Detox Your Home: Ingredients to Avoid + Brands to Use

Detox Home Cleaning Brands

I’ve used non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products on and off, but having recently moved into my own place in London, I decided to go all-out and use ‘clean’ cleaning products across the board in an attempt to make my little home healthier.

An alarmingly high number of people don’t realise that cleaning products are ‘dirty’ and that we are ironically using poisons (no exaggeration here) to make our homes ‘healthier’.

Clean eating has caught on. Clean, natural skincare has caught on. Finally, ‘clean’ cleaning is becoming more mainstream too - and without you having to cover your bathroom in vinegar and baking soda to make it shine.

The Impact of Dirty Cleaning Products

Typically, natural and organic cleaning products have been promoted as alternatives that will save the environment. This is definitely the case - some cleaners have terrifying effects on the environment and animals within it. But, have you ever thought about the impact that they have on you, too?

The effects of different ingredients on your body (and the environment) vary from one to the other.

To give a brief overview, some ‘dirty’ ingredients can cause mild skin irritation, while others have been linked to antibiotic resistance concerns and hormone disruption.

Research by the US Environmental Protection Agency puts this into perspective:

“EPA studies have found that the concentration of organic pollutants is 2–5 times higher inside homes than outdoors in cities. Many of these organic pollutants can come from conventional cleaning products, spread in thin layers around the surfaces of the home.”

Method Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Dirty Ingredients to Avoid

There are a large number of ingredients that have a variety of proven or suspected links to health problems. Here are just a few that really stood out to me:

Triclosan

This ingredient is used in products such as toothpaste, hand wash and body wash. It has suspected links with antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption and, as it accumulates in the body, it can even be present in breast milk.

2-Butoxyethanol

This ingredient goes by many other names. It is used in many cleaning products (as a degreaser) and can also appear in liquid soaps and cosmetics. It is an irritant, harmful by inhalation and linked to organ toxicity.

Ethanolamine

Often abbreviated at ETA or MEA, this ingredient is typically found in laundry detergents, floor cleaners and other degreasers. It is an irritant, asthmagen (links to asthma risk) and may damage the respiratory tract.

Phthalates

Phthalates have been linked to abnormal development, low birth weight and asthma, and are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors. They are widely used in ‘fragrance’ in cleaning and cosmetic products.

Brands to Try

There are lots of traditional natural cleaning methods that involve using ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar as healthier cleaning products. However, I struggle to make time to experiment with messy concoctions like this, and would rather invest in something that will do the job conveniently.

Probably, you are in the same boat. So here are my favourite brands that avoid these harmful ingredients:

Method Cleaning Brand Detox

Method

I love the method brand. When I first saw their product packaging in the aisles of Waitrose, I was infatuated. Since then, I’ve spent hours learning about the brand on their super sleek website and have even got my hands on their book - the method method.

They also have a downloadable toolkit which outlines a little more about the brand’s healthy business practices as well as clear overviews of the ingredientss that they do and don’t use in their products.

I’m fully-converted.

Not only are they making clean cleaning possible, they’re doing it stylishly, always keeping product design in mind. They realise that products traditionally positioned as dull commodities doomed to a life under the sink are actually a really important part of a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Since I’ve been using these products, I’m no longer paranoid that I’ll die from neurotoxin exposure when cleaning the shower (slight exaggeration, but I actually do know of people who have been quite ill from this). Plus, they look so cool that your boyfriend will actually want to clean the kitchen. Need I say more?

My favourite method products are the air freshener* and multi-surface sprays. The scents are so fresh and crisp - especially french lavender and clementine.

Ecover Cleaning Products Brand Detox

Ecover

Ecover is the parent company of method. However, the companies differ in that, where method seek to make sustainability desirable, Ecover have a vision to make sustainable natural.

I’m a long-time user of their washing up liquid and I also love their laundry detergent gel. I assumed that the laundry detergent wouldn’t have a fragrance, but surprisingly my clothes fill the flat with a gorgeous smell when they’re drying!

I also really like that refills are available for this brand at stores such as Planet Organic and even my local greengrocers!

Method Clean Air Freshener

My Verdict

I hate using products knowing that they’re bad for me.

For as long as I can remember I have loathed aerosol sprays of any kind. For starters, did you know that some aerosol sprays use chemical propellants to diffuse the contents of the can? Sprays using air propellants are a better alternative.

I think people really just need to be educated on how toxic and damaging apparent ‘hygiene’ products can be, and know that there is a really appealing alternative available.

I’m buying eco-friendly (and me-friendly!) home products wherever possible. As well as giving me peace of mind, they’re so much more pleasant to use and to see around my house every day.

Were you aware of the dangers of cleaning products? What steps do you take to ensure a healthy home?

Monkey Nutrition Ape testosterone Booster - Reviewed By A Girl

Monkey-Nutrition-APE-Testosterone-Booster-Supplement

If you've read my previous posts on Hormones and on Testosterone in Women, you'll know that keeping hormone levels healthy is really important.

I always thought that I had healthy testosterone levels. My body responds well to strength training and my body composition is pretty stable, to name just a couple of indicators.

However, with a growing market for nutritional supplements, there is a growing number of testosterone boosters emerging and I'm pretty interested to know what they can do.

So, armed with APE from Monkey Nutrition, and a couple of testosterone level test kits from MediChecks, I embarked on a month-long trial of a testosterone booster.

The Brand - Monkey Nutrition

Monkey Nutrition is a relatively new brand to the supplement world and, to me at least, they really stand out. Not only are they uniquely branded (although slightly masculine - not that it really matters), they offer products that are really high quality and very obviously well-researched by a passionate team.

The Product - APE Testosterone Booster

First thing’s first: this supplement does not contain testosterone. The supplements aren’t hormones in themselves and absolutely do not contain steroids.

APE is marketed as a testosterone booster. A tub includes 30 days of individual daily packs, containing 4 capsules, 2 tablets, and 2 softgels. I found the way that this was packaged really useful, as I could drop the packets into my handbag or leave them discreetly on my desk at work.

Here’s what Monkey say about the product:

“Monkey APE is a potent fusion of natural testosterone boosters and nutrients essential to hormone synthesis and regulation. The matrix and support systems within APE are designed to boost growth, development and libido, whilst inhibiting aromatisation [the process by which the body converts testosterone to estrogen] and preventing the biosynthesis of estrogen.

Increased testosterone levels encourage the growth and development of muscle tissues, assist fat loss, improve immune function and are key to maintaining positive sexual health and energy levels.”

The Ingredients

This stack is packed full of vital nutrients to support your body’s functions. There are lots of ingredients that are highly recognisable (hopefully from your own supplement supply) such as vitamin D3, zinc, essential fatty acids, and lots of fruit extracts. Not too scary, hey?

Zinc, vitamin D and fatty acids are the nutrients that appear to have the most research behind them in this area.

Other ingredients may appear a little less familiar.

Fenugreek is commonly used in testosterone boosting supplements. While it's used as a herb and spice, it also plays a role in improving milk production when breast feeding. The research on it's ability to increase testosterone has been debated.

This is also the case with tribulus terrstris; while it's inclusion in testosterone boosters is popular, the evidence behind it is inconclusive.

Other ingredients in the testosterone amplification matrix also lack concrete evidence behind them when it comes to enhancing testosterone, such as Maca Powder and Horny Goat Weed Extract.

However, what all of these ingredients have in common is that they are typically linked to an increase in libido. This is associated with healthy testosterone levels, but the ingredients don't appear to be proven to have a strong correlation with increased testosterone levels.

Monkey-Nutrition-APE-Ingredients-Nutrition

Does it Work?

Before I started taking this supplement, I suspected that I already had healthy testosterone levels, for a few reasons.

As I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about the topic lately, I decided (in the interest of curiousity, as always), to use a MediChecks Testosterone Test to see if this was the case.

My results came back normal, at 1.5 nmol/L (nanomoles per litre). While what is considered the normal range can vary between labs, a guide for women is 0.52–2.4 nmol/L (to put this into perspective, a normal range for men is 9–38 nmol/L).

Given that I had already done this test, I decided to follow up with another test after completing a 30 day period of supplementation with APE.

My second test result came back, also normal, at 1.3 nmol/L. This shows a slight drop after taking APE. Of course, I’m not suggesting at all that this is due to the supplement itself, but it’s a great example of how variable hormone levels can be!

Testosterone levels are higher in women in the morning than later in the day, and this could explain this difference. Levels also fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. I’d love to see MediChecks provide this information, to allow people to better plan their testing. Instructions such as to take a testosterone test blood sample between 8am - 10am would be useful. I took my levels at different times of day, because the chaos of life just didn’t allow for consistency here!

I don’t consider this a reliable ‘experiment’ that can draw a conclusion on whether APE works for the above reasons.

In terms of what differences I noticed when taking APE, there were a few, albeit subtle.

Firstly, I seem to have noticeably better definition in my arms; less fat, more muscle.

Secondly, I’ve had more energy. During the 30 days, I started a full-time job, have still been trying to fit in adequate training, as well as a lot of other activities and projects, and have been getting up earlier but still functioning really well with plenty of energy.

Thirdly, my recovery from training has been quicker and less painful. Possibly due to improved sleep, as above.

Price

The price of APE £28.99 for 30 packs. To me at least, that can seem like a lot to spend for a single tub of stuff. Realistically though, under £1 a day for all of those quality ingredients, is pretty good!

The Verdict

The results that I saw were quite subjective and could have been down to any number of variables.

However, I’ve definitely been feeling good and had no symptoms that are commonly associated with low testosterone.

I personally don’t think that these tablets can do any harm, and regardless of whether they do or do not effectively boost testosterone from one person to another, there’s no denying that some of the nutrients in this stack are really important to be taking.

I probably wouldn't buy a testosterone booster supplement stack in the future because I have healthy levels and tend to build my own 'stack' based on my more individual needs.

If you don't know what individual supplements to take, or if you feel that you would benefit from boosting your testosterone levels, I would recommend APE.

What is your perception of testosterone boosters? Has it changed since reading about my experience? Would you try it for yourself?

Testosterone in Women + Symptoms You Need To Know

Testosterone-Hormones-in-Women

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone present in men and women, although in different amounts.

In women, testosterone is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands and the normal range for testosterone levels in women is said to be around 0.52–2.4 nmol/L.

To put this into perspective, a normal range for men is 9–38 nmol/L. That’s nearly twenty times the amount that women have! These ‘normal ranges’ are only a guideline, however, as what is considered the normal range can vary between labs.

So women, if you're scared of bulking up by weight training, know that you simply don't have enough testosterone to pack on muscle mass as males do.

What is the Role of Testosterone in Women?

In women, testosterone fuels your sex drive, increases bone strength and bone mineral density, and may even support anti-ageing effects. Testosterone also plays a role in body composition, as it aids the development of muscle mass and the metabolism of fat.

What Affects Testosterone Levels in Women?

As well as the hormone disruptors mentioned in my previous post, oral contraceptives can impact levels and some medical conditions have an effect on testosterone levels in women. Levels also change with the natural ageing process.

Symptoms of High Testosterone in Women

High levels of testosterone in women are difficult to achieve. Where they do occur, it will likely be due to a medical condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and can have physical side effects.

These may include hair loss (in places that you want hair), hair growth (in places that you don’t want hair), acne, menstrual problems and, sometimes, weight gain.

Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women

The symptoms of low testosterone in women can easily be mistaken for symptoms of something else. They may include:
Fatigue and lack of energy, which may be due to disrupted sleep
Changes in body composition, such as loss of muscle and increase of fat
Decreased sex drive
Mood changes, particularly depression and anxiety
Hair loss
Difficulty concentrating

If you are suffering from these symptoms, especially struggling to lose weight and gain a lean physique, you may want to follow steps to naturally increase testosterone levels.

High intesnsity training, strength training, lowering stress levels and reducing your intake of sugar and processed foods will help.

You might like to follow these tips for balancing hormones.

Supplements for Healthy Testosterone Levels

Improving your testosterone levels with nutritional supplementation is also an option.

One of my favourite supplements for maintaining healthy hormone levels is ZMA. You can read more about this in my Guide to ZMA for Women.

Vitamin D3 is also important in maintaining healthy hormone levels. It is able to regulate the aromatase enzyme (the enzyme that converts testosterone into oestrogen).

However, there are many more complex testosterone boosting formulations (sometimes called T-boosters or test boosters) emerging in the growing nutritional supplements market. In the interests of curiousity and to demonstrate that testosterone is not a scary thing, I chose to trial one from Monkey Nutrition.

Have you experienced any symptoms of hormone imbalance? What measures have you taken to try and correct them?

Hormones + Hormone Disruptors: What You Need To Know

Testosterone-in-Women

We have all heard of hormones. We all have hormones. But do you really know what hormones are and what effect they have on your body?

Hormones are responsible for regulating nearly every function of your body. So whether you want to gain muscle, lose weight, improve energy levels or enhance your mood, you should be paying your hormones a lot of attention.

One of the reasons that you probably don't think about your hormone levels very much is that their job is to maintain homeostasis in your body; to keep your body's processes stable. So unless your hormones are significantly out of balance, you are unlikely to be aware of their impact.

Or at least, that probably used to be the case.

In the process of researching healthy hormone levels, I discovered that we are exposed to a terrifying variety of hormone disruptors every day, as part of our modern lifestyle. These can greatly upset our health and wellbeing, manifesting as seemingly ordinary symptoms such as fatigue or weight gain.

What are Hormones?

Hormones are the ‘chemical messengers’ in your body. There are over 60 types of hormones in your body, secreted from the many glands that make up your body’s endocrine system.

After being produced, hormones travel around your body (usually in your blood) and interact with specific cells that possess receptors for specific hormones. By interacting with target cells, hormones stimulate those cells to take a specific action.

Your hormones maintain a delicate balance within your body. It is their job to regulate important functions including metabolism, growth, sleep, mood and reproduction.

Many hormones you will not have heard of, but others we refer to day to day, perhaps without even realising that they are hormones. Insulin, for example, is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar.

As illustrated by insulin, for example, levels that are too high, or too low, can have a big effect on your wellbeing.

What Affects Hormone Levels?

While hormones can be artificially manipulated by taking contraceptives or through hormone therapies to control medical conditions, it's possible that your hormone levels can also be affected without your knowledge.

Hormone imbalances can be caused by hormone distruptors, predominatly environmental toxins and diet, with stress also having a large impact.

Environmental Toxins

Common chemicals found in everything from cleaners to cosmetics, and even in the food you eat and air you breathe, contain toxins known as endocrine disruptors. Worryingly, you are exposed to a vast number of hormone disruptors every day. Once in the body, they are hugely detrimental as well as difficult to excrete.

Diet

A diet high in processed food and lacking nutritional value can also cause hormonal imbalance.

Not only that, but many non-organic foods are contaminated with dangerous pesticides. Animal produce is contaminated with the hormones and antibiotics used to make the animals grow bigger.

Stress

When you are under stress, your adrenal glands produce cortisol, the stress hormone. Your body’s stress response takes priority over other functions; think fight or flight. When there is high and consistent demand for cortisol, the precursors needed to make other hormones are depleted by this ‘cortisol steal’.

Gillian-Day-Hormones-Talk

Tips for Hormonal Health

I met nutritionist and naturopath Gillian Day at an event where she was talking about hormones (this is where I learnt about the NaturalCycles Contraceptive App) and was fascinated by her knoweldge and holistic approach to health. So, I invited her to share her top tips on hormonal health:

1. Limit the caffeine

I love coffee - a lot, but unfortunately it is a potent hormone disruptor and that can wreak havoc on the endocrine system.

2. Eat organic + live organic where possible

Dairy and meat can contain excess oestrogens which can throw hormones out of balance, so consider eating a more plant-bssed diet.

Toxins found in pesticides, plastics, household chemicals and even the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) can contain hormone disrupting chemicals called xenoestrogens that can mimic our natural hormones in the body and keep us from producing real hormones.

Top tip: cook in glass or non-coated metal pans (i.e. no teflon!) and avoid heating or storing foods in plastic.

3. Avoid high omega 6 oils and PUFA – polyunsaturated fatty acids

Getting rid of or greatly reducing vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine and swapping for coconut oil, real butter and olive oil can dramatically reduce inflammation in the body.

Reducing inflammation = happy healthy hormones!

4. Reduce sugar

There is a connection between an imbalance in oestrogen and progesterone and the way the body uses the hormone insulin (which is used by the body to deal with sugar). If we have too much insulin (normally from too much sugar or starch) it can trigger too much testosterone, and too much testosterone can suppress ovulation. Any disruption to ovulation will have a knock-on effect on the production of progesterone.

5. Reduce stress

Stress knocks your hormonal patterns completely out of rhythm. There’s a greater demand on hormone raw materials, plus stress places a greater demand on our nutrient reserves. Head to my website for 5 simple strategies to reduce stress and reconnect with yourself and your food.

6. Get Good Sleep

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your hormones won’t be balanced – end of story! Sleep disturbances can decrease the release of testosterone by almost half, so make sure you get your nightly quota.

I like to take ZMA supplements to help with my sleep and regulation of testosterone. Read my Guide to ZMA for Women for more details

7. Supplement wisely

I am a big fan of supplements as I’ve seen the benefits of my clients using good quality supplements and herbs for a wide range of hormonal imbalance symptoms in my clinic every single day.

However, not all supplements are created equal. There’s the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly! If supplements have the ability to heal, they also have the ability to harm. Supplementing wisely is crucial to happy healthy hormones. Some supplements that have been useful for happy healthy testosterone levels and hormones include spearmint tea, DIM, calcium D glucarate and chaste tree.

8. Exercise right for your body

If you have hormone imbalance, intense extended exercise can actually make the problem worse. Swap your body pump class for some restorative yoga or swimming or rebounding.

For more details on how you can work with Gill, visit her website, Nurture Thru Nature.

Hormone Level Testing

If you're concerned about your hormone levels, consider paying a visit to your doctor, as well as following Gill's advice.

Hormone level testing can be carried out by a doctor. Then they, or another health professional, can guide you through your results.

Alternatively, companies such as MediChecks offer home hormone testing kits, which can be a good start if you think that you may be suffering from symptoms of low or elevated hormone levels.

Have you suffered symptoms of hormonal imbalance?
Do you take measures to minimise hormone distruption?

The Science of Cycles: Synthetic Hormones + NaturalCycles Contraceptive App

The Science of Cycles: Synthetic Hormones + NaturalCycles Contraceptive App

We are becoming so much more aware of what we put into our bodies. We’re eating clean and using natural skincare. Yet, many of us are pumping ourselves full of synthetic hormones.

Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate complex processes from growth and metabolism, to fertility. Your body relies on them completely to maintain a healthy, natural balance. 

Most contraceptive methods involve exposing your body to synthetic hormones through a tablet or some kind of implant. There are different hormones that can be used either alone, or in combination, to disrupt your natural hormonal balance to make you temporarily infertile.

Your period is a window into your health. Issues like your period disappearing (amenorrhea) or experiencing symptoms usually dismissed as 'pre-menstrual syndrome' can actually be indicators of your health on a wider scale. By masking these insights, you might even be putting your body at risk.

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