We’ve all heard the term “crunchy,” but what exactly does it mean? It means different things to each person, and everyone is crunchy to differing extents, so there is no set definition of the term. Generally speaking, though, it means that you prefer natural means of doing things over using chemicals and conventional products. The mission of the crunchy mama is to raise healthy children (and be healthy herself!) by cutting out things that could overburden the body with detoxification instead of repairing the damage we incur through our day to day activities.
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1. Reduce Plastics
Plastic is everywhere it seems. It is cheap to manufacture and many things are made of it, including food storage containers, cooking utensils, children’s toys, the list goes on. But what you may not be aware of is that plastic is an endocrine disruptor. What this means is that the chemicals used in the manufacturing process wreak havoc on the pituitary gland. This tiny gland is responsible for the entire endocrine system, which governs the hormones in our bodies. We have girls entering puberty earlier and earlier, and we have boys developing feminine characteristics. There is some evidence to suggest that this could be due to the chemicals in plastics.
Worse yet is when plastic is heated — these chemicals leach into the food or whatever the plastic is touching (like your child teething on a toy that was left in the hot car). Microwaving your leftovers in a plastic container is really one of the worst things you can do for your health, in more ways than one!
What can you do instead? I suggest purchasing wooden toys for your children as much as possible; they will last longer anyway. For the kitchen, which is really the biggest place to make changes, you can use glass, silicone, wood or metal (particularly stainless steel). You don’t have to go through your kitchen after you read this and start tossing things. But start thinking about what you can get instead to replace these items.
Side note: Look for pots and pans that are either cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic coated non-stick. You don’t want to cook with the Teflon non-stick coating! It’s not plastic, but it’s full of hazardous chemicals nonetheless, so take that into consideration when looking over your kitchen for items to replace eventually.
2. Switch to Natural Remedies
I used to think over the counter medicines were more or less safe and wouldn’t pose a risk to my health. I have struggled with chronic migraines and Excedrin is one of the only things that has ever helped. Well, Excedrin contains acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Sadly, this drug interferes with our body’s ability to detox and can have major consequences for the liver. I have liver and gallbladder problems now, and I attribute it mostly to my chronic use of acetaminophen.
As it turns out, not every ache and pain needs to be treated. Fevers don’t need to be brought down. Viruses have to run their course, and there are actually natural antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals that work with our bodies so we don’t need to just run out for a doc to prescribe something (if you need it, use it! There is a place for it, but it doesn’t have to be the first place we turn). I am not a health professional so do not take this as medical advice. Do your own research, please.
The “crunchy” medicine cabinet might contain:
- raw local honey
- raw garlic
- vitamin C (I like camu camu powder as it’s derived from food, not synthetic)
- apple cider vinegar
- various homeopathic remedies
- colloidal silver
- coconut oil
- essential oils (Germ Fighter from Plant Therapy is an excellent one, but please do not use it on or around young children! They have a kid-safe blend you can use instead)
Preventively, we can help ourselves with the following:
- the sun! (vitamin D)
- magnesium (necessary for almost every bodily process; I like magnesium malate as the malic acid helps with my liver and GB issues)
- probiotics and/or ferments (great for gut health)
- a methylated B complex, and if there is even a remote chance of pregnancy, methylfolate in addition so you get the recommended 800mcg
- zinc (works to help mag be absorbed and is an immune booster in and of itself)
- cod liver oil (vitamins A and D, and omega 3s)
- sleeping as much as we need…easier said than done if you’re a mama to littles!
- All of the above help the body to work optimally.
3. Eliminate Processed Foods
Can’t forget about a proper diet! It goes so far in ensuring you are as healthy as you can be. Now, I don’t believe there is one perfect diet that everyone should follow. Everyone is different. I’d say eat more veggies and reduce your sugar intake, the rest is whatever works for you!
What’s wrong with processed foods? To start, there are too many additives and synthetic ingredients. They’re not all horrible for you, but fresh is always best when you can get it. People who have MTHFR mutations (a large portion of the population) can’t properly process folic acid, so it’s best to avoid anything fortified, which includes anything made with cereal grains, be it wheat (breads, pastas, anything in a box that contains pasta like Hamburger Helper or various soups with noodles) or rice (my beloved yellow rice had to go). The government has ordered that B vitamins be added back after processing to ensure that people are getting these vitamins, but that makes about as much sense as adding fluoride to the water supply — nobody should be given substances without their permission.
If you take a look at the boxes and cans in the store, you will see a long list of ingredients. Even something like a bagel is full of nonsense! If you make a batch of bagels at home, it’s flour, salt, yeast, water, whatever seasonings you want to use. Done and done. A bag of bagels from the store has that stuff PLUS high fructose corn syrup, various gums, dough conditioners and oils (and the synthetic fortification we already discussed). Sure, it can be a pain to make it yourself, but you can make a double batch and freeze them and voila, you have bagels on hand. They’re fun to make anyway. You can do this with almost anything that comes in a box or can and it’s healthier by default.
Organic…that’s a conundrum. I used to believe organic automatically was better. But is an organic microwave meal something good to eat? Not really. Is an organic strawberry any better than a conventional strawberry? It really depends. The best thing you can do is buy from your local farmers so you can see what they are doing and discuss their practices with them. I would still avoid GMOs for sure. The main ones to watch for are soy and corn in anything (boxed stuff normally will have some kind of soy or corn something or other in it), and unfortunately, zucchini and yellow squash are often GMO (check the Non-GMO Project for more info). But the vast majority of produce that we eat are not GMO…yet.
4. Trade Chemicals for Natural Cleaners
What if I told you that you could clean your whole house without harsh chemicals? You can get rid of most everything under your kitchen sink and replace it with white vinegar, baking soda and plain old soap (real soap made with lye and oils). You are still killing bacteria and the normal household doesn’t need to sterilize their countertops or bathrooms. When you use heavy chemicals like bleach or detergents, they kill everything good and bad, and we are living in a time where everything is so sanitized that our bodies lack the good bacteria needed for healthy flora in our guts and on our skin.
I do still use dishwasher detergent, dish soap and laundry detergents. I have yet to find a truly good replacement for these that cleans every time. I recommend the free and clear versions unless you’re washing cloth diapers, then go with Tide or similar. Fragrances and perfumes REALLY bother me so I always buy everything fragrance free…we’re not missing anything! Why do clothes need to smell “spring fresh”? I never understood that. Haha!
I recommend Seventh Generation for dish soap. It still has SLS in it, but the other ingredients aren’t so bad. They also make a dishwasher detergent, but there are several other detergents on the market that do the job so I go with whatever is cheapest at the time. I currently have Palmolive Eco under my sink. None of the dishwasher detergents are fragrance free, but this matters less to me since it is just being used inside the closed dishwasher. For laundry detergent, Arm and Hammer for Sensitive Skin is free of dyes and perfumes but still uses SLS. I’m open to other suggestions for all of these if anybody wants to share in the comments!
Lastly, I’ve heard good things about Norwex cloths, but have not tried them myself. They contain silver in the cloths and are antibacterial. I want to give them a try at some point, but they are pricey. If you need a Norwex consultant, check out my friend Heidi.
5. Use Body Products with Fewer Ingredients
Not only do we need to be cautious of what we use around our homes and in our foods, we need to consider what we put directly onto our skin or into our mouths for cleaning purposes. A few easy-ish suggestions:
- deodorant — switch to milk of magnesia! Best thing I ever did for an alternative to antiperspirant and deodorant. It might sound crazy but I swear by it. At the very least, get rid of anything with aluminum as an ingredient. It is likely a contributor to breast cancer.
- toothpaste — go fluoride-free. There are several brands on the market such as Tom’s, but some of them still have SLS in them for sudsing action. I found a brand called Hello at Walmart for under $5 that does not have SLS or carageenan. Like Tom’s, it contains xylitol and aloe, which are great for warding off bacteria from your teeth, but also like Tom’s, some flavors do have fluoride so just be careful when you’re picking. Hello is also available in fun kid flavors like watermelon.
- mouthwash — we like Tom’s for this. Fluoride free and has xylitol.
- shampoo — ditch the drugstore bottles and go no poo or low poo! This takes some time as your hair transitions, and it can take a lot of trial and error. I would suggest a low poo shampoo from the Body Shop. Their Rainforest line of shampoos contains no silicones, no sulphates, no parabens and no colorants. It does, however, contain fragrance, but this one doesn’t bother me at all, it’s not crazy strong like many can be with traditional shampoos. Before I started using this, I was full “no poo” and used everything from eggs to rye flour to applesauce to apple cider vinegar to rinse…with varying results.
- soap — just use REAL soap. Detergents contain man-made stuff that has been processed to death so it is cleansing. Soap made with only oils and lye are naturally cleansing. The oils change as they interact with the lye in a process called saponification. Soaping isn’t terribly difficult and it’s fun to play around with new recipes. Give it a shot if you’ve never done it! But be sure to use the right precautions when handling lye. Alternatively, you can find real soap at health food stores, farmer’s markets or on Etsy. It is more expensive, but you don’t need to use it that often. As with changing to a more natural shampoo or no poo, your body adjusts to go back to more or less cleaning itself and producing the proper amount of sebum now that you’ve stopped completely stripping it with detergents. I’ll write a post on that soon.
- makeup — I don’t wear it, but there are multiple brands that are more natural now. Mineral makeup is one option. For skincare, Limelight by Alcone has all natural options and my friend Andrea can get you set up with something that works for you.
So. Is all that doable? I think so. Go slow. Pick something that will be easy to change and start with that. Some things are harder than others, like making time to cook when you’re used to making something quick from a box, or figuring out how to clean something without the product you’re used to using. Grab some bamboo utensils and start there! Or pick out a new pretty soap from Etsy and give that a shot. This is something that you progressively do and it just becomes part of your life. The goal is to help your body do what it needs to do by giving it what it needs and removing the things it doesn’t need.
What did I miss? What are your favorite ways to live a crunchy lifestyle? Is there anything you’re struggling with as you make the transition? Let me know in the comments!