Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Genetics of Healthy Living

I recently returned from visiting my 93-year-old grandfather, Gino in New York. He is one of five children of first generation Italian immigrants. Four of his five siblings are still living and are 85-years-old or greater, including my Aunt Ida who is 93 and has the youth and vitality (she was raking leaves when we left) of a 60-year-old (and that is young!) Every time we visit, we learn more about their childhood; what it was like growing with parents who grew their own, organic food, not because it was the ‘in’ thing to do, but because that’s what people did in order to eat.

As a little girl my grandma would always have a plate of roasted peppers, olives, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes for lunch. She made fresh pasta and tomato sauce. My mom recounts stories as a little girl sitting at my great-grandma’s kitchen table peeling tomatoes, peaches and plums for canning until her fingers were raw. Great stories! I know kids today that think tomatoes come in cans, not grown on vines.

What can we learn from Aunt Ida and Grandpa Gino and the secret to health and longevity? Is it genetics? Clean air? Clean water? I think that’s part of it, but I’m convinced it’s due to clean eating and putting nothing synthetic in their body. Gino and Ida didn’t grow up on McDonald’s and Applebee’s, or overpreserved and processed food like hot dogs and Lunchables, and they’re living active, disease free lives. They are living proof of the benefits of whole foods and the Mediterranean diet: red wine, LOTS of olive oil, vegetables, fresh meats without pesticides – simply REAL FOOD as living fuel for a vibrant and healthy life.

Now, when I’m tempted to buy something that I know isn’t the greatest, I think ‘would Gino or Ida eat this?’ If the answer is no, I put it back. Having that barometer as a basis for the healthiewst consumer choices is so important, but not all of us have an Ida or Gino. But there are some great resources to help us make the right choices. Our health and 'breeding' the health of our kids depends on it.

Nourish Your Kids
Organic Consumers Association
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
NSF Organic Buying Fact Sheet

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is their such a thing as an organic vaccine?!

As a newly expecting mom, I recently attended a seminar on vaccinations and couldn’t help but reflect on the parallels between toxins in personal care products and vaccinations. Could it be that the both industries have political and economic interests in the chemicals they're creating and promoting? Hmm.

With the flurry of news linking vaccines to autism and other behavioral problems, the numbers are staggering: the number of vaccines recommended by the Center For Disease Control (many of its studies supporting vaccination use are funded by big pharma and companies making billions of dollars off the creation of more vaccines – sorry I digress) has increased from 23 shots for children under 2 in 2002 to 36 shots in 2007. That’s an increase of 13 new vaccinations in just five years! And, reports are showing children aren't any healthier overall or protected from serious illness as a result, which may be due in part to the immune supressing nature of vaccines and the epidemic use of nonessential antiobiotics and antibiotics used in foods and toxins in personal care products. Expecting and nursing mothers then pass these toxins on to their babies preventing naturally occuring microrganisms from being effective right at birth.

Mercury and Thimerosal (labeled as a ‘poison’) are the most commonly recognized ingredients in vaccines, but what I found most interesting was the relationship between synthetic toxins used in vaccines to some of the same ingredients used in personal care products: Polysorbate 80 contains the carcinogenic contaminent 1-4 dixoane), other toxins include squalene, formaldehyde and phenol/phenoxyethanol are all used in vaccines. What’s wrong with this picture? We as parents and prospective parents must confront the rationalization that we’re ‘protecting’ our kids from disease by injecting them with known carcinogens under the guise that we're preventing disease, then turn around and smother our kids with highly toxic detergents and products causing potentially more harm than the diseases the vaccines are supposed to prevent.

Now, I’m not suggesting that your kids will get measles, mumps or chicken pox by using synthetic products. However, it’s proven that chemical ingredients and toxins are reducing our children’s immune systems and creating developmental, neurological, respiratory and other problems.

I’m not 100% sold on the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate and will probably land somewhere in between; choosing to do some while avoiding others. However, my own research has come full circle and I feel even more empowered and strong in my belief that omitting or reducing the amount of toxins from synthetics sources and going organic is a wise choice. Bottom line: continue to learn, trust myself and make my own critical decisions. There’s more than just me depending on me now.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hospitals need to get with the Organic program

This week is the two year anniversary of my dad's diagnosis and recovery from prostate cancer surgery. I remember the day vividly when he told my husband and I and that sinking feeling in my stomach after hearing that dreadful word.

It's become such a common part of life: that we will all get cancer at some point. I read that somewhere and thought, "that's not acceptable". I've blogged before on Pure Soapbox about the business of cancer, but after my dad was in the hospital I had another "that is not acceptable" moment.

We were gathering his belongings before he was ready to be discharged. He asked me if I could take the little bottles of shampoo in the bathroom. (The travel agent in him could not resist. We grew up with nothing but travel size bottles from all his hotel stays!) I laughed and said "sure". I grabbed one of the bottles and being the perpetual label reader I am, I curiously looked at the ingredients label. Unbelievable. The shampoo was full of highly-toxic synthetic ingredients, fragrances and dyes.

We supposedly have the best health care system in the country. And, I'm not minimizing the treatment my dad received by any means. But, the irony is we're the sickest country and there is such blatent misunderstanding about true causes of disease and illness. Studies are now showing (by many doctor's not linked or receiving kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies like the ones who make the shampoo) that these ingredients are known carcinogens. It's like saying "Good news Jim, you're free of cancer, but don't forget your FREE bottle of toxic shampoo and another dose of cancer before you leave!

Shortly thereafter I approached a colleague I know at the hospital (I won't mention it, but it's ranked one of the top 100 hospitals in the country) about switching to more pure alternatives. She was intrigued by my discovery, especially the PR value the hospital would receive by saying they've switched to healthier, organic products for patients, but I don't think has the pull to really influence change. Afterall, it's a cost issue I'm sure. And why would a hospital choose to pay more for a better product when they can continue to use the cheap crappy one? That's why people like me are out there educating and beginning to spread the word, that this hypocisy in healthcare must end, otherwise we all pay in the end with our health. You choose, pay now or pay later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Organic Revolution

There’s evidence that my generation, those of us in 30-45 will outlive our children. We will outlive our children. Children are being born predisposed to disease at higher rates than just 10 years ago. Childhood obesity and cancer rates are soaring. I’m convinced it’s because of the toxic ingredients in food and the consumption of non-foods. If that isn’t scary I don’t know what is.

I became interested in organics when my sister-in-law, a young vibrant 26-year-old was dying from a genetic disease. She knew she didn’t have much longer to live. One night when visiting her in the hospital, I picked up a magazine. There was an article about the growing number of chemicals in food and topical products and how many of these chemicals are now linked to cancer, infertility, ADD and other ‘common’ diseases. I remember being very moved. Here was a young woman, knowing whatever she did to her body at that time wasn’t going to make much difference, but was still concerned about what she put in it and her continual drive to learn. She fueled my interest and passion for knowledge about the world of organics.

Michael Pollan’s recent book, In Defense of Food explores how and where our food system has gone very wrong. The demand for more food ‘like’ products is driving the wedge between real food and government policies in the interest of profit over purity.

Science has provided many advances. But the science of food engineering is dangerous. Genetically modified food is the beginning of a culture in which our food won’t come from the ground or a tree, but a test tube. Scary. Because of government subsidies, the push to develop the latest and greatest low-fat snack crackers is of course driven by profit. Something Pollan calls ‘nutritional inflation’.

I was excited to see last weeks’ Crain’s front page article on a growing organic business and editorial on the urban garden movement in Detroit. Attendance at local farmer’s markets is increasing, membership in CSA’s (community supported agriculture) is increasing. Organic and raw food classes at the Detroit Evolution Laboratory are popular.

Michigan is in the throws of trying to diversify the economy in the technology sector, alternative energies and bio fuels, creating jobs and opportunities and a shift in our way of thinking and living. Organic agriculture needs to be part of the equation and Michigan has wonderful resources to position itself as more people demand locally and organically grown food. Eco’pure’neurs are emerging with this shift and will lead the way creating environmental and community-based, sustainable, healthy & ethical businesses.

It’s interesting how we’re so worried about gas prices, but not so worried about the world’s food shortage. The two are interchangeably linked. It’s not getting better with the world’s food demands increasing. China and India consume 1,000 acres of farmable land every day to build new automotive plants. Many economics believe that in the next 10 years, China will see a famine.

I’m often asked about the price and value of organics. Organic is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle and a realignment of priorities. Ask anyone whether they’d rather eat an apple that’s grown with or without pesticides. It’s an obvious choice, but for many it comes down to cost and perceived value. It’s the ‘pay it forward’ principle.

Now, I don’t mean to sound elitist or snooty. I do eat non-organic food or I’d starve in Michigan and I realize that there are many people, many here in our own town that cannot afford a simple meal yet alone buy organic. And, that is part of the problem. That’s where education comes in helping to drive demand and drive down price.

For more information visit the Organic Consumers Association ( or Pure (

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Organic Integrity: Quality vs. Quantity

3 days and counting.

That's 3 days until I get my first box or 'share' of organic produce from our local CSA (community supported agriculture), Maple Creek Farm. I can tell you within days of eating the fruits and vegetables that were literally picked that day, how different my body reacts. I literally feel more alive. No surprise, because the food is alive.

There's a lot in the news recently about food shortages and our food supply being taxed to the max with industrial farming of soybean, corn and other nutrient deficient crops that are robbing our soil of the biodiversity it needs to crank out real food. Technology and science is a remarkable thing, but when it come to our food, leave it alone. Food is food. End of story, no need to reivent it, no need to reduce the fat content so we consume low-fat replacements loaded with toxic chemicals. If you're not convinced, you must read Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Pollan not only addresses the epidemic of obesity and disease in the U.S. as a result of eating nutrionless food - a term he calls 'nutritional inflation', he underscores the relevance and importance of organics. I call it organic integrity. Organic food is integral to a healthy life. People ask me why organic food wasn't around 50 years ago. It was. It's called the food our mothers and grandmothers used to make - it is why there were only 2 aisles in a grocery store or local market rather than 20 in a 'superstore'. (18 of which you shouldn't walk down!)

So remember, next time you're enticed to buy that new cereral, or the low-Snackwell crackers, you're not doing your body or the future of our food supply and health any favors.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is the world really going green?

This weekend I spoke at the annual Earth Day Expo at Oakland University. This event has grown from less than 1,000 people two years ago to an expected 7,000 attendees this year. Next year they're hoping to get 50,000. That's a big jump, but I bet they get there. With more and more in the media about 'going' green, it's the newest and greatest thing. But for many of the people attending and businesses exhibiting at the expo it is a way of life.

I love attending events like this and meet so many incredible people doing really cool things, small and large, and the best part is many are here in Michigan. That's what organic education is to me. A way of life. A philosophy. It's more than the next best thing. I'm convinced as the quality and quantity of our food systems deplete and chemical companies continue to pump out toxic cocktails for cleaning and beauty products, we will become a sicker, more nutrient-depleted, unhappy and sickly society. In my presentation I discussed how an organic lifestyle can benefit your health and community. Learn more about organics, the myths, how to read labels, and how to transition affordably and simply at my next presentation at the Green Street Fair. It's a great time to go organic! Hope to see you!

Sign up too for Pure Buzz eNews, to learn more about organics and organic products. Email me at to sign up.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sierra Club battles Clorox

I knew trouble was brewing when I read a few months ago that Clorox bought Burt's Bees. Now, the company's line of 'green' cleaning products, called Green Works is making news. I'll be honest, I haven't tried the products and I probably should since I've been getting a lot of questions. But, I have to tell you I'm skeptical. A 2004 study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund named Clorox Company 'one of the nation's most dangerous companies'.

That's why I was so disappointed to read this weekend that the National Board of the Sierra Club - one of the nation's most respected environmental advocacy groups - voted recently to remove the leaders of the club's 35,000-member Florida chapter for opposing the national board's decision in December 2007 to allow The Clorox Company to use the Sierra Club's name and logo to endorse its Green Works brand.

To me and I'm sure for them, the Florida members viewed this alliance as a threat that would harm the reputation of the Sierra Clubs brand. (I failed to mention Sierra Club is expected to gain substantial financial benefits from a portion of sales kicked back to them from Clorox). As a nonprofit, I'm sure this was a hard decision to make, but it's great to see the decision made in the interest integrity rather than money. Hopefully the national office will recognize the leadership and integrity of its volunteers and rescind the decision.

For safer alternatives, you may want to download the following Green House Cleaning Guide (PDF) A friend forwarded this to me and it's great. I will also include in Pure Buzz , my e-newsletter too. Remember to visit www.purealternatives for update on other pure products.