Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flax Seeds Benefits

When you think of acne treatment you probably think about something you put ON your skin to zap away the pimples. I know I was looking for that magic topical potion as I battled pretty moderate acne well in to my late 20s. But the thing that cured my acne wasn't a soap, a lotion or a toner. It was something that treated my skin from within: flax seeds.

Flax seeds are a triple threat against acne. First of all they're high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce inflammatory responses in the body, including the skin. Second they contain hormone-balancing lignans. Lignans have been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, an enzyme involved in the conversion of testosterone to DHT (its more active form). In other words, it helps to balance the production of androgens, which, in excess can cause acne. Third, essential fatty acids strengthen the skin's cell membranes, thus hydrating the innermost layer of skin. This makes skin less suseptible to hormonal fluctuations and more resilient to infection.

Why do we sell the FlaxPro Flax seeds? Because I've tried other brands without success. They didn't have the same benefits because they weren't as fresh and bioavailable. With air-tight packaging and a proprietary processing method that increases nutrient availability, these flaxpro seeds were superior. Plus they're easy to use. Because of their special processing, there's no need to grind! Why? Because the seeds are heated to a low temperature that's not high enough to affect the omega-3s, but just enough to reduce excess moisture in the seed. This makes them easeir for the body to break down and thus more bioavailable. (I know--sounds weird not having to grind flax seeds, but it's true!)

Flax Seeds for women's health
For years I struggled with estrogen dominance. Getting rid of parabens, phlalates, aluminum chlorohydrate and other xenoestrogens was a giant step in the right direction for me. [Note: Men--if you're squeamish about feminine issues, you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs.] Several years ago now, before I started this company I was using conventional chemical-filled body and skin care products and eating not-so-great conventional foods. My periods were way off kilter. I'd go for six months without a sign of a period, and then I'd spot for five months straight. Once I figured out everything I was doing wrong, became outraged with the chemical-filled products on the market, changed my lifestyle, and started Bubble and Bee, I stopped the extreme periods and was able to have one once about every three months. Then I met flax seeds. Hello regular periods! But how? Here's the science behind it.

Flax seeds contain high amounts of anti-oxidant compounds called lignans. Lignans are a group of phytochemicals that have weakly estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties. One study done at the University of Rochester found that women who ate flax seeds during the study had a higher raio of LP progesterone to estradiol. What does this mean? It means that flax seeds balanced the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. For women with estrogen dominance syndrome, this can mean a lot, including the diminishing of fibroids, cysts, PMS, and the regulation of periods. In addition, the study found that eating flax seeds lengthened the second half of the cycle (the progesterone-dominant half), leading to more consistent ovulation. In the study, all of the women who ate flax seeds ovulated every month for the three month study. Conversely, the women in the study who didn't eat any flax seeds did experience some anovulatory cycles. What does this mean in plain English? That daily use of flax seeds can help promote hormone balance and fertility. In addition, one study found that eating flax seeds decreased hot flashes by 60%.
Flax seeds can also help with diminishing cramps. The body turns omega-3 fatty acids into series 1 and 3 anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like substances made by the body from essential fatty acids). The prostiglandins are the body's natural defense against inflammation and pain. So flax seeds can actually help decrease cramps and may aid in curbing some of the symptoms of endometriosis, adenomyosis, and other inflammatory symptoms during a woman's cycle. Which brings us to...

Flax Seeds for fighting inflammation
These prostaglandins are also helpful in decreasing inflammation througout the body, and may help to control inflammatory diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis. [Personal note: I haven't had to use my asthma inhaler once since I started eating flax seeds].

Flax Seeds for bone health
In addition, ALA found in flaxseeds promotes bone health by helping to prevent excessive bone turnover-when consumption of foods rich in this omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet. (Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Nutrition Journal) Researchers think this is most likely because omega-6 fats are converted into pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, while omega-3 fats are metabolized into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. (Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances made in our bodies from fatty acids.) Studies also showed that eating about an ounce of ground flaxseed each day will affect the way estrogen is handled in postmenopausal women in such a way that offers protection against breast cancer but will not interfere with estrogen's role in normal bone maintenance.

Flax Seeds for hearth health and cancer fighting
Omega-3 fats are used to produce substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Omega-3 fats are also needed to produce flexible cell membranes. Cell membranes are the cell's gatekeepers, allowing in needed nutrients while promoting the elimination of wastes. While important for everyone, flexible cell membranes are critical for persons with diabetes since flexible cell membranes are much better able to respond to insulin and to absorb glucose than the stiff membranes that result when the diet is high in saturated and/or hydrogenated (trans-) fats. In the colon, omega-3 fats help protect colon cells from cancer-causing toxins and free radicals, leading to a reduced risk for colon cancer.

Flax Seeds for lowering cholesterol
In a study involving 40 patients with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL), daily consumption of 20 grams of ground flaxseed was compared to taking a statin drug. After 60 days, significant reductions were seen in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol-in both groups. Those receiving flaxseed did just as well as those given statin drugs!

For detailed information about the studies cited, visit these sources:


Where can I get FlaxPro Flax Seeds?
Made by NutraPro International, FlaxPro Flax Seeds aren't distributed in stores anywhere outside of Utah. The first and only way you can get these incredible seeds outside of Utah is through our website. We have chosen these flax seeds for their high level of freshness and nutrient availability. If you've ever tried other brands of flax seeds and found they tasted fishy, you weren't getting all the benefits of the seed. Rancid flax seeds do you no good. That's why we've chosen these special seeds that will reach you with optimal freshness.

Which ones are better? Golden or brown? I personally prefer the golden, but nutritionally they are identical. Taste-wise there's not much dirfference either.

How do you use the flax seeds? I recommend eating two tablespoons each day. You don't need to grind them like other flax seeds. They're very versatile--sprinkle them on soups or salads, add them to pastas, breads, or even on pizza. Put them in your morning smoothie or on your cereal. Or just eat them right from the canister--the possibilities are endless.

How much do you have to eat?
I recommend eating a minimum of two tablespoons a day.

Everyone's body and health is different, so I can't tell you that they're going to solve your particular problem. However, I can tell you that they've worked for me and countless others that have tried them.

This information has not been reviewed by the FDA. Neither the product nor this information is intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Truly Natural Hair Care

We've covered myths about hair care and talked about some chemicals to avoid--let's talk about caring for your hair without subjecting yourself to loads of synthetic chemicals. But first, we need to understand the physiology/chemistry of hair.

Hair is quite complex on a microscopic level. There are three parts of the hair strand--the cortex, the medulla and the cuticle. The cortex is the innermost layer of the hair, comprised of tiny coiled strands. The cortex is very important because it determines the shape and color of your hair. The shape of the tiny coils determine if your hair is straight, wavy or curly. When you style your hair through heat, you're temporarily re-shaping the molecular bonds of these coils within your hair. When you get your hair wet, it disrupts these molecular bonds and your hair goes back to it's normal texture. Perms and chemical straightening treatments permanently reconfigure these chemical bonds. The cortex is also the home of the pigment of your hair. When you get your hair colored, pigments are deposited in the hair's cortex.

The medulla is a hollow shaft that appears only in some hair strands. Scientists aren't quite sure of the function of the medulla, however, they do know that it does help determine how light and color reflect off the hair.

The cuticle is probably the most important part of the hair--it's the part of the hair that you see and feel. It protects the cortex and determines the strength of the hair. The cuticle is set up in layers, almost like scales (see photo). When hair is damaged, these scales are broken or lifted up. The more lifted the scales of the cuticle are, the more prone your hair is to damage. When the scales are lifted, hair feels brittle, dull, dry, and hard to comb through. (This is where the concept of "dry" hair comes from.) But when the scales are laying flat, the cortex is protected and the hair is stronger. So the key to healthy hair is simply to make sure that the cuticle is laying flat and tight. Okay, I'll admit--there is some moisture content of both water and oil to healthy hair, but you don't need a deep conditioner to get it there. Dry hair problems rarely have to do with moisture content--the problem is the cuticle is raised or damaged. Just getting your hair wet saturates the hair shaft, and typically the scalp creates enough oil to give the hair an adequate amount of lipids. The real key to healthy hair is to tighten up the cuticle so the moisture stays there and the cortex is protected. So, how do you get your cuticle to lay flat? It's actually quite simple.

When hair is alkaline, the cuticle is raised. When hair is acidic, the cuticle lays flat. When you get a color treatment, a strong alkali (like ammonia) is applied to the hair--this makes the cuticle open up so the colors can then be deposited in to the cortex of the hair. On a daily basis, you want to make sure that your hair is in an acidic state so that it is strong, shiny and manageable.

Most shampoos you find in stores are made with synthetic detergents. No matter how gentle they are, these detergents can break down the cuticle of the hair over time--that's why your hair feels so weird and hard to comb through after you shampoo, and why you have to use conditioner. Hair cuticle is made up of keratin--a type of protien. Conditioners contain hydrolyzed protiens, polymers (like polyquaterniums), and silicone products (like dimethicone and petasiloxane) to replace the broken down keratin of your hair. If you don't strip the hair with detergents in the first place, you'll find you don't need conditioner.

Here are a few TRULY natural options that don't strip hair, protect and acidify it.

Natural Saponins
One great option is to use an herbal rinse with herbs containing natural saponins. Saponins are naturally-ocurring compounds that act like soap, lifting dirt and oil. A few plants with natural saponins are soapnuts, soapwort root, and yucca root. You can make a tea with one or more of these herbs and rinse your hair with this tea. It won't give you much lather, but the tea will gently clean your hair.

The down-side: you have to make the tea every time you wash your hair

The upside: a really natural and gentle option.

Clay Shampoo
Clays are another great natural choice. Clays absorb oils and lift them off your hair without damaging hair. (You're probably all familiar with Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash). You just apply a big dollop of mud to your hair, massage scalp, and rinse out. It may feel weird not having lather in your hair, but it works!

The down-side: Clays are ever so slightly alkaline, so be sure to follow up with a diluted vinegar rinse so your hair is acidic. Also, can be a bit messy having clay in your bath or shower.

The up-side: No chemicals on your skin or down the drain.

Castile Soap Shampoo

This is the method that great-grandma used! A soap, not a detergent, cleans the hair. You still get that lather that you're used to, and you don't have to worry about chemical preservatives, detergents, or coatings. Wash with a gentle castile soap and then follow up with a vinegar rinse. Soap is naturally alkaline--that's why we recommend using vinegar after our shampoo. The vinegar tightens up that cuticle, making the hair strong, smooth and shiny again.

The down-side: if you have hard water, soap creates soap scum in your hair. (Although there are some workarounds)

The Up-Side: great lather with no chemicals.

One note--some castile-based shampoos add vinegar or lemon juice to the shampoo to lower its pH. However, you're still going to need to use a vinegar rinse if you want your hair to be acidic. When you add an acid to the soap, a chemical reaction ocurrs and the alkali is neutralized. If the overall pH of the soap reaches neutral or acidic, the soap is rendered completely useless and it turns in to slime. So just because the castile soap shampoo has vinegar or lemon juice added to it, it's still alkaline.

No matter what method you prefer, when you switch from a conventional shampoo and conditioner, there is a hair detox period where the previous chemical coatings you've been using are being removed. During this time your hair may be flighty or just feel funky. The detox period usually lasts about a week to ten days. But after these chemical coatings are removed, your hair will be soft, shiny and truly healthy. Because these chemicals are being removed, some damage may be revealed. Don't think that the natural shampoo is damaging your hair--it's simply revealing the damage. If you do notice that you have split ends or damage--get a trim. Your hair will instantly feel healthier.

Have more questions? Visit this page.

NOTE: Be sure to rinse the shampoo out with water first before you do the vinegar rinse. Otherwise the soap turns to slime in your hair that's hard to get out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

5 Hidden Hair Care Chemicals

You probably already know the basics of which chemicals to avoid--SLES, parabens, phlalates, and "fragrance," so today I thought I'd go a little deeper and get in to some chemicals you may not be quite as familiar with.

I mentioned this chemical in my article yesterday, so I thought I'd flesh out more details today. A common ingredient in hair coloring treatments, PPD is a strong contact allergen. Some people have severe allergic reactions to PPD, even resulting in death. According to the EPA, PPD "may cause severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans." Yes, you read that right--coma! PPD is created from coal tar and is used in the manufacturing of rubber chemicals and textile dyes. Certain people have severe allergies to PPD, and can even be sensitive to black inks and clothes. And PPD is sneaky--sometimes companies add it to henna to create a darker hue. So you may think that you're using a safer product, but a "henna" can be just as bad as a synthetic dye. There are also "natural" hair dyes without ammonia, but they still contain PPD. So when choosing a hair dye, even if it's a henna, read the ingredients to make sure you're truly getting a natural product.
Found in: Aveda Hair Colors, Clairol Herbal Essences Hair Colors, L'Oreal Preference, Creme of Nature Hair Color, Dark & Lovely (to name a few).

#2 Butylated Hydroxytolulene (BHT)
BHT is a suspected carcinogen, a skin toxin, an immune system toxin, a neurotoxin, an endocrine disruptor, and is bioaccumulative. It's found in shampoos and conditioners as a masking and fragrance ingredient, in addition to a preservative. And wait a sounds a little too familiar. Dang it--it's in my Trident gum! I guess that's going in the trash.
Found in: Bumble and Bumble Dehydration Therapy Complex, Tigi Bed Head Stick, Africa's Best Organics Hair relaxer Products (to name a few.) It's also in numerous facial creams.

This preservative found in shampoo, conditioner, hair colors, hairsprays, and scalp treatments, is a skin toxin that can cause an immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments. It was first introduced as a cosmetic ingredient in the 70s, but after it caused chemical burns, it had to be restricted to wash-off products only. A couple products it's found in: Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Colors, Revlon Colorsilk Ammonia-Free Hair color, Huggies Detangler Shampoo, modern organics shampoo, Avon Kids Bubble Bath.

#4 Isobutane
This common hairspray propellant is not only flammable, but can also cause skin, eye and lung irritations. According to the Environmental Canada Domestic Substance List, it's suspected to be carcinogenic, genotoxic, and persistent. It can also be contaminated with butadiene, which is a known carcinogen. It's most harmful when it's airborn, which is exactly the form it's used in with hairspray. Some products it's found in: Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, Elizabeth Arden Mousse Foundation, Tigi Catwalk Extra Strong Mousse, Herbal Essences Mousse, Dove Foam Conditioner Volumizing Color.

#5 Triethanolamine
Also known as TEA, this ingredient used in styling gels can be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines. In addition, it can aggrivate asthma, is a skin sensitizer that can cause blistering and burning and is also a known immune system toxin. In addition to being in styling gels, it's found in makeups and facial care products. Found in: Neutrogena Original Formula Facial Cleansing Bar, modern organics molding cream, Vaseline Intensive Care Conditioner, L'Oreal Studio Line Head Lock to name a few.

There are thousands of chemicals out there in hair care products that can cause serious side effects. And while companies claim that they're used at small concentration, or it doesn't matter because you're just washing it off, or that they're only in your hair, not on your skin, you have to think about the daily repeated exposure to these chemicals.

Tomorrow--there is hope! We'll talk about the truly natural alternatives and I'll give you some tips for natural, beautiful hair without all the chemicals.