Naturopath, Acupuncturist and author Nicole Bijlsma is also the CEO of the Australian College of Environmental Studies. She is passionate about natural beauty and lifts the lid on what’s really in our makeup.
Natural beauty is the twin of True Beauty and Nicole’s a champion of what alternative beauty products are available that won’t adversely affect women’s health.
My five year old daughter came home with her face made up by her ten year old (going on twenty five) cousin. Nothing was spared: foundation, blush, eye liner, eye shadow, lipstick as well as bright red finger and toenails – just in case I had not noticed.
The only thing that was missing was a spray tan. The job was impressive but then she was a cheer leader overall and this was part of their ‘sport’ (obviously that’s where I have gone wrong in my life).
Come to think about it, the first time I wore foundation was on my wedding day at twenty six thanks to the persistence of my younger and obviously more fashionable sister – how times have changed!
Am I being old fashioned, or is it ok for me to FREAK OUT that my little girl wants to look like the Barbie dolls she received for her fifth birthday?
As a parent with two young daughters, I know that I have some control over what they put on their bodies, however as they get older, this is going to get harder and by their teens – thanks to peer and media pressure – there is a good chance they won’t listen to me at all (sigh).
So this provided me with a good opportunity to investigate what women put on their face, and more importantly, what alternatives are available that won’t adversely affect their health.
The cosmetic industry is largely self-regulated which can mean little or no regulation. Put simply manufacturers can put (almost) whatever ingredients they want into their products.
Many of the ingredients are skin, eye and lung irritants, as well as known carcinogens and reproductive toxins in ‘acceptable’ levels.
If you have eight minutes to spare, I strongly suggest that you watch the Story of Cosmetics and you will know what I mean. In addition, the shift towards online shopping of overseas products has meant that the regulatory systems in place to protect the consumers are now by-passed
Foundation: Mineral foundations are touted as being more natural, prevent your pores from clogging and may (and that’s a big may) – improve your skin. An investigation of 14 mineral makeups by Choice – the people’s watchdog, concluded that they do not deliver the benefits promised with some containing dangerous nanoparticles (Choice, 2009). Makeup that is derived from minerals mined from the earth will contain trace amounts of toxic impurities such as heavy metals, which requires processing to remove them.
Fragrances: are a common cause of skin reactions. As a result of trade secrets, manufacturers are not obliged to reveal the hundreds of chemicals that make up a perfume or fragrance in their product. Fragrances can also disguise more sinister contaminants such as phthalates which are a family of industrial chemicals that mimic the hormone oestrogen and have been linked to birth defects and reproductive changes in children (early puberty). Fragrances were voted 2007 Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (2007).
Avoid purchasing imported beauty products that do not list their ingredients as you could be exposing yourself to toxic levels of heavy metals.
Mascara: like the great majority of cosmetics contains a plethora of ingredients from pigments such as carbon black (a petrochemical), iron oxide (earth) and ultramarine blue (zeolite), waxes, oils and preservatives. Researchers found 33% of mascaras were contaminated with bacteria (Pack et al, 2008). The contamination occurs when bacteria found naturally in the eyes infects the mascara wand. It is important therefore that you discard the mascara within three months of purchase.
Nail polish. That wretched smell you get when you walk past the nail salon at the local shopping centre gets me every time. I just can’t seem to hold my breath long enough to avoid inhaling those fumes! Nail polish is a nasty one when it comes to toxins, here are the main culprits. Formaldehyde or formalin is used as a nail hardener and apart from the fact that it is a known carcinogen, it is also an eye, skin and lung irritant that may cause asthma. Toluene provides a smooth finish and is an eye, nose and throat irritant, as well as causing headaches, dizziness and fatigue. DBP (dibutyl phthalate) is a hormone disrupting chemical that has been linked to birth defects in boys which is why it is banned from the European Union. Methyl methacrylate (MMA) commonly found in acrylic nail products may cause blisters, headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, numbness and muscle weakness.
Nanoparticles are used in foundation, face powder, lipstick, blush, self-tanning sprays, sunscreens, eye shadow and nail polish amongst a myriad of other products. Their impact on human health is essentially unknown though preliminary animal studies suggests inhalation of these particles may cause inflammation and lung damage.
Skin lightening and anti-ageing treatments: Whilst mercury is not permitted in personal care products, some skin lightening creams and anti-ageing treatments sold in Asia, Mexico, Africa and the Middle East were found to contain high levels of mercury (US FDA, 2012). If you see the words “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury,” stop using the product immediately.
Lead is not generally added as an ingredient to lipstick, rather it may be found naturally in the pigments. Consequently it was found in most of the 400 brands tested including those marketed as ‘natural’ (US FDA, 2012).
Lipstick: Are the authorities paying lip service to contaminants in our makeup? In 2007, a survey of 33 lipsticks discovered that 20 had lead within them (Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012). This was followed up by a recent investigation of 400 lipsticks which confirmed lead in most of them, with some containing levels up to 7.19 ppm (US FDA, 2012a). The manufacturers do not add the heavy metal lead to lipsticks, rather it may be found naturally in the pigments used. As there is no limit to the amount of lead allowed in lipsticks, you essentially have no idea how much you could be exposed to. There is no safe level for lead. Lead causes learning and behaviourhal disorders such as hyperactivity, reduced IQ, sleep disturbances and increased aggression in children. It is particularly toxic to pregnant woman as it crosses the placenta where it may affect foetal brain development.
Tips when purchasing makeup
To see how your makeup ranks in relation to its health effects, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website.
For truly natural makeup, make your own! For eye liner, add a few drops of water to the contents of an activated charcoal capsule; for green eye shadow, use spirulina powder and for red lips and cheeks, use beetroot juice!
At every moment, a woman makes a choice: between the state of the queen and the state of the slave girl. In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power. Our jailer is a three-headed monster: one head our past, one our insecurity, and one our popular culture…
Marianne Williamson A Woman’s Worth
Are you a queen or a slave-girl?
Think about that for a moment.
Sometimes you need to be reminded of your own gloriousness, even when you’re grappling with a scouring brush and a dirty saucepan from last night’s dinner…
Sometimes, you forget that you’re a goddess when you’ve been packing lunch boxes and getting kids ready for school and ready to collapse in a heap before your day has even really started…
Sometimes, you deserve to be told that you’re doing an amazing job of keeping things together, even when you’ve just lost your patience and dropped the juggling balls to have a cry...
Here are three ways to consciously claim your position as queen of your domain.
1. Stop Making Excuses
The slave will always come up with excuses about why she’s a victim of her circumstances. ‘I didn’t have a great childhood,’ and ‘this is all I’m capable of’ are great excuses. However, when we stop making excuses and start putting ourselves in the sovereign position of deciding to make positive changes, it restores our regal right to choose our outcomes. Isn’t this what free will is for?
2. Rise Above the Sh*t
Yes, that saucepan needs a scrub, you’re tired and you’re losing patience. The remedy? Rise above it. There is always going to be sh*t to deal with. The difference between you and someone who doesn’t rise above her station is the fact that you recognise that there are always going to be imperfections and challenges to deal with and you still choose to be the queen anyway.
A real queen will stay in her grace and glory (meaning she’ll still see herself as valuable and infinitely lovable) even when she is vulnerable. In fact, she will embrace all of her circumstances and consider them as a necessary part of her path towards freedom and liberation. A slave will use her circumstances to remain stuck in bondage.
3. Act ‘As If’
This is a fabulous coaching tool that supports change on a grand scale when it’s practiced regularly. How would you be and what would you do if you had already succeeded at the very thing you are working towards? Acting as if it has already happened is a great place to make your decisions from. Choose to act as if you already have the time and resources you need and decide from that place what you need to do next.
Being a queen is a choice you make over being stuck in the disempowerment of slavery. Stop making excuses about why you can’t reach for your dreams and start believing that you’re becoming the regal goddess that can.Rise above your station and own your new position as a leader and a ruler over your own destiny.
Related Tags: Female Power | The Butterfly Temple
Gut Health and Microbiome/ Serotonin and Immunity – What do they
have in common?
Hippocrates said that “All disease begins in the Gut”
We’ve all heard the expression, ‘You are what you eat.’ Never was there a truer statement. Everything we do in life depends upon our digestive system’s ability to derive nutrition from what we put in our mouths.
But how does the digestive system work? What is the brain-gut connection all about, and how does it affect mood, immune, and just about everything else? And what are the necessary ingredients for a healthy digestive system?
The answer lies in our gut!
In the series of four articles I will unravel these questions to help you understand how it works and how to reach optimal gut health.
Hippocrates – “All disease begins in the Gut”
Hippocrates made this statement over two thousand years ago and it is becoming more and more relevant and more understood about the ‘why’ in today’s research. The interconnection of gut health, the bacteria within it and inflammation are being shown as underlying most diseases. The bodily process of digestion and absorption is one of the most important to our health.
The microbiome is in the spotlight with scientists becoming very interested in our gut bacteria. Where there is scientific interest, there is research. At present a lot of the knowledge base is yet to be fully understood, with its complex relationship to health and disease. It is becoming more increasingly clear that these tiny organisms play a MAJOR role in your health—both physical and mental.
There are more than ten times the bacteria in your gut than human cells.
That is a 10:1 ratio of bacteria to cells!
Yes, we have more bacteria in our body than we do human cells, up to ten times more. Most of them are in our intestines; we each have literally trillions of bacteria and fungi living in there.
Microbiome – also referred to as Intestinal flora, gut flora, microflora, bacteria and probiotics and plays a vital role in the fermentation and digestion of carbohydrates and aids in the digestion of fats and proteins.
Good and bad bacteria
Bacteria populations that live in the gut are a combination of both good and bad bacteria; a balance between the two is necessary for an optimal state of health. They help with digestion, detoxification, metabolism and ensuring balanced immunological responses to potential allergens.
Bad bacteria include those that cause disease such as Salmonella, Clostridium and others. They only become problematic, however, when their numbers grow large and uncontrollable in proportion to that of good bacteria. Even yeasts such as Candida are healthy in small amounts.
Good bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgarius, Bifidobacterium bifidum and others. They help us digest food, maintain a healthy gut, provide us with nutrients and vitamins, and fight off bad bacteria.
Good gut flora helps prevent bloating, gas and yeast overgrowth because they maintain intestinal acidity at a healthy pH level. They manufacture certain vitamins, help prevent disease by depriving unwanted bacteria of nutrients and secrete acids that bad bacteria have difficulty coping with.
Imbalance in your microbiome can contribute to chronic illnesses of the gastrointestinal system such as IBS and Crohn’s disease, autoimmune conditions and rheumatoid arthritis. It may influence your susceptibility to infectious disease, and certain collections of microbes may determine how you respond to prescription medication.
Autoimmune diseases are now believed to be passed on in families not by DNA inheritance but by inheriting the family’s microbiome.
Genetic studies have linked various combinations of different species in the microbiome to certain health conditions. The evidence so far suggests that a balanced and diverse microbiome contributes to good health and a less diverse and less balanced microbiome to poor health.
What Gut Bacteria Do
• Your gut is the only organ that has its own nervous system (with over 100 million neurons residing within the walls of the organ).
• As a newborn you have a sterile gut. By age 2 to 4 you have 100 trillion bacteria in your gut. Everyone has a unique mix of different bacterial populations. This mix is influenced by how you were born, where you live, what you eat, your genetics, your experiences as an infant and other environmental factors.
• Gut bacteria play an essential role in the manufacture of neurotransmitters – such as 95% of the brain’s serotonin. (Serotonin is an important messenger that helps regulate moods – the ‘feel good’ hormone). * see article 3
• Gut bacteria help with the digestion and metabolism of food. They extract vitamins and maintain the gut wall – and once beneficial bacteria colonize the gut, they repel pathogens that would otherwise establish a foothold. They do this by optimizing pH and out-competing ‘invaders’ for nutrients.
• Gut bacteria communicate with dendritic cells of the immune system to quicken the response to harmful germs.* see article 2
What are the signs of unhealthy digestion?
• Acid reflux
• Throat and nose issues (constant runny nose, sinusitis etc.)
• Inflammation anywhere in the body – including IBS, IBD, Crohns
• Skin disorders anywhere on the body
• Negative reactions to food
• Loose stools or constipation
• Reflux (GERD)
• Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome (SIBO)
• Mental health from enzymes deficiencies
In the second of our series of articles about gut health and its connection to feeling beautiful on the inside, we take a look at gut health and immunity.
To recap: feeling good starts in the gut – our happy hormones and serotonin are made in the gut.
80% of immunity lies in the gut
Did you know that approximately 80% of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system?
The digestive system comprises of cells, proteins, tissues and organs which work together in a complex way to defend the body against harmful bacteria, infectious diseases and toxins. Our bodies rely on proper enzymes and healthy microbes to work with pathogenic bacteria and to produce anti-bacterial cultures in order to strengthen the intestinal walls and to support our immune system.
Get back to balance in the gut and all else followsAll of the systems within your body work closely together to maintain optimal health, when one system is unbalanced it can trigger a domino effect; causing problems in other areas of your body and creating a cascade of chronic health complications.
Over time, disease-causing microbes accumulate. They affect our metabolic processes and even our gene activity, causing an abnormal immune response against the body’s normal tissues and substances.
‘Reseeding’ your gut with healthy bacteria is so importantConsidering that an estimated 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, ‘reseeding’ your gut with healthy bacteria is important for the prevention of virtually ALL diseases, from colds to cancer.
Immune system function:The gut is often the first entry point for exposure to pathogens (bad bacteria and virus’ that can cause disease); therefore your gut immune system needs to be thriving and healthy in order to avoid illness.
The gut: connector of immune cells in the body
In fact the gut mucosa connects with the largest population of immune cells in the body. These are also known as gastrointestinal immune cells; which come from the lymphoid branch of the immune system. Their aim is to secrete lymphocyte cells which attack harmful invaders. These cells work together to protect the mucous membranes of the small intestines from infection. They do this by releasing specific white blood cells to defend the inside of the digestive tract from infection, as well as the damage that they cause to the intestinal walls.
Friendly gut flora – mighty warriors
Aside from containing specialised immune cells, the particular strains of friendly gut flora that reside within your intestines are also critical for overall immunity. These guys act as mighty warriors for the immune system, and are dependable allies for immune cells; helping them to enhance their “natural killer” effectiveness and boosting their overall defence of the intestinal walls to prevent pathogens and infections being absorbed.
This is one critical reason why maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut is so important. Without them, your immune system cannot do its job effectively, and in essence it is defenceless.
Compromised gut health – cause illnessesA variety of illnesses can occur when these protective functions of the gut are compromised. Intestinal permeability causes the immune system to go into overdrive; bringing on an unnecessary response against things like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods which have passed through these permeable holes in the gut lining.
Food intolerancesOne of the first indications of leaky gut is the increase in food intolerances. If left unhealed, this can lead to immune abnormalities and eventually autoimmune conditions and other health issues. Some of these include inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, depression, migraine headaches, muscle pain and fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, type 1 diabetes, thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease and Addison’s disease, to name a few.
It’s only in recent years that scientists are beginning to discover the vital importance of the link between diet, gut bacteria and the immune system. Scientific evidence now shows that the types of food that you eat will directly determine the levels of certain bacteria in your gut.
Depends on your dietChanging your diet will change the kind of bacteria that you have; which will either support the strengthening of your immune system, or deplete its defensive capabilities.
Conclusions drawn from the current research all reveal that a healthy immune system is the result of a diet that supports healthy gut function: one that emphasises whole, unprocessed foods and one that helps to repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
Want to feel more beautiful? First step – look after your gut health!
Related Tags: Inner And Outer Beauty| The Butterfly Temple
The Picture of Happiness
I use to have it all.
Well I thought I did.
By the time I was 25 years old, I had just bought my second house, I was finishing off my second university degree and claiming that I was happy in my long term relationship.
We had just bought a dog and we appeared as though our young family was complete.
I’ve never been one for fancy dresses or the latest designer jeans, but if I had wanted to buy them, I could have.
People always surrounded me. In fact my suburban Gold Coast home was always on the brink of a good time.
Life was not taken too seriously – to say the least.
A bottle of red wine at dinner every night and some relaxants to comatose me into a deep slumber, was a part of my daily ritual.
There was plenty of drama surrounding me to keep me on my toes. It provided me with some good banter to throw around with my work colleagues, the following day.
I use to have it all.
Then It Hit Me
It wasn’t a quick hit. It was a hit that took about two years to register completely.
It felt like the first blow slapped me into a state of denial and then it took quite some time before I decided to nurse myself into recovery.
I was ridiculously unhappy deep down.
In fact I was so unhappy that I couldn’t bare the reality of my own life.
I had been running away from reality all these years and the very thought of it scared the absolute crap out of me.
I was in a rut. And I didn’t know how to get out of it.
For two years I thought about leaving him, but the very thought broke me. Seven years of being co-dependent and completely caught up in this volatile web of mutual-destruction, how could I bail now? How could I walk away from everything? It seemed like too much of an effort. And I blamed him for my unhappiness.
No one realised my unhappiness to its full extent. I had learnt to cover it well.
They all said it was a seven-year itch and it was normal to feel the way I did. Then I started to feel like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. All of a sudden I felt spouts of anxiety and my skin had broken out in a rash.
That should numb the pain.
But the body is too smart. The brain is too powerful. You can’t turn your back on yourself. The body will force you to come out of hiding and face reality. So eventually, I did.
Revenge Is Not As Sweet As You Hope
He didn’t deserve to be mistreated, yet either did I.
Both of us were broken and we had completely destroyed any loyalty that had been hanging by a thin string.
Everyone was shocked. Everyone pointed the finger. And everyone chose a side.
That’s when it was revealed that I didn’t have it all.
No amount of possessions, neat home-furnishings or money can make you happy.
It wasn’t up to him to make me happy either. It was up to me.
I wasn’t happy with who I was and who I had become. I had just gone through the motions and jumped on the expected path that society lays out in front of us.
It’s not until you face fear and decide to turn your back on what is comfortable and what is normal, that you start to truly see and feel happiness.
Was It Worth It?
It was a long lesson that had to be learnt. It wasn’t an easy one, but they never are.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
At the age of 27 years I woke up in a spare room at my mum’s house and engaged in today’s episode of what seemed like the never-ending court battle
It was not exactly where I wanted to be. However, it felt right.
I eventually began to feel happy.
Looking Back and In
But now, waking up five years later, I look back at a life lesson that has changed me for the better. I can say honestly and whole-heartedly: I am happy.
If there is one piece of advice I would give anyone who is unhappy, then it would be this: if you are looking for happiness and haven’t yet found it, then it’s more than likely that you’re looking for it in all the wrong places.
Start from within.
You may not like what you see, but that is what life is about, challenging yourself to be a person that you fall in love with over and over again.
Who is Pia Therese?
Pia Therese is the founder and Head Fitness Coach at Melbourne Fitness and Wellbeing (MFW). MFW provides one on one personal and group training to Melbourne women who are just starting their fitness journey or have become out of touch with their fitness.
Pia is also The Real Body Coach. She helps real women achieve long-term, tangible health results. As The Real Body Coach Pia will is seeking a tribe of women sick of false fitness and health promises. Her new membership-based, weight-loss program aims to strengthen the mind and engage our commitment to health in order to build able, active bodies. The Real Body Coach will launch in September 2016.
For more information, go to: Melbourne Fitness and Well Being or Piatherese (coming soon!)