5 Tips for a Healthier and Greener Pregnancy

Healthy Pregnancy TipsA recent poll found that 69 percent of expecting mothers who read the popular pregnancy website The Bump were more interested in going green during their pregnancies than they had been before they were pregnant. Using all-natural, organic products during pregnancy can reduce your baby’s exposure to hazardous chemicals. But switching to organic, all-natural products can also improve your health and well-being during pregnancy. Here are five ways to green up your pregnancy.

  1. Add More (Organic) Green to Your Diet

Greening up your pregnancy diet will make you feel more nourished and support your baby’s development. A well-balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and folic acid includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Go organic as much as possible to boost nutrition and avoid toxic chemicals found in pesticides.

  1. Spend Time Outdoors

Taking a moment to enjoy the green outside (or, in Minnesota winters, inside at the Como Park Conservatory or Minnesota Zoo) can boost your mood and increase your activity. Both are good for your well-being and the health of your baby.

  1. Avoid Artificial Fragrances

The Environmental Working Group calls the label “fragrance” a code-word for “chemical cocktail.” Companies are not required to disclose the chemicals in their fragrances. Many of these chemicals may cause hormone disruption, allergic reactions, or worse. Go all-natural during your pregnancy by avoiding products with “fragrance” or “parfum” in the list of ingredients. If you need a scent, go for an organic essential oil.

  1. Chose Organic Supplements

Pre-natal vitamins, omega-3s, and vitamin D are commonly prescribed to expecting mothers. Before heading to the pharmacy to find the cheapest option, take a look online at what organic products are available. Quality and pureness of supplement ingredients is as important as the quality and pureness of your food.

  1. Slather on Organic Personal Care Products

Choose organic, all-natural shampoo, soap, and other personal care products for the same reason you want to avoid artificial fragrances and choose organic supplements. Using organic, all-natural products reduces your and your baby’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

Need more green and healthy pregnancy tips? Watch for my follow-up post next month! In the meantime, shop GetGreenwithGene.com for all-natural maternity and baby products.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Tips for Fighting Flu Season Germs

Fight the flu naturally this season.It’s flu season in Minnesota and you may have already gotten a bug or two since the weather got chilly and you’re spending more time indoors. Getting the seasonal flu is not an inevitability. Here are some tips for fighting those ferocious flu season germs.

What Is the Flu?

The flu is a virus spread by droplets we expel when we sneeze, cough, and talk. These droplets can be passed to others when you shake hands or share equipment such as keyboards, kitchen utensils, pens, and even door knobs.

The flu virus causes symptoms such as fever, a cough and sore throat, headaches and body aches, chills, fatigue, a stuffy nose, and even nausea. These symptoms are similar to the common cold, but are more severe. People with the flu are contagious from one day before they experience symptoms to five to seven days after they start feeling sick.

Fighting the Flu: Wash Your Hands!

The first line of defense against the flu is washing your hands. Hands are essentially little germ carriers. They pick up germs with every touch. Take a cue from your doctor and wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Dr. Christopher Tolcher from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine says he likely washes his hands “40 to 50 times per day.”

Soap and warm water are all you need to wash germs down the drain. Don’t skimp on the time you wash your hands. Take 20 seconds to wash your hands, which you can count by singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice.

After you’re done washing your hands, keep your hands away from your mouth and nose. Mealtime often involves touching your mouth. To reduce the number of times this happens, choose foods that require utensils to eat rather than your hands.

Fighting the Flu: Keep Surfaces Clean

Clean hands are wonderful but largely ineffective at avoiding flu if the surfaces they touch are riddled with germs. Give surfaces at home and at work a once-over with a germ-busting cleaner. Cleaning countertops and desk surfaces is great, but don’t overlook keyboards, computer mice, door knobs, telephones, and pens.

Before you break out the bleach, though, consider the health effects of toxic cleaning chemicals. The last thing you want to do is make yourself sick in the process of fighting the flu. Instead, choose products that disinfect and clean naturally. Look for products that have citrus oil or citric acid for a natural, green clean.

Fighting the Flu: Exercise and Supplementation

Now that you’ve taken steps to prevent flu on the outside, consider how you’ll fight flu from the inside. Exercise strengthens your heart and your immune system. Take a walk or a jog around the block, do some yoga, or lift weights. Doctors say it is okay to exercise if you have mild cold symptoms, such as a stuffy nose. However, avoid exercise if you have a fever, a cough, or the chills.

Some folks also choose to take supplements to help fight off the flu. Herbs can be helpful in pill form or as a tea. Before you visit a place that may be germy, such as a school, plane, or hospital, consider taking some echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C.

Don’t let the flu get you this season. Take steps to avoid germs and keep yourself healthy. Contact me to find green cleaning products and supplements to help you fight the flu.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

To Avoid Food-borne Illness, Wash Your Vegetables and Fruits

Blog_07162014_5767011_sIt’s midsummer in Minnesota, and despite the weather roller-coaster we’ve been riding, seasonal fruits and vegetables are ripe for the picking. Those of us with gardens are seeing tomatoes plump up and cucumbers and zucchini ripen overnight. Grocery store shoppers are enjoying fresher, more local produce, too. Before you sink your teeth into your favorite summertime fruit or veggie, take a moment to consider your safety. Whether you’re pulling your snack out of the ground or plucking it from a store shelf, all produce has been exposed to soil and water that may carry contaminants. If you’re buying from a store, your produce has been handled by many people and transported by truck or rail to your shopping cart. Hundreds of food products have been recalled by the FDA since the beginning of the year, including many fresh produce foods. The harmful bacteria salmonella and listeria monocytogenes are the primary offenders. How Do You Avoid Illness? Wash, Wash, Wash! To avoid getting sick from your favorite fruits and veggies, you need to get out the soap and water. Here are some tips for washing your produce.

  • Only wash produce when you’re ready to eat or cook it. Washing it before you store it may actually increase bacterial growth.
  • Wash your hands with warm soap and water before you wash your produce. You do not want to transfer germs on your hands to your food.
  • Clean your tools, including knives, cutting boards, and countertops, to avoid germ transfer.
  • Wash away bacteria. But bleach and dish detergents are no-no’s because produce can absorb the chemicals. I recommend washing your fruits and veggies with an organic, plant-based rinse.
  • Rub or soak vegetables to wash away bacteria. Firm fruits such as melons can be scrubbed with a brush.
  • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth. This can also remove bacteria.
  • Trim outermost leaves of cabbage or head lettuce.

Produce-Specific Tips Some fruits and vegetables require extra care. Use these tips to make sure you’re washing your produce properly.

  • Soft fruits such as peaches and plums: Wash under running water and dry.
  • Firm produce such as apples and cucumbers: Wash well to remove any waxy preservative. Peeling is also an option.
  • Leafy greens:Discard outer leaves and soak the individual remaining leaves in water before rinsing them under the tap. Some people use vinegar on greens, but that will change the veggie’s taste and texture.
  • Grapes, cherries, and berries:Don’t wash these fruits until you eat or use them. Before you store them, get rid of any moldy or spoiled fruit. Wash under running water when ready to eat.

Summer is the time when many of us relish the tasty juiciness of fresh produce. Washing your fruits and vegetables will ensure that you’re safe while doing so. To learn more about keeping produce safe and healthy, contact me!

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Slather on Sunscreen to Avoid UV Ray Health Conditions

Blog_05202014_5130038sIt’s finally here—the warm sunshine of spring and summer! Minnesotans are trading their winter hats for baseball caps and mittens for gardening gloves. Before skipping outside to enjoy some sunshine, though, be sure to slather on some sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.

What Are UV Rays?

The sun constantly emits ultraviolet, or UV, rays, some of which penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and reach Earth’s surface. They are strongest at midday during the spring and summer due to the sun’s angle. Latitude and altitude also affect the strength of UV rays. The closer to the equator we are, the stronger the rays are, and the higher we are, the stronger the rays because there is less atmosphere to absorb them.

Cloud cover can reduce—though not eliminate—how many UV rays reach the Earth’s surface. Some surfaces, such as pavement, water, and sand, can reflect UV rays, even into shady areas.

UV Rays and Your Health
Some UV ray exposure is beneficial to us. Sunshine helps us generate vitamin D, an essential nutrient. Too much sun exposure, however, can cause a variety of health conditions. UV rays can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, premature skin aging, and a suppressed immune system.
Fortunately, you can avoid too much sun and UV ray exposure with a few simple steps. Use a sunscreen lotion with a SPF of 30 and cover your skin to block out the sun’s rays. Instead of sun tanning, sit in the shade. Avoid tanning beds, too.

Sunscreen No-Nos
Sunscreen can be a helpful tool in avoiding UV ray-related health conditions. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Here are a few things to avoid when choosing your family’s next bottle:
• spray sunscreens, because of incomplete coverage and risk to health if inhaled
• high SPF factors, since they give a false sense of security because they do not block UVA rays, only UVB ones, and may lead people to spend more time in the sun
• oxybenzone, because it may act as an estrogen if it is absorbed by the skin and enters the bloodstream
• retinyl palmitate, or vitamin A, since it can accelerate the development of tumors and lesions if used on skin exposed to sun

The next time you spend some time in the sun, make sure your sunscreen will adequately protect your skin. Contact me to learn more about UV rays, sunscreens, and your health.

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Ozone Pollution and Your Health

Ozone pollution and your health blog picIf you’re like me, you’ve heard conflicting things about ozone. Some scientists are concerned that the hole in the atmospheric layer of ozone will harm us, while others warn against the hazards of having too much ozone in the air closer to the Earth’s surface. Both groups of scientists are right: While high-altitude ozone provides benefits to us on Earth’s surface, ground-level ozone is harmful to our health. 

Atmospheric versus Ground-Level Ozone

Six to 30 miles above us in the atmosphere, there’s a layer of protective ozone. This “good” ozone shields us from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. It also helps regulate the temperature of the Earth it is habitable.

Though beneficial miles above the Earth, ozone becomes harmful when it exists closer to the ground. Ground-level ozone damages vegetation, including the crops humans rely on for sustenance, and causes a number of health effects in humans. The main ingredient in smog, ground-level ozone is one of the air pollutants measured in the EPA’s air quality index.

Ground-level ozone is created when chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides occur in sunlight. Nitrogen oxides and VOCs are found in the exhaust from vehicles on the road, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents.

Health Effects of Ground-Level Ozone

Ground-level ozone has a number of negative health effects for humans. All of them affect the respiratory system. Ground-level ozone can make breathing difficult, even for healthy people. It can cause irritation in the lining of your lungs and even reduce their ability to function.

Exposure to ground-level ozone can cause congestion, coughing, irritation of the throat, and chest pain. People with conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis experience more severe symptoms when they are exposed to ground-level ozone.

Often, when there are elevated levels of ground-level ozone, you’ll hear on the news that children should avoid playing outside. That’s because children are especially sensitive to the health effects of ground-level ozone due to their developing respiratory systems.

Preventing Ground-Level Ozone Health Effects

The easiest way to avoid the negative health effects of ground-level ozone is to avoid spending time outside on days when ozone levels are high. To reduce VOC and nitrogen oxide emissions, limit how much time your car sits idling and conserve energy when cooling and heating your home. During home-improvement projects, use low-VOC paints and dispose of them properly.

Don’t let ground-level ozone affect your health. Contact me to learn more about ozone pollution and how leading a chemical-free lifestyle can help.

Hoping you’re breathing easy and living life to the fullest,

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance