The internet landscape surrounding health right now is complicated. Like myself, many of you are looking for answers to how to feel better, look better, and live better overall. One aspect that I am particularly obsessed with at the moment is natural health.
Dr. Bridget Dean has been one of my friends since college when we both were in the same sorority at Northern Arizona University. She is easily one of the smartest people I know, and she put that to good use–she became a Naturopathic Physician!
I asked Bridget to help me answer some commonly-asked questions, and she provided so much good information that I had to break this out into two posts.
So without further ado, here’s post 1 of 2!
How do you feel about beauty products and what they’re made with? I would imagine not good, but do you think they’re as bad for us as the internet says they are? If so, what ingredients should we stay away from the most?
There is a broad range of ingredients that you may find in beauty products, and there are a lot of really great companies out there who work towards having a “clean” product. It feels like information overload, and it is definitely overwhelming as a consumer to keep up with what’s “ok” and what’s not. When I’m choosing a beauty product, I check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database– they do a great job of going through individual ingredients in a product, and why it may or may not raise an issue.
Now, are they as bad for us as the internet says? This opens a dialogue about a much bigger issue. We are challenged with toxic or disruptive substances pretty much anywhere we go (car exhaust, pesticides, etc), so the key is to limit exposure when we are capable. This is very, very important to remember (and something with which I counsel my patients): we can’t avoid toxins completely.
I’ll say that again: we can’t avoid toxins completely.
It’s very easy to get anxious about toxins, chemicals, and any other scary-sounding substance, but the fact of the matter is that we live in the modern world where chemicals that haven’t been in use for decades are still showing up in the environment. But I digress.
The skin is the largest organ on the body, and is capable of absorbing substances it comes in contact with. On top of that, many beauty products are intended for daily use, so it is especially important to make sure that these products are not promoting harm. As I mentioned, this is where the EWG’s database can be especially helpful.
What’s your advice on staying healthy in the winter and avoiding the cold and flu viruses?
Wash your hands! Cover your cough! Stay home from work if you do get sick. Simple hygiene practices really can make a big difference. But what else? Keeping the body happy all year is the best way to avoid major illness.
Stay away from sugar!!! This becomes especially important during this time of year because we are temped by all the goodies that we usually avoid. I like to call the time between Halloween and, really, Valentine’s Day, “Sugar Season.” This is the time of year when access to candy, cookies, and sweets is at its peak. We do our best to get on track in January, but football games and Valentine’s chocolates are around the corner to tempt us in February.
I see sugar as one of the biggest enemies when it comes to staying healthy.
Other things you can do to keep your body happy is getting enough sleep, taking breaks during the day, and eating a variety of foods, especially nutrient-dense ones.
It’s easy in modern life to wake up, go to work, come home, keep working, fall asleep while scrolling the internet in bed, and then wake up again the next day and repeat.
Getting adequate sleep is a huge obstacle for people, but its importance cannot be over-stated.
Often times, my patients who are having trouble losing weight or are feeling the stressful effects of the season have terrible sleep hygiene. Once we get their sleep back on track, they start to feel better.
Nutrient dense means that for the calories you’re consuming, there is a good proportion of nutrition. Fresh fruits and vegetables are good examples of nutrient dense foods. Not all calories are made the same–an avocado is reasonably high in calories, but boy is it packed with nutrition. Fried foods, processed foods, and foods high in sugar should be last on your list of things to eat.
If you DO get the flu or a bad cold, what are some natural cold and flu remedies that people might not think of?
The biggest one is hydration. I practice in Arizona, so this is important all year long here, but the importance of staying hydrated during an illness cannot be overstated. It’s so easy to forget when you’re feeling crummy, but water, water water!
I really love using food as medicine.
Garlic, onions, horseradish, cayenne… they’re natural antimicrobials. Turmeric (what you find in yellow curry) is naturally anti-inflammatory. Chicken soup is another great one–believe it or not, there is actually science that backs up Grandma’s advice to have chicken soup when you’re sick. It is especially important to avoid those inflammatory, “bad” foods when you get sick (think: French fries, candy, cookies, etc.).
As far as supplements go, Elderberry is helpful against respiratory viruses (specifically the flu virus in many research studies). It is delicious, too! This is one I have on hand, myself, in case I get sick.
If you live in Arizona and are interested in seeing Dr. Dean, you can find her contact information here. She practices at Acacia Natural Health in Tempe. She also has a presence on Facebook and Instagram, and shares tips there!
Dr. Dean is not affiliated with the mentioned brands, and declares no conflict of interest. The above does not constitute medical advice, and is for educational purposes only. Please see your physician for personalized care.
Part II coming soon!