A Healthy Hint of Green

My health took a turn for the worse three years ago when I developed Lyme disease. As a part of my healing process, I reevaluated all the chemicals that I used in our home and on my body.  Up until that point, I knew many the products I used had chemicals in them, but I just took it for granted that they were safe.  Experience is the best teacher, as they say!

Below are some tricks that I’ve learned to use to be a little more heathy while lessening the toxins on/in my body.

Healthy Aromas

Before Lyme, I loved having candles burning in our home. I also used scented dryer sheets and fragrant laundry detergents, lotions and soaps.  Sadly, all of these things are not very healthy for the immune system due to all the man-made fragrances and chemicals in these products.

IMG_1004I now use diffusers in both the bedroom and livingroom. You can create healthy and pleasing scents with just a few drops of essential oils of your choosing. Be sure to research them; don’t just purchase any oil on the market! (Check out my post Diffusing the Confusion About Essential Oils.)   Personally, I like lavender and geranium together for sleeping.  Clove and orange or lemon and eucalyptus are great in the living room.  And both these combinations are helpful in building up your immune system.

Interestingly enough, when I lit a popular commmerical brand of candle in my home, after being ill with Lyme for many months, I had quite a different reaction than my before-Lyme lifestyle. Before Lyme, I enjoyed the heavy candle scent.  Now, candle scents are overwhelming to me, and I can honestly say that I haven’t burned those candles, or any candle, since.  I prefer essential oils because they give you a clean, light smell without the heaviness you can experience with candles. And because oils are so concentrated, you only use a few drops at a time. The oils produce a long-lasting scent, but they can also can provide health benefits, like altering moods or boosting the immune system.

During the winter months,  I have found that diffusing oils in my home has cut down on illness in my family, too.  We haven’t been hit with a stomach bug in over two years, and I’m very confident that it has to do with using essential oils.  I typically diffuse lemon eucalpytus in the living room, which is known to be a great germ killer.  When I  experienced some congestion early in my Lyme illness, I found that shaking a few drops of this same oil while taking my shower helped to diffuse the oil into the air and also made it easier to breathe.

Healthy Showering

When I started this switch, I thought about all the products that I used in the shower: soap, shampoo, conditioner, and shaving cream.   Between those four products, I was easily putting hundreds of compounds on my skin and into my system daily.  A pretty scary thought when I couldn’t even pronounce most of the ingredients!

Now, I try to purchase shampoos and conditioners  that are better for my hair and system in general.  My hair dresser has a line of hair products that are more natural than commerical products you can find in the stores, and I also have learned how to make my own soaps, without the harsh chemicals and fragrances.  Before learning how to make soap, I did use Dr. Bronner’s Castile soaps and Shea Moisture products, which I found to be healthier in some respects.   But now that I make my own soap, I haven’t purchased bar soap for my family in three years!  I can use whatever essential oils that I like to scent my own soaps, and since I know what is in them, I know what is going on/in my skin. IMG_1005

Another decision I made was that my body washing product would double as my shaving product, thus cutting down on the amount of products I’d need to use.  And I found that my homemade soaps work just as well as a shaving cream because they lather well–and smell nice, too!

Heathly Cleaners

If you really are into organic cleaning, you can learn how to make your own cleaners with essential oils.  Valerie Worwood’s book The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, 25th Anniversary Edition, has wonderful information about how to use essential oils for many uses, including home cleaners.IMG_1003

If you’re not into the Ma Kettle mode yet, you can research and purchase more ‘green’ products like Mrs. Meyer’s. I have used the hand soaps,  all-purpose cleaners and tile and tub cleaner from time to time.  I love the scents like Basil and Honeysuckle. The company also has seasonal scents like Peppermint and Orange and Clove.  It was because of the Orange and Clove hand soap that I then made my own mix of the same essential oils to diffuse in my home!

I purchased Woolsie’s dryer balls, and I won’t ever use a dryer sheet again.  The dryer balls work just as well, and because I do love smells, I just add a few drops of an essential oil on the dryer balls to get a healthy smell in my clothing.  There are unscented dryer sheets, but I perfer the dryer balls since they last a longer time than the sheets.

For washing my clothes, I use fragrance-free detergents. My clothes are clean without harsh chemicals or perfumes.

For the dishwasher, I am still mainstream with Finish dishwasher tabs.  I tried a ‘green’ brand–I can’t remember which one–but found that they didn’t seem to clean as well. I’m still on the hunt for a product that I like, and I’m sure I’ll find one.

Healthy Personal Products

Deodorants that didn’t burn or were effective were hard to find.  Tom’s brand would burn, and Kiss My Face brand didn’t seem to work at all for me.  But then I tried a brand called Crystal Essence.  I purchased both a roll-on and stick, and both seem to work well for me.IMG_1007 I also use Tom’s toothpastes and mouthwashes.

And while I’m not a big make-up person, I do like to make myself look a little more glamourous from time to time. But it’s been challenging to find ‘green’ make up that isn’t expensive.  I love Burt’s Bees lip products, and was happy to find recently that in addition to their lip balms, some stores also carry blush, eye shadow, and mascara.

Making the Healthy Switch

I knew it would be super expensive to just toss all my soaps, cleaners, lotions, deodorants, and make-up all at once.  I also didn’t know how my body would react to certain products, or how well they would actually perform.  So, I’d purchase one or two items to test at a time.

Three years later,  I’m happy that I made the changes that I did.  Much like my health returning, going green has been a gradual process, but I’m satisified that I have started to replace the more chemical-laden products that we use for ones that are a little more green.

Have you thought about going more green?  If you have, share your story.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

lymeheadIt has been almost three and a half years since I started my battle with Lyme disease. My  “diagnosis”(–many like myself, who have Lyme, don’t get a definitive “You’ve got Lyme” confirmation from a medical doctor–) gave a name to my symptoms, but not a solution. My health declined steadily within a few months, and then kept me out of work for six more. My visits to medical doctors, who did not give me the correct help that I needed, left me questioning everything I had come to expect as fact about myself, my health, and the medical community at large.

Since I took control of my health with lots of legwork and missteps along the way, I’ve come out much better than most with Lyme. It is still largely misdiagnosed and not treated properly, causing more undue damage to so many victims.  Over 300,000 people are diagnosed each year, and people can die from complications from this insideous disease. It affects all organs in the body, and can render people with debilitating neurological and other health issues. I was determined not to be a casualty from Lyme disease, and out of this horrible experience, many wonderful things have happened.

In three years, I have learned to manage my diet to control symptoms. I’ve found out about Nutritional Response Testing, which has helped me to manage symptoms and continue to improve my health in slow, steady steps.

I use essential oils both topically and in diffusers to help boost my immune system. I have salt lamps and air-purifying plants at home and at work.

I’ve learned to say ‘no’ to various social activities when I feel like I won’t have the stamina for it, and not feel guilty about it. I try to delegate chores more now at home, realizing that I only have time and energy for so much in a day, Lyme or not.

And I’ve learned to appreciate each day, and enjoy little things that I took for granted before Lyme: reading a book, making my daughter’s lunch, vacuuming!

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Sunny, Flowers and Tea, Lavender, Ginger Honey and Honeysuckle

But one of the truly remarkable things that have come out of this is my new hobby of making soap, thanks to a cousin of mine. At that time, in the midst of learning about my illness and my body’s response to it, I was trying to rid my body of any extra toxins that could possibly be in all the typical products that I used for daily routines of health and cleanliness.  This hobby, spurred on for health reasons, quickly sparked my creativity.  Over a year later from first learning how to make soap, I had made over 100 bars and was giving it away!  So many people I knew kept asking, “When are you going to sell? When are you going to sell?” One thing led to another, and then my home business started. I am happy that my soap is now being sold in two local stores, and I will be celebrating one year in business this August. When I look back on these past three years, it seems so amazing to me that I’ve been able to go from being completely bedridden and homebound, to back at work as a Kindergarten teacher, to the owner of a home business!  

My husband has been my biggest supporter from the start.  His background in art and graphics was a wonderful asset when we worked together to name my business, and he then artfully designed my beautiful logo.  He’s given me ideas of how to label the various soaps that I create, and even helped transform a room in our home into my soap office by building two shelving racks for curing my soaps.

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Here is one of the shelves built by my husband.

My family, friends, and coworkers continue to give me product ideas as well as leads of where to sell my product. And acquaintances and even complete strangers have purchased my product and continue to inspire and support me. 

In support of Lyme Disease month, I am also trying to raise money through the sales of some of my lime inspired soaps.  Any monies raised are going to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, located in Lyme, Connecticut.

I’ve also started a Lyme Disease support group in my hometown.  We met for the first time last week, and I’m hoping as more people become aware of the group, we can do some outreach in our town to help educate and inform residents.  I felt like I lost so much time when I was so sick three years ago, so I’m now trying to find little ways to support those who suffer.  Lyme is a very isolating and complex illness that requires persistence and passion, and a steady hand to keep it in check.

Lyme disease has truly changed my life, but without it, I know I never would have taken control of my health, or started a business, or a created a support group.

Who knows what is next for me?  I don’t know, but I do know that slow and steady wins the race.

And I’m determined to win at this race called  Lyme Disease.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL