Sustainable on the Inside & Out

It is finally July, which means it’s time for Plastic Free July! Do you want to avoid landfill waste, reduce your eco-footprint, protect the ocean and reduce toxin exposure to the environment and yourself? I sure do! There are many tips for reducing the amount of plastic you use, and I hope that this post helps you as well! I purchase most of my lovely sustainable and safe cosmetics and personal care products from Green Tree Beauty! Most of the items I have pictured here are all made sustainably, packaged in safe alternatives and contain natural ingredients that are not toxic, all found at Green Tree Beauty.
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The present consumer lifestyle, fast paced and highly consumptive, seems to have finally caught up with us. Plastic, single-use items and packaging has found its way into every store, every home and now every part of the planet. Plastic is created by using non-renewable products, plasticizers, additives and chemicals. Many of the ingredients in plastic leach out into the product the plastic is containing, which leads to a dangerous toxic effect when we apply the product on to our bodies. Some of the toxins that are within plastic are endocrine disruptors, which negatively impact the health of animals and humans. Animals are prone to eating plastic litter, as it resembles their food. Each year, studies have shown that millions of animals die due to their direct or indirect consumption of plastic. Plastic does not only harm ecosystems and animals, it directly impacts humans as well. If we consume anything that was contained in plastic or apply anything on our skin that was contained in plastic, our risks of toxin absorption increase. Recycling plastic is not a solution to this problem, as most plastics cannot be or won’t be effectively recycled in the first place. The best route for success is to reduce the amount of plastic and unnecessary packaging we purchase and use and discontinue purchasing products that involve plastic. As consumers, we have the biggest impact on the earth. We have the power to change the world for the better, and that is an inspiring thought.

A current statistic is that people, more commonly women, put on an average of 515 synthetic chemicals on to their bodies every single day. These chemicals absorb into our skin, especially if there are additional chemicals in the product that increase the absorption rate. Scientific studies show that these synthetic ingredients found in every-day products can be linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive harm in both men and women and chronic diseases. The reason companies are allowed to create such products with devastating ingredients is because the ingredients are rarely tested or regulated before they are allowed to be sold to the public & the consumer drives the demand. Most of the general public is simply not aware or chooses not to care about this information. I hope that after reading this you are both enlightened and inspired to avoid unnecessary packaging and toxins when it comes to cosmetics and personal care items.
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First things First, the Packaging

What are most of your cosmetics and lotions packaged in? A popular answer is always plastic. Hard plastics, soft plastics, there are actually thousands of different plastics and each plastic has its own composition and characteristics. Plastics are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic as they serve to concentrate and transfer even more toxic chemicals, which end up in the marine food web and ultimately in the human diet (Engler 2012). Various household products including pesticides, cleaning agents, personal care products and plastic, are all listed as toxins in the home (Gilbert 2012). In fact, modern living has introduced more than 17,000 chemicals in the home (Gilbert 2012). Some of these items are acutely toxic and will have an immediate negative impact to your health, however constant contact with plastic results in chronic exposure, leading to chronic effects. Chronic exposures can occur through repeated use of a product. The reason plastic is toxic is because many of the chemicals that make up plastic are endocrine disruptors.

The endocrine system is the body’s communication system, using hormones to communicate instructions to the organs or muscles. Hormones are incredibly important as they regulate and influence almost all functions of life. Endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, cause decreased fertility, cause changes in brain function and behavior and can impair immune systems. They can cause thyroid dysfunction, endometriosis and cancer. They negatively impact hormone levels, sexual characteristics, reproduction and development in humans and animals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can interact with the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure (Gilbert 2012). The permanent changes that toxins from plastics are able to do to the body result in adverse health effects and persist continually, as these dioxins bioaccumulate. This means that the dioxins & toxins are able to accumulate in our bodies and be passed down onto the next generation. Over time, the amount of these toxins continually increases if exposure is continued.

The only way to reduce our exposure to these toxins is to choose less-toxic products. Every single day, we are unavoidably exposed to a wide range of synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals – why expose ourselves to even more by using plastic-packaged cosmetics or products full of toxic ingredients? Most sustainable companies are aware of how devastating plastic is to both the environment and to animal and human health, so they have safer packaging options. These options usually include stainless steel, glass and paper products. These products are ideal because they can usually be reused, can be more efficiently recycled and ultimately if they are not recycled, they will not leach nearly as many or any toxins at all into the environment. There are also ways to skip packaging altogether. Replace your regular shampoo and conditioner with bar options and store them in a tin. Replace your hand wash, body wash and face wash with specifically formulated bars of soap as well. Most of these options (should) be package free or nearly package free!
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Within the Packaging

Ah yes, what you usually buy the item for in the first place, the actual product itself. The lotion, the cream, the eyeshadow, the foundation, the list of options goes on and on. The claims that the product promises to deliver may be enticing, but what are those ingredients actually doing to your skin? If you repeatedly expose your skin to synthetic chemicals, the toxins accumulate in your body and can lead to dermatitis, eczema, irritated skin, allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances and/or infertility. I have switched to a mindset of “If I cannot eat it, it should not go on my skin.” My eyes were opened to how many toxins are in personal care products when I got the app Think Dirty. I highly recommend this app, it allows you to scan your products and it breaks down every single ingredient for you in an easy to read format. They rate your product from dirty to clean. My favourite part is that they also have an “our picks” section that they recommend similar products to which you have scanned and that are very safe to use.

We are faced with a very complex problem, however the message is clear. As consumers, we need to stop buying our products if they are packaged in plastic or in other single-use alternatives. As consumers, if we start to demand more sustainable and long-lived products, companies and industries will be forced to start providing what the consumer wants so that the companies remain successful. Also, investing in products with reusable packaging will help to save the consumer money in the long run as these (glass or steel) containers can be washed and reused without any toxic substances leaching out of them. These containers make great storage options for a multitude of things, even your own DIY cosmetics and personal care products that can be made from ingredients found in your kitchen! It is crucial that as a consumer we remain conscious about purchasing plastic items and our purchasing habits can result in a decrease in the amount of plastic and single-use packaging altogether.
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– Tiara


REFERENCES

Engler, Richard. 2012. The complex interaction between marine debris and toxic chemicals in the ocean. United States: Environmental Science and Technology.

Gilbert, Steven. 2012. A small dose of toxicology: the health effects of common chemicals. United States: Healthy World Press.

Living with Endometriosis (part one)

On Thursday November 2nd, 2017 I went into surgery to have a Laparoscopy to remove multiple cysts, endometriomas (chocolate cysts) and scar tissue which resulted from severe stage 4 Endometriosis. This has been a difficult time in my life. I decided to write about my disease and experience, with the hope that I can provide an informative read for those who might also have the same disease or know someone with it.


WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS

Endometriosis is a disease of the endocrine and immune systems that is under-researched, not well-known, and misunderstood. It is a chronic disease which causes unbearable pain, due to similar tissue to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, growing on the outside of the uterus. The misplaced tissue grows and attaches onto other organs in the body. With each period, all of the tissue outside of the uterus fills with blood, however the blood and tissue in the endometrial growths have no way of draining. Instead, internal bleeding, inflammation and scar tissue develop and cause severe pain, infertility, bowel issues, adhesions and other side-effects, including chronic fatigue, immune disorders and allergies. The only way to determine if endometriosis is present is by a laparoscopy, which normally includes a camera being inserted through a small incision to allow the surgeon to look around the internal cavity.


ROAD TO DIAGNOSIS 

2012: My symptoms started to begin. I kept getting sick or getting infections that I could not fight off and I would need multiple treatments of antibiotics. Several other symptoms blossomed. I went through a point where I would make a doctor’s appointment every month and I would sit there and explain all of my symptoms, begging to be listened to. I was told I had an anxiety disorder that caused me to develop “health anxiety” or “illness anxiety disorder” and that I had painful periods, like any other woman, and that I should take more Advil. My doctor told me that my health anxiety would cause me to believe that the symptoms “in my head” were real and that I actually did not have anything wrong with me.

2013: I started to experience a great deal of pain and other disturbances within my intestines and lower abdomen. Multiple symptoms lead me to have an iodine test, which resulted in specialists discovering that I had a multi-nodular thyroid goitre.

2014

2014: In my first year of university, I had to leave class because I had fainted due to the extreme pain. I went into ER only to have a doctor tell me that I probably had a cyst rupture and that all women have cysts that rupture – that it was a natural process. I was told to take an extra-strength Advil.

2015: I experienced even more extremely painful periods and for the first time I was experiencing pain in-between my periods as well. My periods lasted for 8 to 9 days and were very heavy. I started to experience extreme fatigue even though I was sleeping 8 hours a night. My hormone blood-work was getting unusual flags, which resulted in getting an MRI of my brain to see if I had any tumors that were impacting my pituitary gland. Nothing was found, so I was told that it was a mystery as to why my hormones were so out of whack. I also had a colonoscopy done to determine what was causing all of my intestinal issues – from the inside, my intestines were reported to look normal.

2016: I complained about pelvic pain so often that a urine test was always ordered. There was blood in every urine sample I gave, however since my kidney blood-work was fine, I was told that might be “my normal” to have blood in my urine. I started to realize that I was not able to hold my bladder for longer than 30 minutes and it started to be a huge inconvenience.

I hit my low in the end of 2016. I was so depressed that I would curl up in bed and cry for hours at a time. Horrific thoughts and feelings followed me everywhere. My hair was falling out, my skin was peeling, I had no energy whatsoever, my abdomen would bloat so severely that I had a walk-in doctor think I was 8-months pregnant, I was getting sick all the time, my stomach and intestines constantly hurt and I truly believed that I was going to die. I was told that all of these symptoms were a result from my depression. However, I knew something was wrong with me. I knew that something was causing my anxiety and depression, and not the other way around. I have never felt so lost and scared as I did during those months. I decided to go off the pill, which helped with my depression (and it was not helping at all with my growing cysts anyway). I decided that as a last resort I was going to pay to see a naturopath. I brought a 2-inch thick binder full of all of my previous tests and blood-work and in a very short time my naturopath had put the entire puzzle together. She sent me for a detailed blood allergy test – it came back saying I was highly allergic to dairy, gluten (both of which I knew already) but also nuts, seeds, all grains, legumes, eggs, soy, potatoes and corn. She told me that these were the allergies that she would normally see in someone with an autoimmune disease, (Autoimmune Paleo AIP diet) and she thought that with all my other symptoms that I might have Endometriosis. I quit eating all of those foods cold turkey – I felt a difference the next day. However, I was still not feeling 100%, so she told me to set up an appointment with a gynecologist, and so I did.

2017

2017: I had such immense pain almost all of the time in my abdomen and lower back. I had developed an unusual lump on the left side of my abdomen that had a burning sensation. I went for an ultrasound and I was told that I had a hernia. 5 months later I saw a physician specializing in hernias. She told me that she didn’t think it was a hernia and to try hot compresses because it was probably a strained muscle. I had to be very firm with her and I finally convinced her that she should refer me for an MRI. I was put on the end of a long waiting list and months later I had an MRI. A week later the hernia surgeon called me and said “Well, there is no evidence of a hernia, however I think I know what was causing the hernia sensation. There is a significant cyst in that area, as well as several others in your abdomen. You need to make an appointment with another specialist to get this removed as soon as possible, this is a severe case and I believe it is Endometriosis.” There was that word again. Luckily, my gynecologist appointment I had made nearly a year ago was a few days later. I told my gynecologist all of my symptoms and she said she was confident that I had endometriosis and she gave me a form to sign for the Laparoscopic surgery. I was then put on another waiting list, however once the MRI was sent to her, I had a surgery date set up within two months.

Pre-Operation Form: a week before my surgery, I went to my doctor to get a pre-op form completed. She told me that I would probably need one singular day off of school (for my case, this was very incorrect). There was no preparation for this surgery except I had to start fasting at 12AM.

November 2, 2017: 5 years later, at 22 years of age, I was finally going for surgery to remove the disease that had been negatively impacting my quality of life for so long. The surgery and recovery is the most difficult and painful thing I have ever gone through in my life. This disease needs to be taken more seriously and recognized quicker by physicians. [pre and post-surgery details will be discussed in part two]. 

NOV2017


WHAT CAUSES ENDOMETRIOSIS

There are multiple theories on what causes Endometriosis. The body is a very complex system and difficult to understand. However research has shown that exposure to dioxins, found in synthetic chemicals, is directly related to causing endometriosis to develop. These toxins are commonly found in pesticides, herbicides, all plastics, paint, fire retardants and some industrial oils. These chemicals are widely and continually distributed in the environment – and with the increased use of these chemicals, there has been an increase in the amount and severity of Endometriosis. it is clear, now more than ever, that they have negative impacts on the environment, humans and animals and the use of them must be limited or discontinued completely.

Pesticides, herbicides, plastics, flame retardants and pharmaceuticals all have one thing in common, they are all Endocrine Disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals, usually synthetic chemicals, that impact the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure. These endocrine disruptors are absorbed into the human body by the intestines, respiratory system and skin. These endocrine disruptors are also distributed to the fetus during pregnancy through the bloodstream and afterward through breast milk (dioxins bioaccumulate in the body). Endocrine disruptors severely impact the developing fetus and young children the most as humans are most sensitive during their developmental stages. The damage caused cannot be undone. Endocrine Disruptors mimic estrogen, have negative impacts on hormone levels, development & sexual characteristics, cause low reproduction rates or infertility, cause an impaired immune system, forms of cancer, and endometriosis


EXPOSURE TO ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS 

Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, humans are creating their own destruction however, they have the mindset that whatever is man-made must be a miracle. There seems to be no way to escape dioxins, as they are readily created, sold and companies even try to manipulate and lie to consumers about the hidden health concerns their products have. Dioxins are also very persistent. However, there are some ways to decrease dioxin absorption:

Since dioxins bioaccumulate, they are able to concentrate in the food chain. Limiting the amount of meat, fish and dairy products you consume and replacing them with organically grown plant products will limit the amount of dioxins our intestines absorb. If your budget does not include the purchasing of organic produce, there are proper ways of cleaning and removing the outside layers of fruits and vegetables to lower the amount of herbicides and pesticides ingested.

With the high amounts of air pollution that occur today, it is difficult to protect ourselves from air contaminated with dioxins (from pesticides, herbicides, chemical burning & much more). If you know an area has recently been sprayed with any type of chemical it would be best to avoid that area altogether or to use proper safety equipment.

A large part of dioxins are absorbed through water intake. Humans need water to live, and our dependence on plastics has gone too far. Every time plastic is purchased, large portions of it gets deposited in the environment. Plastic sitting in soil or in waterbodies leaches dioxins. Also, every time a man-made fibre is washed (clothes made of polyester and the like), it releases plastic microfibres into our water systems. These plastic microfibres accumulate in our drinking water and the animals and plants that we consume. Then the dioxins are directly absorbed into our bodies. The age of plastic needs to end.

Any type of bleached product exposes us to dioxins. Tampons and pads made from bleached cotton or synthetic fibres contain dioxins. It is recommended that women start to use unbleached alternatives that do not have plastic applicators. When I used to get periods (now I have been artificially induced into menopause) I would purchase Natracare products only.


FUTURE HEALTH 

Treatment options for endometriosis need to be researched and improved. The current excuses for treatment of this disease are causing women more harm than good. I am still in the process of determining a treatment plan that I am comfortable with, as right now my “treatment” is to take the pill every single day until I am 65 (as children are not in the picture). This exposes me to incredible health risks that I am not comfortable with. Women with endometriosis also have a greater risk of developing cancer and autoimmune disorders. It is important to do yearly checkups and to make an appointment with your doctor if you are feeling off.


I am desperately hoping that more posts like this will bring a greater awareness to this disease and the toxic products that cause it. I truly do not want other women to have to suffer through this disease. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, we are natural beings that evolved from the earth, and we will return back into it. That is a natural environmental cycle that does not include synthetics. Let’s start looking out for one another and the environment. Pollution harms so much more than we know. Part Two can be found here.

 

– Tiara