I think it’s fair to say that we at YinOva have a hefty kale habit. We juice it, we steam it and one of us was even caught chopping it into her oatmeal. We’re particularly fond of kale chips, which satisfy our cravings for something salty and crunchy without having to resort to potato chips. Read
One immediate concern for people whose property was flooded is mold. Several patients told me they had been evacuated ahead of the storm and were about to move back into their flooded homes. They were, quite rightly, worried about how damp their environment would be and several asked my advice about mold.
Not everyone is allergic to mold but many people are very sensitive to it and the most common problems they suffer are allergies, asthma and sinusitis, all of which are the result of inhaling spores. Mold can also be ingested in food, resulting in chronic digestive problems, and can affect the skin resulting in uncomfortable rashes. Long term exposure to mold can affect the immune system and cause autoimmune reactions.
My first advice to our YinOva patients this week was: Don’t panic! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the old saying goes, and these are early days when prevention is still possible. So now is the time to make sure that mold doesn’t take hold.
- Clean hard surfaces, such as wood or concrete, by scrubbing the area with with diluted detergent and hot water. Rinse, and then sanitize with a solution of 1/4 cup of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon water. Disinfectants are only effective on previously cleaned surfaces so don’t skip the first step by using the disinfectants instead of, or before, cleaning with soap (Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners)
- Dryness is the enemy of mold so air things out and allow everything dry thoroughly, preferably with the help of a fan or dehumidifier.
- Cut out carpet or sheetrock that isn’t drying out or smells moldy and throw it away. The same goes for books, papers and fabrics.
- Wear a mask and gloves so that you don’t inhale spores and to protect yourself from chemicals in the cleaning products.
- The Chinese herbs herb Xin Yi Hua (magnolia flower) has an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effect on the sinuses. It’s one of the herbs in a formula called Xanthium Nasal Tablets which is available at our office. We also have specific formulas for cough and asthma so feel free to consult us for advice. A specifically tailored formula can also be prescribed and would include herbs to drain dampness, detoxify and support the immune system.
- Cinnamon has particularly strong anti-fungal properties. Check out this article in the New York Times which describes how cinnamon is being used in bread wrappers as a way to keep out mold. You can add it to your food, breath it as an essential oil or use it in tincture form as a medicinal herb.
- Acupuncture can reduce inflammation in the sinuses or bronchial passages and can help the body’s immune system respond to an assault.
- Breathing in an infusion of essential oils in hot water can also have an anti microbial effect. I suggest filling a bowl with hot water and adding some of the following essential oils – tea tree, cloves, rosemary, orange and cinnamon. Lean over the bowl with a towel draped over your head to contain the steam and inhale the essential oils allowing the steam to carry them into your nasal passages and lungs.
- Avoid foods that contribute to dampness in your body such as dairy products (except yogurt), sweets and fatty foods.
- Avoid foods that contain yeast or fungi such as alcohol, mushrooms, bread, and vinegar.
“Stoked” [stohkt] – adj.– to be “stoked” is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something.Urban Dictionary
As I sit on the beach writing this, I am watching a dozen or so kids riding waves to the shoreline. Even though the sun is bright and their faces are backlit I can still see their smiles radiating from ear to ear. I can still feel their stoke and likewise I am stoked for them. This to me is the beauty of surfing. Anyone of any age or gender can enjoy his or her own personal connection with the ocean. As a surfer and all around ocean aficionado I can get stoked when other people catch waves too. Riding waves is a truly magical experience. Any surfer can attest to this fact and many spend years searching the world’s seven oceans for the perfect wave. There are many levels to surfing but anyway you slice it riding waves is incredible.
Riding waves is great exercise
Surfing is an amazing total body workout. You need a strong upper body to power through the surf as well as to paddle into waves. You need a strong core to pop up onto your feet and strong legs to turn the board where you want it to go…down the line.
Boogie boarding rocks too. Boogie boarding may seem like child’s play but what the heck-kids can make fun out of everything! Also, the learning curve is very tame and there are fewer risks of injury than surfing. Did I mention the firm gluts? Kicking the foam board into waves requires a strong core and powerful legs. All you need is a $50 boogie board and you are set for life. Add fins for extra powerful kicks and then you really have a great set-up for a fun-filled summer.
Body surfing: a classic. Body surfing is an amazing full body workout that is totally free and guaranteed to induce laughter. Major risks include loss of bikini tops and bottoms.
Riding waves reduces stress
Surfing, boogie boarding and body surfing can definitely reduce stress. Some argue that the pounding waves generate negative ions. These negative Ions are found in abundance in such naturally pleasant places as waterfalls, the seashore and rainstorms. They are created by the action of water hitting the land. Negative ions are simply water molecules that break apart and take on a negative electrical charge. They promote good health as evidenced by the good feelings people have around such natural bodies of water.
Riding waves makes one more connected to nature Sometimes the best part of my surf session is witnessing the majesty of nature itself. I remember many a surf session where I can see the pelicans soaring by, little fish jumping over my board, the changing light on the horizon, the rising sun over the ocean…getting to your feet a riding a wave through the ever changing scenery is an additional perk.
Riding waves can be social It is a nice feeling to get stoked watching other people ride waves. If there is a nice crowd then riding waves together can be an amazing, communal experience. If you are interested in learning how to surf on a surfboard I recommend taking a class. Classes are usually taught on foam boards, which is a safe way to get started riding waves. You will also have the opportunity to learn about surfing etiquette, which is an important element for both safety and respect. There are many surf schools along the east coast. For Rockaway Beach try Steve Stathis at Boarders http://www.boarderssurfshop.com/ Locals Surf School: check in with Mike at http://localssurfschool.com/rockaway For Long Beach, Long Island check out: http://skudinsurf.com/ Or Unsound Surf: http://unsoundsurf.com/
Like many of you, I’m increasingly worried about the amount of chemicals we are exposed to. From talking to our YinOva patients, I am clear that many of us want to take sensible steps towards a less toxic lifestyle. Personally, I’ve changed my diet, eliminated toxic household cleaners, made different make-up choices and even found a natural deodorant that works (Dr. Hauschka).
In the past I’ve eyed organic tampons in the health food store and dismissed them as too expensive. However, as a someone who specializes in the care of women, I know that the membranes inside the vagina are thin, sensitive and more porous than our skin. The average woman uses about 11,000 tampons or sanitary towels in a lifetime, so it makes sense to look closely at what these products are made of. When I researched the chemicals in most commercial sanitary products I knew that this was another change I needed to make.
In our book, Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility, Dr David and I discussed the adverse effect of dioxins on fertility and you can find out more about them here on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website. As you can see from the link the EPA has confirmed that dioxins are known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected of contributing to human cancers too.
Tampons are made of cotton and rayon which are bleached because we, the consumers, associate white cotton with purity and cleanliness. This bleaching process produces dioxins, although the FDA assures us that they are present in tampons in very minute levels and are therefore safe. However the risk from dioxins increases with repeated exposure because dioxins have a long half-life. What this means is that the dioxins stay active in the body and don’t break down for many years. In fact it may take 50 years or more for them to be completely eliminated from the body. Dioxins therefore build up over time, and each exposure increases the amount of the chemical in the body. According to the EPA, there really is no “acceptable” level of exposure to dioxins. The real danger lies in repeated contact and I think we’d all agree that using about 5 tampons a day, 5-7 days a month, for about 40 years means we definitely have repeated contact with this dangerous chemical even though the levels are very low.
Did you know that cotton is one of the crops that is most heavily sprayed with pesticides? I didn’t either. Not until I started to look at the research and found out that 10% of the all world’s pesticides and 22.5% of insecticides are used to grow non organic cotton. Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. are known to be carcinogenic and all nine of them are classified by the EPA as Category I and II chemicals, meaning the most dangerous and likely to cause harm. Again the residues in tampons are small but given the repeated exposure are they small enough to be harmless? We don’t know and personally I’m no longer willing to take the risk.
FragrancesFragrances are a new addition to feminine hygiene products. We’re supposed to want them in order to smell better “down there”, but I consider them a marketing tool that preys on our insecurities to sell us something we don’t need. These fragrances are considered to be trade secrets so tampon manufacturers do not have to tell us what chemicals they use. They are simply required to list them as “fragrance”. However among these hidden chemicals we may be being exposed to phthalates which are a class of chemicals known to disrupt hormones and affect fertility. Why take the risk?
So what’s a girl to do?
TamponsThere are plenty of organic tampons for sale in health food stores and online. They’re more expensive than ordinary tampons and it is cheaper to use reusable pads or a cup, however they’re convenient and if you can afford to make the switch they may be a good option. Trusted brands include Seventh Generation and Natracare.
Disposable padsLook for sanitary towels that are made with organic cotton and are not bleached with chlorine. Both Natracare and Seventh Generation make pads that are widely available.
Reusable padsOur granny’s generation used reusable pads which involved belts and safety pins. Thankfully the modern versions of these pads are much less cumbersome. Check out the ones made by Lunapads, which are convenient to use and well designed.
CupsMenstrual cups are a type of barrier worn inside the vagina, just below the cervix, to collect menstrual fluid. I like these! I didn’t think I would, but whilst doing my research, I tested the Diva Cup and found it to be a comfortable alternative to tampons. It’s made of medical grade silicon and contains no chlorine, dyes or additives. It does require access to a clean water supply to cleanse the cup and the manufacturers recommend using a mild, unscented soap to clean it regularly. Diva cup sell a cleanser for just this purpose.
So are tampons toxic?The answer is we’re not sure. Some of the more extreme internet myths (such as the one where tampons have been found to contain asbestos) have been discredited. The chemicals in tampons seem to be low level but they are known carcinogens and hormone disrupters. Given the vulnerability of vaginal tissue and the repeated, regular exposure feminine hygiene products require, it seems sensible to limit our exposure to these chemicals by switching to natural brands of tampon or the many alternatives that are now on the market. That’s what I’ve decided to do and it’s the advice I’ll be giving my daughter.
When you live in a big city it can be hard enough to find a patch of green to sit on, let alone fertile ground to garden. But do not despair. There are lots of things that can be grown in the urban jungle. Once you work out how much room you have, there are many ways to bring organic gardening into your life. Even in limited space you can grow leafy greens, beets, peppers and more.
In your apartmentIf you have space for relatively large pots on the floor, you have a number of options. One company that makes great indoor containers for the aspiring gardener is Wooly Pocket. Their planters are made of 100% post consumer materials and run the gamut from small modular containers to a mounted system that can turn your wall space into living art. One of the great things about Wooly’s products is that they are designed to protect floors, walls and furniture around them.
If all you have is counter space to start an herb garden in, Potting Shed Creations has a fantastic line of organic starter kits. These include a range of herbs and spices and some tasty treats for your pets. Of course, if you have a patio or terrace, your options are even greater.
Square foot gardeningIf you have a back yard or access to a rooftop, this puts you in a whole different league. Jill and I first started gardening when we lived in Brooklyn and we produced enough veggies to keep us going through the summer and into the late autumn. If you are on a roof or just want to keep your garden contained and easy to manage, Square Foot Gardening may be the way to go. The setup for this system, popularized on PBS by Mel Bartholomew is a little more labor intensive, but once it’s going, the yield from a four foot square plot can be extraordinary.
Community GardeningIf your desire to get in the dirt is strong enough to get you out the door, then you may want to find a community garden in your neighborhood. From small herb patches to legitimate farming, community gardens have been a feature of the NYC landscape since the 1970s when empty lots were tilled to offset the City’s financial crisis. Many native New Yorkers remember Adam Purple but may never have had the opportunity to see his breathtaking Garden of Eden on the Lower East Side (pictured below). Born in the same era and continuing to this day, Green Thumb NYC remains the portal to the City’s community gardens.
However far you want to go with your urban garden, the fruits of your labors will be rewarded. The satisfaction from using your own Qi to grow your food can’t be beat! In addition to the fun and the health benefits, it is also saves money. Getting your herbs from your kitchen counter is not only cheaper than flying them from far away, but it is also an environmentally supportive thing to do.
In these trying economic times I thought it might be worth drawing your attention to it and giving you an update on my own family’s attempts to avoid wasting food. Amazingly enough just by doing the things mentioned in the article we have now reduced our weekly food costs by almost half. We still buy good quality, organic food, but we buy much less of it. It makes me realize how much money we were wasting buying large, prepackaged containers of food, most of which ended up going off before we ate them.
The most useful change we made was using the left-over meat and veggies in the fridge to make soup which we eat at work during the week. This has a triple benefit – we use up leftovers, we eat healthier and we’ve stopped spending money on take out. There is so much pleasure in growing vegetables, making soup or mending clothes. Far from feeling frugal and as if we are doing without, I believe that consuming less can make our lives more enjoyable.