Toxic Beauty – Do You Know What’s In Your Daily Regimen?

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My Beauty/Personal Product Collection, September 2014

 

I’m a little embarrassed to admit, and was rather aghast to realize that on any given day all of the products pictured above could make their way on to my skin. In my defense, I never said it was easy to look this good (kidding, kidding).

 

This beauty repertoire may seem crazy or excessive to some people. But, I bet if you placed all of the products you own on a magenta towel, too, yours may look even more saturated than mine. For me, though, there’s a gaping disparity. With the stringency I exercise in what goes in my body via food and bev, to the ways I aim to avoid negative energy in my surroundings, along with the positive thoughts I try to cultivate, you would think I would be just as heedful in terms of what I apply to my skin, considering it’s the body’s largest organ.

 

Well, it’s complicated. Cetaphil and Neutrogena moisturizer have basically had a sixteen-year common-law marriage on my face. NARS lip-glosses are the best, period. Benzoyl peroxide, although it has bleached about fifty pillowcases of mine by now, without a doubt works on any breakouts. I’m a creature of habit; once something works well for me, I don’t deviate. I’m sure most females out there would agree.

 

What if your beloved beauty regimen, though, is a huge toxic load in your daily routine?

 

What if you likened the amount of carcinogens incurred during your morning makeup application to those in smoking a cigarette? Would you still be so loyal to those products?

 

Scarily, this could be the case. I’ve been in denial of making this type of switch for a very long time. So, I decided to investigate the subject a little further, and here’s what I found out…

 

When I was at the Evolution of Medicine Summit last week, I heard Heather White speak. For those who weren’t able to tune in, Heather is an environmental lawyer and the Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group. The EWG is the country’s leading environmental advocacy organization that uses their own research to help people, businesses, and (hopefully) the government make better choices to conserve public health and our environment.

 

She informed the crowd that one of the EWG’s top initiatives for this year will be updating the Federal Cosmetics Act, which determines what ingredients and chemicals can and cannot be used and sold in any skincare and beauty products. Do you know the last time this act has been updated? 1938… 1938! What was going on in America in 1938?

 

  • The average home cost $3,900
  • Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia
  • Ballpoint pens were introduced
  • DuPont announced a name for its new synthetic yarn: Nylon
    • Of which, the first toothbrush with bristles was sold
  • The figure of the mythic hero arose with the introduction of Superman in Action Comics
  • The tape recorder was invented

 

As you can see, we’ve made some revolutionary advances since 1938. To compound this, tens of thousands of new chemicals have made their way into the environment and our products since then, as well. It’s beyond everyone to understand why the government hasn’t revisited the laws that permit known toxins into our makeup, shampoos, sunscreens, diaper creams, and even contact solutions.

 

So, what are some of these toxins?

 

Take a few of the creams you use everyday and look at the list of ingredients on the back of the bottle. See if you can match a few of them up to the list below (courtesy of Beautycounter’s Never List):

  • Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl-, and others): A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Specially, parabens mimic estrogen; they can lock on to our cell’s own estrogen receptors and mess with important natural signals. They may play a role in triggering breast cancer. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, and foundation.
  • Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, and hairspray.
  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath.
  • Bisphenol A (more commonly referred to as BPA): A hormone disruptor that may also alter DNA. It’s used in plastics and resins. Found in: plastic bottles, lining of aluminum food cans, possibly in eyeshadow, and styling gel.
  • BHA and BHT: Synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors, and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
  • 1,4-Dioxane: A by-product of manufacturing that is a probable human carcinogen (a known animal carcinogen), as well as toxic to organs and the respiratory system. It’s also a skin irritant. Likely to be present where ethoxylated ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, PEGs, and ceteareth are listed on ingredient labels. Found in: shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath.
  • Mercury and Mercury Compounds (also listed as Thimerosal): Metallic element used as a preservative and antiseptic known to damage brain function. Found in: ear and eye drops; may be used in mascara. (Side note from Erin – Thimerosal is also used in many vaccines.)

 

To help provide me with a little more color on the matter, I decided to consult with a growing expert in the field; I interviewed Jessica Warta, an independent consultant for a company called Beautycounter, a beauty and skincare brand with the mission to get safe products in the hands of everyone.

Jess and I used to work together in HR, where she introduced me to the wild world of pivot tables, which was certainly life changing at the time. We reconnected again this year as our worlds realigned with a shared interest in natural health. Once again, she has enlightened me… but in a much more significant way than through v-lookups.

 

Check out our interview:

 

Jess, what made you decide to join Beautycounter as an independent consultant?

I joined Beautycounter six months ago because I truly believe the education around these products and the industry is worth sharing and is what inspired me to join the company. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Like many of your readers, I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mom, and I pride myself on cooking and eating organic, jogging, going to barre and pilates classes three to five times a week, and consider myself to be an overall educated, health-minded person. However, I experienced a big wakeup call six months ago when my friend and Beautycounter Founding Member, Kristin Brady, asked me if I understood the back of the ingredients on my body lotion, my shampoo, my kids’ shampoo, and all of the other products my family and I use daily. I candidly admitted that I had never once thought about nor read the ingredient label on ANY of my personal care products in my entire 33 years, assuming that anything on the shelves of any typical drugstore is safe.

Unlike the Food Industry, which the FDA oversees with strict standards for what food items are certified as “organic,” the FDA does not hold the personal care industry to such standards and requirements. So when a food item says it is organic, it is. However, when a personal care product says it is “organic or natural,” it doesn’t mean anything. Cosmetic companies can write WHATEVER they want on packaging to market the product. It is serving the needs of the leading companies and not the American consumer.

So in short, I joined Beautycounter to be part of the mission to put safe products in the hands of everyone and educate every person I come in contact with about the ingredients in their personal care products and choosing “clean,” safe products.

 

What differentiates Beautycounter from all of the other organic competitors on the market?

Beautycounter has the strictest and most transparent Ingredient Selection Process in the virtually unregulated, $60 billion dollar cosmetics industry.

It bans and eliminates more than 1,500 chemical ingredients from its products, setting a new health and safety standard, while ensuring that the products perform to the highest standards. To put this into perspective, there are currently 1,300 chemical ingredients that are banned in the European Union. Do you know how many chemical ingredients have been banned in the US? I guessed maybe 500. The answer is 11.

Beautycounter screens for safety criteria like skin irritation, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity, as well as any information regarding cumulative exposure (are we exposed to this chemical from other sources?) and bioaccumulation (will it build up in our bodies over time?). They also work closely with green chemists and consider environmental impact working diligently to avoid ingredients that negatively impact the ecosystem. Further, all Beautycounter products are free of common allergens like skin irritants, nut oils and gluten, and chemicals linked to cancer or hormone disruption.

Finally, Beautycounter developed a Never List – a list of the 27 most harmful chemicals that we should avoid at all costs. Through that link, you can see WHY each of these chemicals is so dangerous.

 

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How would you recommend someone go about evaluating his or her current collection of products?

I would absolutely print out and have a copy of Beautycounter’s Pocket Never List in your wallet to refer to when you are shopping for personal care items and do a quick scan of the ingredient label before purchasing.

Another invaluable resource in my education regarding personal care product safety has been the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. The EWG is one of Beautycounter’s trusted non-profit partners.

You can also download the app on your smart phone. Through this app, you can either scan the bar code or type in the name of thousands of products and it will provide an immediate toxicity rating from 1-10 (1-3 being good, 4-6 being fair, and 7-10 being very toxic). I’m warning you that the app can get a little addicting, though!

 

What are some baby steps to make the switch over?

At Beautycounter we have a company mantra that I believe applies perfectly to your question: “It’s about progress, not perfection.” Six months ago when I began my education process, I initially felt totally overwhelmed by all of the new information on personal care product safety and toxins to avoid. But I think it’s all about perspective, and understanding that we certainly can’t eliminate all the toxic chemicals we come in contact with and control everything in our lives.

However, to me, making healthy, safe, informed choices regarding what food I put IN my body, as well as the products I put ON my body are two things I believe I can integrate into my life without a radical change.

Another important point I tell my clients all the time is that our skin is our biggest organ, it may absorb up to 60% of what you put on it. So the initial products I recommend incorporating right away are those that you use in your routine daily and are readily absorbed into your skin, like moisturizers, skin tints and concealers, body lotions, and eye creams.

 

Well, there you have it. (Thank you, Jess!)

 

I want to emphasize, though, that the condition of your hair, skin, nails, and even eyelashes reflects as a barometer of your overall internal health. Think about it – if your body is struggling, it’s not going to care about your looks. It’s focusing its energy on your heart and brain to function and keep you alive and well. So, the best way to really beautify is from the inside out through diet, exercise, and making yourself happy.

 

Your body is constantly detoxifying, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s detoxing pollutants you inhaled waiting for a cab, last night’s cocktails, chemicals in the water you used to brush your teeth, and even toxins made in your very own gut’s bacteria. Why burden your liver with even more work to do with having to detox your moisturizer?

 

The harder your liver has to work to detoxify –> the more free radicals it generates –> and the faster your body ages –> and you get wrinkles –> and then you’ll have to add yet another under-eye cream to your cabinet (sans parabens, of course!)

 

If you are interested in learning more about or purchasing Beautycounter products, please reach out to Jessica Warta via her page here.

 

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on natural ways to detoxify your body.

 

**To receive an email when I publish a new post, please fill out the newly added Subscribe feature on this page. Thanks for visiting grass ceiling!

 

 

T Minus 3 Hours – Evolution of Medicine Summit Launch

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Happy Monday, ceiling fans!

 

The event I wrote about in this previous post has finally arrived!

Be sure to tune in online at 6:30 pm EST for the launch, or anytime this week. If you’re going to be attending at ABC Home, I’ll see you there!

For any latecomers, you can still register anytime this week via this link –> here.

In case you miss it, I’ll be writing a post about my experience at the Summit sometime over the next few weeks.

Have a great night!

 

UPDATE: Purchase EvoMed package (videos, recordings, transcripts) for your own permanent possession here!

 

Why Djokovic Is My 2014 US Open Hopeful – Yes, This Is Still A Health Blog

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US Open, Flushing, New York. September 2014.

 

My pick for any Grand Slam is easily and always my boyfriend, Rafael Nadal. However, since he pulled out of the tournament this year due to a wrist injury, I had to feel out the other competitors to see who I wanted to get behind.

 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center yesterday. I walked around the grounds in Flushing to check out some of the rising young junior talent on the side courts, as well as the mature veterans battle it out in Arthur Ashe during the Quarterfinals.

 

Aside from the heart they bled out on the courts, I couldn’t help but gape in wonderment at their physiques, energy, and stamina in the sticky NYC heat and the blaring sunlight that reflected a blue tint on their faces from the court surface . . . as I sat there a sweaty mess debating if it was too far of a walk to get the $7 Evian face mist to keep me from falling into heat stroke.

 

So, with the Murray v. Djokovic match taking place later that night, and with Novak having just won Wimbledon, I admit I was rooting for Murray to advance to the Semis. However, once the second tie-breaker was done and seeing Djokovic wipe the court with Murray in the third and fourth sets, I have set my sights on a new man – Nole!

 

You don’t have to be a tennis fan to be truly amazed at his performance and conditioning. However, if you were watching the same match five years ago, the outcome probably would have been different. Why? Because Djokovic wasn’t gluten-free!

 

You ask, how does being gluten-free have anything to do with tennis? Well, prior to changing his diet and eliminating gluten-containing foods, Novak thought his career and success were fleeting. He didn’t even think he belonged on the same court as his opponents. He was plagued constantly by chest pain, stomach spasms, asthma, injuries, and fatigue. He could not depend on his body to provide the consistent, healthy performance for which he tirelessly trained. Just as he was rising to the top of his game, symptoms that anyone would attribute to physical exhaustion and the stress and rigor of a professional athlete’s lifestyle would pull him right back down. But, those factors weren’t the cause – gluten was.

 

In his book, Serve to Win: The 14-Day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence, Djokovic explained, “There was something about me that was broken, unhealthy, unfit. Some called it allergies, some called it asthma, some just called it being out of shape, but no matter what we called it, no one knew how to fix it.”

 

Sound familiar? In fact, most people suffer with symptoms like this for years without a doctor even thinking to look at food intolerances or digestive issues. Luckily, mainstream practitioners are even catching on and accepting this as truth today.

 

So, why would avoiding gluten (or other allergens) make such a difference in his tennis game? Or in anyone’s health? Let me break it down for you.

 

Did you know that 80% of your immune system resides in your gut? Eighty percent. That’s a lot, no? You have what are called Peyer’s patches, which are small regions of lymphatic tissue, that are woven throughout the lining of the small intestine. They form an integral part of the immune system by monitoring the food that comes through your digestive system for any harmful bacteria. Say if you eat some produce that inevitably has bacteria on it from the soil, or a piece of chicken that is not 100% fresh, Peyer’s patches will sense this and trigger the immune system to create pathogen-specific antibodies to target that bacteria and kill it before it can go anywhere in the body outside of the gut and make you very sick.

 

Now, how does a food intolerance occur? Well, the diet most Americans (and I guess, Serbians) eat tremendously damages the lining of the small intestine in which the Peyer’s patches do their work. Normally, when the lining is healthy, smooth and in tact, nothing slips through the cracks and reaches the patches other than microscopic bacteria.

 

However, with a damaged gut… gaps, holes, and tears start to develop and then pieces of digested food can slip down to the patches. Once this happens – Game, Set, Match: Allergen.

 

Your immune system then starts making antibodies that are now food-specific (remember, they are supposed to be pathogen-specific). Your body now sees that particular food protein in the same way it saw that harmful bacteria riding down on that piece of spinach. So, if you eat this food regularly, your immune system thinks it constantly needs to make antibodies. It then doesn’t know which end is up and starts to not only attack the food, but healthy tissues that were minding their own business, as well. This leads to systemic inflammation – something I’m sure athletes and their trainers do not want for themselves. In Nole’s case, inflammation manifested itself in the forms of asthma, sinus issues, fatigue, constant injuries, and terrible mood swings on the court.

 

By avoiding the perpetrators, Peyer’s patches can take a breather, and you can allow your gut and immune system to relax, heal, and do their normal jobs correctly – not work overtime or fulfill someone else’s responsibilities. See, everybody should have a mandatory two week vacation – not just people in Finance.

 

So, in essence, if you let your gut heal completely (which can take up to two years), and then adapt to an ideal diet, you should be able to eat those foods again. In essence. You should know by now that things aren’t ever this simple.

 

There are other things that irritate and damage the gut lining aside from gluten and other allergens: sugar, stress, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, pollutants in tap water, preservatives, unhealthy oils, heavy metals, grains, unsoaked/unsprouted seeds and nuts, excessive amounts of starches, too much fiber, lack of sleep, eating in an unrelaxed state of mind, etc. The list goes on.

 

This is why it is so important to adopt a consistently healthy, balanced, varied, clean diet so that you are not bombarding your body with things that it has to work hard to overcome. If you give it the fuel it needs to a greater extent than the things that will damage it, you tip the scales in good health’s favor.

 

If you are thinking of doing an elimination diet, here are my recommendations:

First and foremost, work with an experienced health practitioner who specializes in this. I wouldn’t try it on your own, as you could be missing a link. Naturopaths, Chiropractors, and Clinical Nutritionists are your best bet. They also have access to the best types of allergy tests that your insurance can cover and will capture everything you need to know before you get started.

Avoid the foods to which you are highly allergic completely, 100%, for a few months. Then ask yourself if you are noticing a difference after about four months. Any difference is progress in the right direction.

Avoid common irritants (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts) as much as you can during this time as well. If they’re not on your high allergen list, it’s okay if you slip up on occasion. You will definitely notice a difference with this step.

Rebuild your gut lining through fermented foods (kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir), bone broths, and gut-building supplements that a practitioner could recommend. I wouldn’t go out and buy any probiotic or glycine, etc. in a health food store. It could be unnecessary and a waste of money if you don’t know what to target. Practitioners also have access to the most effective, cleanest supplements.

Maintain a healthy diet and stress level as much as you can. You don’t have to be nuts or stringent about it, but it should be a lifestyle choice. You will undoubtedly notice a long-term difference with this step.

 

And until Rafa’s back, LET’S GO NOLE!!!

 

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to message me if you want to hear more or less about topics I’m covering – I’m open to suggestions!

 

 

Orthorexia Nervosa – Huh?

In my first blog post, I detailed the extreme measures I took to improve my diet in an effort to reclaim my health. To be clear – I didn’t just make a few tweaks here and there. I wasn’t just avoiding gluten and dairy. I didn’t just cut out alcohol for a few months. I didn’t do a few juice cleanses and call it a day. I changed everything I knew on how to nourish myself and stuck to it for eighteen months with a vigilance I didn’t even know I had in me. It was a long term, devout commitment to something I knew would pay off – or at least had faith that it would, anyway.

 

Like any commitment – be it a job, relationship, marriage, investment, or pet – it took work. And, the more I put into it, the stricter I was with the quality of food I consumed, the quicker my health improved and life was back on track. This, my friends, is what Pavlov termed positive reinforcement. I was hook, line and sinker with no desire to cheat, flirt, or even take an innocent glance in the opposite direction.

 

What originally felt like positive reinforcement, however, eventually instilled a sense of fear within me. I began to wonder, “What if I don’t keep this going? What if I slip up? What if that had dairy in it? What if I’m not getting the right ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s? Oh no, those blueberries weren’t organic. Did that Lara Bar have too many carbs for this late in the day? Will that cause my symptoms to return?”

 

Exhausting. Crazy. Familiar???

 

I knew, for sure, that having my symptoms return was absolutely not an option for me if I was able to control it. For some people, though, having control over something you fear can turn into an unhealthy obsession. So, like most relationships that aren’t meant to be, the pendulum began to swing from hot-and-heavy and honeymoon-phase to trouble-in-paradise and me questioning if it was really worth it or necessary to be this committed to something that was affecting my happiness.

 

Well, here’s what I’ve learned.

 

There’s having a healthy diet. And then there’s being unhealthy about having a healthy diet. It’s a fine line.

With the flurry of information from ill-informed people that’s accessible on the internet these days, knowledge is no longer power, it’s paralysis.

 

I remember being at a barbecue over Labor Day weekend a couple of years ago and not “being able” to eat or drink anything there besides water and fruit salad because I was worried about the quality of the food, the types of oils it was cooked in, and what its allergens might do to me. Mind you, barbecues at the Jersey Shore are something you go to with a completely empty stomach – crab sauce, burgers, chips and dip, steamers, cocktails, cannolis. You get it. Truth be told, I was doing more damage to my body and immune system by a) not eating food with needed calories when it was in front of me, and b) worrying so much about the negative repercussions it could possibly have on my health.

 

It’s a fact that we are primal beings. We have the same genetic makeup as the first Homo sapiens on the planet. Way back then, their lives revolved around finding food, finding safety, and reproducing. The main form of stress they endured was famine. As their bodies evolved to survive this type of adversity, it learned to slow down their metabolism, store fat, and shut down reproductive function so they wouldn’t lose body fat (warmth), and wouldn’t have to nourish a baby in their womb while not having the fuel to healthily do so.

 

Stress is stress is stress is stress. The body does not know the difference between the various negative forms, but it reacts the same way to all of them. These days, people place this same degree of stress on themselves when they diet, when they exercise too much, when they don’t sleep enough, and most importantly, when they live in constant fear and worry. The version of constant fear I wrote about today is termed orthorexia nervosa.

 

BUT! What if you have an autoimmune condition? There really are antibodies that are produced in your body which attack various organ systems when you consume proteins to which your immune system is reactive. Luckily, there are other ways to address your immune symptoms through modalities outside of diet, which I plan to delve into in due time.

 

What I do know is that happiness and relaxation are paramount to calming down your immune system along with any sort of inflammation in your body. Fear and stress … are not.

 

So, chances are that the GMO-laden, canola-oil fried, preservative-filled, hydrogenated tortilla chips that all of your friends are enjoying with their guacamole and sugar-filled, liver-taxing margaritas won’t hurt you any worse than being afraid of eating them will. Go ahead, indulge. Your belly, heart, leptin levels, sanity, and most importantly – your dinner date, will be thankful.

 

In the meantime, stay tuned for posts on other ways to help your immune system as the grass continues to grow here.

 

Hot Event! Evolution of Medicine Summit

 

New Yorkers, listen up!

Or any health-minded individuals with an internet connection, for that matter.

 

If you are interested in the progression of Medicine and how the field is beginning to naturally gravitate towards a functional and holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment, there’s an event taking place next month you need to check out:

It’s called the Evolution of Medicine Summit and it is taking place from September 8th through the 15th. It is the world’s largest medical conference, completely free online, featuring 40 trusted world leaders in health.

The event uniquely features separate tracks for Doctors/Practitioners versus Regular consumers, so there are varied levels of content based upon one’s own knowledge and interest. There’s something for everyone.

While everything is launching and being filmed at ABC Home in Flatiron, everything is available 24/7 online to check out from September 8th through the 15th — at no cost.

 

Even better, after the event is over and done, these thought leaders’ presentations and talks will be available for download (video, audio, or transcripts) for your personal possession. This is great for:

a)    Continual Education for Practitioners wanting to keep abreast of the latest treatments

b)    Students looking to learn more outside of the classroom, or

c)    Individuals who have an affinity for the latest and most advanced approaches in health

Plus, the recordings will make for a more interesting subway listen than our beloved peddler renditions of “Under the Boardwalk” (Those 4-5-6 riders know who I’m talking about).

 

It’s all here for you.

 

If you’re interested in hearing more, you can message me via my contact form.

Or, if you already want to register to have free online access to the event, just click here — It will redirect you to a registration page. No strings. You’re welcome!

 

Noteworthy Speakers

Dr. Mark Hyman

Dr. Deepak Chopra

Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. Frank Lipman

Dr. David Katz

Dr. Steve Cowan

 

Topics for Consumers

Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s Health

Nutrition

Causes of Disease

Reversing Chronic & Autoimmune Disease

Mind-Body Medicine

Digital Health

 

Topics for Health Professionals

Reversing Chronic Disease

Understanding the Causes of Chronic Disease

Digital Health

Business Model Innovation (Group Visits, Telemedicine, etc.)

Community Health

 

Spread the word. I’ll be there. Happy Monday everybody. Have a great day!

 

UPDATE: Purchase EvoMed package (videos, recordings, transcripts) for your own permanent possession here!

 

#FPE: First Post Ever

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Great Lawn, Central Park. July 2014.

 

Hi, and welcome to grass ceiling! I’m Erin – Age: 29, Height: 5’4”, Eyes: hazel, Hair: dirty-blonde, Background: Polish-Italian-Irish (a popular New Jersey mix), Career: that’s a mix too, Current location: Manhattan, Interests: family, good people, good food, travel, sports, reading, films, and nature – especially the beach, Dog lover: absolutely, Health status: the reason why I created this blog.

Wait! Before you exit out of what seems to be a poorly-attempted online dating profile, please reread the last item in that list – “Health status: the reason why I created this blog.”

Ten years ago, my life changed overnight. It was like a switch within me was flipped on (or off), causing my vibrantly bouncing, budding, fluidly operating, reliably resilient teenage body to turn against itself – literally.  It wasn’t clear to me at first what was occurring, but my immune system went into overdrive and proceeded to damage my own neurological system in a relentless pursuit.

After a battery of diagnostic tests, false positives, false negatives, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety meds, a very brief stint of TNF inhibitors, with no answer and no relief, even after seeing almost a dozen top specialists in New York City hospitals, it was clear that conventional Western medicine was not helping. Moreover, it was just failed attempts at mere symptom suppression by some brilliant and well-intentioned doctors that could not figure out what had flipped that switch and how to return it and me back to homeostasis.

Finally, two and half years later in 2006, a blood test flagging positive antibodies to gliadin (a protein associated with gluten) came back very high. This meant that my immune system was producing attacks on my body whenever I consumed gluten. Way before gluten-free and everything-free diets were en vogue, I then embarked on a crusade to eliminate this apparent perpetrator. To my relief and astonishment, I slowly got completely better over the course of eight months. Soooo, after all the drugs, imaging, pokes, and prods, I just needed to eliminate something from my diet and my body could heal itself?!

 

And so began my love affair with natural health … Relationship status: Married to millet bread.

Three full years of blissful remission and back in my skin, I had graduated from college and set out on a successful career in HR at an Investment Bank in the city. I had also enrolled in night classes at an accredited Acupuncture school and completed 34 credits over the course of two and a half years. Chinese Medicine fascinated me; I had received regular acupuncture treatments throughout college when things were really bad, which provided some palliative relief. I firmly believe and admire the principles of Chinese Herbology and Acupuncture, but I needed something more tangible to resonate with me in order to leave my HR career and pursue a degree in that for the next four years.

As they say everything happens for a reason, it was in one of my Anatomy & Physiology classes there that my professor, who was both a Medical Doctor and an Acupuncturist, introduced me to the world of Nutrition. During this time where I had my hands, head, and heart in a few different places, my neurological symptoms unfortunately started to resurface – despite my commitment to being Miss Gluten-Free America. A link was still missing in my mystery, it seemed. Through my professor, I soon learned that just being gluten-free and saying you know about Nutrition is like going to Olive Garden and saying you know Italian food. (Apologies to anyone outside of the tri-state area – Sorry to burst your bubble – there is no Santa Claus, either).

Through his class, we scratched the surface on Biochemistry and how different nutrients, vitamins and minerals, blood sugar principles, and toxins cascaded different chemical reactions in your cells –> which would affect tissues –> which impacted organs –> then systems (such as my neurological system), and eventually –> an entire person’s health and wellbeing. This was science. This was tangible. This was resonating.

After this nudge to the end of the diving board, I took a zealous swan dive into Nutrition. I researched and read and tried and tasted. I started sourcing my foods from local farms. I joined a food club in Manhattan that delivered goods from farms in Lancaster county. Any eggs I ate were from pastured chickens (the yolks were orange!). Beef was from grass-fed cows. Only wild caught seafood passed these lips. All nuts I ate were soaked, sprouted, and dehydrated to ease digestion. I traveled to Pennsylvania regularly to purchase raw milk, cheese, and ice cream to harness the enzymes from unpasteurized dairy. I made kefir. I brewed and drank bone broth. I eliminated all grains, sugar, and starches for about a year to heal my digestive system, as I learned that 80% of one’s immune system resides within the intestines. Lo and behold, these efforts were not carried out in vain. I got better! Again. Nevertheless, this upkeep felt like more than a full time job on top of my already full time job.  But it was worth it to me because I was able to reclaim my normal life.

One day while browsing a few articles through the Weston A. Price Foundation, I came across a nutritional therapy certification program that aligned with my beliefs and what worked for me in practice. For nearly a year in 2012, I enrolled in and completed this particular program while still working in HR. It introduced me to some amazingly smart people and a fantastic learning experience. It also introduced me to the power of nutritional supplementation. Healing with real foods and dietary tactics can do wonders for most people and most disease states. However, for some stubborn conditions where the waterfall of dominos cannot be dammed, professional grade supplements can truly make a difference.

 

Whether it is Chinese medicine, Nutrition, Naturopathy, and even Western medicine nowadays, one thing that I had consistently read about is the effect of stress on one’s health.

This is old news to all of you, I know. It’s old news to me, too. But to actually read studies and highly advanced experiments on what it does on a cellular level (again, I need tangibility) is truly awe-inspiring. So, here I am, making every effort to clean up my diet, stay active and exercise, take supplements, regularly go to therapy to work on myself and unlearn some patterns that may have gotten me here in the first place, eliminate all possible toxins … but still, this autoimmune assault continued to wage forth.

In coming to terms with what I have been in denial of ever since I started relapsing back in 2010, I needed to break free from a huge toxin in my life: my job. After six years in the biz, my last day was back in May. It’s not like my job was inherently stressful – I was not performing brain surgery or leading a rocket science launch by any means. But, Wall Street is a breeding ground for competitive, perfectionist, codependent and addictive, hungry people. It cultivates a most-plentiful jungle of stress and toxic relationships with work. To boot, being in the extremely undervalued, gut-churning, data-crunching, process-fixing, errand-running area of HR on top of this? Some people thrive on this. Others, like me, burn out.

So, I left. This summer, I began my graduate studies to earn my Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. With this credential and licensure, I will legitimately be able to make the switch in my career path to be part of an industry that truly makes me happy. Maybe that “switch” will be the one that was needed all along.

There is no panacea for healing. However, I have learned so much and continue to learn each day about how to treat your body so that it functions optimally via natural means. Through my current learned knowledge and what I will continue to develop in graduate school, it is my intention to share with you my thoughts, my experience(s), my research, studies, stories, and through this, my life. It is my hope that it brings you entertainment, a new perspective, something to talk about, and for some, answers and hope.

To learn more about what grass ceiling is outside of my blog posts and writing, please visit the About and Corporate Wellness pages.