Which Toothpaste Do You Use?

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There are so many brands of toothpaste out there advertising different benefits. How do you pick the best one for you? Many natural brands boast being free of certain ingredients. I’m going to discuss these ingredients and whether or not you should be avoiding them.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant, meaning that it has one end that grabs onto water and the other grabs onto oil. This helps soaps and toothpastes to grab onto dirt and carry it away. They also create bubbles. Research has found that SLS does not cause cancer, but that doesn’t mean that you want it in your toothpaste. In my research I found studies that found that SLS decreases the amount of fluoride taken up by the enamel of the teeth thus decreasing its ability to help prevent cavities. It can also cause skin irritation, especially for people who are extra sensitive.

Parabens are preservatives used in toothpaste and other cosmetics. Research shows they are hormone disruptors, which can lead to reproductive issues amongst other health problems. They have also been found in breast cancer tissue and seem to collect in the axilla (armpit), which is the most common area for breast cancer. This doesn’t mean that they have caused the cancer, but it is certainly worrying that they are found, unchanged, in this tissue when they are most commonly used externally. The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Countries have both banned the 5 top parabens. Despite this precedent, and the Australian government acknowledging these potential risks, parabens are still allowed in Australia.

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Triclosan is an antibacterial agent commonly found in toothpaste and is probably the most important ingredient you should be avoiding. In 2016, the FDA in America banned the use of triclosan and other antibacterial agents in hand soaps. It is still allowed in other products such as toothpaste, mouthwash and hand sanitizer. It has not been restricted at all in Australia to date. Not only does everyday use of triclosan lead to antibiotic resistance, it persists in the environment creating carcinogenic toxins, it bioaccumulates in the body including in breast milk, it is a hormone disruptor associated with reproductive and developmental issues and it increases sensitivity to allergens. Antimicrobials should only be used if a person has a specific health condition, not everyday. A group of over 200 scientists and medical professionals developed the Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarbon last year, recommending it be highly restricted. Unfortunately big brand toothpaste manufacturers are still trying to tell you it is safe. Read more about antibacterials in cleaners in my article about cleaning products.

If you are worried about your oral health, using a toothpaste containing Aloe Vera has been found to be as effective as triclosan in reducing plaque and gingivitis without the side effects.

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Toothpaste is not meant to be consumed so it is not considered a food. This means it does not have the same rules and restrictions regarding the safety and labelling of ingredients. If you want to avoid the ingredients discussed, you need to pick a toothpaste that specifically says doesn’t contain them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anything in my mouth that isn’t safe to swallow. If you have any questions about toothpaste or oral health, talk to your local naturopath.

 

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Cancer Prevention

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Nobody wants to have cancer, but everyone has been touched by it in some way. The good news is that research estimates that only 5-10% of cancers are hereditary, meaning that 90-95% are due to lifestyle and environmental exposures and are therefore preventable. Some exposures such as pollution in the air we breathe are difficult to avoid, but there are many other steps we can take to minimise our risk of getting cancer.

The leading cause of preventable cancer is still smoking. But I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it is bad for you so I won’t waste words here.

After not smoking, keeping yourself at a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer. Obesity actually changes your hormones, causing increased inflammation, which can lead to cancer. Now I don’t want you to start the next trend diet. Very slow (as in 1-2kg per month) weight loss is the best for keeping off the weight. And the best way to do this is to just eat well and start exercising (exercise also independently decreases your risk of cancer!).

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Besides causing weight gain and diabetes, research has found that sugar is a cause of cancer in and of itself. It was estimated that “in 2010, sugary drink consumption was responsible for about 184,450 deaths worldwide, with 133,000 deaths from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,450 deaths from cancer.” Recent research has discovered a possible mechanism. When we consume excess sugar, it feeds cancer cells. Now you may say that you don’t have cancer so it doesn’t apply to you. Our bodies are constantly making cancer cells, which our immune systems usually deal with before they get out of control. But if you are consuming more sugar than your body can handle, the cancer cells may win over your immune system.

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You also want to keep your digestive system and your gut flora (bacteria that live in your gut and keep you healthy) happy. Dysbiosis is when you have improper or a lack of gut bacteria and this is associated with some cancers. The best way to have a happy, healthy gut is to eat plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes while minimising your intake of processed meats, which the World Health Organization has declared a cancer risk. Fibre is needed for proper digestion and can help to prevent colon cancer. You also want to eat most of your produce as organic because preservatives and pesticides can kill your friendly bacteria as well as increase your risk of ovarian and other cancers.

Although the government guidelines like to encourage everyone to drink lots of milk, data from some very large studies including the Nurses’ Health Study, has actually found an increased risk of some cancers with increased consumption. Not to mention that the Australian dietary guidelines say it is ok to drink sugar-laden flavoured milks and yogurts so that people are getting a double whammy. There are lots of other foods that contain plenty of calcium. The vegans of the worlds do not go around with rampant cases of osteoporosis.

The American Cancer Society says that half of all men and one-third of women will develop cancer in their lifetime. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones be part of this statistic. Talk to your local naturopath for advice on how to minimise your risk of cancer.

Are Your Cleaning Products Affecting Your Health?

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There are so many cleaning products on the market these days it is hard to know what is best for your health and what will clean your home. Although some products may clean well, they can have harmful effects on the health of you, your family and the environment. If you have a cupboard that the kids can’t go into, then you need to read this article.

Many households have a bottle of bleach in the laundry. This is the first thing that needs to leave your home. Bleach has been well known to irritate people who already have existing asthma, but in 2012, The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics declared bleach an asthmagen. This means that bleach actually causes asthma in previously healthy individuals. Given the prevalence of asthma, and the sensitivity of respiratory tracts in young people, bleach should not be used in the home or at day care centres. Instead, most areas in the home can be cleaned with soap, a vinegar and water solution and a bit of elbow grease. For really messy areas such as the oven or the toilet, mix vinegar with baking soda.

In Australia, we can find many hand soaps that state they are antibacterial. These soaps have been found to be no better than regular soap at cleaning hands and specifically no better at decreasing the incidence of childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea. They have been found though, to increase the incidence of drug-resistant bacteria or super-bugs. If you get infected with a drug-resistant bacterium, we do not have medication that can help you. These antibacterial chemicals also negatively impact organisms, such as algae, in our waterways and may disrupt hormone signalling in mammals. In 2013, the FDA in America banned 19 antibacterial substances from over the counter soaps. These same chemicals are still allowed in Australia. Studies have found that the time spent washing your hands is the most important factor in getting them clean so just use regular soap and take your time.

Love the smell of freshly cleaned and scented laundry? This smell may be affecting your health. Your favourite scented laundry soap, dryer sheets and fabric softener might contain chemicals that disrupt hormones and cause asthma. Unfortunately these products are not required to have their entire ingredient list on the package, so it is difficult to know what you are buying. Buy unscented products and put your clothes out on the line for that fresh smell.

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Air fresheners are another way that people can unknowingly be putting chemicals into their bodies. The ingredients of these products are largely unregulated and many of them contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors, and benzenes, which are known carcinogens. If you feel like your home needs freshening, buy some pot plants that are known to clean the air. Chrysanthemums remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene from the air. Spider plants and Boston ferns remove formaldehyde and xylene.

Tea tree oil is another great substitute for chemical cleansers as it can disinfect without causing asthma or antibiotic resistance. You can also just squeeze a lemon. Lemon juice can kill most of the bacteria in your home, while still being safe for the family.

Natural cleaning products

Everyday, research is coming out that discovers the effects of chemicals on our bodies. Keep your household cleaning products natural and keep you and your family healthy. Talk to your local naturopath if you have any questions about natural cleaning products.