The Ostrich Effect and Why it Matters to Our Health

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"A person should never avoid information about health or finances because information can never hurt a decision." 

I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast this week: The Ostrich Effect: We Shouldn't Stick Our Heads In The Sand, But We Do It Anyway." It immediately resonated with me as I have been contemplating how I can better assist others in eliminating toxins in their life and taking control of their health, both short and long term.  I hear from many women and moms that they are just not feeling WELL. They are tired, have digestion issues that they have just accepted, have headaches, migraines, and other auto-immune issues. It is true that we can not pour from an empty cup, yet that is what many of us are doing in our daily "grind". 

As stated in the podcast, "avoiding information doesn't mean you're a fool, it means you're human". Research shows it can be difficult to process negative information because it seems too overwhelming or it can make us despondent. It seems like everyday there is "news" about something deemed toxic, or harmful, or grave environmental concerns. Unfortunately it is the current state of our world, BUT we can become empowered instead of fearful. We can make a few changes in our lives that can lead to feeling better, happier, and help us live longer lives. We CAN focus on adding in more healthy and nontoxic food, items, people into our lives.

Health is not a topic to ignore information about but fear tactics are leading Americans to do just that. Maybe you can ignore the fear tactics and just agree to make one change towards a less toxic life. What step will you take? Will you introduce a new vegetable into your weekly cooking routine? Will you switch to glass storage? Or maybe a glass straw? Share photos of any small steps you have taken to #ecothriver.  Small steps bring big changes

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551901221/we-shouldn-t-stick-our-heads-in-the-sand-but-we-do-it-anyway

New Business Model: Get One, Gift One Consulting Sessions

I am so excited to announce EcoThriver's new business model for consulting services. For the next year (and hopefully beyond!) We will be offering a Get One, Gift One model. My business goal is to reach the most amount of people I can and help them lead healthier, less toxic lives. I love what I do, helping others through education and empowerment for wellness and less toxic living. 

FOR EVERY PAID CONSULTATION ONE WILL BE DONATED TO A CANCER SURVIVOR.

I will have a page set up for cancer survivors to learn more about the free consultation, and how to apply. Those of you that know me personally, know how passionate I am about spreading knowledge about the importance of our health and wellness through product choices. 

I hope you will join our hive on our journey to wellness and less toxic living. We have two homes, our bodies and our earth! Let's protect them both while living a more nourished life. 

Do you know a cancer thriver (survivor) that wants to make healthier choices but is overwhelmed by the conflicting information? I give targeted suggestions based on personal goals. Gift card services are available

FOR SURVIVORS: UNTIL THE PAGE IS SET UP YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR UPDATES AND THEN EMAIL ME AT katerina@ecothriver.com with the following information

Name

Address

Which consulting package you are interested in

Type of Cancer and treatment facility/treating doctor with phone number for verification

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Simple Ways to Calm Down Fast

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Life can be very difficult, but it is up to us how we choose to react to it.  Last week due to external stressors and chemical exposures I found myself down the stress rabbit hole. I recognized it and moved through but not without fallout on my family and physical being.  I realized I was zipping through the grocery store at too fast a pace, operating at too high of a frequency, was low on patience with my children and husband, and needed to rest more.  Post cancer I have actively worked to compile quite a toolbox of various techniques and I am always adding to it. The KEY is to reach for the tools as quickly as possible to rid our bodies of mental and physical stress before fallout happens to ourselves and our loved ones. 

Stress seems to be ingrained into American life.  As a culture we seem to pride ourselves on being busy, wanting more than we have, and not allowing ourselves time and space to just be. This puts our body into a state of dis-ease, the opposite of wellness. Stress can be useful if we need to be on alert but in today's modern society much of our physical stress is created by us.  Historically humans needed physical stress to keep them alive. If a lion was chasing someone they needed an increase in adrenaline and cortisol to escape. That person would run and through exercise their hormones would return to normal. In today's society this scenario looks much different. Our stress hormones rise, but without proper outlets stress becomes chronic. We all have various stressors in our lives (busy schedules, school stress, health issues, financial worries, aging parents, work duties, raising children, job loss) and we may feel out of control in dealing with them. 

Although we can't control situations that bring us stress,  we CAN control our response. We can consciously acknowledge the warning signs when stress physically enters our bodies and use several strategies to Calm Down Fast. These strategies may not come natural to you but practicing will make them easier to access. 


STRATEGIES TO CALM DOWN FAST

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1. Recognize the first truth of stress: ONLY WE CREATE IT.  Stress is your physical and mental reaction to external stimuli. We can't change a crazy hectic world, but we can control our response to it. We can choose to react to stressful situations with grace, calm, humor, and humility. Just like alcoholism, 50% of the cure is admitting there is a problem to work on. 

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2. Seek Connection. When you are frustrated, stressed, or at wits end, call a friend, ask for a hug, or simply share that you are feeling stressed.  Connection, both physical and emotional, is scientifically proven to be an important factor in health, wellness, and longevity.  Connection helps prevent stress hormones from escalating. 

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3. Intentionally clench and unclench your muscles. Tense your hands and feet for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 3 times. You can also tense your face and jaw and then release. Legs, butt, and feet can be tensed easily under a table or desk, but save the face clenching for home, the car, or your bio break :) 

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4. Practice Gratitude. Wherever you are, whatever you are thinking, think of or write down 3 things you are grateful for. Gratitude directly leads to hope. Gratitude replaces negative thoughts, patterns and actions. We tend to engage in unhealthy behaviors when we are stressed so before you choose something that will cause more dis-ease in your body try to choose gratitude first. Practice makes this an easier tool to reach for. 

5. List 3 things you see that you like. No matter where you are notice 3 things around you that you find interesting, bring joy, or you simply like. This will focus your brain away from stress and negative thoughts. Beauty is where you find it! 

6.  Get outside.  Look up and notice the clouds, sky or tree tops. Fresh air and nature can shift your perspective in just a few minutes. A long walk is even better.  A change in our literal view can change our perspective. 

 

WEEKLY STRATEGIES TO CREATE A LOWER STRESS LOAD

Try one at a time, practice and remember it is best to anchor new habits to existing ones. For example complete your 3 deep cleansing breaths as soon as you shut off your alarm and before you check your phone.

1. Before you get out of bed take 3 deep breaths, making sure to expand your belly. This will wake up your lymphatic system, support your nervous system and immune system. You can create a morning mantra. Mine is, "Thank you for today." Maybe you can list 3 things you are grateful. Some people start their day with a gratitude e-mail thanking someone, or a quick text or phone call.  

2. Incorporate intentional breathing 3 times a day. This can simple be 3-5 deep breaths or more focused breathing exercises. I close my eyes and breathe in for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8.

3. Incorporate intentional breathing, yoga or mediation into your week. You can take 5-10 minutes a day and you should notice a positive difference.

4. Plan for at least 6 hours a week for relaxation time. This is time that there is nothing scheduled. Your only task is to be. You can ask yourself, "What would I like to do?" You can rest, meditate, read a book, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea, knit. GUARD THIS TIME AS YOU DO YOUR ATM PIN.

5. Eat to support your nervous system. Sip tea, eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and be aware of your alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed food consumption. 

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Remember you can't pour from an empty cup! Self care is important, especially during this busy time of year. There are many ways to calm down fast and to live a less stressful life. Choose which options best work for you! 

Sources and additional info on ways to reduce stress:

https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/

Your Brain on Nature  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/music-and-health

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#9bf9d7f183c0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/

M.D. Anderson https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/december-2014/how-stress-affects-cancer-risk.html.html

American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/

http://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.php?aid=3429

40!

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I GOT TO TURN 40! I wrote the following entry the week of my birthday and still reflect on it. As I get ready to launch something great with one of my closest friends I think, "I get to be here on this beautiful earth. What will my continued impact be?" I want to have a greater impact teaching and inspiring others to live their best life and to use products that nourish our bodies and our entire selves. 

Stay tuned: It is my belief that the best is yet to come!

This week I have the joy and privilege of turning 40. 40! At age 32 I was living as my body worked to actively destroy cancer cells with the help of surgery and poisonous chemo drugs. I thought I only had a few years and that soon I would be actively dying. 

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It is a common sentiment among young cancer survivors, especially those that have had a parent die young. We think our story will be as our parents. That cancer cells will come back and take our health, and eventually our body. I thought I had only 4 years, as my mom did.

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Many think that as soon as treatment is done and someone lives a few years past active treatment that cancer is cured. In some people it is and they get to live to an old age. However for many young (and older) survivors, that is not the case. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, never taking my life for granted, as I know any day this gift of life could be taken away.

Once active treatment ends there is new phase of life to navigate, survivorship, or simply “life after cancer.” It can still be filled with dr. appointments, medications, additional surgeries, anxiety, physical limitations, chronic pain, and hormonal changes. For young survivors we are living with this phase of survivorship for more years which is a beautiful thing but brings its own challenges as the months pass. 

This week I GET to turn 40 and I am ecstatic. I get to celebrate my LIFE, my FAMILY, and my FRIENDS. I am so very grateful for what I consider bonus time on this earth. Every year brings joy, sadness, new challenges, and celebration and I am open to it all because I get to be here. I get to be alive on this earth. I GET TO TURN 40.

I try to live my life with intention and in my 40th on the earth I vow to live with deeper intention, kindness, and joy. I invite you to do the same and share the joy of life with me.

Thanks for reading, love, joy, friendship and wellness to you all,

Kat

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Pink, October, and Pinkwashing

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Last weekend I took a flight to visit dear friends and to celebrate another 40th Birthday. The morning of this above photo I was with one of my closest friends and her family in NYC. We left the house a bit late to catch some very important soccer games :) at different locations in the city. With my travel I remembered my glass water bottle, but forgot my ceramic coffee mug which led us to a coffee shop where I was handed the above coffee. Darn! First annoyance was I purchased one use plastic, and second it was PINK! 

As I sat in a cab I snapped this photo reflecting on the absurdity of this PINK plastic lid in the name of Breast Cancer Research, supposedly saving lives while poisoning us with BPA, hormone disruptors, and other chemicals and killing marine life. Hmmm... I can not wrap my head around this one. (For the record I did not drink from the lid.)

Here are some facts that a plastic pink coffee cover does not address:

1. In 2017, an estimated 255,180 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men and women with an additional 63,410 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer (also known as carcinoma in situ). 

2. About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer and 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

3. Overall, African-American women are 42% more likely to die of breast cancer.

4. Only 7-10% of breast cancers are based on hereditary gene variants. 

So the pink plastic coffee is an example of pinkwashing. Companies profiting from slogans such as "for the cure" while contributing to the lack of significant funds for metastatic research and actually causing harm to our bodies and immune system. Here is a list of questions to ask, created by the Think Before You Pink Campaign: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/resources/before-you-buy/ 

I am so grateful for my life, grateful for my family and friends, grateful I have had the opportunity to turn 40 and to celebrate with my friends as they turn 40. I am grateful every morning as I wake and as I see my children's smiles, and help them navigate through their difficulties. Pink plastic lids are lost on me, and I can only hope that it led to at least one woman doing a self exam and minimal funds raised making a difference somewhere. 

In October we swim in a sea of pink, yes we are aware, yet there are still harsh treatments to treat a terrible disease with the hope that it does not spread to metastatic cancer, or come back as recurrence. And there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, too many of our friends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and aunts are losing their lives to this terrible disease. 

So how can you honor survivors? Do a self exam, as this is how most breast cancers are detected. Be your own health care advocate and even if you are young, know that young women can and do get breast cancer even with no family history. Exercise! Did you know that being overweight is the number 1 risk factor? Find one new way to eliminate toxins in your home. Eat one healthier meal a week.

Many women are currently battling metastatic breast cancer and THERE IS NO CURE! If you are looking to donate money to help support research you can donate to www.metavivor.org.  

I am a volunteer local outreach coordinator for FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered and a State Leader for Young Survival Coalition. I also co-lead a young support group in the Chapel Hill/Durham N.C. area. I work to empower young women and it is fulfilling in many ways. It is also difficult as I connect with more women each year, newly diagnosed, in treatment, dealing with the harsh aftermath of surgery and treatments, and navigating the world of metastatic cancer. This is why I can't help the resentment when I see a company profiting from a pink plastic coffee lid, (even if a very small donation is made by the plastic producing company) while I know young women actively dying of a terrible disease. Research and health advocacy is needed, not smiling Instagram photos of people with toxic pink coffee lids.  

Resources and Links:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/tritan-bpa-free-plastic-styrofoam-estrogen/

http://www.metavivor.org

http://www.breastcancer.org/

http://www.facingourrisk.org

http://www.youngsurvival.org

http://bcrf.org

 

Ditch the plastic Week 3 - Bring your own travel coffee or tea mug

This week to ditch some plastic in your life, use a reusable travel coffee or tea mug instead of styrofoam or plastic coated paper. I used to think the inside of paper cups was wax, nope, it is plastic leaching into your hot beverage of choice! Reusable cups can work for iced coffees and teas as well! I brew coffee in the morning and bring with me in this reusable mug with silicone cover. I also use my travel mug to get coffee on the go. I have never had anyone turn me down on a refill in my reusable ceramic cup. A win for your health avoiding leaching toxins. A win for your tastebuds because coffee and tea just taste better in glass! Using a reusable coffee/tea mug is also a win for the environment and sea turtles! 

 Refill with delicious Joe Van Gogh Organic coffee at Weaver Street Market, our local Co-op  in Carrboro, NC  Cup was purchased from World Market.

Refill with delicious Joe Van Gogh Organic coffee at Weaver Street Market, our local Co-op  in Carrboro, NC  Cup was purchased from World Market.

Four Facts About Plastic:

1. Americans throw away 25 billion cups each year (363 millions pounds of waste) and using a ceramic mug is associated with 30 times less solid waste and 60 times less air pollution than the equivalent drinks in a disposable or foam cup. 

2. Plastic items contain and leach endocrine disruptors which produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans and wildlife according the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

3. There are 5 areas of floating plastic wastein our oceans, a plastic soup if you will, with the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, estimated at 386,000 square miles. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash)

4. A 2008 Yale study showed BPA cause loss of connection between brain cells. BPA was found in the urine of over 90% of adults tested. 

Sources and more info:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36882799

http://www.carryyourcup.org/get-the-facts

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/04/great-pacific-garbage-patch-ocean-plastic-trash

"True Green@ Work" McKay, Bonnin, Wallace

Ditch the Plastic Week #2 - Just Say No to the Straw!

Four Facts About Plastic:

1. Eating Fresh Foods not packaged in plastic can reduce your BPA exposure by 50% in just 3-5 days!

2. 50% of plastic is used for single use and remember only 7-8% is recycled in the U.S! (10% is recycled worldwide).

3. Plastic makes up 60-80% of ocean debris.

4. Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. That’s 175 Billion a year filtering into landfills (environment) and littering our waterways and oceans. o understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That's 46,400 school buses every year! (https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

Single use straws are an easy way to cut down on single use plastic. "JUST SAY NO" to the straw when out at dinner, lunch, or whenever you are offered one. OR purchase these reusable straws and carry them in your purse. They are healthier and will HELP SAVE SEA TURTLES! My mouth burns when I have put a plastic or stainless steel straw in my mouth. These silicone straws have been great for my family and I have had them for 5 years and counting... 

Sources and where to read more!

https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm

http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/4/28/are-drinking-straws-dangerous

 

 

Ditch the Plastic Week #1

Four Facts about Plastic:

1. Only 10% of plastic that is discarded is recycled world wide (8% is recycled in U.S.) 

2. Eating more real food equates to less plastic in our body and in landfill (think leaching and packaging waste). As a scientist stated, "If you don't have any chemicals from plastic you are not living in the modern world."

3. Using less plastic helps limit ocean pollution and helps to SAVE THE SEA TURTLES! 

4. Americans consume more plastic than any other nation (326 pounds per person in 2010)

Weekly Tip to Reduce Plastic! Use glass and stainless steel containers for food storage. Ditch the Ziploc bags and containers. I use these glass storage bowls for leftovers and food storage: Pyrex Glass bowl set with lids. I also use this Glasslock set, also available at Costco sometimes: Glasslock 14-Piece Oven Safe Box Set with Lids. Stainless steel is a good lighter weight option, but at home I prefer glass due to zero leaching.  I use various stainless steel containers for packed lunches. This one is great for a sandwich or quesadilla or salad and 2 snacks: Lunch Bots Trio. These pair great with: Stainless Steel Nesting Containers great for snacks. 

Amazon Affiliate Links: If you purchase these products through this site EcoThriver will get a small percentage to keep the site going! 

Bento Box Container:


Sources and More information:

Plastic Purge: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save the Sea Turtles! by Michael SanClements

http://saferchemicals.org/

https://www.livescience.com/32232-can-plastic-bottles-make-you-sick.html

 

 

 

Simple ways to ditch plastic: weekly tips

Reducing plastic use can feel overwhelming, especially since in many ways it is more convenient and cheaper in the short term. However, there are many reasons to ditch plastic. Starting next week I will focus on one way to ditch (or reduce) plastic each week. I will briefly discuss the "why" and "how" to switch out plastic for reusable eco-friendly and healthier options! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the weekly switch from this to that! I have chosen to present one product each week to give you time to incorporate the change! I would love to hear stories about your switch! Hope you will join us! 



Eat Collard Greens - Why does Kale get all the love?

Prior to meeting with a nutritionist post cancer I had never heard of collard greens. I was a New Jersey girl whose greens included spinach and lettuce, that was it. Post chemo I added Kale and swiss chard into my diet. 

After learning I had osteopenia (stage of bone loss prior to osteoporosis) I had to increase my calcium.  A nutritionist told me to think of my daily green smoothie as my calcium drink to keep my bones strong and to add collard greens into my diet. Now, I am hooked! 

Kale gets all the attention these days but Collard Greens are another important leafy green vegetable. They contain calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C are immune boosting, and anti-inflammatory.

When I moved to the South I learned Collards are a part of southern cooking and I learned they are almost always cooked with pork fat or bacon. If you go out to eat this is not listed on the menu, it is just known that a side of Collard Greens will include pork of some kind. I learned this the hard way as I thought it was "safe" vegetarian dish. 

So I make my Collard Greens at home. I usually saute them in the morning with my eggs, add them into my smoothies, or sprinkle them on whatever I am eating for some extra calcium.

Collards can be a little bitter raw, but everyone in my family enjoys them sauteed with olive oil, onions, garlic and sea salt. Kale is another super green, but let's not forget about Collards as well! See if you can incorporate them into your meal planning this week. If you do, share your recipe! 

Cookbook Suggestion: Updated version of a cookbook that began my eating to nourish journey! Delicious recipes!

Water, Water, Water

As a child and young adult I didn't pay much attention to the taste of water or whether or how it contributed to my health. I remember drinking out of our dirty plastic hose daily during the summer, and tap water for most of my life, until bottled water became popular. I remember drinking water that tasted like plastic without flinching. After I became pregnant I started paying more attention to water and following chemo I could really taste the difference in clean water and I began to feel it in my body as well. I had a refrigerator filter for my home water and then I remember being at a friend's house and literally spitting out the water because I had a mouthful of chlorine.  So I started researching and sorted through lots of research and products and put off buying a water filtration system because they were expensive and I couldn't decide on one! When we moved to North Carolina I brought glass 5 gallon water bottles to Whole Foods to fill with Reverse Osmosis Drinking water. 2 Years ago we finally selected a drinking water system and it was WAY cheaper than the thousands of dollars I was quoted by "water experts". 

Water is the elixir of life and there is no doubt the cleaner the water you drink the healthier you will be. Flint, Michigan has put the dangers of toxic water to the forefront of our national conversation again. Locally, our local NC water company dealt with a 24 hour water emergency due to an error that over fluoridated our local water supply. We could not use any water due to danger of further contaminating our water supply. 

Water out of the tap or water fountain contains pharmaceuticals, chlorine or chloramine, heavy metals, VOC's, phthalates, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and more fluoride than is needed. These chemicals disrupt our bodies in various ways including early puberty, decreased immune function, higher cancer rates, obesity, migraines, endocrine disruption, increased allergies. I have attached links for more scientific information at the bottom of the blog. 

For optimum health we should all be filtering our drinking water (and our shower water too!) We are bombarded by toxins in our daily life and this is an important way to limit toxins. 

Bottled water is quite frequently filtered tap water and the plastic leeches into the water so it contains BPA and other chemicals. This is especially true if the plastic sits in heat in a warehouse or in your car. Also, bottled water is a great expense and the plastic creates waste that pollutes our waterways, soil, and endangers wildlife. Did you know that there is currently more than 8 million tons of plastic dumped in our oceans every year?

So how do you improve your drinking water? There are various water filtration systems on the market from pitcher type to whole house systems. Which system should you buy to make drinking water safer, to optimize your health and immune system and the health of your family?  You have a few options and depending on your home situation you can decide which is best for you! If none of the options below work for you a cheaper pitcher system can be purchased or the refrigerator filter will work some, but check specifics for which each filters out. If you would like additional consultation, I am available through my consulting services. 

My best recommendation is to purchase an under the kitchen sink reverse osmosis water system. This is what I use in my home and it delivers fresh, clean water! How do I know? Because for better or worse I can sense chemicals in my body. If I drink water that is not pure I feel ill immediately. I feel great with this water, it is the same quality as the filtered water at Whole Foods. I used to fill glass containers at Whole Foods however it got to be cumbersome and a few times I got home and the water smelled like chlorine. At home, I know when it is time to change the filters. 

My husband installed this filter Home Master Artesian Under Sink RO Water Filter at home 2 years ago and we are still happy with it! We drink a lot of water and I think we are replacing the filters on average every 8 months, but on average every 12 months is recommended. A plumber can install it as well. 

Another option is this counter top water system, Big Berkey. It is better suited if you are renting or you just don't want to deal with installing something. I have a travel version that I use when away from home. 

If you know you will be staying in your home for years it may be worthwhile to consider a whole house system. Then your shower and bath water is filtered as well and you can drink out of any sink. This is my recommendation: The Home Master Whole House Filter. This can also be used for well water, although you should always have your water tested to determine specific filter needs. 

And don't forget about a non-toxic reusable water bottle! This is my favorite and I have various sizes for the kids. I haven't had luck with the straws or flip top as they both have leaked for me. But these are one of my favorite products! 

 

If you decide to purchase, I have linked through the affiliate program so EcoThriver will receive a small percentage of your purchase, which will help support more content :) 

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for these suggestions. I am not liable for the suggestions made or for the product in any way. These are simply the products I use and recommend. 

Links for additional info: 

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/08/unsafe-levels-of-toxic-chemicals-found-in-drinking-water-of-33-states/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/body/pharmaceuticals-in-the-water/

WHO Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water  http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44630/1/9789241502085_eng.pdf

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/13/broken-system-means-millions-of-rural-americans-exposed-to-poisoned-or-untested-water/94071732/

http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/09/20/water-chromium

https://www.plasticoceans.org

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/

 hornafjörður, Iceland - One of the few places you can drink the world's purest water right off the glacier or right out of the tap. Delicious, clean water was a treat in Iceland! No joke, this was one of my trip highlights! The water was amazingly delicious! 

hornafjörður, Iceland - One of the few places you can drink the world's purest water right off the glacier or right out of the tap. Delicious, clean water was a treat in Iceland! No joke, this was one of my trip highlights! The water was amazingly delicious! 


 

Warming Sweet Potato Chili Recipe: Autoimmune Allergen Friendly

The weather is finally getting colder in North Carolina and we are expecting snow which means being at home for possibly a few days (yes even a sprinkling will cause the state to shut down!). It is a great time to make a yummy, immune boosting chili recipe! I have tried various recipes and have created a hybrid of various recipes. This is a recipe that my entire family gobbles up. It can be served with simply a spoon, in a taco shell, or scooped up with tortilla chips (my family's preference). You can top with fresh cilantro for a splash of color and taste. Happy Cooking! 

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ALLERGEN FRIENDLY SWEET POTATO AND TURKEY CHILI RECIPE

  • 2 cups diced sweet potatoes

  • 1 cup butternut squash or carrots 

  • 2 cups chopped onions

  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey meat (use kidney beans or chick peas for vegetarian version)

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • 1 jar diced tomatoes in glass (Jovial Brand is my go to, cans leach BPA and other chemicals)

  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup water or veggie broth (can add more if you want it more of a soup)

  • 1 tsp greek oregano (any oregano will do, but I prefer Greek)

  • 1 tsp coriander

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp paprika

1. peel and dice the sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, onions, garlic (chop to preference)

2. heat some olive oil and cook the garlic and onions until fragrant and translucent (5-8 minutes)

3. add the spices, vegetables, tomatoes, and water. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender.

4. while chili is simmering, cook the ground turkey or chicken in a pan until no longer pink. 

5. Add in meat or cooked beans and simmer for an additional 5 minutes and salt to taste.

6. ENJOY a healthy, immune boosting, tasty meal!

OPTIONS:  you can add green beans or sliced okra, red or green peppers, top with fresh cilantro and add avocado slices.

Beauty through the Sadness

There are tulips from a beautiful bouquet my mother in law sent Lillian for her 7th birthday in a vase on my counter. They brought such joy to her face as she opened the door, which immediately brought joy to mine. Yesterday I noticed the tulips began to droop and I decided to take them out of the vase as they were stretching for sunlight. I moved them to a new vase and put them on the table and I immediately thought they looked a little sad, but beautiful. They matched my mood this week as the weather was damp and the sky dark, I had to schedule some cancer related dr. appointments, Jay was traveling leaving the house quiet, October (Pinktober for me) will be here soon,  and I was fighting sickness all week.

Though they looked a little sad, their beauty still shined through. The vibrant shades of purple color on the petals, the bright green stems, their strength as they delicately hung over the vase grasping for light all created beauty for my heart. 

Sadness has been a theme for me in my life. Grief has come in various waves, through my mother’s battle with metastatic breast cancer and death, my own diagnosis at 32 and the subsequent damage treatments and surgery have done to my body, my sisters’ BRCA status, surgeries, and my younger sister’s diagnosis at 31. Additional waves of sadness and grief have overtook me more recently dealing with my chronic illness of mold sensitivity and environmental illness (MCS).

The greatest lesson this has all taught me is there is always beauty in the sadness. In my darkest days when I couldn’t get out of bed, I would think of the joyful, beautiful moments that had yet to come. Seeing Nate and Lillian go off to Kindergarten, dancing with Nate and Lillian at their weddings, taking them to beautiful places in our country when they were older, and holding grandchildren in my arms one day. These joyful moments pulled me through.

Without sadness I wouldn’t know the extreme joy I feel when I am well and happy, in nature or with my husband, children, and those I love most. Yin and Yang. You need one to enjoy the other.

Sadness still comes and I have learned not to fight it. If you are not familiar with grief, it comes in waves. It has a way of sneaking up on you sometimes, as a wave does when your back is to the ocean. Other times I can feel it coming. Like a storm. I have learned to ride out the storm, to let the waves crash over me instead of knocking me over. Sometimes jumping into the wave is the best way to keep from getting knocked over. When I ignore the grief that is welling up into my being it knocks me over. I am tired of getting knocked over. Cancer and my chemical sensitivities have done enough of that.

So I rest when I need to. I nourish and listen to my body. I say no when I need to and yes whenever I can. I allow the grief and sadness to come and go, as it always will. No emotion lasts forever, they pass like the wind and waves. I can choose to hold onto grief and sadness or I can choose to hold onto the joy. I choose joy. 

When I feel the waves of grief rising, I know it will pass and when joy is imminent in all the cells of my body, I hold on, knowing it won’t last forever.

So yes, I am thankful for sadness. I am thankful for joy. I am thankful I am alive, because so many women have lost their lives before their life was fully lived. I carry joy as I see  my children grow and I get to grow older beside my husband. 

The beautiful purple wilted flowers are still on my counter, drooping a little lower each day. Their drooping beauty reminds me of the beauty in sadness. The beauty in grief. The beauty in joy. 

Spring (and pollen) is in the air! A natural food approach to allergies that works!

Spring in Chapel Hill is a colorful, beautiful time of year. Rebirth, renewal and lots, and lots of pollen in the air. We have about 1-2 weeks that will be approaching soon when it literally rains pollen. Since we relocated to North Carolina I learned that this area is one of the worst in the nation for allergies due to the short winter and warm climate that allows for many varieties of plants, molds, grasses, and trees to bloom. What I love about Chapel Hill, NC is also what makes my body feel terrible. 

Some people get congestion from allergies but for me and others the response is inflammatory and neurological. What I have found is a great remedy that I use throughout the day to fight the inflammation in my body. I take Gaia Turmeric Allergy Supplements when needed as an extra boost however this is my go to to combat my allergies. Last season I spent much of it indoors, however this year I am enjoying Spring! I have continued to hike, walk, garden, read outside, and enjoyed a beautiful event welcoming Spring at the Eco-Institute at Pickard's Mountain last night symptom free! 

The secret? Ginger elixir with turmeric! A ginger elixir with honey and lemon was recommended by my acupuncturist and I added in turmeric for an extra anti-inflammatory boost. The health benefits of ginger are numerous, including reducing nausea, indigestion, inflammation, viruses.  I first began having ginger tea during chemo and it did wonders for my nausea. Here is some great information on this healing food from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/ginger

The method:

 1. Peel about 1 cup of ginger (just learned a new hack of using a spoon!)  

2. Put in food processor until grated, or you can hand grate. 

3. Using a fine mesh sieve or tea infuser, pour 1.5 cups of hot water over the ginger (a large mason jar works great for this) 

4. Enjoy! Drink as a shot or sip throughout the day.  You can add some local honey (or manuka honey), lemon, or 1 tsp turmeric (another super food that is anti-inflammatory) if you would like

I leave it out in a mason jar and sip throughout the day or you can heat if you store it in the fridge. You can make it on Sunday and have it throughout the week. Mason jars travel well to work or play.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.  What do you do with the ginger after the elixir is made? Use it for soups, chicken, fresh salad dressings,  smoothies, or sautee greens with olive oil, ginger, and garlic. YUM! 

 

 

 

Green Your Exercise Routine - Local Spotlight

I have always enjoyed exercising outdoors. Hiking in the woods is one of my favorite things to do. I used to love going for a run outdoors, however lately running is not agreeing with my body. I also recognized that I need strength training to prevent further bone loss. Menopause at 32 is taxing on the body and one major side effect is osteoporosis. Gyms and indoor studios mostly do not work for me due to mold, harsh cleaners, and perfume choices, so that led me to find a local outdoor exercise program. I knew that Kerry from Fit Feels Best lived in my neighborhood so I approached her to teach a boot camp class in my neighborhood. This has been such a great fit for me! We meet twice a week for an awesome outdoor work out great for all fitness levels.  I also connected with Carolina at Inspire Fitness and had some personal outdoor sessions and join her outdoor classes throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well.

So why green your exercise routine? There are so many reasons! First, it just feels great. Fresh air is wonderful when working out and can immediately shift your mood. As Carolina states, "Many of us spend a majority of our lives indoors. Our exposure to sunshine and fresh air has drastically declined. I run my fitness classes outdoors to provide clients with outdoor exercise. I really believe fresh air and fitness are good for your mind, body and soul. Nothing beats working out to a sun rise or doing yoga in a garden full of roses."

According to research studies exercising outdoors in the natural environment showed an improvement in mental well-being, great feelings of revitalization, increased energy, decrease in tension, anger and depression. Those that exercised outdoors also reported great satisfaction with their exercise routine and were more inclined to stick with their programs. Kerry from Fit Feels Best agrees that people seem to enjoy their workouts more when they are breathing fresh air and that exercising outside leaves her clients feeling more energetic with an improvement in their mood. She states, "Those positive feelings make it more likely that you will want to repeat the experience and be more inclined to continue your exercise program!"  

A great local program for new moms is Stroller Strides. There are affiliates all over the country. I wish I took advantage of this when Nate was born. Looking back it would have helped me on many levels! Locally in Chapel Hill the stroller strides is run by Amy Rosso. When asked about her classes she states, "As moms our exercise time is limited. There are creative ways to workout at home but getting out of the house to exercise with your little one is a win for many reasons: breathing fresh air, enjoying new scenery, meeting other mamas, bonding with your baby - all while getting a great workout!" FIT4MOM offers mommy and me type fitness classes including stroller strides and stroller barre which incorporate cardio, strength training, and other elements including yoga. You can learn more at chapelhill.fit4mom.com Amy shared that the first class is free! 

Outdoor exercise is great to do as a family. Here is a great local list of family friendly hikes in the Triangle by Carolina Parent http://www.carolinaparent.com/CP/10-Hikes-Kids-Enjoy-in-the-Triangle/ 

Another North Carolina Triangle local, Maria Finnegan of Maria Finnegan Fitness, offers outdoors SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) classes beginning in May. Outdoor classes are usually at Jordan Lake and she offers basic SUP classes, SUP yoga and SUP Fusion. The classes range from 60 to 90 minutes and offer a unique workout in a quiet beautiful setting.  She states, "Imagine resting in savasana and looking up at the blue sky above, feeling the gentle water beneath you as you float on your SUP, and hearing the crickets and birds chirping in the trees. When we paddle, we become very focused on the present because we need to concentrate on our movements, our balance, the way the paddle moves through the water. Whether we are paddling or practicing yoga on our boards, there is an immediate connection between our bodies and nature." She also offers indoor classes at local pool/aquatic centers and they are a great way to get practice balancing and standing on the SUP board. You can find out more about her classes at www.mariafinnegan.com

Don't let the cold weather stop you. What are you waiting for? Get outside and green your exercise routine! There are so many options, go for a walk, a run, do jumping jacks outside, bring your yoga mat outside, maybe try an outdoor bootcamp or yoga class or search for a local stroller strides if you have a baby in tow. I will be joining Maria's SUP class this spring. If I can help find local outdoor options in your area that work for you feel free to reach out to me at ecothriver@gmail.com! Remember another beautiful thing about exercising outdoors is it can be free! 

 

Resources and more info

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110204130607.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/05/outdoor-exercise_n_6276298.html

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/03/25/5-unexpected-benefits-exercising-outdoors.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835

 

IMG_4707.jpg
  Boot Camp Class with Kerry at Fit Feels Best

Boot Camp Class with Kerry at Fit Feels Best

  Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

  Maria Finnegan's SUP Class basics before hitting the water

Maria Finnegan's SUP Class basics before hitting the water

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Our house remodel saga, from mild to severe Chemical Sensitivity

I remember waking up every morning for approximately 2 months, with my first thought being, "Please let that have just been a bad nightmare." But then I would feel the symptoms immediately, numbness, brain fog, electrical zaps, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, and I would realize just like my cancer diagnosis, "This is my life, it was not a nightmare."

I would then take a few deep breaths to release and "make" myself ok as mothers do so I could take care of Nate and Lillian and get through the day and find joy amongst the craziness that was happening in my body. My morning mantra was and still is, "I am healthy, I am happy, I am free."

How did this start? In March we started a bathroom renovation due to a leaky shower. We decided to redo the bathroom and I was as careful as I knew how. I researched, made sure products were not off-gassing as they went in. I smelled tile, grout, the insulated tub, vanity, and I thought I was careful, but I made a big mistake not realizing how sensitive my system was. What did me in was the silicone caulk used to adhere the glass on the frameless shower doors. It contains VOC's and anti mildew agents. I spoke with the company and they assured me smell would be gone in 1 day and was the lowest VOC product on the market. However turns out none of that was correct, so I chalked it up to another learning experience. 

As I type this it is 9 months later and I still can't get into the space of our master bedroom and bath. Turns out it contaminated the entire space for me and any steps we have taken have not been enough to let me back in the space. So we are hoping that more time will make it ok. In the meantime we converted the playroom to our bedroom and although inconvenient, we are making it work and we are waking up to the beautiful sunlit trees. We have a safe house for me otherwise, we have our family, and I can cook in my kitchen :) So we are rolling with it all best as we can, of course some days better than others, but it's a journey right?

Second event was the completion of our screened in porch. We already couldn't be in our bedroom and I suggested we wait to do the porch because at this point I was very nervous about any other additions. But against my better judgement I ok'd the porch. I was again careful making sure to use non toxic paints and stain, and flooring that did not off gas. However I had a very large slip in judgement that I didn't realize.  The wood used was saturated in chemicals to make it withstand the elements (so crazy I didn't realize that in hindsight.) The day the porch was done, I literally had to flee my house. It was off-gassing into our home and I was vomiting for hours locked in the upstairs bathroom, the one safe room left for me. It was the last day of school for the kids. Luckily my sister swept in, helped get the kids settled as I proceeded to vomit outside the front of my house. A good friend was traveling and we found a safe haven at her house in the neighborhood.  I knew about people with severe MCS and I knew too much about what the road ahead could look like. I  literally thought I was dying.  I was lucky my sister was there reminding me I would be ok, I just needed time to detox the chemicals. And then came that life lesson again, one day at a time. 

As I escaped my house, we were fortunate enough to have 2 safe houses locally for me to escape to with the kids. I began to take one day at a time, tried to get them to swim, kept them entertained and began to treat it like an adventure. I would say things like, "It's not every day you get to play with your best friend's toys without them being home" while wondering if I would ever be able to live in our home again. Our "adventure" took us up to NJ and NYC to see family and friends and I coped the best I could. Truth is I don't feel great in most other people's homes, but the kids were great and although I didn't know what tomorrow would bring, I knew I would be o.k. I had to be, in my mind I didn't have a choice. 

As we took it day by day, I recovered from the assault on my body and immune system. I have bad moments, bad days when I am exposed to various chemicals, but also many great days. I now have more good days than bad and try my best to avoid stores, school, and other homes that make me ill. I can walk into a home and know immediately if they use chemicals in cleaning products or if has off-gassing furniture. This is not a skill I want and I try to tune it out as best as I can. It is difficult to disengage from what is happening in my body after being forced to be so in tune after my cancer diagnosis. Especially since it feels so terrible. 

Being mold and chemically sensitive is very difficult in today's world. Although my body has recovered I am still considered to be severely sensitive to mold and chemicals. I react to almost everything. Stores are very difficult for me so I try to do mostly online shopping. My clothes are organic cotton and new items must be washed at least 10 times and soaked in vinegar and dish soap. This is my life. Not the life I imagined, but I am alive. A great lesson from being a breast cancer survivor is that each day matters. My daily life consists of avoiding toxins, being outside as much as possible, cooking nourishing foods, researching and connecting with other like minded people. I am on a quest to help diminish my symptoms to make life easier for my family and I. 

This morning the song, "Home is wherever I'm with you" came on our playlist. It is true, home for me is whenever I am with Jay, Nate and Lillian. I may be mold and chemically sensitive, and yes our world has gotten a little smaller as there are limits where I can go, but I feel grateful for each day. And yes there are positive things that have come out of this situation. My children will be healthier. I can help share information with others. I have great empathy for anyone dealing with chronic illness. My marriage is stronger than ever and I try to make the most of each day. When I feel good I feel great and relish in it because I know that tomorrow may be different. Life is messy. Control of most things is an illusion as things can change in the blink of an eye, so I focus on what I can, finding joy today. Here is to enjoying the messy, beautiful, heartbreaking, joyous journey of life!

...and Ecothriver begins! Living Scent Free with MCS

I am so very excited for this site to be up and running! It is a work in progress, as life is :)  Yesterday we celebrated Christmas and I am enjoying some down time while my in laws are enjoying my children. A major reason I need some extra down time today and some detoxing is from the fragrances of holiday get togethers. We have a fragrance free home, however I have decided not to become a hermit, and that involves sometimes saturating my nose with other people's fragrance choices. Let me start by saying that I think most people have no idea how toxic the "smells" of fragrance are. They get dressed, and spritz their perfume or cologne with no thought that it may make someone else feel ill, trigger an asthma attack, or cause someone to need to rinse their nose with a Neti pot to get the fragrance out. This also applies to scented lotions, hand sanitizer, soaps, fabric softener, scented detergents, shampoos, etc.  Don't get me started on Febreze, Glade Plug ins, or scented candles! Those products release chemicals into the air through their fragrance. They are all terrible air polluters. 

Last week I walked into the bathroom at my children's school and literally almost passed out from a plug-in emitting vanilla fragrance in the air. It took my energy for the day. I contacted the school and it has since been removed (it was actually a fire hazard.) I wish more people would realize the unnecessary chemicals we are exposing our children too! There is a movement across our country and Canada to move towards a scent free policy in schools, churches, hospitals, workplaces, and other public buildings. It is my hope that this trend continues to spread! 

You can check the toxicity of your products at the Environmental Working Group Database at www.ewg.org.

 

If you find it very difficult to have scent free air, a suggestion that may work is essential oils. You can diffuse essential oils throughout your home and even use scents such as lavender as a perfume. Oils are not safe for everyone, for example I react to certain oils.  Local, small batch organic oils are best. Be sure to see what works for you. Some people with MCS can not tolerate any essential oils. I have some favorites such as Peppermint and Lavender that work well for me. 

Here is some info if you would like to read more about the dangers of fragrances:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018511/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/toxic-perfumes-and-colognes/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/business/maker-of-glade-to-disclose-chemical-details.html?_r=0

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/scented-laundry-products-release-carcinogens-study-finds/