here is to be aware of your body’s innate desire to move, and find creative ways to let it do so throughout the day. That could mean taking a walk on your lunch break, lifting weights, doing yoga, or using a makeshift stand-up desk for part of the day while taking regular breaks to stretch. Do something.

  • #7: Swish Oil Around in Your Mouth. This is something I’m planning on getting back into the habit of doing over the next few weeks. Oil pulling is the ancient practice of swishing oil around in the mouth (I use coconut oil) for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out.

    Because oil dissolves oil, oil pulling is said to remove bacteria, plaque, and toxins from the mouth. Many also believe that oil pulling has a cleansing effect on the rest of the body as well (this post from Wellness Mama explains the process and benefits in detail).

    While I can’t speak to the science of oil pulling, I can attest to the fact that my mouth has NEVER felt more clean than it did when I used to oil pull every morning before brushing my teeth. Never — not even after a cleaning from the dentist!

  • #8: Take Epsom Salt Baths. Stress management is an extremely important part of achieving optimal health that gets put on the backburner far too often.

    One of the ways I like to manage stress is by taking 30 minute baths with epsom salt and essential oils. But for the sake of frugality, I’m just going to focus on the epsom salt this time.

    In addition to being a big time stress reliever when used in a bath, epsom salt is also rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to promote restful sleep, eases muscle cramps, enhances circulation, and MUCH more. And since up to 80% of Americans are deficient in this important mineral, chances are you could be one of them. Epsom salt baths are an easy and inexpensive way to get magnesium and de-stress. It’s a win-win!

    Liver smoothie shots with mint leaves.

    Liver smoothie shots with mint leaves

  • #9: Eat Liver. Liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. It’s rich in all kinds of things that we WANT in our bodies. Things like vitamins A, D, E, and C, B-vitamins, amino acids, and too many minerals to list.

    There’s only one problem with liver…it doesn’t taste all that great. At least I don’t think it does. If you like it, I’m seriously jealous of you.

    Since my main goal when eating liver is to get it down fast and taste as little of it as possible, I ALWAYS take it in the form of a raw liver smoothie shot (recipe by Real Food Liz — I highly recommend it), which I try to take a few times a week. Since taking liver shots, I’ve noticed an improvement in my energy levels and skin health. And when I go too long without it, it becomes very apparent that I’m missing out on its long list of nutrients.

  • #10: SLEEP. Remember what I said at the beginning, about this not being a do-or-die list? That doesn’t apply to this one. Aside from oxygen, sleep is the most important thing needed for survival. Not food. Not water. SLEEP.

    The bad news? Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough of it, which can (and often does) cause problems like weight gain, heart issues, depression, and more. The good news? Sleep is 100% FREE! And there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep (to find out what they are, take a look at my post: 6 Ways to Get Better Sleep (Naturally)).

    Learning to be more intentional about getting enough sleep has probably had a more positive impact on my health than any other lifestyle change I’ve made (including diet and exercise). I encourage you to make sleep a priority in 2015 — your body, mind, and emotions will be happy you did.

Now I want to hear from you! Are you already doing some of the things on this list? What else would you add?

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

4 Unexpected Uses for Activated Charcoal (#2 is My Favorite)

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I haven’t ever written an entire post singing the praises of one “thing” (aside from product reviews).

But since activated charcoal has so many wonderful uses that aren’t talked about too often, I really wanted to share them with you!

My first experience with activated charcoal (which I’ll refer to throughout this post as AC) happened about a year ago when I came down with a nasty bout of food poisoning. Instead of seeing a doctor or taking medicine, I decided to consult Dr. Google on what to do. I probably typed in “natural remedies for food poisoning” or something like that.

One of the first things that popped up was activated charcoal (charcoal becomes “activated” when oxygen is added to it, increasing the charcoal’s porosity and surface area).

I had heard of people with alcohol poisoning having to take large amounts of charcoal in hospitals to get it out of their system, so it kind of made sense that it would help to remove the food poisoning toxins from my body. So my husband drove me to Sprouts to buy a jar of activated charcoal, and I took 2 capsules right away.

I don’t remember exactly how quickly I started feeling better, but it was faster than I ever would have imagined it to be. A few hours later, I took 2 more capsules. By the time I fell asleep and woke up the next morning, I was pretty darn close to feeling 100% back to normal!

Clearly, I was on to something with this charcoal stuff.

Because it’s extremely porous in nature, activated charcoal is able to attract and hold onto material and debris within its pores. It isn’t absorbed by the body — but it does bind to and eliminate toxins within the body. Pretty cool, right?

It’s important to note that activated charcoal can also bind to good things that we WANT in our bodies (vitamins, minerals, etc.) and shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis or with supplements/vitamins/prescription medications.

AC is fairly inexpensive and can be a lifesaver in many situations (which I’ll discuss below). And since a little bit goes a very long way, activated charcoal lasts a LONG time. I’ve been using the same jar I bought a year ago and still have quite a bit left (but I’m actually pretty excited to run out so I can upgrade to this ultra-pure stuff).

Here are some of the more unconventional ways I’ve found activated charcoal to be extremely useful.

  • #1: Ultra Cleansing Face Mask. Since my teenage years, my skin has never been all that great. And although I’ve definitely experienced less breakouts since going paleo and making other lifestyle changes, my skin is still far from flawless.

    But activated charcoal is helping to change that.

    Just as AC binds to toxins inside of the body, it does the same on the outside — which is why I LOVE using it as a super deep cleaning face mask. Since I began using activated charcoal as a facial mask (about 2 months ago) I’ve already noticed a major shift in the cleanliness of my skin. My pores appear to be smaller and less filled with gunk.

    To make it, I just mix one opened capsule of activated charcoal powder (or 1/2 teaspoon) with about 8 drops of water (so that it has the consistency of a paste — not too cakey and not too runny). Then mix and apply — easy! I leave the mask on for about 30 minutes before thoroughly rinsing it off with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

    *WARNING: Activated Charcoal is extremely messy, but it does come off of most surfaces if washed right away. Be careful not to touch your face or let your face touch anything when wearing the mask. In fact, you might want to wear an old t-shirt when handling activated charcoal powder. I also recommend applying the AC mask right before a shower so that it will be easier to wash off.

    And if you have big pores (like me), the Activated Charcoal may temporarily “stain” your pores for up to 48 hours, giving them a darker, more obvious appearance than normal. This isn’t very noticeable and will always go away, but it’s something to consider (especially if you decide to apply the mask before an important event).

  • #2: Zit Spot Treatment. I wrote the rough draft for this post 3 weeks before actually publishing it. And in that 3 weeks, I discovered this use for activated charcoal (one of the few times I’ve been thankful for my tendency to procrastinate).

    After doing some good-for-the-soul indulging over the holidays, I’ve noticed at least one pimple popping up every couple of days since then. It’s been slightly disheartening, but I have no regrets — it’s good to indulge every once in awhile!

    The first time I noticed a new pimple brewing, I decided to slather it with activated charcoal. And I really chunked it on. In the paragraphs above, I mentioned how I usually use one capsule of AC (mixed with water) as a mask for my entire face. But this time, I used one capsule (also mixed with a few drops of water) just for my pimple and the surrounding area. I left it on for about 30 minutes before washing it off, and was shocked by what happened next.

    This next part is kind of graphic and gross, but it’s the truth. And I don’t know how else to describe it.

    The puss from inside of my zit was sitting on top of my skin, and the pimple itself had all but disappeared. The charcoal literally pulled the toxins and puss right out of my skin within only 30 minutes — a process that would have normally taken 2-5 days to happen by itself!

    I was shocked, amazed, and excited. Ever since that day, I’ve used AC as a spot treatment on 4 zits that I’ve had since then (told you I indulged) and the same thing has happened. Every. Time.

    Now do you see why #2 is my favorite? :)

  • #3: Natural Teeth Whitener. I used to be a total Crest Whitestrips junkie. I probably wore them twice a year for about 6 years. And boy, those things WORKED. They made my teeth so white they were almost blinding. But as part of my relatively new decision to cut toxic chemicals out of my life, I have (somewhat reluctantly) stopped using Whitestrips.

    For about a year, I struggled to find a healthy way to make my teeth sparkly and white without the use of products that contain toxic chemical ingredients. And then I found this post from Wellness Mama in which she writes about using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener.

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    The jist of the post is this: Because of its ability to bind to toxins and other materials, activated charcoal can help to remove discolorations and stains on the teeth, leaving teeth cleaner and more white than they were before.

    For the last few months, I’ve been brushing my teeth with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons redmond clay, and a few capsules of activated charcoal powder. I only do this at night, and then brush with my usual toothpaste in the morning. I’ve been super happy with the results and SO wish I had taken before/after pictures!

    It’s no Crest Whitestrips, but it’s the best way to naturally whiten teeth that I’ve found so far!

    *Important Note: I only recommend using this mixture once a day and for about 1 week on, 1 week off.

  • #4: Bug Bite Be-Gone. This was probably the most astonishing experience I’ve had with activated charcoal to date. A few months ago, I got a pretty gnarly bug bite on my forearm.

    I have no idea what it was from, but it was huge and red. And it wasn’t going away. After a few days of not being able to move my wrist more than a 1/2 inch in any direction due to the extreme swelling, I decided to experiment with my trusty activated charcoal. I made a paste of AC mixed with a few drops of water and applied it to the bite. I covered it with a very large bandage to keep it from getting all over my bedding and left the paste to sit on my arm overnight.

    When I woke up, the swelling had gone down significantly and I could move my wrist around like a normal person once again! I applied the paste again the following night and didn’t need to do anything beyond that as my bug bite had already healed faster than I’ve ever had a bug bite heal (and I’ve had many — I’m one of those people who bugs love).

CLICK HERE TO BUY ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Do you think all of this sounds crazy? Or are you dying to add activated charcoal to your personal care routine? Have you tried using activated charcoal in other ways not mentioned above? Let me know by commenting below!

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Survival Food (Paleo & Gluten-free Friendly)

When my friend Angelina from Jojo and Eloise told me her idea to write a guest post all about healthy, wholesome survival food, I knew it would be amazing. Angelina is a mother of 6 (yes, 6!) kids who she homeschools. Somehow, she still finds time for her awesome blog and so many other fun ventures. I hope you’ll enjoy this post and all of the amazing pictures she took with the help of two of her cute kids! Take it away, Angelina!

#glutenfree first aid jojoandeloise.com

Hello From the Pasture Readers this is Angelina from JoJo and Eloise. I am so excited to be here sharing with you today about being READY for any and ALL kinds of emergencies. In times past I have never really considered or thought much about what was going into our Emergency Food Boxes. I was happy enough to know that I had enough food to supply my family with, in case an Emergency should arise. However, things have changed over the years and one of the those things being the FOODS that we eat. We have gone Gluten and Grain Free and as of most recently, 5 out of our 6 children have been on the GAPS healing diet. This has changed how we consider and what we think about putting into our Emergency Food Boxes.

Do you have Emergency Food Boxes and Kits? If not have you ever considered putting one together or is it possibly something you have never even thought of?

If you don’t have one or have never even thought about it, don’t worry. You’re not alone — about 80% of people aren’t prepared when disaster strikes.

Depending on where you live in the Country/World you may deal with some or even more serious types of Natural Disasters.

fires earthquake jojoandeloise.com

Did you know that Evacuations are more common than people actually think? Most evacuations in the U.S. are caused because of Flooding and Fires. However, evacuations are not uncommon when other potential hazards are present after a natural disaster occurs or even just as precautionary safety measure for the public such as Gas Leaks, Chemical Contamination, Unsanitary Conditions, Lack of Security in a dangerous situation etc..

People don’t really think about putting together Emergency Food Boxes. Why?!? Because they see their Pantries and Freezers full of FOOD and think all of it will be there when Disaster Strikes. This way of thinking is what causes Panic and Scrambling when that unfortunate event hits. Your Freezer may be full but what happens if you lose power for Hours or even Days? What about No Gas and Water? The best way to make sure your family is prepared is to think the worst case scenario.

No Power, No Water, No Gas, No Road Access and the Possibility of Evacuation.

Thinking this way will help you to better prepare what goes into your Emergency Food Boxes, ESPECIALLY when you have special dietary needs in the family. Having enough food and water for the minimum of 72hrs could possibly save yours and your loved ones lives.

Paleo Grain Free Gluten Free Emergency Food Boxes jojoandeloise.com

Your Emergency Food Boxes should contain foods that DON’T need refrigeration and are shelf stable. This will ensure that your items will be able to be stored and transported safely.

Emergency food boxes with julian bakery jojoandeloise.com

Some items you might consider:

Paleo Wraps, Paleo Coconut Flakes (the bag is securely sealed and can be removed from the box to save space) Artisana Raw Almond Butter Packets, Paleonola, Great Lakes Gelatin, Activated Charcoal, Coco Hydro, Two Moms in the Raw, Organic Berry Powerful Granola, Native Forest Coconut Milk , Navitas Coconut Water and Mulberry Berries.There are so many other items to consider putting in your Boxes, just be sure to semi regularly check your expiration dates, replacing expiring items as needed. We make sure to buy the replacement before we ever remove the one close to expiration, that way our Emergency Food Box is never without that particular item.

Other things to consider are wet wipes, disposable cutlery and can openers if needed. Only the things that are pertaining to your FOOD items. You can pack a Medical Box separately.

Emergency Survival Food Kit #GlutenFree #paleo

Tanka, Epic Paleo Grass Fed bars and U.S Wellness Meats has an Extra Dry Beef Jerky that is Shelf Stable.

Beef Jerkey jojoandeloise.com

GoCo Pods have to be one of my FAVES. I love these little packets of Coconut goodness. They are perfectly sized and are so easy to use.

goco pod coconut oil jojoandeloise.com

You can use them to cleanse your mouth, clean and care for wounds, as a source of food and countless other things I am sure.

goco pod coconut oil non gmo jojoandeloise.com

We also keep 4 ZICO coconut water bottles in each of our Emergency Food boxes. ZICO supports Hydration and Replenishment and it also helps that it is a Non Gmo product.

emergency preparedness with ZICO coconut water jojoandeloise.com

In our boxes are also a few extra Boxed Waters. In the case of Evacuation, roads can be jammed and there’s the possibility of being stuck in your car for hours. It’s always good to have water available until you’re able to reach your destination.

emergency perparedness jojoandeloise.com #glutenfree #paleo

Berkey is a great option for everyday use as well as in cases of Emergencies. And with their travel sizes, you can easily transport them in case of Evacuation.

Berkey_Water_Travel__39328.1409926867.500.750

Canned Fish and Sardines make for a great source of protein and store very easily.

Vital Choice Sardines and Albacor Tuna jojoandeloise.com

Sardines omega 3 Vitamin d jojoandeloise.com

Real Salt is Healing jojoandeloise.com

SALT!!! You are probably wondering why in the world you would pack SALT into your Emergency Food Boxes.

The body needs salt. Why? Because Salt helps control your fluid balance. It also controls the way your muscles and nerves work. Our very cells contain large amounts of salt. Our bodies automatically regulate how much salt, or sodium, that is present.

Real Salt is also helpful in cleaning wounds whether in your mouth or on your body. It aids in Hydration, replacing minerals that may have been lost in addition to flavoring foods.

Real Salt for Real Emergencies jojoandeloise.com

Redmond Clay

Redmond Bentonite Clay jojoandeloise.com

Internal uses: People have used bentonite clay when suffering from occasional diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, stomachache, acid indigestion, acid reflux, and other digestive problems. As trends move toward naturopathic and homeopathic medicine, more people include Redmond Clay capsules with their daily supplements or drink clay water because of its drawing ability, highly alkaline pH, and natural minerals.

External uses: Hydrated Redmond Clay can be applied externally as a poultice on cuts, bruises, insect bites, bee stings, boils, rashes, achy joints, acne, and burns.

good hygiene it's important jojoandeloise.com

Of course you don’t want to forget about Personal Hygiene. So that we don’t have to think about what to grab and take in case of Evacuation, we make sure that we have Brand New Deodorants, Full Body Cleansers, Toothbrushes and EarthPaste.

Your Family will thank you for it if and when Disaster Strikes.

earthpaste a better choice of toothpaste jojoandeloise.com

Emergency Boxes will vary from family to family. Each of your needs and our children’s needs are different. This is by no means a set in stone list of things to have stored and ready for that possible case of Disaster or Evacuation.

This is just a base by which to get the conversation started, maybe even get you motivated to prepare your own Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo Emergency Boxes.

You can build your Boxes Individually, Boys/Girls, Parents, Specific Needs, Snacks, Meats etc.. Be sure to make a family plan on who is to be in charge of particular boxes so that there is no misunderstanding and nothing is left behind.

being prepared with emergency food jojoandeloise.com

And if you have little ones, be sure to pack some of their favorite foods or things you know that they will LOVE. It’s bad enough when we adults are under stress, in the middle of disaster or worse get uprooted from our homes. Our children will need some sense of normalcy and things they know from their everyday homelife. These GoGo Squeezes make for a great source of nutrition, fun and are sure to make them feel better.

go go squezze jojoandeloise.com

The Problem With GMOs

People tend to get pretty worked up over GMOs. Some say they’ve revolutionized the food industry in remarkable ways, while others are up in arms over their existence and how prevalent they are in our modern food system.

This extremely polarized issue is surrounded by a ton of confusion, misinformation, and greed.

And a big part of this confusion begins with the question, “What is a GMO?” as well as the more basic question, “What does GMO stand for?”

Sadly, most people (even/especially those who are opposed to consuming GMOs) have no idea how to answer either one of those questions. And this short video from The Jimmy Kimmel Show proves it. If you have a sense of humor, this is a must-watch.

Hilarious as it is, this video is a good reminder to all of us that when taking a stance on anything, it’s always good to know why we are upholding that decision/belief. And that starts with getting informed (while this post certainly isn’t the final word on GMOs, it’s a start. The references listed at the bottom will provide you with even more information on the subject).

In order to be an informed consumer on the issue of GMOs, it’s important to first know what a GMO is. To put it simply, a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is a plant or animal that has been genetically altered with DNA from another other plant/animal, bacteria, or virus. According to Chris Kresser,

Genetic modification involves the transfer of genes from one species of plant or animal to another, using techniques that can cause mutations in the genome that may have unintended consequences for the crop’s safety. The imprecise rearrangement of genes can create new proteins in these plants that may trigger allergies or promote disease. Our immune systems often do not recognize these new proteins and may mount an immune attack against them if they enter our bloodstream intact. These unintended gene transfers, along with those that are intended, can lead to significant changes in gut and immune function, and may have long-term consequences that are not yet known to the scientific and medical communities.

GMOs are already in roughly 80% of processed foods in the United States. And as of Dec. 2011 , GMOs were also in

  • 94% of soy crops
  • 88% of corn crops
  • 90% of cotton crops
  • 90% of canola crops

These percentages have undoubtedly increased since 2011.

Most GMO crops are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide (like Monsanto’s Roundup), which has increased the amount of herbicides being used on crops by millions of pounds and has also contributed to the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Other GMO crops (corn and cotton) are tampered with using the gene of a bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a pesticidal toxin in every single cell of the plant. The Bt toxin breaks down the gut of the insect, causing a blood infection that eventually kills it. Several recent studies have also linked the Bt toxin to decreased immune function in mice, the premature death of human cells in vitro, and liver and kidney damage in mice.

What all of this means for humans who consume GMO crops isn’t exactly clear, which brings us to my next point…


Why GMOs Scare the *bleep* Out of Me

GMO advocates argue that there’s no evidence of GMOs being harmful to humans. But that’s just the thing — there’s NO conclusive evidence either way because there here have been no long-term studies on the side effects of GMOs on humans.

There IS however, plenty of evidence to suggest that putting GMOs into our bodies probably isn’t such a good idea (like the Bt toxin studies cited above). Here’s a few more examples:

  • 50% more people became allergic to soy in the UK soon after genetically modified soy was introduced.
  • Mice that were fed experimental GM peas began also reacting to a variety of other foods. The scariest part? The peas had already passed all of the allergy tests normally done before a GMO makes it on the market. Only an advanced test (which is never used on the GMOs we eat) revealed that the peas could be unsafe.
  • Rats fed GM potatoes had partially atrophied livers that were also smaller in size than those of their GMO-free counterparts.
  • Mice had less babies that were smaller in size the longer they were fed genetically modified corn.
  • Shepherds in India reported a 25% death increase in their sheep after they had grazed on genetically modified Bt Cotton crops after harvest. The sheep experienced symptoms that included reddish and erosive lesions on the mouth, blackish diarrhea, and death within 5-7 days.

And if you’re more of a visual learner, this infographic from seedsnow.com a great job of illustrating the issue.

GMO-Fact-sheet

Scary as it may be, this information still doesn’t tell us enough about GMOs to prove that they’re unsafe for humans to consume. And finding studies that do might be nearly impossible, as scientists cannot publish independent research on genetically modified crops without first receiving permission from corporations that sell GMO seeds.

This gives the agritech companies that make GMO seeds complete control over the research, which could explain why there have been no conclusive studies proving that GMOs can have negative side effects on humans (see what I meant when I said greed was involved)?

The bottom line?

GMOs are NOT natural. And whenever we humans try to outsmart nature, we fail.

Our health has suffered ever since we as a society decided that manufactured, processed food-like products were healthier than real, whole foods. It took us awhile to realize it (and most still haven’t) but many of us are finally starting to turn a corner and revert back to eating the sorts of foods that kept our ancestors healthy and disease-free.

So instead of making the same mistake with GMOs (and waiting decades for their health hazards to surface and become common knowledge), I suggest avoiding them as much as possible.


What You Can Do

There are currently no labels to make consumers aware of products that contain GMOs, at least not in the United States (64 countries around the world have already made it mandatory for GMO foods to be labeled).

But the good news is, we still have some choice in the matter.

Those who follow a paleo/primal lifestyle (free of processed foods as well as corn and soy — two of the most common GMO crops in existence) will naturally consume less GMOs than those who eat a S.A.D.(Standard American Diet). Eating Organic produce also ensures that your fruits/veggies are free of GMOs.

Meat can be tricky. It’s an industry with a lot of loopholes and not much regulation. And as I’ve said in the past, the ONLY way to know your meat is to know your farmer — like, on a first-name basis. Always ask tough questions and visit the source if possible.

Or you can be like the guy from the video and only worry about it after you get sick. KIDDING! Please don’t do that. 😉

Those are my recommendations. Now I want to know what you think! Do you avoid GMOs? Why or why not?

More resources on GMOs:

Health Risks Associated with GMOs by the Institute for Responsible Technology

Yes on Prop 37 – Label Genetically Modified Food by Lisa Bronner

Are GMOs Safe? by Chris Kresser

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aregmossafe

6 Ways to Get Better Sleep (Naturally)

Beautiful young lady sleeping with husband on bed

You’re probably sleep-deficient.

It’s nothing personal. But as 63% of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep (7-9 hours for most people), there’s a good chance you’re one of them.

Maybe you’re really busy and find yourself constantly cutting into your sleep time in an effort to catch up on life. Maybe you’re desperately trying to get better sleep, but are having trouble falling asleep at a decent hour.

Or maybe you honestly don’t think sleep is all that important.

If you’re struggling with either the first or second issue (or both), the list of tips below should help you get back on track. But if you fall into the third category of doubting or denying the importance of sleep altogether, please watch this TED Talk by Dr. Kirk Parsley. Actually, you should probably watch it no matter what your current stance on sleep is. Seriously. Just do it.

And if you reeeally don’t have time to watch it, know that lack of sleep….

  • Increases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression
  • Raises likelihood of getting in an automobile or workplace accident
  • Can cause weight gain
  • Contributes to learning and memory problems
  • Increases overall likelihood of mortality

Clearly, sleep matters — more than just about anything else. With all of that in mind, here are 6 ways to naturally get better sleep.

  • SLEEP TIP #1: Limit blue light exposure at night. This is a tough one to avoid — and I’m just as guilty as the next person of parking up in front of the computer, watching late-night TV, or staring at my phone long after the sun has set (sometimes all at once —eeek)!

    Using these types of blue-light devices after dark can throw the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle for a loop, as it is primarily controlled by light entering the eye. According to Chris Kresser,

    Research has demonstrated that nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and wake cycles. Therefore, a reduction in melatonin at night is associated with subjective levels of sleeplessness. But melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep outcomes: it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardiometabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. With serious consequences like these, preventing melatonin suppression should be a top priority in anyone’s healthy lifestyle.

    Way back in the day, it was pretty difficult for folks to throw off their circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). Once the sun set, there wasn’t really much to do other than hang out and wind down around the campfire with family and friends — and then go to sleep.

    Today is a different story. And there are plenty of modern distractions to keep us wired and awake for unnatural amounts of time. So how do we get around this? We can try our best to dim, limit, or completely avoid using electronic devices after dark. And if that isn’t an option, pick up a pair of these bad boys.

    Since blue light is primarily responsible for disrupting circadian rhythm, these amber-lensed glasses significantly cut down on blue light exposure for the user. They also limit most blue light wavelengths from household lighting (which can also be problematic).

  • SLEEP TIP #2: Get more sunlight. A recent study of 49 day-shift office workers (27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows) compared sleep/activity levels within the two groups.

    The results showed that the workers with windows received 173% more natural white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night (they also tended to be more physically active and happy).

    These results aren’t surprising.

    Just as too much artificial light can be problematic, inadequate levels of natural sunlight can be equally destructive. And considering how much we’re cooped up indoors these days, it’s no wonder we as a nation are so sleep-deprived! Without enough sun exposure to naturally regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythms, falling asleep (and staying asleep) can be challenging.

    I’ve noticed this to be true in my own experience as well. On chicken processing days or other occasions when I find myself working long hours outside, I sleep like a baby. Every time.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to quit your day job and become a farmer. Even small lifestyle adjustments can result in big improvements. Things like taking a short walk outside during your lunch break, taking up an outdoor hobby like gardening, or simply choosing to eat your lunch outside every day are all examples of how to capitalize on getting enough sleep-promoting sunlight. Just 30 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight per day is enough to make a huge difference for most people!

  • SLEEP TIP #3: Save stimulating tasks for the morning. Once I get started on a task that I find to be engaging or interesting, it’s difficult to abruptly get my brain to stop. So in order to prevent it from ever getting to that point, I try to refrain from engaging in mentally stimulating tasks after sundown.

    For the sake of sleep quality, it’s usually better to work hard during the day and save more relaxing activities for the night time. Spending time with family, doing easy household chores, or taking an Epsom salt bath with candles (my favorite) are all good ways to wind down before bed time.

  • SLEEP TIP #4: Exercise (but not too close to bedtime). We as humans were designed to MOVE (and that doesn’t mean moving from your bed to the car, the car to the office, the office back to the car, followed by the couch, and then back to the bed).

    Without engaging in some level of movement throughout the day (the more the better, but don’t go overboard), your sleep will suffer.

    This doesn’t need to mean running 10 miles or doing 100 pull-ups. It simply means that you shouldn’t sit down all day long — or even most of the day. And if you’re able to fit a workout, run, yoga session, or walk into your routine, that’s even better!

    But exercising too close to bedtime can be problematic. Cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset and it can take the body up to 6 hours to come back down to a normal body temperature after exercise.

  • SLEEP TIP #5: Eat/drink the right foods. Food and drink choice can also have a huge impact on quality of sleep. Caffeine, in particular, can make a big difference for some people…and I’m definitely one of them!

    I didn’t start drinking coffee until about 2 years ago. But once I started, I couldn’t imagine facing the day without my cup of buttery smooth coffee (even though it was wreaking havoc on my sleep). I finally decided that the joy and happiness that came from coffee wasn’t worth sacrificing my sleep over — so I gave it up. Now, that’s not to say that I’m never, ever going to drink coffee again — it’s just not going to be an every day thing for me anymore (sad face).

    Other caffeinated beverages can have similar effects on people. So can caffeinated foods like chocolate (sad-er face). This article by Laura Schoenfeld speaks to other important nutrition/sleep components such as eating more protein early in the day and more carbs later on, having a cup of bone broth before bed, and not eating too much too late.

    *Bonus Sleep TipMagnesium (an important mineral that promotes restful sleep) supplementation can also be helpful in improving sleep quality. I spray this stuff on my feet and forearms most nights in order to absorb adequate levels of this important nutrient that most Americans are deficient in!

  • SLEEP TIP #6: Prioritize Sleep. None of these tips matter if you’re not willing to make sleep a priority. And even if you are insanely busy, I’m willing to bet that there’s something you can cut out of that crazy schedule of yours and replace it with more sleep.

    Because whatever you’re cutting into your sleep time for won’t be nearly as enjoyable if you’re sleep-deprived (even if you think you feel fine).

Many of the tips listed above have been huge factors in getting my sleep cycle back on track, but it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. I’m sure there are loads of other helpful sleep tips that aren’t on this list, so be sure to tell me about what’s worked for you with a comment!

Other Helpful Resources

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Staying Healthy and Eating Real Food on the Road (Challenges & Solutions)

openroad

If you follow me on instagram, you might think I’ve been aimlessly gallivanting around the U.S. all summer without a care in the world.

But in reality, my trips have consisted of driving to and from two family weddings and one family reunion — and bumming food/places to stay off of family members along the way!

Not exactly the most luxurious or fancy kinds of vacations (but still fun nonetheless).

And if you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know how difficult it can be to eat REAL food and stay healthy while on the road.

While it’s almost impossible to be 100% perfect in these situations (or ever) there are certainly things that can be done to minimize damage without compromising the fun factor. I’ll go through some of the challenges I’ve faced below and what I’ve done to mitigate them. If you think I’ve missed something, feel free to let me know with a comment at the bottom of this post!

  • CHALLENGE #1: Avoiding drive-throughs. You wake up feeling motivated and decide to get an early start on your drive without stopping for for breakfast or even a quick snack. But a few hours into your drive, your stomach starts to rumble.

    And within a matter of 5 minutes, you’re starving.

    Suddenly, the Del Taco coming up at the next exit starts to look reeaaallly good (even though you haven’t eaten there in years).

    I feel your pain. And while I would never pass judgement on anyone for eating Del Taco in this situation, there ARE ways to avoid it.

    Snacks, for one, can be a lifesaver on road trips. Since I’m one of those people who doesn’t know how to stop eating, I usually try to avoid snacking and instead stick to eating 3 balanced and hearty meals every day.

    But road trips are a different story.

    And a bit of planning ahead can save you from compromising your otherwise healthy diet for food that will leave you feeling gross and possibly even sick.

    carcooler

    Farmer Jeff and I usually stock up on Larabars, Jackson’s Honest Chips, and a few other non-perishable “healthy junk food” snacks for road trips.

    While these things are great, they’re no substitute for complete meals. That’s why I’m dying to try this cooler (pictured on the left) on our next road trip! It plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter for power, allowing you to easily travel with foods that would otherwise go bad if not kept cool. How awesome is that!?

    But regardless of how much pre-planning and preparing you do, there’s still going to be times when you just have to work with what you’ve got. And in these cases, it’s always a good idea to weigh your options and make the best decisions you can considering the options at hand.

    Sometimes that means opting for a baked potato and apple pecan chicken salad from Wendy’s (been there, done that)…or getting beef jerky and a banana from the closest gas station just to hold you over.

    It isn’t ideal, but that’s life. So rather than beating yourself up over these small compromises, realize that you’re doing your best and move on with life!

  • CHALLENGE #2: Finding ways to exercise. A little bit of travel is no reason to not get your daily sweat on!

    If you’re staying in a hotel that has a fitness center, this should be easy enough. But if you’re staying with relatives or friends or somewhere that isn’t equipped with an exercise area, you may have to improvise a bit.

    CrossFit is my drug exercise of choice. So I brought a kettlebell, jump rope, and wall ball along in the car during our trips this summer.

    With these few pieces of equipment combined with body weight movements and weighted back squats (my 100 lb. little sister was nice enough to volunteer as my barbell), I was able to come up with countless on-the-go WODs during our trips.

    bozeman

    I also did more outdoorsy stuff (hiking, trail running, etc.) than normal, which felt amazing. There’s nothing quite like going OUTSIDE and connecting with nature — road trips are perfect for that!

    Whether you’re a runner, yogi, crossfitter, or whatever, the important thing here is to do SOMETHING. Go outside. Play a sport. Take a walk. Be creative and have fun!

  • CHALLENGE #3: Being gracious to hosts. Explaining why you eat the way you do can be a pain. Because for some reason, eating real, unprocessed food is an extremely foreign and strange concept to most ordinary folk.

    In general, explaining food choices should always be done in an extremely casual and non-defensive manner (check out Real Food Liz’s video, Explaining Food Choices (What to Say & Why), for some sound coaching on the subject).

    But when you’re a guest in someone’s home, this matter becomes all the more delicate and tricky. You want to be polite and kind, but also don’t want to feel obligated to consume edible products that just aren’t food.

    I’ve found that the best way to handle — or prevent — this from happening is to chat with your hosts ahead of time. Otherwise, they’ll end up slaving away on a meal that will you will either 1) eat against your will or 2) not eat and risk offending them.

    Neither situation is good.

    Instead, casually fill them in on your new diet and lifestyle. Offer to pick up some groceries and cook a meal or two for your hosts while you’re there. Chances are, they’ll be receptive if approached in a friendly and non-condescending way. And who knows, you might just leave a lasting impression that will transform their health for the better!

  • CHALLENGE #4: All the sitting. I can’t stand sitting still for long periods of time, so road trips are challenging for me. But there really isn’t any way to get around this one — only ways to minimize the suffering.

    These things, unfortunately, involve looking kind of silly in front of people. Oddly enough, people tend to stop and stare when you start doing air squats immediately after exiting your car at the gas station.

    I realize this approach isn’t for everyone.

    Stretching at rest stops is a good, more socially acceptable way to get the blood flowing after hours upon hours of sitting in a car.

    It also helps to do things that involve movement before and/or after your drive. For example, if I’m in Bozeman, MT and need to drive 6 hours to Salt Lake City, I’ll get up and hike for an hour or two before making the drive (instead of doing something else that involves sitting beforehand). The endorphins from the hike are usually enough to help me power through the long and tedious drive ahead.

  • CHALLENGE #5: Remembering the essentials. There’s a few things that I just don’t like to be without.

    OrganicCoconutOil

    Coconut oil is one of those things. I use it to wash my face, moisturize my skin, fatten up my coffee, and more. Without it, I’m lost. Okay, that might be an exaggeration — but only a slight one.

    Having a healthy, stable, Omega-3 rich source of fat (like coconut oil) on hand is especially important considering all of the unhealthy vegetable/seed oils that most of us are inevitably exposed to while traveling.

    Apple cider vinegar (for digestion) and sardines (for their impressive fat, protein, and vitamin content) are some of my other road trip essentials.

    And whenever I’m lucky enough to pass through a town that happens to have a Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers, I always stock up on Kombucha, Coconut Water, and whatever other goodies I can get my hands on!

I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone HAS to do all of these things on road trips in order to enjoy them. But I tend to feel better and have more fun when I’m making healthy choices, so it’s worth it for me to put some extra thought/effort into this stuff!

Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you can’t travel without? Have a personal experience that relates to one of the challenges listed above? Share it in a comment!

Don’t Spend Your Vacation Sick – 9 Ways to Stay Well

9waystostaywell

Two days after Jeff and I got married, we boarded a plane to Cancun. While we were on the flight, my throat began to feel painfully dry – a feeling that progressively worsened as we got closer to our destination.

I began gulping down excessive amounts of water, hoping that it was only a case of mild dehydration or dry mouth. But when each swallow was accompanied by a more intense, sharp pain, my hopes faded. This was not anything temporary or even a common cold. It was strep throat — or something similar (I never found out for sure).

When we got to Mexico, I decided to wait out the pain, hoping it would disappear. It didn’t. A few days into our trip and desperate to feel better, I purchased a Z-Pak from a local drugstore. Though I am absolutely NOT condoning or advocating for the use of antibiotics (especially without a prescription), the Z-Pak did the job for me at the time. After 2 days on antibiotics, the pain in my throat disappeared and I was free to enjoy the rest of our honeymoon.

You wouldn't know it from the picture, but I was NOT feeling well at the time.

You wouldn’t know it from the picture, but I was NOT feeling well at the time.

Although the stress of planning a wedding surely had something to do with me getting sick on our honeymoon, I started thinking back to other times that I came down with something while on vacation — and there were a lot. A bit more research on the subject revealed that it wasn’t just me who was plagued by this strange and annoying problem.

Think about it. Often times, vacations involve cramming ourselves into a plane with hundreds of other people (some of which are almost certainly sick) and breathing in recycled air for hours at a time. We also have the tendency to stress out about vacation and everything we need to get done leading up to it, and then let go too much once we’re there — giving ourselves permission to eat, drink, and do things that we normally wouldn’t.

So after the whole honeymoon ordeal, I decided that I would never waste another vacation being sick again…and I haven’t! Here’s how…

9 Ways to Stay Well on Vacation


  • TIP #1: Drink a lot of water. Water oxygenates the blood, which then transports oxygen to every cell throughout the body. A well-hydrated body is more capable of flushing out toxins, removing waste, absorbing nutrients, and stimulating our natural healing mechanisms. When traveling to a particularly warm and sunny place, you’ll need to consume more water than usual. And if you choose to disregard Tip #2, you’ll really need to drink a lot of water!

  • TIP #2: Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a toxin. And whenever we put toxins into our bodies, our immune system needs to work extra hard in order to remove them. When we consume alcohol, we demand that our immune system expend a huge amount of effort in removing the alcohol from our system — leaving us vulnerable to catching any sort of virus or bacteria we come into contact with (these effects can last for up to 24 hours). If you do decide to enjoy a few adult beverages on vacation, opt for drinks that don’t include sugary syrups or sodas.

  • TIP #3: SERIOUSLY limit sweets. Similar to alcohol, sugar takes our immune system’s attention away from doing its job of fighting off sickness (instead forcing it to deal with the inflammation, insulin response, and other adverse effects of sugar). As much as possible, try to keep your sweet tooth in check if you want to stay well.

  • TIP #4: Get plenty of sleep. The relationship between sleep deprivation and weakened immune response in humans has been documented over and over, and over. Adequate sleep (8 + hours per night) is crucial for immune health, which should be a breeze to achieve while on vacation!

  • TIP #5: Load up on Vitamin C. We’ve all been told of the powerful immune-boosting effects of Vitamin C (often times advertised in favor of supplements like Emergen-C and Airborne). But as always, whole-food Vitamin C sources like colorful veggies, sweet potatoes, oranges, and grapefruit are much more effective than the manufactured stuff.

  • TIP #6: Take fermented cod liver oil. Rich in Vitamins A & D (both crucial in activating immune response), and K2 (reduces inflammation), Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO) provides the body with a powerful supply of sickness-busting nutrients. Green Pasture FCLO is the ONLY supplement I take. It has made a huge difference in my immune function and has cleared up my acne significantly (post coming soon on what happened when I ran out of it. Hint – It wasn’t pretty!).

  • TIP #7: Enjoy the sunlight (but not too much). Another excellent source of Vitamin D, sunlight plays a huge role in keeping us healthy and happy. Get the right amount of sunlight each day (this amount differs for everyone), but don’t overdo it! Click here for more info on how to smartly approach sun exposure.

  • TIP #8: Exercise. Studies have shown the immune-boosting effects of exercise. It also makes us feel good. So why not do it on vacation? There’s certainly no harm in taking one (or two or three) days off from exercise while traveling. But your body (and mind) will thank you for making time to run on the beach, practice yoga on your hotel room balcony, or hit the fitness center for a mini WOD.

  • TIP #9: Don’t stress! This should be a given. Our bodies were not equipped to handle the chronic stress that most of us deal with on a regular basis. And vacations should provide us with an escape from that. But often times, we struggle more with the stress leading up to a vacation than anything. This can usually be prevented or lessened with a bit of planning ahead. Start packing earlier than the hour before you leave. Work extra hard on finishing up any work-related projects or duties during the week(s) leading up to your trip — instead of the day before. Start setting up your mind and body for pure relaxation ahead of time to avoid the drastic switch from “work mode” to “relax mode.”



Implementing these tips should keep you healthy and allow you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest. But keep in mind that even if you’re doing everything right, the cold and flu still may not have any mercy on you. And if that’s the case, it’s even more crucial to incorporate the tips listed above and allow your body to recover as quickly as possible.

What are your tricks for staying well on vacation? Are you already implementing some of the points listed above or do you have your own list of tips? Let me know with a comment!