21 September 2011

Food intolerances can be frustrating.

A few days ago, I had this intense craving for chocolate chip cookies. Not just any chocolate chip cookies, but rather the soft, delectable, chewy ones. Being the capricious person that I can be, especially when it comes to particular food cravings (ahem chocolate), I ran out to one of my favorite health food stores and bought a box of gluten-laden chocolate chip cookies. Okay, maybe they weren't gluten-laden, but what I'm trying to say is that they did contain some unbleached enriched flour, which is, of course, a form of gluten. I knew that the ingredients would negatively impact my skin because it tends to react adversely when I consume chocolate or gluten.

While the cookies satisfied my craving -- although I found them to be a bit too doughy, I will admit -- my skin was less than pleased with my consumption. I knew immediately upon awakening the following day with blotchy skin, that that those pesky cookies were the culprit. Does it mean I will never eat chocolate chip cookies ever again? Heck no.

I try to limit certain ingredients in my diet if I know they will cause my skin to react badly. For me, limiting my gluten intake is not that difficult. For instance, whereas I used to regularly eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch (on sourdough bread), I now generally eat salad mixed with chicken and raw sunflower seeds. Kicking my dark chocolate/cocoa habit is the hard part.

What are your food intolerances and how do you manage to deal with them?

18 September 2011

DIY Hair Conditioner: MAYO

I have spent a considerable amount of time scouring the internet and local health food stores for a conditioner to adequately moisten my coarse, curly locks and not cause irritation to my skin or scalp. Given my chemical sensitivities, I have been limited to a narrow selection of products. I have been disappointed with each fragrance-free conditioner with which I have experimented for various reasons. Some are not moisturizing enough and actually exacerbate the underlying dryness. Others have resulted in skin irritation.  Ultimately, I have concluded that mayonnaise is far superior to any other conventional conditioner.

Mayo works like a charm in terms of supplying my hair with the moisture it craves and it improves the texture of my hair once dried (think soft, touchable, and shiny). As an added benefit, it is inexpensive, non-irritating, and easy to apply.

DIY instructions:

1) Place a tablespoon or two of mayo in a small cup.

2) Apply the mayo to individual strands of hair. Avoid applying it to the roots of your hair, which contain enough oil as is.

3) Rinse with cold water so as not to "cook" the egg in your hair.

4) Voila. Shiny hair.

If I want to merely detangle and condition my hair as quickly as possible, I bring the cup of mayo into the shower and apply it after shampooing. I let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.

In the event that my hair requires a deep moisturizing mask, I apply the mayo to dry hair, cover my head with a plastic bag (or shower cap), and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before rinsing.

For henna-lovers out there, I also found mayo to be useful in terms of removing tiny particles of dried henna.

There you have it. I am forever a mayo conditioner convert.

10 September 2011

Milk and Menstruation

At varying points in college and high school, I had irregular periods. In an attempt to regulate my fluctuating menstrual cycle, I went on the pill. I was a freshman in college when on the pill and used it for a total of 6 months. It seemed to be an easy solution. My periods came and went like clockwork and as an added benefit, my acne subsided greatly. The downside of using the pill, for me, was the fact that my moods were affected. Given that I was concerned about the long-term effects that the pill might have on me health-wise, I elected to discontinue using it and to pursue more holistic remedies.

What has helped regulate my period better than any drug ever did, is milk. Whole milk (sans hormones), is my milk of choice. I remember researching solutions online and uncovering a post by a woman who claimed that drinking whole milk and eating other full-fat dairy products (e.g. chocolate, yogurt) helped to regulate her cycle.

At the time that I had discovered this online posting, I was on a dairy-free diet. I had grown up drinking skim-milk but gave it up after reading that it contributed to acne.

Something about the online post advocating the usage of milk to induce a period, struck a chord with me. It seemed like an inexpensive and unharmful suggestion. It got me thinking. I recalled that when drinking skim-milk regularly in high school and college, my periods were more frequent.

To make a long story short, I researched the benefits of whole milk and read that it helped regulate hormones and improve fertility. I decided to experiment with the milk method myself and sure enough, one glass per day for about 3 weeks did the trick. I did of course supplement the milk with a healthy dose of dark chocolate to make the experiment all the more sweeter. I continue to drink whole milk (I prefer the Trader Joe's brand above others) and find that it works like a charm.

My meditation practice

I have been meditating relatively consistently for about two months. When I first started, I was excited. I found that it did help calm my mind to some extent. However, the effects were not drastic and rather disappointing after the first week. I still felt anxiety and fear looming before, during, and after my meditation. This led me to question the benefits of meditation. I thought to myself, 'Is this doing more harm than good?' 'This might actually be making me feel worse.'

While meditation has not freed me from my anxiety which was my initial hope, the process of meditation has been rather enlightening. My anxiety has not lifted as much as I would like, but I am a work in progress. It has become apparent that meditation is not a cure-all; it's not a magical elixir that can relieve me of all of life's worries. Expecting meditation to instantly provide relief from sadness, pain, or any other negative thought or feeling is unrealistic. When practicing meditation, I need to do away with my expectations. I need not strive for peace and a sense of calm because when I try to achieve serenity, my mind rebels against me, and anxiety takes hold. Likewise, when I try to fight off feelings of pain, hurt, anxiety, sadness, and frustration, these emotions and thoughts intensify. I have realized that trying to get rid of or produce an emotion, has an opposite and undesirable effect.

If you analyze my above-referenced thoughts, you might ask, 'Why can't I strive for anxiety and in turn effectuate happiness and tranquility.' I would conjecture the answer to be: it is difficult to trick yourself into thinking or feeling a certain way. It seems akin to striving for happiness, because isn't that essentially what you're trying to do?

I think the best approach is to just allow your thoughts to flow freely without trying to force anything really. To be honest, I am feeling a bit doubtful and fearful about my next meditation session, because it might lead to the discomfort and anxiety I experienced during tonight's session. However, rather than struggling to ward myself of these negative thoughts, I am going to accept them. After all, I realize that these thoughts will eventually surrender and pass as all thoughts do.