OK, so I don’t really think you should eat or breathe your dish detergent, but you could be doing so already.
It is common for some residue to be left on dishes coming from the dishwasher, and while the dishwasher is running, a great deal of steam is being put out into your home environment. If there are toxic ingredients in your detergent, guess what you’re ingesting and inhaling?
I switched from “standard” Costco brand dishwasher detergent to a natural one a few years ago when I read that cancer patients should have their dishes run through the cycle without detergent to avoid the tax on the immune system. Well, I didn’t think taxing the immune system was a good idea for the rest of us either. So I tried a dish powder from BioKleen. It worked OK. I switched to the Trader Joe’s brand for a better price, and I think that it may be the exact same product (TJ’s uses other manufacturers in some of their private label goods).
After months of using these cleaners, I noted a few things:
Pro: there was no bleach odor coming from the dishwasher while it ran.
Con: the glasses began to have a white residue build up on the outsides (bottoms), and sometimes had small granules of white powder on the inside.
I could scrub that white film off by hand (totally planning to do this when the kids leave for college . . .) but the granules inside? We might be eating that if I don’t wipe each time. So recently I switched to liquid dishwasher soap.
A friend who had just switched to the BioKleen liquid dishwasher soap warned me that it wasn’t getting her dishes clean, so I bought the Seventh Generation product which smells like grapefruit.
I think it is working well, although I noticed that I have to rinse and brush my silverware clean of stuck-on food, as there are no granules to act as an abrasive for scrubbing them off.
It also looks to me like this detergent may be slowly removing some of the white film from my glasses, but I may just be imagining it.
When you look for a detergent, make sure it is free of chlorine bleach, phosphates, and EDTA. All are toxic, both to your home environment/family and to everything living downstream from you.
Dish Liquid (for washing by hand)
Here’s some good news: of all the soaps and cleansers in our homes, the liquid dish detergent we use for washing up by hand is likely the least toxic if it does not have Triclosan in it (the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system). Otherwise, this can happily wait for replacement until you’ve run out of your current soap.
I have been quite happy with the BioKleen Dish Liquid. Lovely fragrance, cuts grease but doesn’t strip my hands, and foams up well. Get it at 15% off from iherb.com; I get mine through my local food co-op/drop for greater savings.
Tip: In addition to washing up dishes and other kitchen surfaces, dish soap works well to get oil stains out of clothing (think butter and peanut butter stains on kid clothes). Dawn detergent is the BEST for this, as it is an awesome grease cutter, but it’s not a natural product, so if you use it avoid touching it to your skin. Use your dish liquid full strength on the stain, let set for half an hour, rinse in the sink, then launder. Dish liquid is far too foamy for washing machines, so never add it to your load or you may have a huge mess on your hands!
Have you ever read a book that sort of pulls together a lot of loose questions for you? I mean, you have been told a basic theory about a topic, and yet you know of personal situations that don’t fit into the basic theory. And then you are presented with a new paradigm that makes so much sense on a diverse clinical level.
Such was my experience with the book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal & Prevent Cavities with Nutrition by Ramiel Nagel. Although I knew, like most moms, that a proper diet which included calcium was essential to making healthy teeth, I didn’t know that an excellent diet can actually prevent tooth decay. Even without brushing. Whaaat?
I’m not advocating not brushing one’s teeth (neither is the book’s author), however, there is extensive documentation of hundreds of people in cultures across the globe with excellent, carie-free, dental health. And they were armed with excellent diets (which varied across the globe, naturally) rather than with toothbrushes. (This documentation was the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the globe to find people with traditional diets and to observe their dental health. He became so impressed with their overall health, and longevity, that his life work became titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.)
How can people have excellent dental health without brushing (and flossing, and swishing, and getting dental cleanings every 6 months)? This is what I wondered, as my paradigm for dental health was that the things that we put on our teeth (food, especially sugar) and then failing to brush it off soon enough, will cause acids and/or feed bacteria that eat away at our tooth enamel. This book debunks the “sugar on teeth” theory, in that white sugar does not feed bacteria, it actually kills it. But we all know some kid that’s addicted to sugar, and has a mouth full of fillings to prove it, right? This is where the nutrition factor comes in: it’s not the sugar on the teeth that wear away at the enamel, it’s the sugar inside the body. White sugar (and white flour, and a bunch of other nutrition negatives) cause the body to swing towards an acid pH, and the body must compensate by pulling an alkaline substance (like calcium) from storage to keep the pH balanced, or to send to a more important part of the body, like the brain or heart. The body may decide in this crisis situation that losing a tooth is better than losing an organ, and so a living tooth slowly loses it’s health from the inside out.
This explains why one tooth may be in decay, while the one next to it is fine (one would think that all teeth in the mouth would decay at the same rate if it were the foods present in the mouth affecting them, as sugar would be distributed everywhere). The body may prioritize one tooth as a source for pulling calcium over another tooth. This also explains why breast-fed babies tend to have more excellent dental health than their bottle-fed counterparts. Dental caries in infants have long been blamed on formula pooling in the cheek from bottle feeding, yet breastfed babies can also sleep with pooled milk and yet have better teeth. It is the better nutrition in the breastmilk that is the basis for better dentition, rather than the absence of milk on the teeth themselves.
Of course, breast-milk is not always excellent nutrition; the health-giving properties of breastmilk are tied to the excellence of the mother’s diet. Ramiel Nagel’s own daughter was being exclusively breastfed when she began to develop tooth decay. The whole family was vegetarian, so they thought they were very health conscious in their diet, yet the lack of essential animal fats and proteins had actually thrown them into a state of malnutrition. As Mr. Nagel research Dr. Price’s writings, he became convinced that they must change their diet dramatically, or all suffer physical and dental degeneration.
Dr. Price found that the people groups he studied with the most excellent dental health, some with nearly 100 percent immunity to dental caries across the entire population, ate liberally and daily from the following 3 food sources:
Dairy products from grassfed animals
Organs and muscle meat from fish and shellfish
Organs of land animals
Mr. Nagel’s book goes into fascinating detail on the whole diets of several groups of people (some peoples ate hardly any dairy, etc. but had larger doses of the other special foods, etc.). He also explores the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (namely calcium, phosphorus, Vitamins A and D from natural sources) which are the reason (or part of the reason) that these foods build healthy teeth (and bodies).
At the end of this article are some lists of Eat Daily/Weekly/Rarely/Never which are Ramiel Nagel’s suggestions. This list is overwhelming to me, as it would seem like a full time job to make sure each of my children ate all the recommended foods daily and weekly. However, I have to remember that we are doing a decent job on the 3 important foods categories: particularly eating lots of raw milk, yellow butter, and cod liver oil. And considering that the rest of our diet is very whole-foods centered, and that I have had this good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding, it isn’t surprising that my children all have beautiful strong teeth (so far!). For those that are already realizing poor dental health as a result of poor nutrition, it may be wise to go drastic and follow Mr. Nagel’s diet to reverse tooth decay, as he was able to accomplish for his daughter.
Of course, many factors are likely present in decay situations, and tooth surfaces that allow for compacted food to be left on them, like molar chewing surfaces, and the baby’s teeth which are in the pool of milk, do tend to be the first to decay. Brushing seems to be a reasonable and helpful habit for minimizing these factors, especially if the toothpaste does not have toxic fluoride but instead a healthy dose of Xylitol, a natural bacteria-fighting sugar with re-enamalizing properties. (Ramiel Nagel has a negative opinion of Xylitol based on one study on its safety; my research leads me to believe it is safe and effective. Read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.)
However, brushing should be seen as the secondary dental habit, with excellent nutrition being the first and most important.
Ramiel Nagel outlines a diet that has allowed 90% of those who follow it to stop tooth decay. If you already have teeth decaying in the mouth, consider a strict adherence to this diet.
Foods to Eat Daily:
1/8-1/2 tsp. fermented Cod Liver Oil 3x daily with meals, or 1/2-4 T. organic/wild liver
1/8-1/4 tsp. of high vitamin butter oil 3x daily with meals, or 1-2 T. yellow butter per meal
2-6 cups raw grassfed whole milk
2 cups bone broth
1-4 T. grassfed bone marrow
2 fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt
Substantial quantities of vegetables, such as carrots, beet greens, kale, chard, zucchini, broccoli, celery, sting beans, including soups and juices
Seaweed or kelp
Eat Several Times Weekly:
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented wild caught fish
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented grassfed beef or lamb
Raw fresh oysters or clams
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented liver of grassfed beef, lamb, chicken, fish, turkey, etc.
Raw or soft cooked eggs from grass-fed poultry
Eat Only Rarely/Avoid If Dental Health is Poor:
Dried Fruit, and any very sweet fruits, such as orange, grapes, peaches, banana and pineapple
Natural Sweeteners, such as unheated honey, organic maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice, and rapadura
Foods to Completely Avoid:
Sugar, in all processed forms
Flour and grain products, unless soaked or sprouted
Hydrogenated Oils, and low quality oils, such as soybean, canola, safflower. Replace with organic coconut, olive, or palm oils, butter, suet, or tallow.
Any junk food
Coffee, soft drinks, nutrasweet, and anything artificial
Soymilk, protein powder, and excess Tofu (my note: protein powder which is unheated raw whey is OK as it is still raw milk)
Pasteurized milk, even organic
Non-grassfed meat and eggs, and farmed fish
Alcohol and cigarettes
Drugs, whether recreational or prescription, and vaccines
Toothpaste always seems to be a top concern for people desiring non-toxic personal care products. It is the one product which we actually put into our mouths, and although we spit, we intuitively know some is getting into us. (Of course, the things we rub on our skin are in us too, but this doesn’t ameliorate the need to find a really great, non-toxic tooth cleaner.)
Before I dive into reviews on toothpaste ingredients and specific brands, let me mention that the dental products used, and even our “dental health habits”, have far less to do with dental health than does our state of nutritional health. A person deficient in the components needed to make and keep strong teeth (particularly minerals and the essential fats needed to absorb them) will have poor dental health, regardless of how often they brush and floss. Read Dental Health and Nutrition where I review Ramiel Nagel’s amazing work on nutrition and dental health. I thought I was educated on this topic, but this book was a real eye opener for me.
My 5 criteria for a great toothpaste are:
Non-toxic to overall health
Ever wonder why toothpaste packaging warns not to swallow toothpaste? (Ha! tell that to your 2 year old!) Conventional toothpastes are filled with toxic ingredients, including Sodium Laurel Sulfate, paraben preservatives, sugars (why would we want to put our teeth to bed with sugar?!?), and synthetic flavors and colors. However, I consider fluoride (Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Monofluorophosphate) to be the most toxic ingredient in toothpaste; if this is a shock to you, read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
Works (get’s our teeth clean/is good for our teeth)
So you’re wondering: if there isn’t fluoride in your toothpaste, how is it going to fight cavities? Xylitol, a natural sugar derived from birch trees, has shown to be even more effective and preventing and reversing cavities than fluoride, without toxic effects. Read more in Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
Leaves mouth “feeling” clean and breath fresh
This is really an aesthetic, but still very important to our family! Fresh breath is a delight; and we want our toothpaste to be “all in one” with this included.
Tastes good while brushing
We’ve tried some nasty tasting pastes, and regardless of how great they may perform, we won’t be repeat customers. And our kids are keeping their lips sealed on this one.
Not exorbitantly priced
Is it too much to ask that the perfect toothpaste be under $7 a tube? Seriously, I have 3 children!
It has been a long road to find a toothpaste I feel confident in for its benefits while making our mouths smile for its flavor. My favorite, Spry by Xlear, is reviewed at the bottom page; others are options you might be considering.
Tom’s of Maine: this extensive line of toothpastes is widely available, and although most of the toothpastes have fluoride in them, here is one that doesn’t: Tom’s of Maine, Natural Antiplaque Toothpaste with Propolis and Myrrh, Spearmint, 6 oz (170 g). Unfortunately this does have Sodium Laurel Sulfate in it, which since it is derived from coconut may not be toxic but it is still harsh to skin/tissue/gums. I used several of their toothpaste flavors before I began to avoid fluoride, and they all tasted fine, fresh but not very sweet, and somewhat chalky in consistency compared to “regular” toothpaste. Price: $6.73 retail, $4.85 iherb.com.
Young Living, a company that manufactures and distributes their own high quality essential oils, has 3 toothpastes available for adults, and a kids line as well. The Dentarome Plus Toothpaste I have on hand for deodorant (see my postDeodorant: Love-Hate Relationship). As a toothpaste, it tastes like you’d expect from the list of ingredients: slightly sweetened baking soda with some essential oils added. It does not lather. Price: $8.88, must purchase through a distributor.
Tooth Soap is the brand name for a line of dental care products based on a literal soap for teeth. The idea is that natural soap, like a natural olive oil bar soap, will thoroughly clean teeth. The company claims that glycerine, which is added to most toothpastes out there, is a negative for teeth, as it leaves a sticky residue. I researched glycerine, and it is a byproduct of the soap making process, and is present in natural soap. Although the amount of glycerine is likely less in tooth soap than in toothpaste where it may be one of the first few ingredients, I view the whole claim as a scare tactic, since their product must have small amounts in it as well. I have not used tooth soap, but a close friend has, and notes that it just tastes like soap (no fresh breath after brushing), and that the shavings can get stuck in ones molars. I have decided against trying this method, but this is for convenience/aesthetic/price reasons rather than toxicity. Natural soap is pretty non-toxic. Price: $25.95 per jar of shavings, which should last a person 2-3 months.
Trader Joes has a wonderful Fennel Toothpaste, with Xylitol. It tastes like mild black licorice. It seems that the world is made of people who either hate black licorice, or love it. My family loves it, but we still prefer a mintier toothpaste experience, so this is not our favorite toothpaste. (My 2 year old actually does prefer this one as mint is a little too spicy for him still.) And what a great price: $1.99.
Tropical Traditions, a family owned company which has developed a fair trade business in Organic Coconut Oil for the native people of the Philippines, makes a toothpaste called Organic Teeth Cleaner with Organic Virgin Coconut Oil as its base. The other main ingredients are baking soda and essential oils. I have used this in the past, and it does seem to work to clean the teeth, however, it feels quite different from “regular” toothpaste with no lather and doesn’t leave a minty-fresh feeling after brushing (taste is very similar to the Young Living pastes, with baking soda being dominant). I believe it is a good option; we discontinued using it after bloodwork revealed a coconut allergy for me. Price: $6.50 plus shipping.
Xlear has a great toothpaste, my family’s favorite in fact, Spry, Toothpaste with Xylitol and Aloe, Cool Mint, 4 oz. It has a very high level of enamel-building Xylitol, and it tastes great, with a lovely, normal lather. There is not a chalky texture, and after brushing there is no feeling of dry-mouth that is common with “regular” toothpaste and most baking soda toothpastes. Price: $4.95 retail, $4.30 iherb.com.
Though the average consumer may not know this, there is a significant debate about whether fluoride is good for teeth, and particularly whether it is good for the bodies attached to those teeth. There are highly educated, sincere individuals on both sides of this argument.
The American Dental Association is firmly on the side that fluoride is good for teeth, and harmless to people. On their website fluoridedebate.com, they state that at current water fluoridation levels, fluoride “is not toxic according to generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They further state that numerous studies have been done and “No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge.” Most dentists, trained and certified by the ADA, agree with this “generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They will point out to you that fluoride can re-calcify tooth enamel, even when applied to teeth that are beginning to soften/decay. Fluoride is the daily armor, and the last defense, for ADA dentists.
On the other side of the debate, scientists point to studies which link fluoride consumption (whether from water, foods, toothpaste, supplements, and increasing levels in irrigated farmlands) to many illnesses, including alergies, arthritis, low IQ, cancer, and diseases of the brain, bones, thyroid, pineal gland, immune system, kidneys, and reproductive system. Check the Health Effects page of the Fluoride Action Network’s site to read more in depth about the studies which link these illnesses to fluoride. If you check back on the fluoridedebate.com site, you can find that some scientists find that the data is open to other conclusions, or find problems with the data itself, such as lack of controls.
This is all pretty technical, and I won’t try to recount for you the many studies or facts related to this debate; you would to better to read this at the source. I am convinced that fluoride is toxic by the following:
Fluoride in Drinking Water came as Hazardous Waste
Only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in water; however, that type of fluoride has never been used for fluoridation. Instead what is used over 90 percent of the time are silicofluorides, which are 85 times more toxic than calcium fluoride. They are non-biodegradable, hazardous waste products that come straight from the pollution scrubbers of big industries. If not dumped in the public water supplies, these silicofluorides would have to be neutralized at the highest rated hazardous waste facility at a cost of $1.40 per gallon (or more depending on how much cadmium, lead, uranium and arsenic are also present). Cities buy these unrefined pollutants and dump them–lead, arsenic and all–into our water systems. Silicofluorides are almost as toxic as arsenic, and more toxic than lead. (From Fluoridation: The Fraud of the Century.)
Up until the 1970s, European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medication for patients with HYPER-thyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilized because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland – even at doses as low as 2 mg/day (a common total consumption level for those drinking fluoridated water). There is concern that current fluoride exposures may be playing a role in the widespread incidence of HYPO-thyroidism (under-active thyroid) in the U.S. (From http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/) Since Hypothyroidism runs in my family, and I am currently being treated for this condition, I have decided to avoid fluoride completely for myself and my family.
Liability Cover Up
In reading through arguments on both sides of the debate, I find that the best the ADA can come up with is to question the methods of study, point to studies which were funded by those making a profit from the sale of silicofluorides, and to state that fluoride safety is just “accepted scientific fact.” I look at this as a grand cover up . . . after all, what kind of liability would the ADA have for so many health problems, potentially even thousands of deaths, were they to face the facts in regards to the health effects of fluoride?
Xylitol to the Rescue
OK, so at this depressing point, I’m pretty ready for some good news. And we do have it. Xylitol, a natural sugar, even produced by our own bodies, can do that same amazing thing that fluoride can do: re-calcify tooth enamel. It tastes great (it’s a natural sugar, for crying out loud), and it’s easy to get into our diets: toothpaste, mints, gum.
Speaking of gum, studies consistently find that school children who are given Xylitol gum to chew reduce their incidence of cavaties, even if their other dental health habits are poor or non-existent.
Even if you aren’t as convinced as I am that fluoride should be avoided completely, the great facts on Xylitol should convince you to make sure this IS in your toothpaste on a daily basis! (Read Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic for my reviews on several natural toothpastes.)
I love it when my carpets are freshly vacuumed, and my hard floors are freshly mopped (as they are right now!). Bliss to my feet!
Clean floors are an important part of home health, especially if there are babies in the home who spend a good portion of their time on the floor. Those sweet little hands that crawl on the floor. . . they go right into the mouth, don’t they?
In addition to keeping floors much cleaner through the week, shoe removal contributes to a healthy home. Most parents are aware of the hazard of lead from paint, and its toxic effect to children. Since I’ve only lived in homes built after 1978 since becoming a parent, I did not pay much attention to these warnings. Then I learned that children can still be exposed to lead through roadside dirt that has been tracked into the home (roadside dirt generally has a high concentration of lead from exhaust residue which came before lead was banned from gasoline).
Of course, I don’t do a lot of walking along major roadsides. But it did get me thinking about what else might be coming in on my shoes. From the grocery store, and occasional public restroom, to the library and local farm for eggs and milk, my shoes go many places and must have an entire mini ecosystem of bacteria and filth living on them.
And so I began removing my shoes when I enter my home, and requiring my children to do the same. It did help that we moved to a home with new carpet around that time, and the No-Shoes-on-Carpet rule became so ingrained into my children that they are now self-appointed Shoe Police, ordering all to drop their dirty duds.
Large metal bins, placed both near the front and back doors, help contain the pile of little shoes and boots that now reside near the doors.
Carpets:vacuum with a strong vacuum. For spots, first blot or scrub with plain water and a terry cloth rag (old wash cloth). If it doesn’t release, use a soap-based non-aerosol carpet/upholstery shampoo. I have had good results on both carpet and upholstery with Howard Naturals Upholstery Cleaner. Equal parts vinegar and water can neutralize urine odors.
Hard Floors: Sweep all loose debris from floors, then mop and wipe dry.
For vinyl, tile, and varnished wood floors,use 2 gallons warm water and 1 cup of vinegar.
For Linoleum floors, use 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap in 2 gallons warm water.
I put the solution in a bucket, and wash the floor with a rag while on my hands and knees. I use an old bath towel to dry behind as I go. More difficult than a mop? Absolutely, but a mop is really just a filthy sponge that gets used and reused on floors without cleanings in between. If you have a mop where the cleaning rag can be removed and laundered between use, awesome! Since mine was the old sponge type, I chucked it in favor of a truly clean floor. I always have a laundry load of rags to launder together in hot water and oxygen bleach at the end of cleaning day.
One of my goals in 2010 is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in four categories:
Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.
Household Chemical Avoidance: It’s Easter time, and spring is in the air! Try your hand at making your own natural food dyes. Read my first experience in my post Natural Egg Dyes.
Next level: don’t bring dyed candy into your home: there are far better and delicious options. Trader Joe’s has a lovely assortment of candies with colors from veggies; all that’s missing is the bitter aftertaste of synthetic dye.
Diet: Whip up some delicious whole food treats (think no white sugar) for Easter. Read Sweet Treats: Unrefined Sweeteners. Next level: have you tried Coffee with Grade B Real Maple Syrup and Cream? Yummy. My husband won’t go back to sugar . . . I’m not complaining.
Body Care: Easy on the routine, and easy on the budget: replace your hand soap with something non-toxic. Read Hand Soap: Sudsy Clean. Next level: replace shower soap with a natural bar, too.
Environment: Reduce the amount of dirt and toxins that come into your home by instituting shoe removal at the door. Read Clean Floors: Bliss to My Feet. Next level: Make your entry an easy place to remove and store outside shoes. Consider house slippers or socks set ready at hand in the entry.
What I’m Working on Consistency In:
all of last month’s habits! (my new houseplants are still alive!)
still need to organize my over-abundance of glass jars :-/