Why It’s Important to Drink Enough Water

Lifefactory Glass Bottles

 

Drinking enough water keeps you healthy. How much is enough, though? How much is too much? And, how do you keep kids drinking when you are on the run so often? We have answers.

Humans are about 60% water (45-75% depending on age, body fat, gender, etc.). We lose fluids through sweating, breathing, urinating, and moving our bowels, then we replace that water by eating foods high in water (fruits, vegetables, and soup, for example), by drinking non-water beverages, and by just drinking water. We keep our body fluids in balance when fluids in and fluids out are equal.

How much water should I drink a day?

You’ve heard that you should drink a gallon (64 ounces) of water a day. There isn’t actually any scientific support for this number, but it’s easy to remember 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day, so that can be used as a general guideline. An adult male might need about 100 ounces a day while a female might need 72 ounces. A pregnant woman would need to add another 8 ounces a day, and a breastfeeding woman would need to add another 24 ounces, or 3 small glasses of water per day.

You body uses more water when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as you exercise (and you sweat), when it’s hot (and you sweat), when you are sick (especially if you’ve vomited or had diarrhea), or if you are losing weight (to eliminate toxins). To keep fluids in balance, drink more water in any of these situations.

Don’t drink all of that water at once

You can drink too much water all at once. Your intake shouldn’t exceed what your kidneys can excrete, which is about 1 liter or 1 quart of water in an hour. When you exceed what your kidneys can excrete, the excess goes to your cells and swells them. This is why one symptom of excess water intake is a headache, since your brain is 70-75% water.

What happens if I don’t drink enough?

Mild dehydration, when your body is losing more fluids than you are taking in, can result in feeling tired, headachy, dizzy, and, of course, thirsty. If you are exercising without drinking, you might notice muscle fatigue. More severe dehydration can leave your or your children with sunken eyes, sunken fontanel, no tears, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth. You are likely to notice and remedy the lack of water before the severe symptoms.

Dehydration can also lower your metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, keep a close eye on your water intake because “[b]eing even 1% dehydrated can cause a significant drop in metabolism.” If you urine is amber or dark, you need more water.

Drink Steadily

It’s a Goldilocks situation. Not too much, not too little, just right helps to keep our body fluids in balance. Your thirst generally tells you when you need to be drinking, unless you are drinking dehydrating drinks or unless you are sick (or diabetic).

Drink water steadily throughout the day without taking in too much at once.

Your tap water is probably safe, though it’s worth watching the local water quality assessments. If you do need a water filtration system, get one that meets your needs. Most people won’t need anything fancy.

How can I get my kids to drink water?

In my family, we started when the children were small, and we limited non-water drinks. It’s easier to start a habit when your children are young, and the behavior is just what your family does.

One thing that helped a lot in my family was getting a set of four glasses each with a different design. We have the Beatles. When I see John, I know it’s my glass, and I don’t hesitate to pick it up. It’s a funny thing to make a difference, but designated water glasses has kept us drinking more.

Lifefactory Glass Bottles for the whole family

Lifefactory reusable glass water bottles

If you are avoiding plastic and aluminum bottles, so you are leaning toward glass but want to avoid breakage as well, we recommend Lifefactory glass bottles. They are covered in silicone sleeves that make them break resistant and easy to grip, even for little hands.

We like the Lifefactory Glass bottles because of the variety. For adults and older children, you can choose 12 oz, 16 oz, or 22 oz sizes. They have straw tops, loop tops, and flip tops. For little kids and babies, they have sippy tops and bottle tops. Choose a different color for each person in the family, and you will always know whose water is whose.

Lifefactory’s bottles are made in France, and the rest of the components are made in the USA. They are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Wide tops make it easy to add ice. We like the great performance of these reusable water bottles.

When you are teaching your family to have healthy habits, like drinking more water, it helps to have the right tools on hand.

Drink up.

What’s the Big Deal About GMOs?

Child eating corn on the cob

GMO foods, those from genetically modified organisms, show up in the news every week. The information we get about them can be confusing because the issues are complex and the interested players putting their spin on the issues are many.

Don’t give up and move on, though. GMOs matter. Take the time to learn how GMOs have not in the past 20 years lived up to the promises made to consumers, but they have shifted control of global agriculture to a few corporate hands. Beyond instability introduced to global food systems, research connects GMOs to health and environmental issues.

The issues most often in the news are whether GMOs should be allowed into the food supply (in Canada & the U.S. they are; in Europe they are not), and, when they are allowed into the food supply, whether they should be labeled (in Canada and the U.S. they are not, though there is some voluntary GMO-free labeling).

What does GMO mean?

You might see references to GMO, GM, or GE in discussions of genetic modification of organisms.

  • GE – Genetically Engineered – Genetic material has been added or removed. This is a specific term.
  • GM / GMO – Genetically Modified (Organism) – Genes modified through any means. GM is an umbrella term that includes all GE.

In common (rather than scientific) discussion of these issues, you may see references to both as GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.

Why genetically modify foods?

Crops have been modified to make them resistant to weeds and insects, to make them ready for specific (patented) herbicides, to make them resistant to weather damage, to make them ripen slower and travel better so it is easier to get them to market looking fresh.

GMOs benefit the corporations that profit from higher production and monocultures. They can benefit the farmers who plant these crops in some situations, though many traditional farmers have suffered at the legal hands of the major GE corporations.

Where are GMO foods found?

You are likely eating GMO foods every day without realizing it.

Over the past 20 years, GM foods have been approved in Canada. In Canada and the U.S. (unlike Europe), there is no government requirement to label these foods, either in the whole fruits and vegetables section of your grocery store or as ingredients in processed, packaged, and other foods.

Health Canada is charged with making sure any GMOs on the market are safe for consumption. Health Canada refers to these and other foods as Novel Foods. They provide GMO / novel foods factsheets, including details of their safety assessment process. There are no further plans to research safety of GMOs in Canada.

Some smaller areas in Canada and the U.S. have banned GMOs or required labelling of GMOs in their jurisdictions.

What are the problems with GMOs?

Outside the U.S. and Canada, 60 countries have bans or restrictions on GMOs—including Australia, Japan, and the European Union. A lot of scientists and global health professionals urge caution before accepting unproven modifications in our food supply. We can’t just take back GMOs. Once they are growing, they change wild plant and animal populations as well as agriculture. They change our ecosystems.

Your Health. Government agencies and those who sell GMO seeds and foods tell us that they are safe, yet research accumulates on the long-term harmful effects of GM foods. Abnormal structural changes are shown in animal feeding experiments. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine explains how the idea of “substantial equivalence” underlies the claims of food safety but why that doesn’t give us the full story.

For example, I know a lot of bynature.ca customers are concerned about food allergies and sensitivities. There is research into whether GM crops cause allergies. It’s tough, though, to get around all of the corporate-sponsored FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to find science that isn’t conducted under interested parties. Read one doctor’s view, tracing the gradual acknowledgment of the association between one disease and GM foods. Over time, we can expect to see more stories like this as more long-term health effects become clear.

Environmental Impacts. GMOs contaminate similar organisms as genetically modified genes spread. The spreading is natural, though the genes spread are not naturally occurring. Crops that have been modified to include their own herbicides or pesticides have resulted in weeds and insects that have grown more tolerant and resistant, which means pesticide and herbicide use increases to combat those.

Biodiversity. What may be weeds to a monoculture farmer are habitat for butterflies, bees, and other small creatures. Huge weed-free zones mean destruction of habitat. GMO forests could be devastating to biodiversity.

Sovreignty. Farmers save seeds to plant next year, right? Not with GMOs. Genetically modified genes together with gene patents mean corporate legal control over a growing number of the most commonly planted seeds. Terminator Technology results in plants that produce sterile seeds. Even in plants that do not produce sterile seeds, farmers are not allowed legally to save seeds patented by the massive GE corporations. This creates long-term dependency rather than self-reliance. Together with the massive corporate buying of seed companies then raising of prices for seed, you have every farmer at the mercy of the corporation that modified and patented the genes of the seeds that farmer’s family has been growing for generations immemorial.

What can that mean in the real lives of real people? Over the past 15 years in India, more than 270,000 farmers have committed suicide. Seeds and GMOs play a big role in this tragedy. Watch a short film about the connection.

What if I want to avoid GMOs?

Foods containing GMOs are not required to be labelled. If you want to avoid eating genetically modified foods, you will have to do the research for yourself to determine which foods are genetically modified or may contain GMOs.

  • Avoid the worst GMO foods: Canola, corn, soy, sugar (from sugar beets), papayas, dairy from cows treated with rBGH, zucchini and yellow squash. Look for high-risk crops and be aware of ingredients in processed foods. The introduce of new crops means you can’t rely on a list long-term. Check the food list at the Non-GMO Project.
  • Buy organic. Certified organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified.
  • Plant your own. Though GM seeds are available for home gardens, you can find non-GMO seeds by asking your seed provider.
  • Look for GMO-free labels. Some smaller food retailers are also concerned. Shop where you can find the label “GMO-free.” The Non-GMO Project will help you find labelled foods.

Resources

“Human Health Risks of GMOs,” Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Genetic Routlette: The Gamble of Our Lives (2012). Documentary film.

GMO Trilogy. Watch “Unnatural Selection” online for free. Documentary films.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating (2005). Also available bundled with the documentary films of the GMO Trilogy.

Dr. Vandana Shiva has long been an activist for food sovreignty and anti-globalization. Read her response to a recent campaign of doubt against her published in The New Yorker, August 2014.

Take Action

Join CBAN, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Organic Consumers Association works on a lot of issues that concern us. Dig through their section on GMOs to find the ways you can take action internationally, nationally, and in your own community. Includes the Report, GMO Myths & Truths: An Evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops by Earth Open Source.

U.S. based? Sign the MoveOn petition to Hillary Clinton by the Organic Consumers Association about support for Monsanto and GMO agriculture.

“Speaking at this year’s BIO International Convention, you reiterated your support for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You said the industry needs ‘a better vocabulary’ to change negative public perception about GMO agriculture. But mounting scientific evidence says the public is right to be concerned about the impact of Monsanto’s GMO crops and food on the environment, public health and global warming. We don’t need a better vocabulary. We need leaders who will stand up to Monsanto.”

Image © Alinute | Dreamstime.com - Pretty Child Girl Eats A Boiled Corn Photo

 

Book to Help Reduce Toxin Exposure During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman putting on lipstick

During your pregnancy, the developing fetus is far more vulnerable to toxins than you are as an adult. You are your baby’s protection, so protect your own environment to give your baby the best possible start.

Let’s start with the positive.  You need:

  • Clean Air (so, avoid outdoor activity when air quality is low and pollution is high, driving in congested traffic, wood fires, and, of course, smoking)
  • Clean Water (so, filter your drinking water, unless you know it is safe from the tap, and use a safe water bottle, such as stainless steel)
  • Clean Food (so, eat whole foods rather than processed food-like substances, and buy organics when you can afford them, especially dirty dozen; buy food in glass containers and use glass containers when you store leftovers)
  • Clean House (so, let someone else paint as you prepare for baby, switch to cleaner household cleaners and personal care products, and don’t wear perfumes; also, don’t rush into essential oils if you haven’t consulted an actual professional.)

With the pervasiveness of toxins in our modern lives, you need to do more than rush toward the positive. You need to understand and avoid the negative. You need to know what toxins surround you and where to look for them so you can remove them from your life.

Books about Avoiding Toxin Exposure

Are you ready to learn more? We stock a few carefully chosen books that we find most help us create healthy environments for our families.

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them, Gillian Deacon
There's Lead in Your Lipstick

Your lipstick, shampoo, deodorant, nail polish, soap, and the rest of your personal care products could be exposing you to toxic chemicals unless you have switched to safe cosmetics. You can always make a quick check in the Skin Deep database to see what grade your products get. To be proactive about your choices, educate yourself with There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. You don’t need to go skin bare when you are pregnant (though, of course, you can!). If you still need cream for the stretching skin across your belly, you have natural skin care options. We sell these products because we use these products.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Slow Death by Rubber Duck

Beyond the (almost) obvious toxins in our grooming products, we are poisoned every day through basic household products. Read Slow Death by Rubber Duck to clean up your life during or before pregnancy, then you will have created a toxin-free environment for your new baby. A disturbing but empowering book. If you need a kick to clean up, this is it.

Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products and Services in Canada, Adria Vasil
Ecoholic

Ecoholic reaches beyond just household products to become a Canada-wide guide to green energy, incentives and rebates available, waste disposal, and other services. You will need this information as you clean up your life. City-by-city guide includes Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. This is just one of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic books. We also carry Ecoholic Body and Ecoholic Home.

The Natural Pregnancy, Aviva Jill Romm, MD
The Natural Pregnancy Book

The Natural Pregnancy Book focuses on herbs to promote health, but you will also learn what to avoid. If you are looking for a positive focus, keep this book next to your resting place during your safe, natural pregnancy.

Funny Aside. It must be early. My husband asked, “What are you writing about?”

“Avoiding toxins during pregnancy.”

“Why would you want to avoid dauchshunds during pregnancy?”

I wouldn’t. Dauchshunds should be completely safe during pregnancy. Who can resist a wagging doxie?

Remember, your happiness spreads to your developing baby.

Photo pregnant girl paints lips – Image © Robertprzybysz | Dreamstime.com

Natural First Aid

Preparation of comfrey

The need for natural first aid will come up as you spend more time outside in the summer—hiking, camping, and adventuring. Start with a few basic plants and ingredients for natural first aid.

Kitchen First Aid

Before you go out into the garden, start in your kitchen. If you know your food and what it does for your body, you can use common basic ingredients to aid in health and healing every day. These are just a few of my favorite essentials.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Internally, add to water and drink or use on food to avoid heartburn or indigestion. Gargle to soothe a sore throat. Kids might be reluctant to just take vinegar because it is a very strong taste.

If you just want to get your kids to take apple cider vinegar regularly, slice up cucumbers and onions, cover in apple cider vinegar and water, leave for a day, and you have quick pickles. My kids love these. We always have pickled cucumbers and beets in our fridge.

Externally, pour on a cloth and dab on the skin to take the sting and color out of sunburn. This is one of my family’s most common uses of apple cider vinegar. My childhood memories of summer include smelling like fish and chips, but it works, and I’ve continued to use it on my own children.

Also, use a cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar to neutralize the alkaline venom of wasps or hornets.

Baking Soda

While we are healing stings, take a paste with water and apply on bee stings to neutralize their acidic venom.

Peppermint and Ginger

For nausea or upset stomach, peppermint and ginger are my first choice. This is another food that I have used as long as I can remember. My mother often picked mint from around our house to boil for a drink when I was feeling nauseated.

There is a reason we have after dinner mints or ginger sweets to follow a meal. They help digestion. These are easy foods to give a child.

Cayenne

We eat a lot of spicy foods, so I get a regular does of cayenne internally. This can increase blood flow. You can also use cayenne powder externally to stop bleeding.

Manuka Honey

We have family in New Zealand, where we learned about the healing properties of manuka honey—honey produced by bees that pollinate manuka (which is similiar to tea tree). When manuka honey contains high concentrations of methylglyoxal (MG), it can be used medically. In my family, we use it for wound care or for a food additive when we are ill.

The honey, especially medical-grade honey, is expensive, so we use this sparingly. If we were in New Zealand and could get it less expensively, it would be at the top of my list.

Plant a Healing Garden

If you want to heal your family naturally, start by planting a few essential healing plants in your own garden.

Echinacea

These beautiful pink-purple flowers are easy to grow. Echinacea is often used internally, usually in tea, as an immunity builder or as a cold remedy. It reduces inflammation and is antibacterial and antibiotic.

Arnica

Arnica is commonly used externally (though not on open wounds) for bruises, muscle soreness, and other aches and pains. Most natural first aid kits will include arnica.

Arnica Spray

Arnica Spray for bruises

Mom’s Kisses Topical Arnica Spray is an easy way to keep arnica in your first aid kit. It comes in travel size, also.

Comfrey

Comfrey is another common natural healing plant best used externally, though you can use it on open wounds that aren’t too deep. Comfrey encourages healing of skin and tissues. Very common ingredient in homemade salves.

Yarrow

Yarrow flowers act as a styptic, stopping bleeding when used on wounds. Yarrow flowers or ointment made with yarrow are an important addition to your kit.

Aloe Vera

My mother always had an aloe vera plant growing in our house. When I had bites or rashes, she would trim the plant and squeeze the gel onto my skin. Plus, the plant looks great indoors. Every house should have an aloe vera plant to be used to soothe skin.

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment contains many of these basic natural first aid plants listed above: comfrey, burdock, plaintain, and other soothing and healing ingredients. You don’t necessarily need to make your own ointments, but it does help to understand what herbs do and which herbs work for which purposes, so you can choose wisely when you buy prepared healing potions.

Wildcrafting

Learn the plants of your area, and your hiking adventures can yield wild foods (like nettles, red clover, dandelion, burdock, and other common plants) and wild healing (like plaintain, arnica, yarrow, mullein, and other plants specific to your region).

The best way to learn about local plants is to join a local herbalist or visit a local botanical garden for a walk specifically designed to teach you about local plant resources.

As preparation, you could play Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, a cooperative board game I play with my kids. This is a great way to learn and reinforce learning about herbs for healing.

Essential Oils

I do worry about the ways I see some essential oils being used. Someone who has been warning against essential oil misuse for years is renowned herbalist Susun Weed.

An essential oil is a highly concentrated, drug-like substance which can cause severe side effects if used incorrectly. It concerns me that essential oils, which have killed several adults and children when taken internally, have been presented to the American public as a safe, warm-fuzzy, natural remedy. Out of respect for the plants and the many tons of them it takes to produce a little essential oil, I rarely use essential oils. Also, I prefer the safety and pleasure of using the plants themselves with their effective and amazing volatile oils.

From Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal Ezine v 7, no 12 (December 2007).

If you are going to use essential oils, please be sure that you start with the guidance of someone who has been trained, not just someone who wants to sell you a product they just learned about themselves.

Recipes? No.

I am not trained in natural first aid or herbal medicine. I have taken classes, read books, and helped my family when I can, but I do not have the background to share recipes with you.

I trust few natural healers. Among those I do trust are Demetria Clark and Susun Weed.

If you are looking for recipes, please choose wisely from those who have long-term experience and dedication to natural health. There are many great herbalists. Just look into the background of the person you want to work with or the person whose recipes you want to try before you experiment on your family.

Be the Herbalist

Yes, there is so much more. You could spend a lifetime learning about all of the natural ways to keep your family healthy and to heal them when they are injured or ill.

I think it is best to go slowly and deeply into that knowledge rather than dabbling with broad, shallow knowledge and taking risks.

You don’t need to become an herbalist in order to help your family naturally, though, why not? A friend and colleague of mine, Demetria Clark, runs Heart of Herbs School. In addition to intensive programs that lead toward master certification and diplomas in herbal medicine or aromatherapy, she offers short programs you can complete at your own pace.

Closer to home, find a local herbalist who is giving an all-day workshop or nature walk on herbal remedies. Just one day will help you identify basics that can become part of the naturally foundation for your family’s health.

Learn about herbal basics, safe herbs, and use them. Compare your experience with what you hear from your teachers. Then, add new herbs and natural remedies as you become more knowledgeable.

Pregnant?

My constant companion through pregnancy was Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (1985). If you are pregnant, you need to consult an herbal expert before using remedies. A few of them are unsafe, while most of them will be fine. Just learn the difference.

Natural First Aid Resources

Be sure to read our article on natural bug sprays and the sad state of repelling bugs naturally in Canada.

Image Preparation of comfrey © Teamarbeit | Dreamstime.com

Natural Bug Spray Options

Take a Hike Outdoor Joose

 

You want to play outside all summer, but how do you avoid mosquito- and tick-bourne disease? You need to deter those bugs somehow.

Don’t Breed Bugs

Start with the cause: the fact that the bugs breed in numbers. Don’t give them fertile ground—or water.

Do not leave standing water in your yard. After rain, empty plant saucers, shake out pool covers, clean the bird bath, and keep your yard either free from water that can breed mosquitos or keep any water in your yard clean.

Create a Physical Barrier

In order to bite you, the bugs need to get to you. So, create barriers. When you are inside with open windows, make sure the window screens have no holes. When you are outside, wear long sleeves and long pants. Keep your shirt tucked.

Even ankle to wrist coverage outside won’t keep the bugs away completely. You will still need some kind of insect repellent to stay bug free.

That is where the trouble begins.

Health Canada and Natural Bug Sprays

If you look at Health Canada’s recommendations for insect repellents, you will notice that there are none of the familiar brands of natural bug sprays.

And, here is where you find the sad tale of how Health Canada killed DEET-free, natural bug sprays like we have been using and selling for years.

Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic books available at bynature.ca, explained what was essentially a ban on natural bug spray last year. It is still possible to get approval for some ingredients, but few manufacturers can afford the testing. The fact that they have no testing doesn’t mean the products are unsafe, but it does mean they can’t sell anything they call “insect repellent” or “bug spray” or “outdoor spray.” For the full story, read her TorontoNow column “Black Bug Down: How Health Canada Buzzed Natural Insect Repellents off the Shelves.”

Amusing in a very discouraging kind of way is the fact that the ingredients that will deter bugs naturally are still fine to include in many other cosmetics. So, you could search in other cosmetics for those ingredients known to deter bugs, if you can get anyone reliable to tell you what the ingredients are.

Doesn’t that seem like an ineffective way to keep your kids bug free? Yeah. I thought so, too.

Sure, there are still plenty of bug sprays in the stores that include synthetic neurotoxins like DEET, but we find that most eco-aware parents avoid these.

Your new options are:

  1. put DEET insect repellents on clothes only;
  2. make your own bug spray or lotion; or
  3. buy one of the few natural bug sprays left, if you can find any.

I don’t think #1 is a good option, since you are still exposing your child to DEET.

I wouldn’t recommend #2 either, since there is too much misinformation surrounding essential oils. It’s confusing to non-professionals to hear self-appointed professionals giving contradictory advice. Don’t make your own unless you start with a trusted source—a professional herbalist with more than just a degree in Google search or a one-day multi-level-marketing sales pitch.

So, we’re left with buying whatever natural insect repellent you can find.

Take a Hike! Outdoor Joose

At bynature.ca, we usually have several options. Our favorite that is still on the market is Take a Hike Outdoor Joose. This is the bug spray Naturemom and her family use when they go back country camping and canoeing. It comes family size (250ml) and travel size (125ml).

  • Handmade by herbalists.
  • Safe for daily use.
  • Safe to re-apply throughout the day.
  • Essential oils recognized by Health Canada as safe alternatives to DEET.
  • Not sticky! 25% aloe vera mix in a witch hazel base.

Ingredients: Witch hazel extract, Distilled water, Aloe vera juice, Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lemongrass & Lemon Eucalyptus.

All bug sprays have cautions. We like that these cautions are few and easy to follow.

  • Avoid eyes.
  • For babies under 12 months, spray on clothing or carrier.
  • Spray on your dog’s coat, but avoid face and eyes.

Maybe next year we will have more options for you. For now, we are happy to give you the natural bug spray that we love.