Since I started studying aromatherapy, I always take an essential oil kit when I go away. It’s like having a travelling pharmacy except each oil is good for a variety of symptoms. Two years ago, I was out camping when I put my back out. I had helped my husband move a picnic table the day before and the next day I squatted and twisted to move a dog dish and that’s when it happened. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, it’s a very sharp pain that incapacitates you. And there was no one around. After several minutes I was able to stand up but even with my high tolerance for pain it was unbearable. I painfully made my way up the steps to the trailer to check my essential oil supplies. I had a few options but decided on lavender and eucalyptus. It certainly wasn’t magic, but it definitely took the edge off. A day or two later, I called my dear sister, who’s a physiotherapist (and used to treating me virtually in emergencies) for advice. Between the stretch she gave me and the oil blend I made it through the week.
But is there any scientific evidence on pain relief with essential oils? It turns out that there is quite a bit!
This meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that examines the results of multiple scientific studies) from 2016 found aromatherapy had a significant effect in reducing pain and that it was better at treating pain from physical damage (i.e., sports injury, dental procedure, arthritis) and acute (sudden onset) pain than inflammatory or chronic pain, and most effective in treating postoperative, obstetrical and gynecological pain. These studies included ginger, lavender, orange, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, rose, clary sage and marjoram. Aromatherapy expert, Robert Tisserand, summarizes this analysis in a diagram here.
A randomized clinical trial (subjects were randomly chosen) tested the effects of orange oil on the pain of emergency patients with broken limbs and found pain decreased significantly in the experimental group compared to the control group.
A systematic review (a literature review that collects, appraises and produces findings, similar to a meta-analysis without the statistics) found that aromatherapy reduced labour pain in most of the included studies. Most of these studies used lavender and in various ways: massage, inhalation, acupressure, foot bath and compression. Other oils that were effective included rose, chamomile, peppermint, frankincense and clove.
A randomized controlled study (subjects are randomly assigned to receive a treatment or to the control group) assessed the effectiveness of aromatherapy on neck pain. Using a blend of marjoram, black pepper, lavender and peppermint, the experimental group had improved pain tolerance and improved motion.
A double-blind crossover study (neither the participants or the experimenters know who is receiving which treatment and then the participants are switched over to the alternative treatment) tested the topical use of geranium on those who had neuralgia (nerve pain) after a bout of shingles. The study found a significant reduction in pain and that it was dose dependent.
A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial (participants are randomly assigned to receive the treatment or a treatment with no therapeutic value) studied the effects of aromatherapy on menstrual cramps in college students. The treatment was an abdominal massage with diluted lavender, clary sage and rose. The placebo group received an abdominal massage without the essential oils. The study found that menstrual cramps were significantly lowered in the treatment group.
A double-blind placebo-controlled study on the effectiveness of massage with ginger and orange essential oils for moderate to severe knee pain among the elderly found that physical function and pain improved in the experimental group.
A controlled clinical trial looked at the effects of aromatherapy hand massage on pain in patients with terminal cancer using a blend of bergamot, lavender and frankincense. The experimental group showed a significant reduction of pain.
A randomized controlled clinical trial studied the effects of lavender aromatherapy massage on pain in patients with osteoarthritis in the knee. Pain severity dropped in the experimental group compared to the placebo and control groups.
Okay, I’m going to end this here, so you don’t get neck pain from reading it! If you have any questions please feel free to post them here or contact me.
Use coupon code PAIN for 10% off when you buy essential oils, valid September 1 - 12, 2020.
Before I delve further into aromatherapy topics, I thought I should cover the basics. I’ve previously covered safety so that leaves history, what aromatherapy and essential oils are, how they work and how to store them.
Although science is only beginning to study the properties and benefits of essential oils, the plant essences have been in use for 5000 years. They were used for incense, perfumes, salves and compresses. Egyptian embalmers used aromatics (myrrh) in their search for immortality. In 2000 BC, essential oils were used in Ayurvedic medicine in India. Greek soldiers took myrrh into battle to treat their wounds. In 1910, Rene Gattefosse was working on an experiment when he badly burned his hands and stuck them in the nearest vat of liquid, lavender essential oil. He discovered that his burn healed very quickly and left very little scarring. Gattefosse became interested in the healing properties of essential oils and later named it aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is actually a misnomer, as essential oils can be used in different ways. In addition to inhalation, essential oils can be applied topically, internally (douche or suppository) and orally (although this is not approved in North America). It is a holistic therapy and uses essential oils to promote health and well-being. Aromatherapy can help physically and psychologically.
Although essential oils are not oily, their chemical composition is similar to carrier oils. They evaporate, are aromatic and occur in various parts of plants (leaves, flowers, roots, bark, etc.). Essential oils are complex, being composed of 100-600 different constituents. There are about 300 essentials currently available and some can come from the same plant. The bitter orange tree gives us three different essential oils; neroli from the blossoms, petitgrain from the leaves and bitter orange from the fruit.
Essential oils can diffuse through the skin because of their small molecular structure. Robert Tisserand states that the various constituents of an essential oil may be absorbed at different rates, which probably results in the oil composition changing. Ever notice how a scent changes on your skin over time? We can only smell chemicals that are capable of existing in a gaseous form. An odour activates one or more olfactory receptor cells which are directly connected to the brain. Did you know that if the air is very dry, our ability to smell is decreased?
Essential oils should be stored in dark glass jars in a cool and dark place to extend their shelf-life. Although they don’t go rancid, they can degrade and be less effective or cause skin sensitization. Essential oils with the shortest shelf life include grapefruit, spruce, cypress, fir, frankincense, juniper berry, lemon, lemongrass, lime, mandarin, petitgrain, pine, rosemary, sweet orange and tea tree. Most essential oils will last 2-3 years but some oils such as sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and rose get better with age.
Since science hasn’t caught up with the popularity of essential oils, there is often a lack of evidence which leaves some people skeptical. Essential oils are very concentrated plant compounds and are often used in medicines. Over the remainder of the year, I’m going to share with you the scientific evidence that is available.
A lot of people think I’m crazy when they find out I’ve run up to 50km but it’s really all relative. I have friends that train to do a 5km and I have friends that run 100 miles. It’s getting out there and doing it that matters. And it helps if you like doing it!
I started running when I was 23, when my boyfriend at the time had signed up to do the Manitoba Marathon. It intrigued me so I signed up for the half marathon and started pounding the pavement, running part of the perimeter highway to get my kilometers in. I loved and hated it but I had a goal to complete my first half marathon. I wasn’t a fast runner but was surprised how emotional crossing the finish line was. And when I did, I said I’m never doing that again!
I still ran short distances on and off when I moved to Calgary and Edmonton. I signed up for a gym membership and met with a personal trainer who warned me that running wasn’t good for a woman my age (I was 35!). Since I wasn’t in love with it I used it as an excuse to quit.
In the middle of winter in 2010 a good friend of mine invited me out to her running group, which she promised was fun and social. And it was! There were walkers and runners and ultrarunners. One day I was asked to fill in for an injured runner for a leg of the Death Race. If they were asking me I knew they were desperate. Since I love helping people and it was downhill I agreed. That’s when I discovered trail running! How did I not know about this? Out running in nature, breathing fresh air and completely zenning out while being aware of rocks and roots on the trail. I was hooked! I did another leg the following year and then for Sinister 7. At home I signed up for the Five Peaks races. I still wasn’t a fast runner but I discovered I could do distance. Soon I was running 25kms on hilly terrain at the Blackfoot Ultra and then I ran the Skyline trail, the Grizzly Ultra 50km and the Blackfoot Ultra 50km. And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy! Spending a chunk of every weekend doing a long run, some minor injuries, various weather conditions and finding the motivation were all challenging. But never, ever, did I regret any of my runs. Getting out the door was sometimes hard but I always felt better after I warmed up and was always glad I had done it. And when you’re spending that much time with a running buddy, you get to know each other really well!
The year I signed up to do my first 80km, my metatarsals started dropping which caused Morton’s Neuroma (pain and numbness). I was told to stop running and the worst thing was they couldn’t give me an idea of if and when I could run again. Running was all I did, I didn’t like anything else. After about a year of doing nothing I got depressed. Running was my life and also my social life. Eventually I tried biking and aquacise. It wasn’t the same but at least it was something. I finally resumed running this year. I may never do another 50km but now I’m grateful for each run I get.
While I was injured, I heard a doctor acquaintance of mine talking about these stubborn injured athletes. These patients who were told to give up their sport, would beg and plead with them that there must be something else that could be done for them. These doctors were frustrated by how these patients just don’t get it. They’re done, it’s over, simple as that. And sure, maybe it was for some or all of them but what these doctors don’t understand is that it isn’t just a sport to them. It’s their life! It’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been there and I thought about how I would try to explain it to them. So here it is. I run for exercise, for weight loss, for better health. I run to meditate, think better and improve my memory. I run because it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, it’s not expensive and you can do it anywhere. I run for the outdoors, fresh air and scenery. I run for community and my social life. I run for more energy, for stress relief, to commit to goals and increase my confidence.
I now appreciate cross training but if I’m ever told to stop running, I’m not going down without a fight!
Every woman will go through menopause, usually starting between the ages of 40 and 55. Many women will experience symptoms resulting from changes in hormone levels as they age. Essential oils may be a safe and natural way to help balance hormones and relieve symptoms.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine system that are used in many of the body’s functions. The main hormones involved with menopause include progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, insulin and the thyroid hormones (Sidlo, 2018). As we age, progesterone decreases more than estrogen and an estrogen dominance frequently occurs (Clanton, n.d.). It is the imbalance of these two hormones that is responsible for menopausal symptoms.
A decrease in progesterone can lead to anxiety, hot flashes, headaches, irritability, weight gain and bloating.
Low estrogen can lead to anxiety, brain fog, depression, mood swings, hot flashes, low sex drive, osteoporosis, vaginal dryness, weight gain and sleep issues.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and when imbalanced, it affects insulin and thyroid. Cortisol levels are affected by stress, blood sugar, emotions, exercise and alcohol (Sidlo, 2018).
When insulin is high it raises cortisol (Sidlo, 2018). It causes hormone imbalances and therefore an increase in headaches, PMS, hot flashes and night sweats and leads to an increase in breast and ovarian cysts and the risk of cancer (Sidlo, 2018).
Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism and affect energy level and heart rate. Low levels can cause anxiety, brain fog, depression, tiredness, low sex drive and weight gain (Sidlo, 2018).
Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, and is defined as the first year without menstruation. Post-menopause is the last phase which starts after menopause and continues for the rest of a woman’s life. Perimenopause usually happens between the ages of 35 and 50 and lasts 5-10 years before menopause (Clanton, n.d.). Although some women experience no menopausal symptoms at all, 85% of women experience at least one symptom (Woods, 2005, as cited in Sussman, 2015). The average age for starting menopause is 51 and symptoms typically lasts 6-13 years.
The changes in hormone levels lead to a wide variety of symptoms including but not limited to hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, irritability, mood swings, dry skin and mucous membranes, anxiety, loss of libido, headaches, depression, swelling, weight gain, vertigo and muscle and joint pain.
Hot flashes, or night sweats, affect 50-85% of menopausal women worldwide (Kazemzadeh, 2016). Hot flashes may be experienced a few times a year or up to 20 times per day for a few months or up to 10 years (Clanton, n.d.). Hot flashes affect quality of life as they can disrupt sleep and cause embarrassment. Hot flashes are caused when the hypothalamus attempts to stimulate estrogen production, but the ovaries don’t respond due to the lack of eggs (Clanton, n.d.). The hypothalamus then releases epinephrine which triggers the fight or flight reaction (Kazemzadeh, 2016). The heart pumps faster, blood vessels dilate, and skin temperature rises, and the face, neck and chest get flushed (Sidlo, 2018). The body begins to sweat to get rid of the excess heat then it cools off and your brain believes that the temperature has regulated (Sidlo, 2018).
Doctors usually prescribe hormone replacement therapy. While effective, many of the synthetic hormones increase the risk of heart disease, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, decreased blood sugar, stroke and gallstones (Life Science Publishing, 2014).
Only a few studies have been conducted on the effects of essential oils on menopausal symptoms. Most studies have used lavender essential oil, on its own or in a blend, however one study was found using neroli.
The effect of lavender on hot flashes was studied in a randomized clinical trial that used lavender and placebo aromatherapy on menopausal women in Iran. The women inhaled lavender for 20 minutes, twice a day for 12 weeks. This study found that hot flashes decreased significantly in the intervention group compared to the control group (Kazemzadeh, R., 2015).
Another study in Iran gave participants either a 2% lavender dilution or a placebo which was inhaled for 20 minutes before going to bed, for four weeks. Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, sweating, palpitation, fatigue, insomnia, depression, headache, etc.) decreased significantly in both groups but the decrease in the lavender group was significantly greater than the placebo group (Jokar, 2018).
A study was conducted on sleep problems in menopause using lavender wipes and lavender scented pillows in Turkey for 15 days. The women were asked about their sleep before and after the study and the results were statistically significant that lavender increased sleep quality (Demirbag, 2019).
A clinical trial on aromatherapy massage was conducted on Korean menopausal women using a blend of lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine essential oils at 3% dilution. The experimental group were given a 30-minute massage once a week for 8 weeks and there was no treatment given to the control group. The mean scores for all menopausal symptoms decreased in the aromatherapy group (Hur, 2007).
A double-blinded, randomized controlled trial tested the effects of inhaling neroli at concentrations of 0.1% and 0.5% in 63 postmenopausal women for five days. This study found that inhaling neroli led to decreased menopausal symptoms, decreased blood pressure and increased sexual desire (Choi, 2014).
The use of aromatherapy is effective in significantly reducing menopausal symptoms and can improve the quality of life. It is also safe, easy to use and with few risks. Lavender by inhalation seems to be effective at reducing symptoms and particularly hot flashes. Neroli also appears to be effective for decreasing symptoms such as low libido and hot flashes when inhaled. Lavender and neroli both have hormone balancing and nervine properties and are likely best for reducing hot flashes.
Other considerations for treating menopause symptoms include a diet low in fat and high in vegetables, exercise, calcium rich foods or supplements and relaxation techniques (Thompson, 2012).
Choi, S.Y., Kang, P., Lee, H.S., & Seol, G.H. (2014). https://www.naturalhealthresearch.org/effects-of-neroli-oil-aromatherapy-on-menopausal-symptoms-stress-and-estrogen-in-postmenopausal-women/
Clanton, M.A. (n.d.). https://achs.edu/mediabank/files/melissa_clanton.pdf
Demirbag, B., & Calik, K. (2019). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335609779_The_Effect_Of_Using_Levander_Wipes_And_Pillows_On_Sleep_Problems_In_Menopause
Hur, M.H., Yang, Y.S., & Lee, M.S. (2007). https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nem027
Jokar, M., Zahraseifi, Baradaranfard, F., Khalili, M., & Bakhtiari, S. (2018). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329377353_The_effects_of_lavender_aromatherapy_on_menopausal_symptoms_A_single-blind_randomized_placebo-controlled_clinical_trial
Kazemzadeh, R., Nikjou, R., Rostamnegad, M., & Norouzi, H. (2016). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304821849_Effect_of_lavender_aromatherapy_on_menopause_hot_flushing_A_crossover_randomized_clinical_trial
Life Science Publishing. (2014). Essential oils desk reference, 6th edition.
Sidlo, A. (2018). Aromatherapy for menopause success. Saddle Mt. Healing Arts Press.
Sussman, M., Trocio, J., Best, C., Mirkin, S., Bushmakin, A. G., Yood, R., Friedman, M., Menzin, J., & Louie, M. (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-015-0217-y
Thompson, C. (2012). Aromatherapy certification course AT201.
Last fall I became a documentary junkie. And I don’t know how it happened because I don’t watch tv. Anyway, now that you’ve run out of shows to binge on, I thought I’d share these with you!
I watched all of these documentaries on Netflix with an open mind and took what they presented with a grain of salt (they may not be available any longer but if you Google them you can find most of them on YouTube, etc.). Before this, I was a meat eater, fervent recycler and IKEA shopper. I’ve now reduced meat to three or less meals per week and have thrown away my Teflon coated floss. Below, you’ll find a synopsis, any criticism and any response to criticism, if applicable, for each documentary. I should warn you; this may be difficult for some to digest!
Disclaimers: Most of these documentaries are filmed in the US, not Canada. I am not a doctor or a farmer. I still support our local farmers and am not telling you to stop eating meat. Everyone will do what's right for them and some diets may work better for different people. I'm only providing this as I found it interesting. I will not profit in any way from this blog.
SYNOPSIS: “After noticing a strange odour in his child’s pajama, filmmaker and father, John Whelan, searches for the source and uncovers potentially toxic secrets of the chemical industry. He discovered that any manufacturer could include known carcinogens, under the umbrella term “fragrance,” without being required to name a single one.”
CRITICISM: “John Whelan spends a lot of time on the phone trying to track down the "toxic" chemicals in his daughter's pajamas, all while asserting that we are guinea pigs of industry bathed in a sea of chemicals. Throughout, he completely ignores the basic principle of toxicology that "the dose makes the poison." This scaremongering documentary can't help but mention the words "toxic" and "chemicals" every other sentence, a tactic of repetition in lieu of scientific evidence.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: “Stink! was featured on the syndicated television show, The Doctors. The Doctors invited the three major industry trade associations of which the movie was critical, including the American Chemistry Council, to appear on the show to contest the claims presented in the film. All three organizations declined.”
MY OPINION: When manufacturers don’t have to prove the chemicals are safe, we are by default their guinea pigs. The chemicals have to be proven unsafe before they are banned. “The dose makes the poison” is like saying, yes, this chemical is toxic but only if you have a lot of it. I’ll pass on a little bit of toxin, thanks. And the reason there may be little scientific evidence – who can afford hundreds of thousands of dollars on scientific studies? Well, manufacturers can, but you can bet they’re not sharing anything unflattering. And when industry doesn’t want to talk about it, it makes them look guilty. Shocking and a good watch.
The Devil We Know
SYNOPSIS: “Citizens in West Virginia take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical -- now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans -- into the local drinking water supply. And it turned out they did so knowing that the waste was detrimental to the environment and human health. This leads to the filing of one of the largest class action lawsuits in the history of environmental law.”
CRITICISM: Not found.
MY OPINION: It’s a good look at industry and how some are in it just to make a buck despite ANY consequences. Even more shocking and a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: “Tells the story of James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance. Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.”
CRITICISM: “It received criticism for scientific inaccuracies and a perceived unbalanced support for plant-based nutrition, with several experts accusing it of misinformation and pseudoscience. Despite its overall reception, the documentary came under heavy criticism not only from sports, science and nutrition sectors, but also from other defenders of plant-based diets.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: Joe Rogan addressed the documentary on his podcast, which featured Chris Kresser, paleolithic diet proponent. Both harshly criticized the documentary, accusing it of scientific dishonesty on the show. Kresser described it as being "full of misleading statements, half-truths, flat-out falsehoods, flawed logic, and absurdities." However, Rogan invited both Kresser and creator, James Wilks, to a follow up podcast. The debate lasted four hours and saw Wilks engaging Kresser's criticisms, eventually making him concede mistakes about vitamin B12 livestock supply. Notably, Rogan himself stated to have changed his own posture, praising Wilks' defense of his position and even considering taking down the previous chapter from his channel. He was quoted as "James knocked it out of the park and defended himself and the film quite spectacularly."
MY OPINION: This is the first documentary I watched and the catalyst for starting to change my diet. Plant-based diets don’t have a lot of scientific evidence because there’s not enough money in vegetables to fund it! Definitely a good watch.
SYNOPSIS: ”A new docuseries examines how the rush to make things cheap or convenient for consumers has led to a lot of intended and unintended consequences. The episodes cover counterfeit makeup, where these knock-offs contain ingredients that poison consumers, how furniture makers are so intent on making cheap furniture that it’s injured or killed children; how the vaping industry has sucked in young smokers with hip products, and the plastic crisis and how we won’t recycle our way out of it.”
CRITICISM: None found.
MY OPINION: The episode on recycling was the best one and the furniture episode will have me buying local and good quality furniture next time I need it. Worth the watch.
Forks over Knives
SYNOPSIS: “Forks Over Knives examines the claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The storyline traces the personal journeys of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon. On separate paths, their ground-breaking research led them to the same startling conclusion: Chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes can almost always be prevented—and in many cases reversed—by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.”
CRITICISM: Two very long critiques. See:
MY OPINION: This one seemed to drag at parts but some of the science was interesting. Not in my top picks but still worth the watch if you’re interested in diet and/or science.
The Magic Pill
SYNOPSIS: “The Magic Pill follows doctors, patients, scientists, chefs, farmers and journalists from around the globe who are combating illness through a paradigm shift in eating. And this simple change -- embracing fat as our main fuel -- is showing profound promise in improving the health of people, animals and the planet.”
CRITICISM: Longer critiques are found here:
MY OPINION: This one is about the keto diet. My big problem with this one is that they followed people who ate mainly processed foods. In that case, these people could have switched to any diet that bans processed foods and have had an improvement in their health! If you eat processed foods, it’s a must watch, otherwise only if you’ve watched the rest.
What the Health
SYNOPSIS: “Filmmaker Kip Andersen uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases, and he investigates why the nation's leading health organizations don't want people to know about it. The film exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars and keeping us sick.”
CRITICISM: “When this anti-meat documentary materialized, it was vigorously debunked by health officials, scientists, and journalists alike. The film, which blames meat for pretty much every health ill in modern society, butchered science and misled viewers. While filmmaker Kip Anderson claims the film is evidence-based, fact-checkers found that "96% of the studies mentioned in the movie do not support the claims being made."
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: https://medium.com/thrive-global/critics-of-the-documentary-what-the-health-can-just-go-to-health-382c7cb710b5
MY OPINION: The critic’s “fact-checkers” was actually one person who wrote a book about meat belonging in a healthy diet. So…100% not reliable! One of my favourites – it was also entertaining!
The C Word
SYNOPSIS: “Cancer is no laughing matter but the archaic way we are beating it, is! With a dose of good humor, heart, and a touch of rock-n'-roll beat, THE C WORD reveals the forces at play keeping us sick and dares to ask: if up to 70% of cancer deaths are preventable, what are we waiting for?”
CRITICISM: Nothing found.
MY OPINION: A favourite - must watch!
SYNOPSIS: “A ground-breaking environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.”
CRITICISM: “Did you know that animal agriculture is the leading contributor to climate change, responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions, more than fossil fuel energy? No? Good. Because it's completely untrue. This is the lie at the heart of Cowspiracy, which claims that if the world's population "simply" went vegan, we'd save the planet. More nuanced, evidence-based evaluations find that eliminating meat from our collective diet actually wouldn't be as beneficial as claimed. Pesticide production would have to go way up to make up for all the lost fertilizer in the form of manure, and many more people would face nutritional deficiencies.”
RESPONSE TO CRITICISM: The Union of Concerned Scientists has disputed that the majority of greenhouse gases are produced by animal agriculture, as this runs counter to scientific consensus (the cause is fossil fuel emissions). However, this dispute has been critiqued as a biased effort to minimize the impact livestock has on climate change.”
See here for more https://www.cowspiracy.com/blog/2015/11/23/response-to-criticism-of-cowspiracy-facts .
MY OPINION: I don’t understand the critic’s logic that pesticide production would have to increase (ironically, it’s from RealClearScience.com). The critic also seems to be vague and uninformed on nutrition. You need to know where to find protein and B12 in a plant-based diet but that’s more about awareness. Definitely an interesting watch!
SUMMARY: Knowing that scientific evidence can be hard to come by, I’m open to case studies and anecdotal evidence. Most criticisms are about the lack of evidence but show me where the research is to prove them wrong. For example, the critics aren’t providing any evidence that meat is good for you. So why is it up to the plant-based side to prove a meatless diet is better for you when we know that meat isn’t good for you?
With many of these documentaries supporting a plant-based diet, I did a quick search and found these studies:
So prepare yourself a healthy snack and enjoy a documentary or two! And then get some exercise.
Have you watched any of these? What were your thoughts? Are there any other documentaries you’d recommend?
I remember when I was a pre-teen, being told that if I started shaving my legs, my hair will grow back coarser. And I heard it again from a friend of mine just a few months ago, although this time we were talking about my facial hair. It’s okay, go ahead and laugh! I know the other half of you are nodding in understanding. Either is fine. If you can’t laugh at yourself, especially while aging, the next 30-40 years are going to be pretty sad. And just to be clear, I wasn’t planning on shaving my face but using an eyebrow razor for touch ups.
I’ve also heard that once you start shaving, your hair grows back faster. So, are these things true? I thought I should test this out by not shaving one side of my body for a month and then compare. Afterall, it’s not shorts weather yet. But then I realized that after shaving for several years that this may impact the results. And I didn’t want to suffer for nothing, so I decided to just research it instead, much to the relief of my husband I’m sure!
The first website that appears in my search results is Gillette. Not exactly scientific but, of all people, they should be experts. And what’s the likelihood I’ll find a scientific study on shaving anyway?? Gillette says that even though your hair may feel thicker when it grows back in, it really isn’t. It just feels and looks that way because of the blunt end of the hairs that were left behind by the razor. Gillette also says that shaving doesn’t make your hair grow back faster. However, your genes will affect your hair thickness and growth rate.
The Mayo Clinic backs this up, adding that your hair doesn’t darken with shaving either.
Scientific American explains that your hair shaft is shaped like a pencil that tapers at the end. If you cut that pencil you leave a blunt end which makes it feel and look thicker. They also cite a couple of studies that were done on shaving. One involved collecting shaved facial hairs from men and measuring them. The other study was again on men, but here they shaved one leg weekly for several months and weighed the hair. These studies concluded that shaving does not make your hair grow faster or thicker.
So, now you can confidently continue shaving without worry about ever looking like a gorilla!
Interesting fact: Your armpit hair grows twice as fast as your leg hair.
Did you know bone broth is highly nutritious, helps fight inflammation, helps the digestive system, improves joint health, helps with weight loss, improves sleep and brain function and improves hair and skin?
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well as it turns out, that may be the case. Most of these benefits are based on assumptions and there is very little scientific research on bone broth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there has to be scientific evidence for something to be true, just that we have to take it with a grain of salt. Ha ha.
Similarly, there is little evidence for chicken soup and infection, but we all know it’s comforting and makes us feel better. Though science hasn’t found why exactly, they do know that chicken soup helps with inflammation.
One study found that bone broth was a poor source of many nutrients but adding vegetables increased the nutrient content. They also stated that you could get a lot more nutrients by eating other foods.
The assumption about hair, bones and skin has to do with collagen (that gelatinous layer on our broth after its cooled). The assumption goes like this: collagen is released from the bones in the broth and therefore when we consume it, the collagen will be absorbed by our own bones, skin and hair. However, through digestion, collagen is broken down into amino acids and the amino acids are used by the body where they are needed most. Additionally, there was a concern raised, as bones are known to store heavy metals, particularly lead. However, a 2017 study reported that the lead and cadmium content of both store-bought and homemade bone broth was low.
There is no harm in eating lots of bone broth if its low sodium, low fat and contains lots of vegetables. To get the most out of your broth, add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (this reduces the pH) and simmer for 8 hours or more. This helps increase the amount of calcium and magnesium in the broth, but it’s less than 5% of the daily recommended levels.
Want to make your own broth? I like to start with this recipe by Epicurious and add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and simmer it for at least 8 hours (you can add extra water). You can also brown the bones first by roasting them on a baking sheet at 450F for 30-45 minutes. This gives your broth more flavour and a darker colour.
Remember the butter vs margarine debate? One year butter was declared the winner and the next it was margarine. Well, it turns out the experts don’t entirely agree on this one either.
Many of my blogs are inspired from conversations with others, and this one is no exception. My husband, Greg, and I were debating which oil was the healthiest. From my reading, it was olive oil; from what he’d read it was avocado oil. He’s been waiting for me to write this blog for months!
As with most subjects I seem to tackle, there’s no easy answer. There is a ton of conflicting information out there which sent me down about a dozen rabbit holes. So again, bear with me as I try to make the science part as pain-free as possible. Or, if you just want the answer, scroll to the bottom of this article.
Let’s start with saturated and unsaturated fats. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard, palm and coconut oils, animal fat and dairy products. Unsaturated fats are classified as monounsaturated (omega-9) or polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) and both are in liquid form at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated and polyunsaturated may be healthier than monounsaturated (though the jury is still out). And I forgot to mention trans fats or hydrogenated fats (i.e., margarine, shortening), the worst of them all.
If you’ve made it this far, I don’t want to lose you on the chemistry. Instead I’ll explain why one is better than the other. Trans fats increase your risk of heart disease, increase your LDL (bad cholesterol), decrease your HDL (good cholesterol) and contribute to insulin resistance. Saturated fats increase your risk of heart disease and stroke and raise both your LDL and HDL. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats decrease your risk of heart disease and decrease the levels of LDL (many studies show that they don’t affect HDL). Omega-3s are heart protective and anti-inflammatory and may increase your HDL. Omega-6s may help control your blood sugar, reduce your risk for diabetes and lower your blood pressure (it may also be anti-inflammatory). They used to say that you should consume more omega-3 than omega-6 but it looks like this is also being challenged.
Other things to consider:
The table below is a summary of the most widely available oils. Many of them come refined or unrefined (the less common ones are in brackets).
So, what’s the answer? I’d say the best oil isn’t one from a bottle but from the foods themselves. However, if you must use an oil, olive oil and avocado oil it is (Greg and I both win)! Try to use unrefined oils (extra virgin, virgin, expeller pressed or cold pressed) but keep in mind they also have a lower smoke point than their refined counterparts.
Cannabis products have been all the rage as of late and topical products are no exception. They are used for pain and inflammation and in skincare. I’m going to give you an overview of the active components of cannabis, the types of oils available and what they’re good for.
First, a little science. Bear with me here, as there has been a lot of confusion created by marketing; either to avoid problems with governments or to fool you, the consumer. There are two types of cannabis plants. First, there’s Cannabis indica which is a typical marijuana plant. Second, there is Cannabis sativa, another type of marijuana plant but also the name for the hemp plant. And most marijuana plants are now hybrids. These plants contain over 100 hundred types of cannabinoids (chemical compounds).
TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) is the best known and is psychoactive (can make you stoned, paranoid, etc.) and can be used for:
CannaBiDiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive and can be used for:
Cannabis or marijuana oil can be made from dried flowers/buds and infused into oil. It can be used as is or in a lotion or balm and applied topically, without a psychoactive effect. THC works topically by binding to our pain receptors and it won’t reach the bloodstream, preventing any psychoactive effects. These oils contain both THC and CBD and relieve localized pain, muscle soreness, arthritis, headaches, cramping and inflammation but are said to be most effective for nerve pain. From my personal experience and from the experience of others, it can start relieving pain in as little as five seconds (and longer, depending on how deep the pain is). The amount of THC and CBD will vary depending on the strain of the cannabis plant used but you can expect 5-27% THC and less than 1-15% CBD in the flowers themselves. The oil would contain less as some would be left behind in the flowers. I can’t confirm the proper naming for the ingredients label but the one I make for my husband I label as Cannabis indica (flower) extract. You may also find Cannabis sativa (flower) extract but remember, this may also refer to the hemp plant.
CBD oil can come from the marijuana or hemp plant and has a higher amount of CBD (18-24%) and less than 0.3% THC. If you’re buying this, make sure you’re getting actual CBD oil and not hemp oil. It should be listed as cannabidiol, full spectrum hemp, hemp oil or phytocannibinoid rich (PCR) hemp extracts in the list of ingredients. You may also find broad spectrum which is full spectrum CBD that is THC free.
Hemp (seed) oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant (a variety of the cannabis plant) and contains less than 0.3% THC and trace amounts of CBD and is high in vitamin E. It’s good for dry, irritated skin and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in cooking and skincare products. This is listed as cannabis sativa (seed) oil on the ingredients list.
For skincare, little scientific information is available. Beauty magazines report that CBD is beneficial for acne as it helps with inflammation and decreases sebum production as well as for anti-aging as it contains antioxidants. Many other plant oils have the same benefits and CBD oil hasn’t been proven to be superior to other sources. CBD oil is also said to be soothing and suitable for sensitive skin.
Research has been limited to studies on allergic and post-herpes skin reactions and pain relief. It may help psoriasis, some types of dermatitis and itching, wounds, pimples, corns, certain nail fungus, rheumatism, sore throat, bronchitis, colds, asthmatic problems with breathing, cancer, aging (study was done on mice), etc.
Did you know our bodies produce endocannibinoids? These are similar to cannibinoids and they affect your sleep, mood, appetite, memory, metabolism, pain, inflammation, motor control, stress and reproduction as well as other systems.
20% of the population has a genetic mutation that releases our endocannibinoids into our bloodstream which makes topicals less effective. My observations lead me to believe that people with high pain thresholds, who are happy all the time, good sleepers, frequent eaters and have memory problems are likely to have this mutation.
Our bodies production of endocannibinoids may reduce with age. Eating essential fatty acids (hemp, flax, chia, walnuts, sardines, anchovies, eggs), chocolate, herbs, spices and tea stimulates production. Meditation, yoga, massage, sunlight, masturbation (presumably sex too), exercise, social time and play time also helps. Avoid pesticides, phthalates and moderate to high alcohol consumption which will impact your production.
Now that marijuana products are legal, I have high hopes that more research will be done!
Men and women both encounter hormonal fluctuations, but women experience them twice as much and have at least twice as many hormone related conditions as men. Men experience imbalances in testosterone at puberty and as they age. Women experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Additionally, women can experience changes in their level of testosterone. High levels of testosterone are related to polycystic ovary syndrome as well as other symptoms. As we age, we also produce less testosterone which is responsible for a low libido, among other symptoms.
Today, I’m looking at female hormone and reproductive issues. At puberty and beyond we can experience PMS, menstrual cramping and bloating, irregular menstruation, mood swings, and painful swollen breasts. In pregnancy we can experience swelling, constipation, nausea, heartburn, back pain, stress, stretchmarks and finally labour pains. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also post-partum depression and balancing breast milk production. Or there’s infertility. Throughout life we may experience yeast infections, ovarian cysts, high libido, sexual tension, heavy or no menstruation and endometriosis. As we age, we can experience irregular menstruation, uterine prolapse, low libido and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. And that my friends, is not an exhaustive list.
We can try to manage our hormone levels using the birth control pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there is. HRT is a supplement to the hormones your body is producing, while the birth control pill is much stronger and takes over hormone production. Additionally, HRT isn’t a type of birth control.
The birth control pill is helpful for hormone imbalances and is generally safe. Side effects can include spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, migraines, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido and vaginal discharge. Risks include blood clots, stroke, heart attack, increase in blood pressure, benign liver tumours and some types of cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy side effects include monthly bleeding, irregular spotting, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, skin discolouration and increased breast density. Risks include increased chance of breast and endometrial cancer, blood clots and stroke, gallbladder/gallstone problems and increased risk of dementia.
There are external factors which may also affect our hormone levels such as plastics (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/), genetically modified food, phthalates (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5391940/ and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0917504017301120), hormones in meat and dairy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524299/), sugar (as insulin levels affect hormones), phytoestrogens, or plant “estrogens” found in soy for example, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/) and pesticides (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/).
By the way, labeling is not required in Canada or the US for genetically modified foods but you can check the produce codes (those five-digit numbers on the stickers). Numbers starting with an eight indicate GMO and numbers starting with a nine indicate organic. Other numbers indicate that they were conventionally grown.
We can also try to balance our hormone levels with supplements and essential oils. A study on menopause shows that after 8 weeks of aromatherapy massage (using lavender, rose geranium, rose and jasmine), symptoms decreased compared to the control group (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2529395/). Another study on perimenopause shows that inhalation of geranium and rose otto essential oils increased estrogen secretion (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28326753).
Essential oils can help with more than menopause and perimenopause. All those hormonal and reproductive issues that I mentioned earlier can be helped by essential oils. Let’s have a look at some common issues and what oils can help.
PMS can be helped by using bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender and rose to balance hormones, ease headaches and cramping and help with acne.
Hot flashes can be helped by clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, geranium, lavender, peppermint and patchouli which help by balancing hormones, improving circulation, constricting blood vessels and cooling.
Yeast infections can be helped with cinnamon, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon and tea tree which have powerful antifungal properties.
Clary sage, grapefruit, lavender and rose are great for helping balance hormones.
Cinnamon, clary sage, geranium, patchouli and ylang ylang have aphrodisiac properties.
Not sure which oils to use or how to use them? Make an appointment with an aromatherapist today.
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.