Saturday, March 31, 2018

6 products that most women would do best to avoid

I recently saw the swag bag that's being given out for those who participate in one of the Women's runs, here in Toronto. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good swag bag. It's one of the perks of running a race.

What grabbed my attention was the number of items in this "Women's swag bag" that can actually sabotage a woman's hormonal health. Maybe not dramatically or from a single use/consumption, but long-term, or for those who already have hormonal issues.

Here are a few examples of products that most women should avoid, while trying not to call out specific brand names.

1) Commercial brand granola bars
           These are often laden with sugar; Both in the number of types of sugar and in the grams per serving. Upon reading the ingredients label you'll notice that a single product can contain all of the following: Brown sugar, Honey, Glucose, Sugar, and Glycerin. That's 5 different "types" of sweeteners in a single granola bar (as listed by a specific brand), with 5g of sugar and only 1g of protein and only 2g of fiber per serving. Shouldn't a granola bar be high in fiber?
           Additionally, we find chemical preservatives like BHT, artificial flavouring, and "modified milk ingredients." On a scale of healthy snacks, this one shouldn't even be an option.

2) "Nutritional" or Meal replacement shakes
           It makes me sick that we actually feed these to people. Sure, they're fantastic for helping certain people gain weight, but that's because each serving contains roughly 40g of carbohydrates with 1/2 of that coming from multiple sources of sugar and even more added sweeteners.
         Additionally, there are multiple ingredients that aren't well tolerated, especially as we age. 
→ Carrageenan is what researchers in animal labs use to induce inflammation. It can also be a cause of headaches and migraines for some women. 
"Vegetable oil" often contributes to high omega-6:omega-3 ratios in the diet - meaning more inflammation. This can manifest as IBS, joint pain, painful periods, depression, and brain fog.
Milk protein concentrate. Not a terrible ingredient for the average person, but as we age we lose our concentration of available lactase enzymes. Thus, as we age, we become more lactose-intolerant to some degree. For women specifically, I often recommend avoidance of all or most cow dairy as it is a common aggregator of digestion issues, hormonal imbalances, and increased inflammation.

3) Vaginal lubricants and wipes
      Vaginal dryness can often be a sign of a hormonal imbalance of estrogen. Avoid products that contain:
Glycerin: a sugar that introduced vaginally can lead to a greater incidence of yeast infections. 
Parabens like ethylparaben, methylparaben, etc. These are known hormone disruptors. 
→ Polypropylene glycol can be irritating, especially to sensitive tissue.

4) Commercially branded Hair and Body products that contain:
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates: these are foaming agents that can dry out skin and can cause reactions for those with sensitive skin. 
Cetyl or Stearyl alcohols: avoid products that have alcohol near the top of the ingredient list if you have dry skin or eczema. Alcohol in creams or body products can be even more drying and cause eczema lesions to become painful.
Fragrance: fragrances that are not disclosed as essential oils are often synthetic and are known hormone disruptors. They can also induce headaches and other neurological symptoms, not just in the user, but in those around them. 
→ Parabens for the same reasons as above.

5) Anti-perspirants
       Using aluminum products to clog your sweat ducts stops you from being able to eliminate toxins from your skin in those areas. We're supposed to sweat. It's part of our homeostatic regulatory system, and part of the body's detoxifying system. If you're using products like the ones above, your body has to get rid of those chemicals like phthalates, and it does so through sweat, urine and feces. If you're excessively sweating, it's time to have the root cause evaluated. 
Read more on one of my previous blog posts and make your own deodorant! 

6) Tampons
    As a previous user, I can understand the frustration with me adding tampons to this list. But the problems that tampons can cause go beyond toxic shock syndrome. Tampons soak up everything they're in contact with; Not only menstrual fluid, but your natural vaginal secretions and discharges. This fluid is critical for maintaining proper vaginal pH (prevents you from getting bacterial vaginosis - itching, redness, and subsequent infections), keeping tissues moist and happy, and keeping your vaginal flora healthy. If you tend to get yeast infections frequently, stop using tampons all together. Some women who have other sensitivities or sensitive skin would also do best to avoid tampon use due to fragrances, bleaches and dioxins. 

The point here is to educate women and have people in general be more informed on the products they're purchasing and using in and on their bodies. 

Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie's book Slow Death by Rubber Duck discusses the environmental toxins that we expose ourselves to everyday, but also on the mechanisms our body has for eliminating them. It is an eye-opening read that I highly recommend. 

I also recommend EWG's webpage Myths of Cosmetic Safety for more information: