Monday, April 18, 2011


This post is going to be on a topic that will make some people squirm. Others of you may decide not to read it altogether. Why? Because we're going to talk about our toilets, or more specifically, the typical American hygiene habits associated with what one does on a good old American toilet.

There's really nothing about the American's use of toilets that is right. We sit, ever so "properly" and politely while the majority of the world (approximately 2/3rds) squats to do their business. This sitting vs. squatting can contribute to a host of complaints such as constipation and hemorrhoids. Sitting to evacuate has also been determined in studies to increase pelvic floor prolapse, inflammatory bowel disease, hernia, and more. This is because in the sitting position the anal canal becomes pinched and it is then necessary to exert pressure to evacuate the bowels. This can also desensitize nerves, increasing uterine, bladder, and prostate problems.

Historically, humans have always used the squatting position, rather than sitting.  Have you ever noticed how most babies instinctively squat to eliminate, until we train them out of it? There are also hygiene problems with the way we do our business. If only we could find another way to deal with this problem, think of all the time, trouble, and lives that could be saved by avoiding e. coli breakouts in restaurants and food packaging facilities when employees go to the bathroom, wipe themselves "clean" and don't thoroughly wash their hands!

I don't know about you, but with the continually rising costs of groceries my mind is constantly on budget-related issues and how we can cut costs further without decreasing our nutrient intake. Food and personal care products are some of the most important purchases we make, after all, and making the right decisions in those areas is often the difference between simply surviving and living vibrantly.

Toilet paper has always been something I bought with great loathing. As I'd pick out another new package, trying so hard to find the best deals, I always saw in my minds eye dollar bills getting flushed down the toilet with each purchase. You're literally flushing your purchase down the toilet! How horrid. Not only do you spend a lot of money over your lifetime on something you flush away, but as far as the environment is concerned, imagine all the trees that have to be cut down each year to supply America with toilet paper. 15 million annually. That's 41 thousand trees daily. In an increasingly toxic world, can we really afford to unthinkingly do away with so many natural air purifiers?

So what if there was something you could do to affect positive change in the bathroom? I'm not about to suggest one of those toilet platforms so you can squat (but if you want to you'll be better off than the rest of us, even if you do look like a total weirdo to all of your house guests!), but what if there was an easy, inexpensive way to reduce your toilet paper use, as well as make positive hygienic change? Well I'm glad to be able to tell you that there is! It's called a bidet and most of you are probably only vaguely (if at all) familiar with them unless you've traveled outside of the US. They're used extensively in foreign countries but are still quite rare here in the States. Used to be if you wanted to use a bidet you had to have a separate unit installed (traditional European style bidets are not made to handle solid waste so you have to use a regular toilet and then get up and move to the bidet to clean yourself -- extremely impractical!), which costs hundreds of dollars. In the long run you'd still save money, but who really wants to spend $300+ on such a thing? And that's not including the cost of having a bidet installed (which would have to be done by a professional plumber since you can't just switch out a regular toilet for a bidet; you'd have to have both) Well now you can get a small attachment for your preexisting toilet which does the same thing! It cleans you using gently pressurized water, nearly eliminating toilet paper usage (some people still prefer to dry themselves with a little toilet paper afterwards). Bidets reduce toilet paper usage by 75% on average. Can you imagine spending 75% less on toilet paper annually? Can you imagine all the trees that would be saved if we all reduced our toilet paper usage by 75%? That would be less than 4 million trees cut down and pulped for toilet paper annually. And of course that says nothing of all the electricity it takes to turn 15 million trees into toilet paper annually!

 I recently purchased a bidet attachment to try it out for myself. My husband installed it yesterday in spite of a killer sinus infection he's fighting and we are both pleased with the purchase and would recommend it to others.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plastic & BPA

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you are probably aware that I don't like plastic. I think it's dangerous for our health, and bad for the environment (and just plain ugly, to boot!). One of my goals towards more natural living is to eventually live mostly plastic free -- I've recently been doing some research on how to deal with garbage without those nifty can liners, one of the few places I've yet to give up the plastic. I think next time I run out of them, I won't be buying any more. I can wash my kitchen receptacle a couple times a week, right? Sure. We only empty the can about once a week anyhow, since we don't produce much trash. And since I am now putting all of my leftover produce bits and pieces into my garden, there will be very little "messy" garbage in the bin anyhow. So there's that. We'll never be completely plastic free though, since there are certain food items I have no intention of giving up, but that can only be purchased in plastic containers. But still. We can all reduce our output, even if we're not willing to live quite like Bea (though she is constantly offering great ideas for reducing your waste output; be sure to check out her blog!). Now onto the subject of this post!

BPA is a term most of us are very familiar with now days. We know it's bad and that we don't want it in our bodies. But what is it, what does it do to us, how can we prevent ourselves and our loved ones from exposure to it, and is BPA-free plastic really safe?

To answer the first question in brief terms, BPA (or Bisphenol-A) is a chemical used to harden plastic (think water bottles, baby bottles, food storage containers). It is also used in epoxy resins, which are used to coat the inside of tin cans, baby formula containers, and water bottle tops. The problem with BPA (or at least the one we're most aware of) is that it acts in our bodies like estrogen, which can result in serious hormonal imbalances and reproductive problems.

The FDA, however, refuses to classify BPA as a toxin and stated in 2010 that "Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current  low levels of  human exposure to BPA." but then went on to say that they do have "concerns" about its subtle toxic effect on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.

I think that only time will tell us just how dangerous BPA really is, but I think it is clear that there is some level of danger posed by regular exposure to it. Plastics are believed by many to be at least partially responsible for things like girls hitting puberty at an average age of 9 years old (and as much as 10% of 7 year old girls are beginning to develop breasts). The fact of the matter is, there is a lot we still don't know about plastics and how dangerous they are for us, but when you consider how new they are in the history of the world and how prevalent fertility problems (among other things) are becoming, for example, you can't help but wonder how much chemicals from plastics are contributing to that problem (I think there are a whole host of contributing factors and that yes, plastic is absolutely one of them!). And it's not just a problem for young girls. Older females, and males of all ages are being adversely affected by these estrogen-like chemicals. The infertility rate in women aged 20-24 has tripled in this country since 1965. Male infertility is at an all-time high in industrialized countries. A whopping 30-40% of males are estimated to have fertility problems today, and are responsible for around half of the instances of infertility (1/3 exclusive to the male, 1/3 to the female, and 1/3 to a combination of partners). In British couples seeking help from ART (assisted reproductive technology), the majority of cases are due to problems with the male's fertility.

So now you are aware of some of the dangers of BPA and other chemicals found in plastics. Here are some easy steps you can take to avoid exposure to BPAs for yourself and your family:

  1. Throw out your plastic food storage containers and switch to glass, especially for leftovers that are placed into storage containers hot, which can increase the leaching of BPA into foods.
  2. Breastfeed your babies. Unless you have a medical condition that prevents it breastfeeding is almost always possible, with the right coaching and persistence. This saves you money and your baby exposure to BPAs at a young age when they are most susceptible to damage. If breastfeeding is truly impossible for you, purchase glass bottles instead of plastic, and look for a friend willing to donate breastmilk for your baby, or contact a milk bank for help.
  3. Avoid canned foods, since many liners contain BPA. Foods of pH 5 leach more BPA than those that are more acid or alkaline, according to a study on BPA (though it is my understanding that most fruits and vegetables are more acid or alkaline than a pH 5). 
  4. If you do use plastic food storage containers, never put them in the microwave! This can increase the levels of BPA leaching into your foods. Also, avoid washing them with harsh detergents which can also increase leaching.
  5. Buy glass or ceramic bottles for your water.  Many of them come with silicone sleeves for protection so you don't have to worry quite so much about easy breakage. The market for these has exploded since I first started looking into buying some and there are a host of options available now.
  6. Stop drinking soda (the aluminum cans are lined with plastic and sodas have a pH 5, making them one of the worst offenders for leaching chemicals into your beverage).
So now, is BPA-free plastic safe? In a word, no. But it is a slight improvement over plastics with BPA. The problem in general with plastic (as far as your physical wellbeing is concerned) is that there are far more chemicals in it than just BPA, and many of them have the very same effect on your health as BPA (some of the effects of these chemicals were discussed above).

Also, don't forget to consider the environment. Plastic grocery bags, as an example, were first introduced in 1977 to replace the good old bio-degradable paper sacks. By the 80's and 90's they were becoming more popular than the paper sacks. Imagine this for a moment. This means that for the past 34 years we've all been lugging home our purchases in these plastic bags and then sending them off to landfills. The very first plastic shopping bag to make it to the landfill is still there. Some say that plastic bags take 100 years to degrade. Others say 500 years. Some even 1000. The fact is the bags have only been around for about 50 years, so we don't know from real world experience. Scientists have tried to figure it out, but even using a method called respirometry (which tells us banana peels degrade in days and newspapers a few months), nothing happens to the plastic bag. So whether it takes 100 years or 1000, the point is simply that it takes a very long time.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good Nosh II

So my shop, Good Nosh has a few new items up, and now also provides nutrition facts that are important to low-carbers -- namely carb count, fat, calories, and protein per serving!

I made my first sale yesterday, and am crossing my fingers for a second today. A potential customer wanted to know the carb count on my peanut butter cookies (which I couldn't make without a good quality, sugar-free, hydrogenated oil-free peanut butter, like O Organics!). I am really excited! I am also planning on trying out some new recipes over the next couple days, but am having a hard time wanting to divide my attention between baking, and spending time out in the garden, as our weather is supposed to be quite nice the rest of this week (sunny and in the 60s!). Ah, decisions, decisions!

Tonight I may attend a business meeting for our local Farmer's Market. David and I have been discussing getting involved somehow (though the actual how/what is yet to be pinned down) and thought it would be a good idea to see what it's all about. We've even discussed creating a small church co-op so some of the other ladies could sell some of their things there (produce, baked & canned goods, crafts, and live plants are all allowed I think), without having to commit to being there every single week, which I think might be difficult for most of us! I am excited about the possibility, though I honestly don't know what will come of it, since we stay pretty busy as it is.

So there is my very short update. I need to write a "real" post soon. I've just been quite occupied with other things lately.