Healthy Living

The Hidden Dangers in Menstrual Products

Most people assume that menstrual products contain safe, non-toxic ingredients. However, that is unfortunately not the case for pads and tampons. The problem with Tampax, O.B and other conventional menstrual product manufacturers is that they use genetically modified cotton, as well as a list of other toxic ingredients such as wood pulp, plastics and dyes.

So today, I wanted to write a blog on the hidden dangers found in our menstrual products and what products to use instead! Because let’s face it- we should not be putting toxic chemicals inside of our bodies on a regular basis.

Periods: The basics

Before I dive into the horrible and unnecessary ingredients in both pads & tampons, I want to talk about why a menstrual period is such an important cycle that happens within the human body.

A period is a way for the body to cleanse itself, reproduce necessary hormones and shed off the lining of the uterus. We go through many phases both before and after our monthly cycles based on the hormones being released. Examples of this include the follicular phase, ovulatory phase and the luteal phase.

Throughout the week of our actual menstrual cycle, it is so important to allow your body to do a full cleanse! This can be experienced emotionally such as crying (PMS) or even just focusing more on your diet. What I want to get at here is that it’s so important to not add toxic chemicals to your cycle because this can later cause hormonal imbalances, bacterial infections or even a heavier flow. Chemicals and ingredients found in conventional tampons have many unadvertised side effects and dangers so let’s get into it and explore healthier alternatives!

Ingredients found in Conventional Pads and Tampons

The information that I retrieved about the ingredients found in varying menstrual products can be found on Tampax.com.

1. Genetically Modified Cotton

Genetically modified cotton was introduced in 1996 (only 25 years ago) and is thought to be one of the world’s dirtiest crops. Globally, cotton crops cover just 2.4% of the worlds cultivated land, but uses 6% of the worlds pesticides and 16% of insecticides- more than any other single major crop. This greatly increases the risk of residues being present in your personal products and can throw off the natural pH balance within your vagina.

Vaginal pH imbalances can lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and can cause allergy related symptoms such as itching.

Aside from the negative health effects associated with GM cotton, thousands of cotton farmers and their families suffer from pesticide poisoning every year. Some cotton farmers earn less than $2.00 a day for their cotton and spend up to 60% of their annual income on pesticides.

2. Rayon

Rayon is a semi synthetic fabric made from recycled wood pulp. It’s widely used in the fashion industry because of its ability to mimic the look and feel of other fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool and others. This may sound great for fashion and clothing, but it does not belong in our bodies!

Rayon is processed with many other chemicals to be broken down into cellulose, which according to Tampax “helps absorb and retain fluid”. However, rayon is processed with many chemicals such as carbon disulphide, sulphuric acid, ammonia, acetone and others. The carbon disulphide emitted from rayon has been proven to cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headaches and chest pain when inhaled. Toxins released from rayon can also rarely cause tissue necrosis for people who regularly wear clothing made of this fabric.

The interesting thing is that most studies done on rayon are based on fashion or clothing, not on the effects of putting it inside of the body. It is considered one of the most dangerous fabrics, but is still one of the main ingredients in our menstrual products! #notokay

3. Propylene

Propylene is a plastic that is found in food containers like those that hold yogurt, cream cheese and butter products. It’s derived from petroleum and is found in some beauty products because it’s very cheap and is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

However, a recent study conducted in November 2020 demonstrated that micro plastics are released from propylene infant feeding bottles. In the study, 48 regions were surveyed to estimate the global exposure to infants up to 12 months. They found values ranging from 14,600-4,550,000 particles per capita per day, depending on the region.

This greatly demonstrates that propylene plastics release micro plastics into our bodies and can have damaging health effects. The vagina is an extremely sensitive organ and using plastic derived ingredients is a big no no!

4. Paraffin

Paraffin is a by-product of the petrochemical industry and has to be intensively refined with bleach and other harmful chemicals in order to be useful. Its production is not sustainable nor environmentally friendly, making it a harmful and unnecessary ingredient in our menstrual products.

On its own, paraffin is greasy and has an unpleasant odour. So manufacturers add preservatives, fragrance and bleach to make it more appealing. This ingredient is used by Tampax as a wax “to keep the [tampon] string clean”. However, paraffin is far from clean!

Paraffin on its own can cause inflammation and irritation, but with the concoction of other chemicals added during production, it’s the perfect storm to throw off your pH.

As I mentioned earlier, vaginal pH imbalances can lead to different bacterial and fungal infections.

5. PEG-100 Stearate

PEGS or polyethylene glycols are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in the cosmetic industry as thickeners, solvents and softeners.

Depending on the manufacturing processes, PEGs can be contaminated with measurable amounts of chemicals such as ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. Additionally, ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system and has been classified as a developmental toxicant by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

You would think that with all of the evidence behind the dangers related to this ingredient that it would not be used in menstrual products, however there is very little regulation as you can see! Most people assume that their personal products are safe and are willing to use them regardless of ingredients which is why big companies are still using cheap and unsafe ingredients. We definitely need more activism and awareness around this issue!

6. Titanium Dioxide

Titanium Dioxide is a pigment that is used in both pads and tampons to make them appear whiter. Titanium dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen “possible carcinogen to humans”.

This ingredient is widely used to provide a whiter appearance and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods and toothpaste. It can also be found in a variety of beauty products and lotions such as sunscreen.

Although it has been proven to likely be carcinogenic, this ingredient is still used in many products including menstrual products.

Healthier Alternatives for your Cycle & Your body

So now that you know why you should avoid conventional menstrual products at all costs, let’s explore some healthier alternatives and brands!

Natracare Products

This brand is my go to- you can find it at Loblaws or even Amazon! I love this brand because it lists the ingredients right on the box. I also love that they use 100% organic cotton, are plastic & fragrance free, totally chlorine free and are biodegradable!

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to your personal care products, check out Natracare. They are about the same price as regular pads and tampons, but contain much cleaner ingredients!

Organyc Products

Organyc is also a safe and clean choice for menstrual products. They are very similar to Natracare and do not contain genetically modified cotton or any of the other chemicals that we discussed. You can find their products at Healthy Planet or order from their website.

The Diva Cup

I don’t want to speak much on something that I personally have never tried, but I have heard great things about the Diva Cup! Not only is it a more environmentally friendly option, it doesn’t contain many ingredients that will linger in your body afterwards.


Takeaway

As you can see, there is not much regulation that goes into the manufacturing of menstrual products. It seems that because most people trust the ingredients, big companies and corporations can get away with adding cheap and harmful ingredients to our personal products. That is why it’s so important to take your own health into account and start educating yourself on common ingredients. Before I wrote this blog, I knew tampons and pads contained harmful chemicals but I will admit that I’m a bit shocked by the amount of information there is on this already. Needless to say, we need to start voting with our money and stop buying products that we know are not good for us.

Always remember- you are the only one with your health in best interest! Most big companies will do anything to make a bit of profit.

Thank you so much for reading my blog! Check out my personalized services and be sure to follow me on Instagram for updates ☀️

Sources

Carbon disulfide – US EPA. (1992, April 11). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/carbon-disulfide.pdf

Government of Canada, C. C. (2021, May 09). Titanium Dioxide : OSH Answers. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/titanium_dioxide.html

Joy, R. (2020, September 23). Is polypropylene a safe plastic to use in your home? Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/is-polypropylene-safe

Li, D., Shi, Y., Yang, L., Xiao, L., Kehoe, D. K., Gun’ko, Y. K., . . . Wang, J. J. (2020). Microplastic release from the degradation of Polypropylene feeding bottles during infant Formula Preparation. Nature Food, 1(11), 746-754. doi:10.1038/s43016-020-00171-y

Ltd, B. S. (2021, April 27). The Problem With Paraffin In Emollients. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://balmonds.co.uk/blogs/blog/the-problem-with-paraffin-in-emollients

Mancini, F., Bruggen, A. H., Jiggins, J. L., Ambatipudi, A. C., & Murphy, H. (2005). Acute Pesticide Poisoning among Female and Male Cotton Growers in India. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health,11(3), 221-232. doi:10.1179/oeh.2005.11.3.221

Polypropylene. (2021, May 01). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polypropylene#Health_concerns

Rayon (Viscose). (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://cfda.com/resources/materials/detail/rayon-viscose

Schwebel, D. C., & Swart, D. (2009). Preventing paraffin-related injury. Journal of Injury and Violence Research,1(1), 3-5. doi:10.5249/jivr.v1i1.1

The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants. (2020, February 12). Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-peg-compounds-contaminants/

Watson, S. (2019, July 11). Everything You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Vaginal pH Balance: Normal Levels… Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-ph-balance

Healthy Living, nutrition

5 Tips to Boost your Overall Health Based on The Dietary Guidelines

I’m all about living a healthy lifestyle and I honestly think that the best way to start is by switching to healthier alternatives of your favourite foods. I recently started reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2015-2020 and was shocked by some of the current health statistics which inspired me to write this blog!

When I say “food is medicine” I really do mean it! Did you know that eating the right foods and getting enough physical activity can reduce conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis?

Eating the right foods is so crucial when it comes to achieving optimal health and genuinely feeling amazing everyday!

Here are some quick facts about Nutrition and Physical Activity Related Health Conditions in the US:

Obesity:

  • For more than 25 years, half of the adult population has been overweight or obese.
  • In 2009-2012, 65% of adult females and 73% of adult males were overweight or obese.
  • Obesity is most prevalent in individuals aged 40 or over and least prevalent in adults with the highest incomes.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD):

  • In 2010, cardiovascular disease affected about 84 million men & women ages 20 years and older (35% of the population).
  • In 2009-2012, almost 56% of adults ages 18 years and older had either prehypertension (27%) or hypertension (29%).
  • In 2009-2012, 100 million adults ages 20 years or older (53%) had total cholesterol levels >200mg/dL.

Diabetes:

  • In 2012, the prevalence of diabetes (type 1 and type 2) was 14% for men and 11% for women ages 20 years or older. (90% of total diabetes in adults is type 2).
  • Among children with type 2 diabetes, about 80% were obese.

The harsh reality is that there are so many diseases and conditions that stem from years of eating an improper diet and not getting enough physical activity. But don’t lose hope!

All you have to do is follow these simple steps to boost your nutrient profile and your overall health 🙂

1. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise

Only 20% of adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. These guidelines establish how much exercise we should be doing daily/weekly in order to reduce the risk of the conditions mentioned above. Establishing and maintaining a regular physical activity schedule into your lifestyle can provide so many health benefits! Strong evidence shows that working out regularly helps individuals maintain a healthy weight, as well as lowers the risk of early death, stroke and high blood pressure.

Youth ages 6 to 17 years of age need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day which should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone strengthening activities.

Adults need a little over 2 hours of physical activity of moderate intensity and should do muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days of the week.

Incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle can be easy and really fun! Try taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or even go for a nice family walk after dinner. Simple switches can really make a huge difference in your health a few years down the road!

Stay tuned for my next blog post which will have some fitness tips and workouts that you can do at home during the pandemic! 😉💪🏼

2. Follow a healthy eating pattern

A healthy eating pattern includes eating at an appropriate calorie level to support a healthy body weight and including a variety of nutrient rich foods in your diet to prevent deficiencies.

Individual calorie needs vary based on age, sex, height, weight and level of physical activity, however there are a few guidelines to take in mind when developing a healthy eating pattern:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

Following these general guidelines is really important, but I don’t want you to start doing math and calculating your calories. I don’t even count my calories! The main thing to takeaway is to reduce your intake of foods that contain added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.

3. Make simple switches

Which brings me to my next tip- make simple switches! This doesn’t mean that you will never get to eat fettuccine alfredo again, it just means adding veggies or maybe even using a plant based milk for the sauce instead! It’s so much fun to experiment with different foods and making swaps while cooking at home.

An easy way to start getting more nutrient rich vegetables into your diet is to make a salad with your dinner. Buy some iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and apples for a fresh inexpensive salad. Using olive oil, salt and lemon juice is also much healthier than using store bought salad dressings which contain GMO ingredients such as canola oil.

A great way to incorporate more fruits into your diet is to make a fruit smoothie in the morning or for lunch. Fruit smoothies contain high amounts of antioxidants and other vital nutrients! So many of us live busy lifestyles where eating 5 fruits a day may be time consuming and hard to keep up with. But making a smoothie combines ingredients like berries, bananas and mangos that contain nutrients that you otherwise wouldn’t get!

Check out my smoothie recipes for 3 inexpensive and healthy smoothies that you can make tomorrow morning☀️

4. Increase your intake of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds

The average intake of fruits and vegetables in the US is largely below average which demonstrates the need for us to all start eating more foods from these food groups! I’m sure I’ve mentioned this already but fruits and vegetables are amazing for us and you can never eat too many! It’s really important to make sure that you’re eating a variety of fruits and veggies as they all contain different vital nutrients that are useful to our bodies in their own ways.

Here are some vegetable subgroups and examples, the goal is to increase your intake from each subgroup and make sure choosing different kinds from each category.

Even just choosing 3 additional items to add to your grocery list will make a positive impact on your health! Try grabbing some dark green vegetables next time you go grocery shopping, or even some red & orange vegetables. Have fun with it and always nourish your body.

5. Set Goals

Setting goals is important because it keeps you motivated, on top of things and sets a standard. I personally set 3 goals each morning which revolve around reading something new, meditating for at least 10 minutes and making a smoothie. Because of my routine, I am constantly improving my daily habits and lifestyle, while staying entertained!

I also set health related goals for myself- I make sure to get enough physical activity, I follow a healthy eating pattern and I try my best to incorporate fruits and vegetables into my diet whenever possible.

These goals are what keeps me healthy and feeling great every single day! I highly suggest developing some health oriented goals based on the guidelines that we discussed.

Doing more physical activity, eating more plant based foods and limiting your intake of added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats & sodium have all been proven to reduce nutrition related health conditions.


Takeaway

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog! If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me through email: NaturalGlowellness@gmail.com or through my Instagram page. I love working with individuals to better their eating habits!⚡️

I also wanted to mention that all of the information in this blog is from the Dietary Guidelines For Americans: 2015-2020 Eighth Edition. A 2020-2025 Edition was just released on their website and has a free download. If you’re as interested in health and wellness as I am, I highly suggest it! It’s a great read and has some great facts about healthy eating! Just click the above highlighted link 😁

Good luck on your health journey!!