Dry Brushing Your Way to Healthy Skin

When we think of caring for our body, we want to support and nurture it as best we can, both inside and out.  Last week I spoke of some ways to cleanse and support the body with foods this time of year, so this week I wanted to mention a wonderful way to love and care for your body from the outside.

Skin is our largest organ.  It helps to regulate our body temperature, prevents the entry of bacteria, plays a huge part in our sensory functions, and also is responsible for eliminating toxins in the body.  It is estimated that the skin secretes about 1 pound of toxins everyday!! Gross!  But also awesome… (Thank you skin!)  With all that it is responsible for and the fact that it covers our entire body, I think it is safe to assume that keeping our skin healthy should be a top priority.

There was a time in my life where CVS was one of my favorite places to shop, but as I have become more conscious of what I put IN my body, I have also learned the importance of what I put ON my body.  Consider that we are feeding ourselves through our skin.  Products are absorbed and ingested into the body just as if we were to sit down and enjoy a big bowl of them.  Realizing this has created shifts in my life, such as moving away from products found on most store shelves and onto techniques like dry brushing.dry brush

Dry brushing is a great way to support the health of your skin, ensuring that it is properly excreting waste and toxins through the pores while also keeping it smooth, bright and healthy.  Why purchase all those chemical laden exfoliators, lotions and oils when you can dry brush?  This technique also supports the lymphatic system, the immune system and the urinary system, and increases circulation, which in turn supports detoxification and drainage throughout the body.

So, how do you dry brush?  First you want to purchase a body brush online or in your local health food store.  Then, spend 5 minutes each morning before your shower or workout to brush your entire body.  The goal is to exfoliate the top layer of your skin, and this is done by GENTLY stroking each part of your body about 5 times.  Start at your feet and work up towards your heart with straight or circular strokes.  Then, start at your hands and work in towards your heart.  Use straight strokes over your arms, legs, back, etc… and circular strokes over your joints.  Brushes with long handles make it easier to brush your back.  And don’t forget those butt cheeks!

This is a gentle process and in no way should you be in pain.  While you brush your body, think loving thoughts, reflect on what is to come in your day, and simply love yourself.  This can be a beautiful time to treat your body and your mind to some real nourishment.

It is recommended to clean your brush once a week by soaking it in warm water with a splash of white vinegar for about 30 minutes.  Then, let it dry.  Dry brushing is always to be done with a dry brush on dry skin.

Over time, you may not need all those fancy lotions and oils anymore.  Dry brushing causes the skin to release natural oils, keeping it extra soft and not clogging up the pores the way most products do.  Remember, we want our pores to be able to breathe so they can properly detox bodily waste throughout the day.

To continue the release of toxins, alternate between warm and cold water in the shower.  This stimulates our blood circulation and  invigorates the skin, further encouraging the body’s natural elimination process.  You can also support the health of your skin by exercising and sweating regularly, staying properly hydrated, and eating the right foods (think healthy oils and fats).

Is dry brushing right for you?  The only way you’re going to know is if you try it out.  Happy dry brushing!

 

with love and radiant skin,

Amanda

Learning to Read Ingredient Labels

Shopping at the grocery store can sometimes be a stressful event.  When you are changing around your diet and learning to choose different, healthier, foods, it can get confusing as to which product to choose.  A tip that I looove, suggested by Michael Pollan, is to stay on the perimeter of the grocery store.  This is where you will find most of your whole foods, leaving the overly processed stuff towards the center of the store.

Choosing foods without labels is ideal because they are usually the foods that have been picked out of the ground and placed on the shelves.  But we all know that sometimes there isn’t time for preparation of those bright leafy greens and gorgeous avocados when we are on the go.  Below are 10 tips that have helped me navigate the world of misleading labels and harmful ingredients, and are a good starting place for shopping in your local grocery store.

ingredients

(Avoid products with a list similar to this)

1. How long is the ingredient list?  Longer ingredient lists are usually a quick way to identify a more processed food, and they usually contain items that you are unable to pronounce and have never heard of before.  Stick with a shorter list of ingredients with items that you recognize.

2. What are the first 3 ingredients?  The first 3 ingredients listed make up the majority of the product, and therefore are what you are primarily eating.  For example, if you are purchasing strawberry jelly, you would want the first ingredient to be strawberries, not sugar.

3. Is sugar on that list?  There are many ways that producers like to hide artificial sweeteners in your foods, and there are many names for sugar. Learn what they are so you are able to identify them. They include sucrose, fructose, glucose solids, barley malt, corn syrup solids, dehydrated cane juice, cane juice, refiner’s syrup, maltodextrin, caramel, fruit juice, dextrose, and many others. Also, check if there is more than one source of sweetener. Many producers use more than one to avoid listing a sweetener in their top 3 ingredients. 4-5 grams of sugar is equivalent to a level teaspoon.

4. Look for the word “whole”.  This word should appear in the first or second ingredient, whether it is whole wheat, rye, oats, or another grain. This ensures that you are getting the grain in whole form rather than over-processed and stripped of all its nutritional value. Whole grains should provide at least 3g of fiber per serving, possibly more.

5. High fructose corn syrup.  Whether this ingredient is as harmful as everyone says it is (there have been studies to support both sides), it’s presence is still a great indicator of a highly processed food, one that you probably want to stay away from.

(a safe ingredient list... Food Is Life ezekiel bread)

(a safe ingredient list… Food Is Life ezekiel bread)

6. Healthier sweeteners.  Honey, maple syrup, stevia, blackstrap molasses, unrefined coconut palm sugar, and date sugar are among some of the healthier options for household and product sweeteners.

7. Avoid artificial colors and flavors.  These are chemicals and are linked to a slew of behavior and health problems.  It may also be listed as  “(color) dye # (number).”

8. Watch out for trans fats.  No amounts of trans fats are considered safe. This processed ingredient is associated with raising LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Foods can call themselves “trans-fat free” even if they contain up to half a gram of trans fats per serving. Look on the ingredients list. If a food contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, it contains trans fats.

9. Can you pronounce all of the ingredients?  If great grandmother didn’t have these ingredients in her kitchen to bake/cook with, why should they be in your food?

10. Most importantly, know that everyday can’t be perfect.  This is a guide to help you navigate the crazy world of packaged foods.  Trying your best is a step in the right direction. When you use these guidelines most of the time, you will be doing wonderful things for you and your loved ones, and you will be teaching your body to enjoy healthier foods.

 

I hope that some of these tips can help you in your shopping experience.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

 

with love and healthy choices,

Amanda

A Natural Medicine Cabinet In Your Kitchen

I listened to a recording yesterday on LearningHerbs.com titled “Way of the Herbal Ninja”.  This was a basic tutorial on common kitchen herbs and produce that have medicinal qualities and can be used in place of over the counter medications.  Although I had heard (and use) many of these common items, it was still a nice refresher and got me inspired to share them with you!  After all, “the best way to take your herbs is to incorporate them into your diet.”  -John from Learning Herbs

Garlic:  If you are a consistent reader of Crafted Wellness, you may already know my love for garlic.  Of course, I love its flavor, but it is garlics potency and power in healing that really makes my heart flutter.  Garlic has been used for thousands of years and is most common for fighting infections, however it also inhibits viruses, bacteria and fungi both internally and externally.  My favorite way to take garlic (besides incorporating it into my food) is to peel a whole clove and swallow it down like a pill.  The raw garlic insures that you are getting it in its most potent form.  When I am feeling under the weather, I will take up to 5 cloves per day, throughout the day, to help my body fight off whatever I am experiencing.

Garlic is also great for heart health by thinning the blood and lowering cholesterol.  Incorporating garlic on a daily basis is a great thing to try before relying on cholesterol or blood pressure medications.

Ginger:  Another goodie!  Ginger works wonders for digestions and nausea, and helps reduce bloating and gas.  You can also use ginger for colds and flus because it can help to alleviate congestions and sore throats.  It also serves as a pain reliever, particularly for headaches, arthritis, menstrual cramping and muscle soreness.  You can take ginger in any form (ginger honey, ginger tea, ginger grated on food) but my favorite way is to make a tea out of fresh ginger. Put about ½ inch piece of ginger grated in a jar and then fill it up with boiling water.  Make sure to lightly cover the jar to prevent the steam (and medicinal qualities) from getting released.  After, strain the ginger out and add honey and lemon to taste.

Oats:  Ever made homemade oatmeal?  Then you most likely have some oats hiding out in your kitchen.  Oats are great to use in a bath and offer many soothing qualities to the skin.  They are extremely moisturizing and can be used if your skin is dry, itchy, or to sooth a rash (chicken pox, eczema, poison ivy, etc…).  To make an oatmeal bath, simply blend (in a bender, food processor or coffee grinder) 1 cup of rolled oats into a fine powder.  Then sprinkle the powder into a warm bath, mixing the water as you add the oats.  The bath should get a milky color.  Soak in this bath for about 20 minutes, and repeat once or twice per day.

Cranberry Juice:  Cranberries are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and drinking REAL, UNSWEETENED cranberry juice is a great way to get that goodness into your body.  Drink a small glass daily for its health benefits or as preventative measures if you are prone to Urinary Tract Infections or bladder infections.

Peppermint:  Peppermint tea is everywhere and is definitely a good staple to keep in your kitchen or in your garden if you prefer it fresh.  Peppermint helps to settle the stomach, reduces anxiety, clears congestion, and relieves pain such as headaches and stomach aches.  Externally it can be used on the skin to relieve issues such as rashes, insect bites, itching and inflammation.  To apply, just use a washcloth soaked in the peppermint tea and apply it to the affected area.  When you make peppermint tea it is important to cover the tea as it steeps to prevent losing its medicinal qualities.  Steep 20-30 minutes.

Chamomile:  I love chamomile.  I love how it looks, I love how it smells, I love how it tastes and I love how it makes me feel.  The funny thing is I never realized ALL of the medicinal qualities that it contained.  This delicate little flower brings quite a powerhouse of healing.  I have always known chamomile as a gentle herb, one that can be safely used on children (teething, colic, restlessness, whining, anxiety, and even pink eye).  It is a very calming and relaxing herb (known as a nervine), and is great tea to enjoy before bed.  What I didn’t realize was that it also is used to treat fevers, sore throats, heartburn, pain in the gut, chronic bowel issues, and also promotes digestion.  It is anti-inflammatory and can be used as a pain reliever for things like muscle pain and menstrual cramps.  I mean, wow!  What a combo!

Cinnamon:  Did you ever enjoy cinnamon toast as a kid?  My mouth can water just thinking about it.  For me, cinnamon is one of those herbs that have been in my life for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned about its health benefits.  As a health coach, I LOVE that cinnamon normalizes blood sugar.  Illness from imbalanced blood sugar is one of the biggest health problems in the world right now, so any help, especially from an herb, makes me happy.  Cinnamon also promotes circulation, helps with digestion, and acts as a pain reliever for things such as tooth aches, arthritis and menstrual cramps.  It also may help with sleeping troubles.  Cinnamon can be used to make a delicious tea blend, mixed in with warm milk (your favorite variety), or can be sprinkled on top of a snack, such as almond butter on celery.  Any way you choose, its delicious!

Thyme:  One of the awesome, basic household cooking herbs.  Besides flavoring your meals, thyme can also be used for colds and flus, soothing coughs, sore throats and congestion.  It is also a great digestive herb… wonder if that is why it’s been such a staple kitchen herb for so many years?

Sage:  Sage is antimicrobial, so it is great to use on any kind of cough or sore throat.  It’s astringency makes it a great option for mouth sores.  During the tutorial, they gave a recipe for Sage Honey.  Simply mince some fresh sage leaves and place them in a jar, and then cover them with honey, stirring well.  After a few hours, it is ready to heal your cough and/or sore throat by simply taking a teaspoon of the honey daily.

Oregano:  Another great digestive and antimicrobial herb.  Use oregano for a cough or sore throat, and also when you have a fever but feel cold (it is a warming herb).  It also strengthens the immune system and can be used externally on fungal infections.

So, what herbs and produce will you start incorporating into your diet?  Or better yet, what items do you already incorporate but now you will realize their medicinal qualities?

If you are looking for more information about healing with herbs or how to incorporate them into your life, I highly suggest Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.  She offers simple recipes with many different and beautiful plants.  It’s one I use constantly for reference and inspiration.

with love and natural medicine,

Amanda