Striving Toward Veganism

The following post is by guest blogger, Julia Guarino. 

When I was five years old, I arrived home one day from kindergarten and announced to my parents that I was going to become a vegetarian. They were surprised, but as I seemed determined, they obliged, asking advice from my pediatrician as to how best meet my nutritional needs. By age ten, I had completely eliminated the fish and poultry that I sometimes ate, and I have been completely vegetarian ever since. In my final year of college, I moved into my first apartment, and in the excitement of newly possessing a kitchen, I subscribed to Vegetarian Times. It is full of wonderful recipes and tips on products to buy and restaurants to frequent for both lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who still consume eggs and dairy products), and vegans (those who have eliminated all animal products, including eggs, dairy and honey). I had never really considered becoming vegan, because though I had long since chosen to use soy milk over cow’s milk and to replace butter with non-hydrogenated-oil-based margarine (like Smart Balance, which tastes remarkably similar), but I knew giving up cheese and eggs would take immense effort, and I wasn’t sure it was worth it. After all, not only did I enjoy these things, but as a vegetarian it was extremely difficult to order a meal at a restaurant with any protein in it that didn’t come from one of these two sources.

However, as the year continued, several articles on the health benefits of veganism published in the Vegetarian Times encouraged me to eliminate more and more animal products from my diet, and the more I did so, the more I realized that it felt really good. I began to do some research. Could I really do this? Did it make sense to become vegan? Would the benefits outweigh the inconvenience?

My research gave me a fairly clear answer: it is difficult, and you have to do it right, but if you’re willing to put it in the effort, it is worth it. I came across several medical studies done on vegan groups, providing evidence that a plant-based diet has enormous health benefits, including helping to prevent cancer, reversing the need for medication in type-2 diabetes patients, and more. Concern over the risks of malnourishment (as in the infamous case of the Queens baby) are not entirely unfounded, but seem to be fairly easy to avoid; as long as attention is paid to the vegan’s consumption of protein as well as some vitamins found in less concentrated amounts in non-vegan diets, such as vitamins B12, iron, calcium and zinc, even children live quite healthily on it.

I cannot say that the switch is easy, and I have still not made it completely, but the less eggs and dairy I eat, the better I feel. Perhaps it is simply a feeling of accomplishment, but either way, I know I am doing better for my body, and it is worth it, despite the inconvenience.

[Editor's note: if you're looking for some yummy vegan recipes here are some that I've posted in the past]

Just Brush It Off

image copyright Yupedia

The other day I visited a new massage therapist/holistic health practitioner in Falls Church who recommended, among other things, that I use dry brushing.  Several years ago, my naturopath recommended that I include dry brushing in my daily routine, so it was already something I was accustomed to, and genuinely enjoy.

This technique has been used for hundreds of years. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and increases blood flow to the surface of the skin, which stimulates the lymphatic system and increases the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Dry brushing also stimulates hormone and oil-producing glands, opens your pores, removes dry skin cells, helps break up fat deposits, and leaves your skin feeling soft and looking rosy. Plus, it feels wonderful!

While it is important to clean our skin regularly to get rid of dirt, oils and environmental pollutants in order to keep our pores clear and our skin healthy, skin also plays an important role in our health – it is our largest eliminative organ, excreting 25-30 percent of the body’s toxins every day! The less our skin is able to eliminate waste, the more strain is placed on our liver, kidneys, lungs and mucous membranes, and the more likely our bodies our to harbor toxins, which can lead to disease, weight gain and, horrors, cellulite!

Giving yourself a dry brush massage is easy. It is best to do it before a bath or shower so the dead skin cells can be rinsed off. Use a soft, natural, vegetable bristle brush that is designed specifically for this purpose. You can find them in spa stores and many natural food stores. You can also use a dry loofah. Begin by brushing from your fingers and toes and work in circular motions up your limbs toward the heart. Brush all of your skin, using light pressure, except the sensitive skin of your face and inner things. Finish off by brushing from your back towards your stomach. If you don’t have a body brush, you can also use washcloth or loofah, but the dry brush feels the best!

If you integrate dry brushing into your regular bath or shower routine, you will see noticeable improvement in the appearance of your skin. Enjoy!

Tea Tree Toothpaste and Other Natural Ideas for Dental Health

image copyright Preserve Products

The following post is by guest blogger, Allison Brooks.

Since we humans come from nature, why separate ourselves from her bountiful remedies? Studies over the past 15 years have shown an increasing interest in natural healing, and many integrative doctors use complementary treatments to treat patients for a variety of ailments. Increasingly, dentists are adopting the trend by helping treat certain oral ailments using non-invasive therapies. There are several Maryland and DC dentist offices that use herbs and other natural remedies to treat a plethora of ailments. They also offer advice on the subject to practice natural routines at home.

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is one of the oral ailments that can be treated with natural and herbal remedies. It affects the deeper supporting tissues of the gums and the infections then spread to the lower parts of the tooth. Gum disease is triggered by plaques formed around the enamel of the tooth. The plaque is formed from a mixture of bacteria, starch and sugar. If the plaque is not removed mechanically by frequent brushing, the plaque will harden underneath the gum line, which leads to gum disease. The main symptoms of gum disease are swollen gums and/or bleeding gums.

image from healthysnips.com

Tea tree oil is a natural substance that has been associated with dentistry for hundreds of years. And in the 1920s, Dr. A. R. Penfold published research showing that a tea tree salve could be used to rid gums of infection and leave behind a completely germ free surface. After more scientific evidence proved the tea tree’s effectiveness, it became a basic household remedy for oral and skin infections. Tea Tree toothpaste is now commercially produced and is very effective in alleviating the symptoms of gum disease (although it does not remove plaque surrounding the tooth).

Brands like Desert Essence and Jason Natural offer toothpaste with tea tree, and are available at natural food stores, including Whole Foods. It is best to go with tea tea products like these, since it is not recommended that you use undiluted tea tree for oral care. The Intelligent Dental blog offers recommendations and cautions to keep in mind when using tea tree. For example, tea tree oil should never be taken internally, since it can cause nerve damage and other problems if ingested. People with celery and thyme allergies should not use tea tree oil, since tea tree shares a potential allergen, d-limonene with these plants. And pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using tea tree oil.

image copyright The Telegraph

Cranberry Juice really helps in the prevention and the progression of gum disease. It does this by taking away the bacteria’s ability to stick to the tooth. Concentrated cranberry is available in a pill form at most natural food stores. Cranberry juice is also a rich source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is one of the most popular cures for gum disease. Vitamin C repairs cell damage and connective tissues especially along the gum lines. This vitamin is also a very powerful antioxidant which helps by removing free radicals. The antioxidants help to eliminate the free radicals that are responsible for most of the gum damage being caused. And Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore strongly reduces the chances of developing gum disease. While it is available as a supplement in many milk products, sun exposure is an excellent source for vitamin D (although you have to balance this with the need for sun protection to prevent skin cancer!).

While these natural remedies are a great way to enhance healing and prevent disease, the mechanical action of brushing the teeth is the best method of preventing gum disease. Brushing regularly, flossing, eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of Vitamins C and D, and regular dental checkups are important in supporting your dental health.

Allison Brooks recently graduated from University of Mississippi, with a degree in biomedical  anthropology. She is currently living in Florida, and doing field studies to support an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures. Her current studies have peaked her interest in traditional and natural healing remedies, and have inspired her to spread the word about nature’s healing bounties.