Whatever you do...be it eat, drink or shampoo

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
This is the blog post where I share my not-so-cohesive ideas about living an increasingly healthy lifestyle. The reason it will be not-so-cohesive is because, ironically, I'm coming down with something and my head is achy, my sinuses are clogging and my general faculties are groggy. Having said that, this is a post I've been meaning to write for a while - so why let a little mid-semester cold keep me from it? Prepare for lots of broth and baking soda ahead.  

There are four things that I've been intending to do in an effort to live more health-consciously, and three of them have been implemented, at long last. The fourth will, alas, likely have to wait until January. My reasons for these life changes are many, but some of the more significant include the desire to be a good steward of my body so that I can honour God in my body, a growing awareness of the degree of toxicity to which I expose my body (and brain),the desire to overcome the sometimes heavy weight of moodiness/weariness/now-and-then-depression, and (please, no need to start rumours here) the desire to get my body ready for potentially one day carrying and caring for another life. So, "What are these changes?" you might ask.

  •  GAPS diet - This stands for the "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" diet . A good friend of mine got me onto this and currently has her family on it. More information is available at the websites listed below, but very briefly, the premise behind this diet is that for many people, our gut is populated with bad gut flora (for a number of reasons, which you can read about on the sites) and as a result toxins are able to seep from our gut into the bloodstream and eventually into our brain. The bad gut flora breaks down the blood/brain barrier, which as you can imagine has a myriad of negative consequences. Two of the ones that are particularly relevant to me are poor digestion and moodiness/irritability/occasional depression. So what is a girl to do?

    According to the GAPS diet, the key is in giving my gut a chance to recover by starving the bad gut flora of the things they thrive on so that they die and disappear, and facilitating the re-population of good gut flora by eating certain types of foods, particularly probiotics. The do not eats consist of sugar (refined sugar - white, brown, whatever...we get so much of this in our North American diet that it's ridiculous), grains (wheat, rice, qinoa, oats, etc. These aren't bad in and of themselves, but they're harder to digest and so if you are filling yourself with them, your body is concentrated on digesting them and isn't able to take the energy to counter the bad gut flora; moreover, we definitely get too much of this in our diet as well), and starchy foods that are converted into sugar in your body (good-bye potatoes). The do eats consist of homemade meat broths (chicken, beef, fish...organic or specialty, so that they aren't full of hormones and antibiotics), meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs and probiotics (such as organic plain yogurt). I've been eating this latter way for about a month and a half, and have been feeling a lot more energetic and less moody - of course, this was before I broke the diet for a wedding and Thanksgiving, and go figure, now I'm sick! ;) Okay, so the correlation of the two isn't necessarily one to one. But needless to say, I'm looking forward to going back on the diet.

    I'm going to be starting with the intro diet, which is much more restrictive, but is important in promoting initial and faster healing of the gut (to "heal and seal" the gut, as they say). After that, my goal is to spend approximately two years following the diet pretty strictly. It might seem intense at first, but really - based on my month and a half experience - it's been not only doable, but enjoyable. It actually feels good to be eating healthily and to take control of that aspect of who I am. And I've gotten much more creative with recipes (banana pancakes? cabbage role casserole? superb sphaghetti squash and swiss-chard infused meatballs? delish!). If you're interested in finding out more, here are some useful sites. The first is the "official site" (there is a book you can buy...but who reads expensive books anymore with the convenience of the internet?!...kidding), and the others are blogs from people who are health conscious and are doing or have done the diet for various reasons. These other blogs are a bit more readable, boiling down the information to the basics.
  •  Shampoo-free! Say what? No shampoo? It's true! Starting last Saturday I have ceased to use commercial shampoo and conditioner products on my oh-so-long-desperately-in-need-of-a-cut hair. The reason? It's toxic. Do you know the chemicals that are in these products? I didn't, though I'd heard whisperings on the winds at dark hours of the night...or something. Indeed, many of the products we dump on our precious heads or lather on our beautiful skin have been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and just downright dangerous over the long run. Follow this link to see a quick run-down of the warnings. Not only that, but the products we use strip our heads and hair of their natural oils and can actually contribute to greater oiliness! But never fear, long before the mid-twentieth century women were washing their hair and still managing to look fabulous. So what can you wash it with that isn't so toxic? I've starting making up a 'shampoo' out of 1 Tbsp baking soda mixed in 1 cup water, which I pour on my wet hair (scalp) in the shower and then massage around for two minutes before rinsing out. Then I get 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar mixed in 1 cup water and dip my hair into the jar, pouring the excess mixture higher up on my hair, but avoiding the scalp. This works as a conditioner - and it actually does work! I'm currently in the "adjustment period" where my hair is supposed to be super oily because I've stopped using shampoo. It actually looks and feels quite nice, so that might just my luck! But at any rate, this adjustment period is different for different people - but once you're over the two to three weeks, your oils get all nice and balanced and your hair (apparently) looks great. I'll let you know when I get there, but I've definitely got no complaints right now!
  • More natural beauty products! In addition to saying good-bye to shampoo and conditioner, I've also moved on to natural deodorant (so as to avoid the aluminum that's in our wonderful anti-perspirants); this is a bit pricey and it too has an "adjustment period" as your body has to get used to a different way of dealing with the pleasant aroma of sweat. At the moment I just don't have the time to try some of the home-made recipes, so I'm sticking with something from the health food store. Seems to be working - but you can be the judge of that next time we're together! I've also started washing my face with unpasteurized honey, which acts as an anti-bacterial cleaning agent. I'm not quite convinced that this is working for me, but I'll give it a few more weeks (I might just need some better honey). Still, it tastes nice at the end of the day...! This was an idea I got off of the Crunchy Betty blog.
  • Exercise? This is the fourth item on my list and, what with the rest of my responsibilities and endeavors, will have to remain on the back-burner a while longer. Having said that, I do try to go on walks or walk to the grocery stores as often as I have a chance. Every little bit counts in staying active, right?
That is all for now. Phew, that took a while to write! But hopefully it was of some interest to some of you. Remember that these are just things that I've been implementing for myself and I'm in no way a professional or authority on matters of health - you need to find out what's best for you.

Care to share your experiences with any the above? What do you do to promote a healthy lifestyle?


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