What is Kombucha?

At the fancy food show, Kombucha was definitely making a presence.  I had heard about it before, knew some friends and coworkers who drank it.  It looks all hipster and trendy and healthy.. what what the heck is it?

I asked a local kombucha bar owner at the show and did some of my own research too.

Basically, Kombucha is  a tea, usually green or black tea that is fermented and slightly effervescent.  The supplier told me it is basically a healthy “soda” replacement filled with health benefits and vitamins.  It tasted like a flavored seltzer or a carbonated beer/champagne I have had at local breweries.

Basically you have sugar and tea, and add a colony of yeast and bacteria (a culture) and allow the mixture to ferment… similar to how you would make a beer or wine. The culture, known as the “mother culture,” is combined with tea and sits for roughly 10 days. During this time, a thin colony of bacteria forms on top. After the fermentation process is complete, the new culture can be scooped out and used to start other brews, while the pungent beverage below is ready for drinking.  The culture is often referred to as SCOBY (Symbiotic culture of Bacteria and Yeast)

kombuch_howto-01

Kombucha is not new, it dates back to ancient China, where it was regularly consumed to remedy inflammatory ailments such as arthritis and thought to ward off cancer.

I’m kind of amazed by all the “proposed’ health benefits.  Mind you, none have the claims have actually been verified in a clinical controlled study.

Why Do People Care?
According to SHAPE magazine,

Grocery store shelves and trendy restaurants alike are featuring fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yes,kombucha. All kinds of people, from health nuts to celebrities to chefs, are becoming more conscious of the benefits of eating grub rich in healthy probiotics, which are tiny microoganisms similar to the “good bacteria” naturally found in our intestines. Research has found consuming probiotics can help fight colds, lower cholesterol, and promotes a healthy gut, alleviating issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and food allergies.

So what about the alcohol content?  There are come kombucha that are 3% alcohol, just like your light beers!  The MAJORITY though are kept under 0.5% alcohol so they can be sold on grocery store shelves.   Fermentation of sugars produces alcoholic beverages, and there isn’t enough sugar in Kombucha to have a high alcohol content.

One benefit I have been reading over and over again is about it’s super antioxidant power.  Don’t remember what antioxidants are?  Check out my post about how antioxidants work.  The primary benefits I have been reading about are:

  • Detoxification: Detoxification produces healthy livers and aides cancer prevention. One of kombucha’s greatest health benefits is its ability to detox the body. It is rich in many of the enzymes and bacterial acids your body produces and/or uses to detox your system, thus reducing your pancreatic load and easing the burden on your liver. Kombucha is very high in Glucaric acid, and recent studies have shown that glucaric acid helps prevent cancer.
  • Joint Care: Kombucha contains glucosamines, a strong preventive and treatment all forms of arthritis. Glucosamines increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. Hyaluronic acid functions physiologically to aid preservation of cartilage structure and prevent arthritic pain, with relief comparable to NSAIDs and advantage over glucocorticoids. Hyaluronic acid enables connective tissue to bind moisture thousands of times its weight and maintains tissue structure, moisture, lubrication and flexibility and lessens free radical damage, while associated collagen retards and reduces wrinkles.
  • Digestion & Gut Health:  Kombucha is a probiotic beverage. This has a myriad of benefits such asimproved digestion, fighting candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth, mental clarity, and mood stability. As such, it’s noted for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Immune Booster.  Kombucha is extraordinarily anti-oxidant rich, and you all know the benefits of anti-oxidants for boosting your immune system and energy levels.  If you want to know more about how antioxidants work, check out my past post on them.

I’m going to give it a shot.  See how I feel and will let you know.  One warning though, definitely only purchase manufactured Kombucha from a reliable brand.  Home brewing has many negative side effects because you are not working in a sterile environment and can contaminate the culture.  It can lead to upset stomach and other side effects.    Also if you brew in ceramic, the culture will leach the led out of the glaze and you can get some pretty serious toxins in your system.

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Fact Friday-Sunscreens (and why grading them isn’t always the best) 

With the kick off of summer last Memorial Day Weekend, I am sure a lot of us have seen (and shared) on social medial the yearly post put out by the EWG “Environmental Working Group” where they rate the best and worst sunscreens of the year.

While I think they have the best intentions, they still don’t have the resources to really rate these products where it matters.  Their methodology looks impressive, but there is one CRUCIAL flaw.  They look at the ingredients individually to make up their grading.  Although that is part of the puzzle, they don’t take into account the science and art of formulating a finished product.

When assessing a sunscreen, you need to look at the finished product.  The finished product encompasses the ingredients (how much of each ingredient), the process, stability (of the entire formula, not just the sunscreen actives), microbial robustness, SPF (UVA and UVB protection), irritation and allergy testing, then additionally irritation and allergy testing when exposed to the sun (ie photostability, phototoxicity, photoallergy),  product aesthetics (if it is goopy, oily, greasy, or whitening are you actually going to use it?) … just to name a few.

This may seem confusing, so lets think about it this way.  Imagine you are given a list of ingredients like this:

  • butter
  • sugar
  • sugar
  • eggs
  • vanilla
  • flour
  • syrup
  • cornstarch
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • chocolate chips

  These are the basic ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie.  Now let’s grade them.  Butter is a fat, sugars make you fat, eggs are good for you (they are protein!) vanilla is natural, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda aren’t really necessary right? They are just chemicals, so they must be “bad.” Salt is bad and chocolate could be good if it’s dark chocolate…right?

Creating sunscreens is just like baking.  It is a science and an art.  Just with a different type of knowledge.  

Grades of ingredient matter:  To make this cookie, you aren’t supposed to just use butter, but melted butter.  Sugar is sugar right?  Wrong, this would call for packed brown sugar and granulated sugar in specific ratio.  Flour- hmmm, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, almond flour?  They all will make the same cookie right?

The process is critical to your outcome:  I am sure we will get a delicious cookie if we just combine all these ingredients one after another in a bowl then bake it at any temperature for any length of time… No?

Getting the gist?  These ingredients could yield the most delicious cookie you have ever tasted, or it could yield something crunchy, chewy, burnt, under cooked, too salty, a fluff ball, runny, crispy… the possibilities are endless.

When we evaluate this cookie, the taste and therefore the performance of the cookie is LARGELY impacted by the levels of ingredients, how they are meticulously blended together, and the exact process for baking them.   If you want to find out the right levels of ingredients and the process to make this fabulous cookie, you can do so here.

Here are some of the possible outcomes using the same general ingredients.

These ingredients could also make a cake, cupcake, muffin, bread, or pancake….

Back to Sunscreens

When I looked at the EWGs list for the top 22 Kids Sunscreens I was a little shocked.  In one of them, they use sodium benzoate as a preservative in a leave on application.  Sodium benzoate is OK in a cleanser, but should not be used in a leave on.  Also sodium benzoate needs a low pH to be effective as a preservative (below 5), but minerals are stable at a higher pH (around 6.5-7)… so that right there sets off red flags for me on the stability of the product.

Another that scared the crap out of me was a high level of zinc and all other ingredients were natural oils… what the hell?  How does the zinc stay stable?  Does it just sink to the bottom of the tube?  No thickener, no emulsifier, no preservatives?  That is a sunburn (or allergic reaction) waiting to happen.

At the end of the day, this chemist would trust Coppertone, Neutrogena, heck, even Banana Boat with her skin.  These companies have a WEALTH of knowledge.  There are SO many people working on any one of these sunscreens to ensure that it is stable, provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, has the right level of preservatives to keep the product safe from contamination.  There are also toxicologist, medical safety officers, and analytical chemists making sure the product is safe and effective.  Oh yeah and most importantly, there are formulators and engineers (or the cooks) who make sure that it feels great so that you actually WANT to use it to protect yourself from the sun…

Because let’s face it, if you hate the way it feels (no matter what kind of miracle rating it is given) you won’t use it and what good is sunscreen if it isn’t on your skin?

That being said, there was good information on their site that is accurate, like their article on the 8 facts about sunscreens.

A major issue I have with all these small label brands is that since the cosmetic industry is not regulated (but hopefully will be soon)  they don’t have a set standard for safety & efficacy.  I don’t think it is intentional that this small brand used the preservative the wrong way, I just think they didn’t know.  What is scary is that it is on the market and the product is getting a high rating.

There is no harm in trying something new, but when it comes to something as big as sun protection.  I am sticking with the experts.  Do your research.

 

In case you were wondering, here are my favorite sunscreens:

For my kids:

Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50:  For beach days I love this sunscreen.  It goes on easily and rubs in quickly.  It has mineral sunscreen filters.  I personally don’t have a preference but my daughter has eczema.  The mineral filters are gentler on her skin.  My son is fine with either mineral or chemical filters. They both protect, just by a different mechanism of action.

Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 - 8 fl oz

Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick, SPF 50 OR

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock SPF 60+, Stick:  I cannot stock enough of these sticks.  I have them in my diaper bag, my purse, my car, my beach bag, at daycare… My kids are 4 and 2 and they use them themselves.  They provide excellent coverage and my fair little kids have NEVER gotten burnt using them.  Even when we go to the beach for an entire week.

Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick, SPF 50- .5 ozNeutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock SPF 60+, Stick- .47 oz

For me: I have 2-3 routines… Daily, Beach Days, and Running Days!

Daily

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 55: for my face.  I apply this daily, after the shower.  It goes on and rubs in quickly.  After a few minutes I put my makeup on.   If I am going to the beach, I still wear this but I just don’t put on makeup so I can re-apply through out the day.

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 55- 3 oz

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55: For my body.  After the shower I put this on everywhere.  Once it dries (which it does in seconds) then I get dressed.  This avoids tan lines and smudging on my clothes and I am protected no matter what outfit I chose to wear.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 55- 3 oz

BEACH DAYS

Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion:  I can’t say enough about this sunscreen.  I have it in 30 and 70.  It smells like a pina colada frozen smoothie.  It goes on and rubs in quickly.  I love it and can’t live without it.

Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion- 6.7 oz

Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 for my beach bag.  My husband hates oily lotions, so this is a great option for us.

Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30- 8 fl oz

Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50:  I think I love Coppertone because it just smells like summer to me.  My mom used Coppertone for years.  I also like the way it feels and protects and I know it is properly formulated.

Coppertone Ultra Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50- 8 fl oz

RUNNING/OUTDOOR SPORTS

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30: I like this one because it stays put!

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30- 7 oz

Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50: Not greasy as all. Fragrance is light Rubs in well. After applying, skin felt smooth and dry, not sticky or greasy. I couldn’t tell it was there. Sun protection is great.  Also like it in SPF 30.

Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50- 5 oz

In general, I don’t use sprays for my family.  I have a few Sport, ultra sheer, and beach defense sprays in my beach bag and by my back door just in case I need something really quick or to spray my back and shoulders towards the late afternoon on a beach day.  It is a personal preference, I feel more comfortable applying a lotion to my family because I know we are “covered.”

 

After a beach day, this is my guilty pleasure.  

Hawaiian Tropic Ultra Radiance After Sun Lotion 

Hawaiian Tropic Ultra Radiance After Sun Lotion- 8 oz

It has glitter 🙂

Fact Friday- Allergens (in food, nature, and skincare)

I was thinking about what I wanted my next Fact Friday post to be about and there has been SO much going on lately around “reactions” that I thought it would be good to do a post specifically around allergens.

What is an allergen? How do you react? Where are they found etc?

My daughter Samantha has an eczema, an egg allergy, and seasonal allergies.  Her body reacts differently to all 3 (poor thing).  My father had severe seasonal allergies, and my brother was so allergic to everything he got 6 shots a week for several years.  My sister in law also has allergies and get shots for them… Needless to say, genetically, my daughter was screwed!

What is an allergy?

An allergy or allergic reaction, is what happens when your body responds to a normally harmless substance and thinks it is invading the body.

I  LOVE learning with pictures, and I think this helps so much.

Anaphylactic_shock

There are 2 steps to a reaction.   This is SO important, and most people don’t know this is how the body works.

STEP 1.  You are FIRST exposed to the allergen.  At this time, you will not have any reaction.  It is called “Sensitization.”

What happens, is the allergen (pollen, a food, a lotion ingredient, anything) comes in contact with you whether you inhale it, eat it, or touch it.

Cells release signals which stimulates the B cell (pictured above) to begin producing a LOT of IgE, a specific antibody.   There is a lot of IgE so it starts looking for another cell that is its home (it’s receptor)  The IgE looks for and attaches to Mast Cells.   At this point, the mast cells with the attached IgE are considered sensitized.  Basically they are ready and waiting for the next time you are exposed to the same allergen.

This is an important step because you can become sensitized at any time.  Doctors know what “known” sensitizers are.  There are specific ingredients that doctors know that if you keep exposing yourself to them A LOT, your body may develop an allergy to them.  There are 26 known or top allergens or sensitizing ingredients in fragrances.   Scientist in the cosmetic industry know what these ingredients are AND what LEVELS would pose a risk so they are avoided… smaller companies and private individuals who make their own skin care ususally don’t have this knowledge.

Step 2:  This is the second, or third, fourth, (or 100th time) you are exposed to the allergen.   Once you have been sensitized, when you come in contact with the allergen, it now has a place to go.  It binds to the “ready” mast cell and the cell releases histamine into the body.

This release triggers your symptoms of hives, itching, swelling, watery eyes, anaphylactic shot etc.

There you have it, an allergic reaction.

It is important to note that IgE is specific to each allergen. That means that IgE to cat can only trigger an allergic reaction to cat. A blood test will help identify the amount of IgE in the body. Knowing your IgE levels for different substances will help identify the specific allergic triggers that may be contributing to your symptoms, i.e. if you are allergic and what you are allergic to.

Tune in next week when I elaborate on this allergy thing a bit more, specifically related to skincare.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Resources

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/allergy-basics

https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/allergic-reactions

http://www.wisegeek.net/what-is-a-food-allergy.htm#didyouknowout

 

 

Fact Friday- All about the Heart, remembering Opa

Today I was going to continue to talk about macros and break them down into the 3 components, but I am going to switch it up and talk about the heart today.

Yesterday, my grandfather Adolf passed away.  He suffered from Congestive Heart Failure.  Remembering Opa on the blog today.

Opa was the very definition of a German man.  Growing up in his household must not have been easy.  He was strong, opinionated, & stubborn.   I share so many of his traits (good or bad).   When we were little the main things I remember are how he always sat in his reclining chair in the corner of the room with this little light.  He enjoyed watching soccer and WWF.  So funny to think back on that now.  His wife, my Oma, was the most loving woman I have ever known.  I can still remember the way her skin felt and they way she smelled.  Opa used to tease her that she had wooden teeth and she would always respond by yelling “Oh Ady!”   Opa would sit in his reclining chair and try to trip my brother and I every time we ran by.  Then he would grab us and squeeze us tight until we were laughing so hard.   Other than those little moments, it was really Oma who played with us when we were little.  She passed in 1998 and Opa changed so much since then.  He became much softer and I am glad that my cousins only got to know that Opa.  They are about 13 years younger than me.   Since her passing it was fun getting to know him as an adult.  He is most remembered for singing Ein Prosit at my wedding (and EVERY social gathering), and telling the story of how you need to hold a shot glass with your thumb and pinkie finger because German’s hands are stuck in that position from always holding beer steins.  All our adult friends loved his drinking songs and his rousing Zicke, zacke,   zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi and Prost!  A little history can be found here.  

 

Opa suffered from congestive heart failure (which my maternal grandmother also has).    So, in his honor my fact friday is going to be about heart health.    Our heart is our most vital organ.  It pumps blood through our bodies.  One of my favorite ways to learn recently has been reading to my daughter.  She got this book as a gift and it gives a wonderful explanation for what our blood does.

Blood helps your body fight germs that might make you sick, but it also carries all kinds of things around your whole body, so you need a lot of it!  Blood can’t move itself around your body, it relies on your heart to do that!   Your heart is a muscle, and when it squeezes it pushes the blood along the vessels.    Blood is a bit like shopping.  It carries things along, and swaps and collects things as it travels.   Blood swaps used air for fresh air when it goes to the lungs.  Blood collects food when it goes near the intestines then carries it to the other parts of your body that needs it.   The right side of your heart receives blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs. The left side of the heart does the exact opposite: It receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body.

A lot of things can affect your heart health and knowing what you can do to stay healthy is important.   The American Heart Association recommends that you be aware of five key numbers:Total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI).  There is a WONDERFUL resource at http://www.heart.org

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with heart failure, it can be frightening.

 

For those of us who are healthy, let’s stay that way by focusing in these 7 simple steps:

    1.  MANAGE BLOOD PRESSURE:  High Blood Pressure is a major risk factor for Heart Disease and Stroke. When your Blood Pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer.
    2. CONTROL CHOLESTEROL:  High Cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog Arteries and lead to Heart Disease and Stroke. When you control your Cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages.

    3. REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR: Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of Blood Sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

    4. GET ACTIVE: Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.

    5. EAT BETTER: A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting Cardiovascular Disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!
    6. LOSE WEIGHT:  When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your Blood Pressure and you help yourself feel better, too.
    7. STOP SMOKING: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.

Now let’s use that glorious muscle to share some love!

This would be an awesome tattoo with one half my husband's fingerprint and the other half mine:

Resources:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Conditions_UCM_001087_SubHomePage.jsp

https://www.goredforwomen.org/know-your-numbers/

Fact Friday: Antioxidants

I am driven by FACTS (as a scientist) and I have been feeling that there is so much fluff out there, people never know where to go for information, and is that information true? Then, what does that information mean to ME? So, what I have decided to do is create a FACT FRIDAY post where I will highlight a different ingredient in food or skincare as or class of chemicals and give YOU facts from reputable sources and be as clear as possible without expressing my opinion, just the facts.

 

Please feel free to request what ingredients you are curious about.

For my first Fact Friday: I was going to talk about chia seeds, BUT I realized you may not know WHAT Omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants ARE or WHY you should even care?! So our first fact Friday is going to be about: ANTIOXIDANTS, what they are, how they work, and why they are important.

ANTIOXIDANTS:

Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals….HOLD UP.

What are free radicals? What kind of damage can they do to your body?
“Free radicals” are unstable atoms, or molecules, in your body. They are missing important components that would make them more stable. So they rob other cells of those components to meet their needs. This causes injury to previously healthy cells. Over time, this damage can lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Your body produces free radicals through its NORMAL processes. Your body also contains ITS OWN antioxidant molecules, which deactivate harmful free radicals. But things like cigarette smoking, pollution, and excessive alcohol consumption can create SO many free radicals that your body has a hard time defusing them on its own.

aap-antifreestop

Antioxidants- What they do
• stabilize those free radicals and can help minimize the damage to your cells
• Help decrease inflammation
• Help maintain the immune system
• Potentially decrease the risk of degenerative diseases

Antioxidants include
• vitamins (such as vitamins C and E
• some minerals (such as selenium)
• flavonoids, which are found in plants
• The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables

antioxidants

Antioxidants in Shakeology:
• Camu-Camu
• Acerola Cherry
• Bilberry
• Goji berry
• Green Tea
• Luo Han Guo
• Pomegranate
• Rose Hips
• Vitamins A, C, E

 

Resources: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-topic-overview

http://www.webmd.com/diet/antioxidants-directory

ACE Health Coaching Textbook

Fact Friday- Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Don’t be scared of the word “fat.”  Fat is essential in our diet for our cells to function properly in our bodies.

I am going to throw some serious science at you guys today!  As always my takeaway message is eat in moderation.  Here try to eat foods high in Omega 3s (list below) and try to minimize Omega 6 rich foods (processed foods, certain oils etc)

What is the Difference?

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are a chemical class called fatty acids.  The # corresponds to which carbon has the first double bond (Start counting from the right, and each point is a carbon)

Omega fatty acids UK

Your body does not produce Omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to obtain them from your diet.  Two crucial ones — EPA and DHA — are primarily found in certain fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. Not only does your body need these fatty acids to function, but also they deliver some big health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis.

How do they do this?  They set off signals in our bodies to reduce INFLAMMATION.

Omega-3s curb inflammation in the blood vessels (and the rest of your body), this especially helps your heart.  At high doses they also make abnormal heart rhythms less likely and lower your level of blood fats called triglycerides. Finally, they can slow plaque buildup inside the blood vessels.

Omega 6 vs Omega 3

This may seem like a scary crazy image- but the takeaway message here is Omega 3s set off your metabolic pathway to release anti-inflammatories in your body.  How cool is that?!

Where to Get Omega 3s

When possible, try to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods. Aim to eat fish high in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids two to three times a week.

These include:

  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed)
  • Sardines
  • Sturgeon
  • Lake trout
  • Tuna

Good food sources of ALA are:

  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Soybean oil

While foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have health benefits, some — like oils and nuts — can be high in calories. So eat them in moderation.

 

So I threw a lot of complicated stuff at you-  takeaway message….  Live in moderation.  Try to eat foods high in Omega 3s and minimize your intake of processed foods and oils.

Happy Friday!

Any requests?