Building Another Healthy Habit: Eliminating BPA

Great, this makes my day, another report on federal regulators failing to act on a potentially (more like proven) toxic chemical: Bisphenol-A, or BPA. BPA, for those of you who continue to live under that nice comfy little rock of yours, is a nasty, hazardous chemical found in many different types of plastics — from baby bottles (could there be anything worse?) to water bottles (even some of the reusable kinds) to cans of food and receipts at the grocery store. Yep, it’s everywhere.

BPA can be a lot more harmful that you would think.

What’s so bad about this is that BPA imitates estrogen in the body, confusing the heck out of your standard endocrine and/or reproductive system, which is linked quite clearly to higher rates of breast cancer. But this is not just a concern for women; BPA can also damage your kid’s brain, yielding latent neurologic effects on men, women and children. The stuff stinks, frankly, and as a now-educated and responsible adult, you should be doing everything possible to avoid BPA. How? Let me count the ways:

  • Avoid plastic. Yeah, sounds pretty drastic, I know. Food-storage containers, bottled water, children’s toys, and cups you drink out of — it’s all plastic, and it’s NOT all safe. Get rid of your plastic drinking glasses like I did, replace food-storage containers with glass when you can, and seek out greener, more natural types of entertainment for your little one to suck on. The idea is to do what you can, when you can. I know not many of you will be ripping the plastic joystick out of your son’s hand as he practices his tennis swing on the X-Box, but there are about a zillion ways you can start weaning yourself from plastic in your daily life so keep your eyes peeled for a more detailed post on this in the future. It’s simply too much to address in one sitting.
  • Buy frozen, not canned. Because just saying “don’t buy canned food” would have come off too harsh, right? If you try to save on fruits and vegetables when out of season by buying the canned kind, skip it. Eat what IS in season or buy it frozen (preferably organic in the case of berries, for example). BPA can leach into your food while it’s sitting in the can (it’s even found in some canning lids if you do it yourself!), and whether or not YOU use it the very day you buy it, you have no idea how long it’s already been on the shelf, potentially contaminating the food you and your family are about to eat. Just. Skip it. Look for alternatives whenever possible, like boxed stock and soups or homemade fruit salad rather than fruit cocktail — which is almost always sold in plastic or cans. Even baby formula is said to be unsafe when it comes in a can…unbelievable.
  • Wash your hands after handling receipts. During cold and flu season it should become a habit to wash your hands after coming home from practically anywhere (skip the hand sanitizer, dummy) but wash up especially enthusiastically after shopping whenever you keep the receipt. Shove it in your wallet and get it off your skin as quickly as possible.
  • Take action. The government is clearly taking their sweet time banning this harsh chemical in the USA, so click here to be directed to a petition that you can sign asking Congress to get rid of it. Seriously. It takes 30 seconds, people. Just fill out your basic info and click “sign now.” Easy!
  • Read labels, but cautiously. BPA-free has almost become a buzzword these days, like “green” or “eco-friendly.” Just because something is BPA-free doesn’t mean it’s safe; you don’t necessarily know what the company replaced the BPA with during the manufacturing process and if it’s any better for you than what they removed in the first place. Be a conscious shopper and support companies you trust; it becomes second nature to walk through stores as if you had blinders on when you know you don’t need another plastic sippy cup for Bobby or a quick bottle of Coke to go.

This is an ongoing issue, so be vigilant. In fact, be suspicious. You can never be too careful, but take baby steps and it won’t seem so overwhelming. Replace plastics with glass when they become damaged or dinged. Cut out the canned soda and bottled water and get yourself a cute aluminum to-go bottle. Make your own lunch instead of heating up a TV dinner. Get the picture? Good. I don’t like explaining myself twice.

Food Cures

Since the last few weeks, I’ve had it on my mind to write about how food can be used to cure common illnesses and perhaps even provide relief for people suffering from symptoms of more complex diseases.

Food can cure so many illnesses.

Of course I take the occasional anti-inflammatory after an appointment with the chiropractor or when I’m stressed and have a splitting headache, and I’m not claiming in any way that cabbage cures cancer. But did you know that familiar foods you can find in the grocery store can be used to treat a wide range of everyday ailments? The following is a list of ordinary health complaints and what you can eat (or drink) to feel better fast:

  • Headache — Drink water! It may sound too obvious and too easy, but at the very least guzzle a tall glass with your aspirin. Oftentimes a headache is simply a sign of dehydration.
  • Insomnia — Try a bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is a natural source of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Who knew?
  • Upset stomach — Try a grilled chicken breast on a whole-wheat roll. Once you’re past the dry toast stage, add a little protein to the mix. Lean cuts like chicken are easily digested.
  • Heartburn/indigestion — Munch on saltines or soda crackers. They absorb stomach acid and are bland — in other words, they won’t cause further heartburn.
  • Fatigue — Grab a handful of trail mix. The complex carbohydrates in the raisins combined with the protein found in nuts will give you a perfect boost of healthy energy.
  • Body aches — Cook something in olive oil. Research has shown that olive oil is an anti-inflammatory, so it may assist in suppressing pain.
  • Common cold — Eat an orange. Lots of over-the-counter remedies have zinc and vitamin C to decrease the severity of cold symptoms, but why not get it naturally? Opt for the whole fruit rather than a glass of juice and you’re also arming yourself with healthy, filling fiber.
  • Fever — Drink lots of clear liquids (water in particular). As the saying goes, “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” Don’t actually starve yourself of course, but do focus on fluids rather than on foods. Your appetite will return when the fever starts going down.
  • Hay fever — Seek out some local honey. Eating locally harvested honey may help get your body used to the pollens unique to your region, lessening the severity of allergy symptoms. Stir it into tea or yogurt, or drizzle over fresh berries.
  • Sunburn — Try watermelon. Sunburn often causes dehydration, so aside from making sure you’re getting lots of fluids, raw, juicy fruits will also keep you from getting weak and dizzy.
  • Stress — Drink a cup of peppermint tea. Studies show that peppermint calms anxiety. If you don’t like the mint flavor, find your favorite and stick with it — the simple act of holding a cup of steaming tea can release calming feelings that help reduce stress.
  • Flu — Have a turkey sandwich. Protein is important to keep your body strong, and turkey is also a source of vitamin B6, which is a powerful immune booster.
  • Sore muscles — Eat a banana! Bananas are potassium rich, which will help you recover more quickly if eaten one to two hours post workout. For added protein, gob on one to two tablespoons of heart-healthy nut butter.
  • The “blues” — Grill some salmon. This fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven depression fighters. Come on, get happy!

So the next time you’re tempted to open the medicine cabinet, try opening the fridge instead. Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if something just doesn’t feel right and you’re experiencing a recurrent health issue, but for life’s everyday ailments you don’t always need to pop a pill.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to prevent these and other more serious conditions, and remember: You’ve got to eat great to be great. If you know your body and you feed it well, it will surely bounce back in no time.