Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Great Reason to Go Chemical Free!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Soon, men and women across the country will be showing their support and raising awareness by posting Facebook statuses, running marathons, getting tattooed, and wearing pink apparel. While some attempts at raising breast cancer awareness may seem silly and futile (posting the color of your bra on Facebook), if the end result is more women getting mammograms because suddenly there are reminders everywhere (even Great Aunt Sally is posting her bra color), then it was worth it.

While most emphasis for Breast Cancer Awareness month is placed on catching the cancer early by getting scanned, it is just as important to educate yourself about ways of preventing breast cancer. Of course, as with all cancers, there is no way to completely prevent developing breast cancer, but there are scientifically proven actions you can take to decrease your chances. According to the Mayo Clinic, ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer include not smoking, limiting alcohol, controlling your weight, exercising, breast-feeding, and avoiding environmental pollution as much as possible.

In today’s society, avoiding environmental pollution can be one of the most challenging efforts, as pollution seems to be present in almost every aspect of our lives. Pollution isn’t only what is emitted into our atmosphere by our vehicles or factory runoff that infiltrates our precious oceans, pollution can also refer to what we are putting in and on our bodies.  The overuse of chemicals in the thousands of products we use over the span of our lives have been linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, as well as many other forms of cancer.

This October, instead of simply raising awareness about breast cancer and wearing your pink shirt to work every Friday, why not take a step and make a change in your life to reduce your risk of breast cancer, no matter how small it may be. One of the easiest ways to do this? Change your laundry detergent.

Did you know that most laundry detergents contain chemicals that have been labeled as “carcinogenic” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)? TideAllGain, and even Arm & Hammer are guilty of pumping their soaps full of synthetic, lab-created chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Recently, Tide was in the spotlight due to the fact that they were using 1,4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen, in their detergent. By constantly wearing clothes that have been washed in harmful chemicals, you are putting yourself and your loved ones at risk.

Several years ago, a mom in St. Petersburg, Florida decided it was time for her family to switch to a chemical-free lifestyle, and laundry detergent was her top priority. Then began the birth of Monica Leonard’s now well-established and booming company, Molly’s Suds. Eye-catching packaging and fresh smelling laundry powder are not even the best parts about Molly’s Suds, it’s what is inside that really matters. The ingredients are as follows: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate, unrefined sea salt, and organic peppermint oil. Nothing dangerous, nothing unrecognizable and impossible to pronounce, and most importantly, nothing carcinogenic. The Environmental Working Group has given Molly’s Suds an “A” rating which is no small feat. The EWG is well known for its thorough research into thousands of products and strict standards.

With so much research backing the dangers of using chemical-filled laundry detergents, making the switch to Molly’s Suds could make a real difference in your life and overall well being. It’s almost Breast Cancer Awareness month, so get out your pink shirt, wash it in Molly’s Suds, and show your support to those who have fought or are currently fighting such a terrible and devastating disease.

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By Courtney Perry

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This isn’t a new topic in the healthy living community, but it’s an important one so I feel the need to cover it here on Molly’s Suds Baby Steps. Monosodium Glutamate is food additive that has been under the spotlight for many years, and there is much research that proves it can have negative side effects when ingested.

MSG

I used to think “I’m safe from MSG because I don’t eat Chinese food”, but doing some research into the widely used additive proved me wrong. MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and can be found in thousands of products, here are some of the most common ones:

  • Hamburger Helper
  • Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
  • Progresso soups
  • Campbell’s soups
  • Certain flavors of Wheat Thins (this one shocked me!)
  • Pringles chips (the seasoned varieties)
  • Doritos
  • Planters nuts
  • Fritos
  • Ramen noodles
  • McDonald’s
  • KFC
  • Burger King
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Taco Bell

While the FDA has labeled MSG as “generally recognized as safe”, they still require it be put on a label when added to a food. The symptoms that have been reported to the FDA as a result of ingesting MSG include headache, flushing, sweating, facial pressure, numbness and tingling in the neck and face, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, chest pain, nausea, and weakness (source). MSG is a controversial topic because some researchers have indicated that they can find no link between MSG and these symptoms, while others confirm that the symptoms are without a doubt connected to MSG. According to the FDA website:

“Over the years, FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, we were never able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects.

These adverse event reports helped trigger FDA to ask the independent scientific group Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to examine the safety of MSG in the 1990s. FASEB’s report concluded that MSG is safe. The FASEB report identified some short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food. However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. Consuming more than 3 grams of MSG without food at one time is unlikely.”

In a contrasting report, Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon explains, “MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.”

This article from Dr. Mercola’s site is a great resource for learning more about the harmful effects of MSG. In it, he explains that while “monosodium glutamate” has to be labeled on product ingredients, MSG can be hidden in many different ingredients, so you can ingest it without even realizing it. According to Dr. Mercola, the following ingredients ALWAYS contain MSG:

  • autolyzed yeast
  • glutamate
  • calcium caseinate
  • gelatin
  • glutamic acid
  • hydrolyzed protein
  • yeast food
  • yeast extract
  • textured protein
  • yeast nutrient

The following ingredients OFTEN contain MSG:

  • Flavors and flavorings
  • natural chicken flavoring
  • stock
  • anything enzyme modified
  • protease
  • soy sauce
  • carrageenan
  • corn starch
  • malt extract
  • maltodextrin
  • citric acid
  • natural pork flavoring
  • soy protein
  • pectin
  • powdered mil
  • barley malt

Is your brain suddenly racing through your canned and packaged foods in the pantry, these ingredients looking familiar? Did you not even realize you may be ingesting MSG because it has been hidden in one of the above? If you are experiencing any of the symptoms related to MSG consumption and haven’t been able to pinpoint why you are having them, try cutting out MSG in ALL forms to see if it eases them. People who suffer from migraines are especially warned by physicians to avoid MSG. Of course, talk to your doctor about your symptoms, too.

So how can you avoid MSG altogether? One way is to do a quick internet search before eating a food, if you have time. Www.msgtruth.org has compiled a massive list of specific foods that should be avoided because they contain MSG. Another way is to simply (or not so simply sometimes) eat clean and all-natural. This means cooking from whole vegetables, making each meal from scratch and knowing that the ingredients you are 100% safe and natural. If you are buying something packaged, it can be so hard to tell if it contains preservatives and flavor enhancers like MSG because it can be hidden behind so many different names. Make sure in addition to your food labels you are reading your beauty product labels! If your shampoo contains the words “hydrolyzed”, “proten”, or “amino acids”, it might contain MSG.

Finally, the easiest way to avoid MSG is to do research and increase your knowledge about what certain foods contain it naturally (tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, mushrooms), and where it may be added in. http://www.truthinlabeling.org has compiled a great list of the many names MSG goes by. Check it out, get informed, and cut out the MSG!

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By Courtney Perry

Hand Soap Recommendations

When shopping for hand and body soaps, there are a several ingredients to be on the lookout for, as they have been linked to skin problems (ironically enough) and organ toxicity. Most hand soaps contain at least one of the following harmful ingredients:  Sodium Laurel Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Parabens, Diethanolamine (DEA), Phthalates, and artificial fragrance. Here is a great article listing other ingredients to be wary of, and why.

While there are hundreds of soaps that contain these icky ingredients, rest assured because there many safe, non-toxic alternatives! Here are some recommendations:

Everyday Shea Hand Soap– Their wonderful foaming soap comes in lavender, vanilla mint, or unscented. Everyday Shea also makes bubble bath, shampoo and conditioner, and body lotion!

everyday sheaevery day shea ingredients

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps– A versatile, safe, great-smelling product! If you have never tried Dr. Bronner’s you are missing out! You can dilute Dr. Bronner’s and use it in a foamer, too.

Alaffia Shea and Coffee Cafe Au Lait Goat Milk Soap– Yes, the name is really that long. But the soap lives up to it’s title! Ingredients are Saponified Unrefined Shea Butter, Virgin Coconut Oil and Unrefined Palm Kernel Oil, Raw Goat Milk, Yirgacheffe Coffee, Vanilla Extract, Orange Essential Oil. Not sure whether you want to taste it or wash your hands with it, huh? It can be found in Whole Foods stores or here on Amazon.

alaffia

Clean Well– This company makes an assortment of products, but their soaps and hand sanitizers are especially great!

cleanwell

The Honest Company- Founded by Jessica Alba, her products are made safe and all-natural for your favorite little munchkins. The ingredients for her soaps are listed on this page. Inexpensive, too!

Nutribiotic Coconut Oil Soap– I discovered this at a small store in Asheville last year and was excited to find that it can be ordered online! I bring it with me everywhere in a travel contanier and love how smooth it leaves your hands.

coconut soap


Dessert Essence Castile Hand Soapcontains coconut oil, olive oil, and and tea tree oil for a great, nourishing cleanse.

Hugo & Debra Naturals- They have many safe soaps, body washes, and bath soaks that all smell devine

Kiss My Face Foaming Castile Soap– comes in a variety of scents, all wonderful!

kissmyface
Purple PrairieI love this company! You can tell by looking at their handmade soap bars that they are all natural and made with love. Check out wonderful scents like eucalyptus lemon, ginger clove, patchouli vanilla, and more!

Easy homemade hand soap recipe– The “homemade mommy” shares a quick and easy recipe for DIY hand soap on her site.

Easy-Homemade-Foaming-Hand-SoapWhat is your favorite all-natural hand soap?

By Courtney Perry

FAQ: What Is rBGH?

Q: Sometimes I see dairy products labeled “made with milk from cows not treated with rBGH.” What is rBGH, and should I only be buying products that do not contain it?

A: rBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and is a man-made hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production by 10 to 15 percent. rBGH (sometimes also listed as rBST) has been legal in the U.S. since 1993, but several other countries including Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have completely outlawed the hormone, not willing to take the risk of ingesting milk from cows pumped full of chemicals and genetically engineered hormones. When the FDA approved rBGH use for dairy cows, there had only been one study done regarding its safety for human consumption. The study was done on 30 rats, and lasted only 90 days. The company who conducted the study was none other than Monsanto, the same group who has been heavily protested for years due to its GMO-filled products.

monsanto

When deciding whether to buy rBGH-free dairy products or not, you should consider the possible side effects of drinking milk from cows treated with this hormone. Two of the biggest questions are:

1. Does consuming products of rBGH-treated cows increase the growth hormone IGF-1 in humans?

“Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1). While humans naturally have IGF-1, elevated levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Although no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship.” source 

2. Cows treated with rBGH develop udder infections more often than those that aren’t treated with it, meaning they are put on antibiotics more often. When humans ingest milk of the cows injected with large amounts of both rBGH and antibiotics, are they potentially putting themselves in danger of antibiotic resistance?

“To treat mastitis outbreaks, the dairy industry relies on antibiotics.  Critics of rBGH point to the subsequent increase in antibiotic use (which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria) and inadequacies in the federal government’s testing program for antibiotic residues in milk.” source 

In addition to potentially being harmful to humans, I also worry about the animals’ safety when treated with rBGH. This fact sheet lists the side effects of using rBGH on cows, for me it is even more motivation to quit buying products containing milk from rBGH animals altogether.

Like always, I believe it is best to go with your most natural option when buying food. Because rBGH is required to be listed on the label if included in the product, it is not hard to avoid. Also, check out the chart below created by the Center for Food Safety to see a list of products made without the milk from rBGH-treated cows. 

Certified Organic Produced Without rbGH May be Produced with rbGH
Alta Dena Organics
Butterworks Farm
Harmony Hills Dairy
Horizon Organic
Morningland Dairy
Natural by Nature
Organic Valley Dairy
Radiance Dairy
Safeway Organic Brand
Seven Stars Farm
Straus Family Creamery
Stonyfield Organic
Wisconsin Organics
National
Alta Dena
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Brown Cow Farm
Crowley Cheese of Vermont
Franklin County Cheese
Grafton Village Cheese
Great Hill Dairy
Lifetime Dairy
Stonyfield Farms
Yoplait yogurtsWest Coast
Alpenrose Dairy
Berkeley Farms
Clover Stornetta Farms
Joseph Farms Cheese
Sunshine Dairy Foods
Tillamook Cheese
Wilcox Family FarmsMidwest
Chippewa Valley Cheese
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Promised Land Dairy
Westby Cooperative CreameryEast Coast
Blythedale Farm Cheese
Crescent Creamery
Derle Farms (milk with “no rbST” label only)
Erivan Dairy Yogurt
Farmland Dairies
Oakhurst Dairy
Wilcox Dairy (rbST-free dairy line only)
Colombo (General Mills)
Dannon
Kemps (aside from “Select” brand)
Land O’ Lakes
Lucerne
Parmalat
Sorrento

 

Look for the "not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST " label!

Look for the “not from cows treated with rBGH or rBST ” label!

Carrageenan: Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy

This day and age, it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to read an ingredients label before buying a product. Many times I have been shocked by the preservatives and unnecessary additives that are put into foods, especially when they are labeled in a way that makes them seem healthy and all natural. If an ingredient looks like a rocket ship launch code, complete with numbers and obscure letters that don’t actually form words, I put it back on the shelf immediately.

But what if the words you skip over because they look like real foods are actually harmful to your body? A common word that is brushed off, mostly because many people don’t even know what it is, is carrageenan.

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Are you having flashbacks to the box of ice cream sitting in your freezer, or your tube of toothpaste in the bathroom? That’s right, carrageenan can be found in hundreds of different products. It comes from a natural source, so technically a product can still be called “all natural” if it contains carrageenan. The problem is that just because it’s “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

 First, let’s look at all the different names for carrageenan: Algas, Algue Rouge Marine, Carrageen, Carrageenin, Carragenano, Carragenina, Carragheenan, Carraghénane, Carraghénine, Chondrus crispus, Chondrus Extract, Euchema species, Extrait de Mousse d’Irlande, Galgarine, Gigartina chamissoi, Gigartina mamillosa, Gigartina skottsbergii, Irish Moss Algae, Irish Moss Extract, Mousse d’Irlande, Red Marine Algae.

Just a few to remember, right?

Carrageenan comes from boiling a type of seaweed that is commonly found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is used to thicken, stabilize, and make foods or products gelatinous. It has zero nutritional value and is purely used to hold things together, which is why it’s often found in otherwise healthy products like yogurt and protein shakes. The main health concerns associated with carrageenan are gastrointestinal related. Those with gastrointestinal disorders like IBS are often cautioned by their physicians to avoid carrageenan whenever possible. According to Dr. Joanne Tobacman of University of Illinois School of Medicine, “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding.” Dr. Tobacman even found in her research with lab animals that carrageenan can be linked to gastrointestinal cancer. 

The following is an excerpt from beyondpesticides.org regarding their conclusion that carrageenan is NOT healthy and should be banned from foods:

“Results from the 2005 Marinalg Working Group’s tests clearly show that degraded carrageenan, a substance that is known to cause colon inflammation and is classified by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen,” was present in all samples of food-grade carrageenan. Therefore, all carrageenan should be prohibited from foods, especially organic foods.” The full report is located here, and it is worth reading. It will make you wary of ever purchasing a product containing carrageenan again.

So where else can carrageenan be found?

  • chocolate
  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • milk
  • cheese
  • ice cream
  • almond milk
  • soy milk
  • rice milk
  • deli meat
  • toothpaste
  • juice
  • chip dip
  • frozen pizza
  • protein shakes
  • salad dressing
  • infant formula

The list could keep going and going. Thankfully, the Cornucopia Institute has put together a fantastic list of organic foods to avoid due to carrageenan as an added ingredient. It can be found HERE. If you would like to save the list to your computer for future reference, click here to download the PDF:  Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan.

If a product contains carrageenan, a company is legally obligated to put it on the ingredients label so thankfully that makes it not too difficult to avoid. From major organizations and groups to individual people, there are thousands protesting the use of carrageenan in foods, and you can help! Sign this petition to tell the FDA that you don’t agree with carrageenan in your food, and there ARE other alternatives. Every person and every voice (or electronic signature) counts!

 

By Courtney Perry

The Hidden Dangers of Borax

Borax has been considered a “natural” and “green” cleaning agent since the 1890’s when it was discovered in Tibet. Many people view it as a safe alternative to chemical-heavy products, and keep it as a household staple because of its versatility. It can be used as a dish detergent, stain remover, ant killer, rust remover, counter cleaner, and the list goes on and on. Like baking soda, its uses seem endless. The difference? Baking soda hasn’t been linked to hormone disruption.

The Environmental Working Group published an article in 2011 outlining their concerns with Borax. It is a skin and respiratory irritant, but worst of all, has been proven in animal studies to disrupt the body’s natural production of hormones.

“Borax and its cousin, boric acid, may disrupt hormones and harm the male reproductive system. Men working in boric acid-producing factories have a greater risk of decreased sperm count and libido. According to EPA’s safety review of these pesticides, chronic exposure to high doses of borax or boric acid causes testicular atrophy in male mice, rats and dogs.

Animal studies reviewed by the EPA indicate that while the female reproductive system is less sensitive to borax, exposure to it can also lead to reduced ovulation and fertility. Borax and boric acid can cross the placenta, affecting fetal skeletal development and birth weight in animal studies of high-dose exposures.”

To date, not many studies have been done regarding what amount of Borax is safe to use in the home. Because of this, the EWG recommends not using it at all. The 20 Mule Team Borax Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) did confirm that animals given borax by mouth showed a disruption in sperm and male fertility in general. They also stated, “Boric acid produces developmental effects, including reduced body weight, malformations and death, in the offspring of pregnant animals given boric acid by mouth.”

You may have noticed that the Environmental Working Group and the MSDS refer to both Borax and Boric Acid. They are not the same, but are close cousins. To clarify, here are the differences:

Borax: Other names are sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. According to the 20 Mule Team website  “Borax is the common name for sodium tetraborate: a naturally occurring substance produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes.”

Boric Acid: An acid crystalline compound derived from borax. Boric acid may be created by mixing borax with a mineral acid, such as hydrochloric acid. Read more about boric acid toxicity here.

If you currently use borax in your home, you may want to replace it with something less questionable and potentially harmful, and it will be easier than you think! Check out our post here on homemade and chemical-free cleaning products to get you started! 

20muleteam

 

By Courtney Perry

All Natural Shaving Solutions

Does your shaving cream ingredients list contain words you can’t pronounce, or look anything like the following (taken from the back of a popular shave cream)?

Water , Palmitic Acid , Triethanolamine , Stearic Acid , Isopentane , Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Glyceride , Sorbitol , Isobutane , PVP , Panthenol , Fragrance , Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E) , Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil , Hydrogenated Olive Oil , PEG 90M , BHT , BHA , Red 40 Lake (CI 16035)

Like many shampoos and soaps loaded with toxic ingredients, shaving creams can be full of them, too. Here are some all natural alternatives to give you silky smooth skin without all of the unnecessary chemicals!

Olive Oil- That’s right, just olive oil! It only takes a tiny bit to cover your entire leg, face, or wherever else you may be shaving.

Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Shea ButterLittlehouseliving.com has posted an easy and scrumptious looking recipe for shave cream! Her site shows a step by step tutorial on how to make the shave cream, pictures included!

shavecream

Dr. Bronner’s Soap– If you keep a bottle or bar of Dr. Bronner’s in your shower, you may not need anything else! It can be used as a soap, shampoo, and shave cream. Anything that takes the place of three different bottles in my tiny shower is a winner, in my opinion.

drbronners

Sweet Almond Oil– Moisturizing, safe, and has a nice, light fragrance. Click here to purchase on Amazon!

almondoil

Apricot Oil– Also from planttherapy.com is apricot oil! It is very high in vitamin A so it does a great job of nourishing your skin and repairing cells.

Rosemary Mint Homemade Shaving Cream– Similar to the coconut oil, shea butter, and olive oil recipe but infused with essential oils. Makes for a wonderfully scented shave cream to make you fall in love with shaving again!

Green Shave All Natural Shaving Cream– Creamy, eucalyptus scented, all natural- what more could you want?

eucalyptus

By Courtney Perry