Chocolate Pudding To Live For

Not to die for, because it’s all healthy!  I heard some chef awhile back talking about making chocolate pudding from avocados.   Yeah, avocados…..hmmm, I thought that could be pretty good because the consistency of mashed avocado mimics pudding quite well.   If it’s ripe enough, it’s very silky smooth.   Well, got around to making a batch last night, and OMG it is so incredibly good.  You cannot tell it’s from avocados at all.  Gave some to my hubby and 14 year-old, and they could not tell the difference.  I would even venture to say it tasted better than your store bought boxed “so called” pudding.   So simple and versatile too.  You can add other fruit like bananas or berries, substitute the type of liquid and sweetener used, but this is what I made last night.    The ingredients are gluten-free and dairy-free, and we all know how good avocado and chocolate is.  

So here is the basic recipe:

2 ripe avocados

1/3 to 1/2 cup of cacao powder or cocoa powder.

1/4 to 1/3 cup of agave nectar (could use honey).  Adjust to desired sweetness.

1/2 cup coconut milk (could use almond milk)

1 tsp vanilla

Plunk all the ingredients in a high-power blender, and mix until smooth.  Put into cups and chill.   Enjoy without the guilt!

My 7-Year Love Affair with 302 Skincare

Just wanted to pop in and announce this is my 7th year of using 302 Skincare.   I’ve pretty much stopped looking at other lines and have been exclusively using 302 products for the last 4 years straight.  The routine is still ridiculously simple:

1.  Wash with water in the morning.

2.  Recovery Minerals if in the sun for any length of time; otherwise I don’t bother.

3.  Wash with a 302 cleanser at night.  I alternate between 2 and the Face/Body Bar.

4.  Apply 302 Plus Serum on Wednesday night, Clarity as a wash-off on Sunday night.  Nothing the rest of the week.  This is my current routine, but I switch 302 products during the year to shake things up.

That’s it.  Simple, takes minutes a day, no big expense involved.   Plus my skin, at age 56 (and 6 months) is not irritated, feels plump, smooth, and hydrated.  I can go without foundation or concealers.  My acne scars are 98% gone by now.   I never thought I would stick to one line for so long, but I feel no need to look further.  Sometimes simplicity produces the most unexpected results.

Wishing you a Wonderful New Year!

Xylitol – The Sugar Substitute with Anti-Aging Benefits?

It’s not as widely known as stevia, but from all the literature I’ve read on it, xylitol sounds like the ideal sugar substitute.  It is a sugar substitute which tastes just like sugar or fructose.  But the taste is about the only thing xylitol has in common with sugar.  We all know sugar is extremely bad for you.   It can raise your blood sugar or glucose levels which can lead to diabetes; it causes glycation and cross-linking of collagen fibers which presents as skin blotches and wrinkling….it ages you.  Sugar encourages the storage of fat which can make you gain weight.  So,  sugar and corn fructose are two of the worst things you can consume in any amount.  I cut out regular sugar a long time ago, and my craving for sweets has diminished a lot.   But I still need a sugar substitute for coffee and for cooking and baking.  In the past, I would use coconut palm sugar, but that has a slight molasses taste.  So, I decided to look around for another sugar substitute.   I had been using xylitol the last 2 years for dental care, and a few months ago started using it as a sugar substitute, after I read about its many other health benefits.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol present in fruits, berries, mushrooms, and vegetation.  The two main sources for commercial xylitol are corn and birch bark.  The body normally manufactures some xylitol during the metabolic process so it’s easily assimilated when consumed.  The process for extracting xylitol from birch was discovered in the late 19th century in Europe; therefore, it has a long track record of safety and efficacy.  There are many benefits of xylitol, but one of the most widely known benefits is that it promotes dental health.   Strange as it seems, by using xylitol toothpaste, mouthwash, and gum/mints on a daily basis, you can prevent cavities from forming.  Unlike sugar and fructose, xylitol’s molecular structure does not promote bacterial growth.  Xylitol actually kills bacteria.  The other big benefit is that xylitol has an extremely low glycemic index of less than 11 and is metabolized very slowly.  It has 40% fewer calories and 75% less carbohydrates than regular sugar.  It does not drive up blood glucose levels like regular sugar does.  So, this is an ideal sweetener for diabetics.  With xylitol, you avoid the myriad of health problems associated with consuming sugar, including aging from glycation and cross-linked proteins.

Other studies have shown xylitol to promote bone density, reduce symptoms of arthritis, promote the production of the antioxidant glutathione, and may reduce ear, sinus, and respiratory infections.  Most intriguing are a couple of studies on rats in 2000 and 2006 which seemed to indicate xylitol had the ability to increase collagen production and slow down collagen breakdown associated with aging.  I know you can’t surmise from a couple of rat studies xylitols’s effect on human collagen, but it’s nice to speculate.  Hopefully, a study on xylitol and human collagen production will come out in the future.

But what about taste?  This has always been the problem for me.  I’ve tried many sugar substitutes but they weren’t sweet enough or had an awful aftertaste.  I can say with 100% confidence, you cannot taste a difference between sugar and xylitol.  I gave my husband the taste test with coffee and he actually preferred the one with xylitol.   He normally drinks coffee with agave nectar.  The appearance is very similar to sugar, but the crystals are slightly larger.  They have the strange ability to cool down liquids.  Put some on your tongue, and you will feel this cooling effect.  It may be slightly less sweet than regular sugar, but not by much.  You can use it in a 1:1 ratio in all recipes just like sugar.  The only exception is for activating yeast for breads.  Yeast, like bacteria, feeds on sugar and since xylitol cannot be “consumed” by the yeast, it will not activate the yeast for bread rising.  So use another sugar like palm sugar, agave nectar, or honey when activating yeast.

There are no known harmful side effects of long-term xylitol consumption.  However, you do need to start slowly and let your body adjust to the xylitol.  As with all sugar alcohols, it can have a laxative effect if consumed in large amounts at one time.  You may have a little diarrhea in the beginning, but I’ve found that over time the body adjusts, and the diarrheal effect goes away on its own.  Start with a teaspoon (4 grams) a day in your coffee or tea and build up your tolerance.   Chew some gum or take some mints daily.  To have a beneficial effect on dental health, the recommended required dose is 6 grams of xylitol a day.  I personally like Epic xylitol products.  The xylitol content in the Epic products is very high, their production method is stringent, and the source of the corn used is non-GMO.  They are a small family-based company in Utah, and their prices are reasonable.

There is one potential danger of using xylitol, but it’s concerning dogs.  Xylitol can produce rapid hypoglycemia in dogs, so it’s very important to never give xylitol products to dogs.  Just as chocolate is dangerous to dogs, many things that are safe for humans to consume are deadly for our canine family members.

So, I hope you give xylitol a try.  If you want to buy a small bag, you can find it at all green and organic food stores like Whole Foods and Natural Grocers.  If you like it, then find better pricing online.  Compared to regular sugar, the price for a 5-pound bag is pretty steep at about $20+, but considering all its health benefits, especially with the possible aid in collagen production, it’s worth the price to me.

Resources:

http://www.nowfoods.com/M045272.htm

http://davidgowing.com/xylitol-a-sweetener-that-can-improve-your-health/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylitol

http://www.xylitol.org/

http://www.epicdental.com/

http://www.smartskincare.com/nutrition/xylitol-skin-collagen.html

Sensitive Skin and Cosmetic Intolerance Syndrome

Have you noticed your skin becoming more sensitive and reactive to cosmetics and topicals over time?   To many people and even dermatologists, it may look like rosacea.  But it may, in fact, be cosmetic intolerance syndrome or CIS,  a skin condition coined by Howard Maibach, an expert in dermatoxicology who is a professor at UCSF Department of Dermatology.   He is an expert in contact and occupational dermatitis and has published many studies and books on this subject.   His studies of CIS concluded that this sensitivity was most likely a combination of factors, one being the over-application of topicals containing irritants, usually on a daily basis.  In addition to that, regular exfoliation using acids or manual means can disrupt or thin the skin barrier and allow for deeper penetration of these irritants, accelerating this process even more.

Many cosmetics contain fragrance, dyes, preservatives, chemicals, and essential oils which are potential irritants. The symptoms of irritation may not be immediately visible or apparent, but you may notice after months or years of usage that eventually your skin cannot tolerate familiar creams and lotions like it used to.   After awhile, you may develop a reaction to all skincare products, known as status cosmeticus (A.A. Fisher), the worse form of CIS.  If you are seeing signs of sensitivity, such as stinging, redness, itching, inflammation, rashes after applying skincare or cosmetics, this could be the beginning of CIS and a warning sign that the skin is compromised.  The only way you can stop this from worsening is to scale your product use way back.  In fact, stopping all topicals including cleansers, soaps, moisturizers, toners, sunscreens, makeup, etc. may be necessary until the skin recovers.  It may take weeks or months before your skin returns to baseline, but then you can resume with topicals that are non-irritating, one at a time.  But the key to preventing skin sensitivity in the first place is to never flood the skin with topicals on a daily basis and to avoid applying irritating ingredients on a regular basis.

The 302 RX line is ideal for people who are suffering from sensitive or rosacea-like symptoms, because they contain no fragrance, no essential oils, no irritants, and very few ingredients.   As examples, the 302 Sensitive Cleanser RX has 7 ingredients, the 302 Drops RX has just 4 ingredients.  Go to the cosmetic aisle and compare other skincare products specifically for “sensitive” skin and it will shock you how many of them contain known irritants in them and the long list of ingredients they contain.  If you have sensitive skin and don’t want to do the research to find suitable products, the 302 RX  line contains everything needed to help your skin recover and get back to a healthy state.  I highly recommend this line for sensitive and rosacea skin sufferers.  For more information about the other 302 RX products, go to http://www.302skincare.com .

For more information about sensitive skin and CIS, you can read this clinical article discussing the manifestation and recommended treatment of this condition.  It explains the other factors that aggravate this condition and references to several studies:

http://www.femininebeauty.info/images2/sensitive.skin.pdf

Perform a Nonsurgical Facelift Using Acupressure

When I was in my 30s, I vowed that once I saw the need, I would go for a facelift using plastic surgery.  I was thinking when I turned 60, I would need it.  Well, I’ve done a 180-degree turnaround and have vowed  to never undergo a surgical facelift or other unnatural interventions such as Botox or fillers.   Too often, I’ve seen the botched facelifts on celebrities and decided it’s too risky, both from an aesthetic and health point-of-view.  Plus, it is not a permanent solution.  With time, the skin and muscles start sagging again, requiring more surgery.  After awhile, you may end up looking like Jocelyn Wildenstein, the “cat woman” whose face has a totally freakish and unnatural appearance.

Other negatives to surgical facelifts are the expense, the pain and recovery time involved, and the fact that by cutting into the major blood vessels in the face, you may be depriving nutrients to the skin and aging your skin prematurely.  So, I decided to look into other noninvasive means of achieving the same kind of results.   That led me to think acupuncture facelifts, which is done in some acupuncture clinics to rejuvenate facial tone, skin resilience, and lessen wrinkles.

Acupuncture  is a form of a therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years in China to help treat all sorts of ailments and diseases.  The basic premise behind acupuncture is that the body contains pathways or meridians of energy (Chi) which, along with the blood, continuously flows throughout the body.  When the pathways are open and working well, the Chi energizes the body’s organs and helps keep them functioning correctly, thus reducing disease and dysfunction in the body.  However, when we become ill or age, these pathways can be blocked or clogged up.  One way to open the channels or pathways is by stimulating various acupuncture points located throughout the surface of the body.  Typically, ultra-fine needles are inserted into these points and stimulated by gently twirling them.  Acupuncture is a widely accepted form of therapy even in this country now, and many people use acupuncture as a noninvasive means to get relief from common complaints such as arthritic pain, back pain, sore muscles, headaches, stomach problems, hearing problems, circulation problems, etc.  I used to receive regular acupuncture treatments during my cancer therapy, so I’ve been a firm believer in it for years now.

A good alternative to a professional acupuncture treatment is acupressure which uses the same points as those used in acupuncture except instead of sticking a needle into the point, you apply pressure on the point and gently massage it with a finger (or fingers).  I use acupressure points to give myself a mini facelift whenever I have 15 minutes to spare, like when I’m sitting at my computer and taking a break.  This is not the same as a facial exercise program which involves using the fingers to manipulate muscles on the face.  I pretty much gave up on those because they took too long to do, were unpleasant to do, and unless your finger placement was perfect, you could end up over building the muscles and/or creating additional lines on your face….a unpleasant “side effect”  of overdoing it.   After doing one particular facial exercise program, I noticed I had developed deep Howdy Doody lines on the outer corners of my mouth, and that is when I stopped facial exercise programs which involved manual manipulation.  Facial exercise programs do work for a lot of people, but it just wasn’t for me.  Working the muscles on the face can definitely firm up your muscles, but just like a bodybuilding program, it can create an unnatural look if overdone.  The Tua Trend microcurrent gadget and acupressure facelift are my 2 favorite ways of lifting the underlying muscles in the face.  They are less likely to overwork the muscles and make them too bulky, and you can’t create more lines on your face.

But the best part of the acupressure facelift is that it is beneficial, not only for the face, but also beneficial for the whole body as well.   The pressure points on the face and head affect other meridians and organs located throughout the body, not just the face.  It should help re-energize your whole body.  It’s a wonderful de-stressing tool too.   Plus it’s FREE and your fingers are the only tools you need.   You can do it anywhere, anytime, even if you can only do a few points at a time.

There are several acupressure facelift programs floating around, each a little different in the points that are used and method, but the one I’ve really come to enjoy and have found to be effective and relaxing is called “The Chinese Acupressure Facelift”,  a DVD by Ming Ming Molony and David Molony.  They are a husband and wife team, both certified and licensed acupuncturists for over 20 years.  They were both trained in China.  On this DVD, Ming Ming demonstrates the facelift, which she explained was handed down from her great-great-grandmother, whose husband worked for the emperor of China.  I’m guessing she is about 45 in this DVD, and her skin is wrinkle free and flawless.  Their DVD can be purchased from Amazon for about $14.

The treatment lasts 15 to 20 minutes and works the whole face, including eyes, cheeks, mouth, jaw line, scalp, ears, and forehead.  The DVD is pretty short and straightforward, so you should be able to memorize the sequence of points after a few times of practicing with the DVD.  I just enjoy doing it while sitting in front of the computer, eyes closed, following along with the DVD which has soothing Chinese music playing in the background.

The main requirement is that you be in a quiet, relaxing place (no screaming kids, barking dogs, nagging husbands).  Do the treatment in a unrushed state of mind and remember to breathe.  You should ideally not have long fingernails, otherwise you will not be able to reach some of the pressure points without digging into you skin and that may hurt.  Prior to the facelift, I just wash my hands and face with water or my 302 Face/Body bar.  To help with the massage portions, you can use a couple drops of a lipid-based 302 product diluted with water or 302 Calming Mist, or any carrier oil like jojoba, hazelnut would work well too.  Pressure should be fairly firm but not painful.  You should feel a slight depression in the bone on most acupressure points.  For example, the points at the beginning and end of the eyebrow, the temple area, behind the earlobe, you will feel these bony depressions which signify a pressure point. You can easily purchase or find a chart at the library showing all the acupressure/acupuncture points if you really want to expand your treatment areas.  This particular facelift also uses massage to help blood flow into the tissues and to encourage lymph fluid drainage.  Your face will feel very refreshed afterwards…and you will really look forward to doing it.  Try to do it once a day for the first month, and then you can go into maintenance mode 2 or 3 times a week after that.

Don’t expect dramatic results after a few days….it’s a slow gradual process, but it is cumulative and offers health benefits over the long run, which is something facelifts through surgical means can never provide.

Why Go Organic and Natural? (OPINION)

It may sound like the latest catch phase or marketing hook, but going organic and natural, as much as possible, does make sense if you think about it.  My pet peeve is when I hear or read a comment from somebody stating “nothing topical can affect your body or cause cancer.”   I think this commonly held belief stems from the blind trust that whatever is sold in the U.S. has to meet safety standards (usually via the FDA) before it can be sold.   I wish this were true.  But, after several personal and family experiences with FDA-approved medications, I’ve concluded that you can’t assume everything sold is safe OR effective, even if it is FDA-approved.  That means you have to take more responsibility in selecting the safest and least toxic products for you and your family.  I believe that anything you put on your skin has the potential to penetrate into your body.  That’s exactly how prescription transdermal patches work.  They work by penetrating through the skin and into the body.  There are patches for painkillers, patches for smoking cessation, testosterone patches, birth control patches, and I’m sure patches for all sorts of ailments I don’t even know about.  So, it’s a medically proven fact that topical drugs can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, so why wouldn’t skincare ingredients do the same?  So think twice about what you apply on a daily basis.  It definitely can accumulate in the body over the course of time and affect your health.      

I’m not proclaiming that all natural substances are safe.  There are plenty things in nature which can be toxic to humans, like certain parts of mistletoe and oleander plants.  However, there is a higher probability that a natural substance will be safer and less mutagenic than a synthetic chemical, and natural substances have a longer track record of how they affect the body.  Conversely, there are many synthetic chemicals which have been proven over time to be safe and/or identical in molecular structure to a naturally occurring substance.  I have no problem using such chemicals that are proven to be safe.  My point is to do your research on ingredients before using anything.  Just a simple Google search will bring up tons of information, but you do need to be cautious to not believe just one source.  Check out reputable sites and compare notes.  Is there an overall consensus of safety?  Go on PubMed and search for studies on your ingredient.   My general philosophy is that “if I couldn’t eat it, I’m not putting it on my face or body”.  I’m not saying I want to eat soap nuts, but I could and it wouldn’t kill me.  I try to limit the number of substances I apply on my skin.  I approach skincare from the inside-out too.  Eat the right things, live a healthy lifestyle, and your skin will improve and be more resilient to the elements.  What goes in your body will definitely affect your skin in the long run.  That includes medications as well.     

For all the chemical proponents who think, “Well there are no studies or research that proves or concludes this chemical ingredient is dangerous or causes cancer, so I’m just going to use it until proven otherwise”, think about this:  Who is going to fund any studies for research on chemical safety, unless it’s mandated by the FDA.   Cosmetic regulations are extremely lax in comparison to drugs, so it’s practically a self-regulated industry.  Are cosmetic companies going to fund studies to prove their ingredients don’t cause cancer?  Doubt that will ever happen.   There is no financial incentive for any company selling products with potentially toxic ingredients to do a study, or to hire an independent researcher to do one.  Research on cosmetic ingredient safety is practically nonexistent, and it all comes down to profits.  Such studies cost too much, and there is no monetary payoff in the end.  Consequently, you will seldom hear of long-term safety and toxicity studies on very popular cosmetic ingredients.

The sheer abundance of skincare products out there makes the FDA incapable of being the watchdog and safety enforcer for all the skincare ingredients and claims being made.  So, I’d rather be safe and take the position of not using synthetic chemicals or non-organic IF there are safer natural/organic options around.  I don’t want the risk, small as it may be.   It’s not unreasonable to believe that there is a causal relationship between the growing number of toxic chemicals we encounter daily and the rising cancer rates we are seeing today.  Even though I have no formal “study” to prove this, it can’t be ignored.  More and more people are finally realizing this connection and converting to natural/organic products.  Just make sure what you are getting is truly natural/organic by reading the labels.  Look for products containing the fewest ingredients possible.   

And take a good hard look at the ingredients in the processed “food” and fast food you may be eating and giving your family.  If you see things in there you can’t even pronounce, it may be time to re-haul your grocery habits.  I used to routinely eat that stuff myself and buy it for my family….until the day I got my diagnosis of stage II breast cancer, that is.  Weird as it sounds, I’m thankful that I got cancer.  Prior to that, I never gave a 2nd thought to that what I was eating or using in the home…  never thought it could be responsible for my disease.  Like most people, I thought “Well, the FDA will protect me and would never approve toxic ingredients in my food or skincare.”  I just complacently bought what everybody else did or what was advertised to me.  I never took responsibility for my buying decisions.  Never read ingredient labels.  Before converting to organic/natural, my shopping cart was full of prepackaged, processed, or frozen food, with little in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Now, I realize that most of that stuff was “dead” food.  It just tasted good, and that’s all that mattered at the time.  It didn’t provide any nutritional value, and it certainly didn’t help my skin or weight issues either, and I know it contributed to my cancer.       

So Cancer was a blaring wake-up call, but now I have the knowledge to prevent the cancer from coming back and to educate my kids so they don’t go down the same road.   In the end, I’m a smarter consumer and healthier person too, and I don’t feel helpless anymore.  Taking control of your health is liberating, and I hope more people start waking up to this new reality, that only YOU can make changes for the better.  Don’t wait for mainstream media or the government to make the decisions for you.  It may never happen or it may be too late.

Resources:

http://www.townsendletter.com/AugSept2011/uscancer0811.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/15/this-artificial-sweetener-shown-to-produce-cancer-in-rats.aspx?e_cid=20111015_DNL_art_2

Dry Skin Brushing for Healthy Skin and Body

Skin Brushing is a great way to detox and smooth your skin, get rid of dead skin cells, and  remove toxins by moving lymph fluid through the body, into the lymph nodes, and out via the urinary and gastrointestinal systems.  With all the toxins we encounter on a daily basis from processed foods, chemicals in personal care products, and the environment we live in, detoxifying the body using dry skin brushing is also a great way to boost your immune system and overall health.  The skin, like other organs of the body, accumulates toxins within its cells, and brushing helps to move them out faster.  Dr. Bernard Jensen, a well-known holistic practitioner once did an analysis of skin debris resulting from skin brushing, and he was shocked by all the chemicals and heavy metals that were mixed in with the skin cells.  As a result, he became a huge advocate of dry skin brushing for detoxification of the body, and he practiced it on himself until he died.  Even into his 80s, his skin was smooth and wrinkle free.  So, this is most visible benefit.  Your skin will feel soft, supple, and have a natural glow after brushing on a regular basis.   Dry brushing brings circulation into the skin which, in turn, provides oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells.  It invigorates the skin naturally without using topicals.  It’s also inexpensive and easy to do.  It’s a great way to reduce cellulite too.

It’s important to use a natural bristle brush which will not tear up or irritate your skin.   I use this one from Tonya Zavasta’s website.  It looks like a shoe shine brush, but it covers a large area which is good for the arms, legs, and stomach and is gentle enough for the face.

http://www.beautifulonraw.com/natural-beauty-store/facial-brushes/

Here is another good one for the body with a detachable long handle for the back.  I don’t recommend using this one on the face, it’s too stiff:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002JFZDQ/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=A3C0J8P73PANDM

Both brushes together cost under $20, so that’s a bargain.

You can brush anytime you have a few minutes to spare.  I usually do it right before my shower or in bed while watching TV.  It really feels great, and I look forward to the few minutes of pampering myself this way.  When you begin brushing, especially on the face, it might feel slightly unpleasant or harsh.   Go very lightly until your skin adjusts.  Eventually you can use more pressure, and your skin will love the tingling sensation.   I would not do the face every day if you start feeling any irritation.  I try to brush my face 3 times a week, and my body once a day, but it really doesn’t matter if you miss a day or two.  I wouldn’t recommend brushing on compromised or broken skin (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.).  Also, make sure you brush in the correct directions to move toxins and lymph fluid into the lymph nodes as shown in this diagram:

  That is, towards the outside of your face, down the neck, towards the heart and towards the armpits.  Brush upward on the arms, legs, and stomach areas.   Concentrate on brushing down the neck, down the décolleté, and around the jaw line to help reduce slackened skin and neck rings.

Skin brushing has so many benefits with no risks, so I hope that you give it a try.  You might just get hooked on it too!