Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub

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For as long as I can remember I’ve had deep lines on my forehead. What can I say, I’m an animated personality. I was never worried about or bothered by them, but when I entered into my late twenties I started taking inventory of every grey hair (yes, I have a few, okay, more than a few) and wrinkle. To remedy my wrinkles I tried numerous fancy moisturizers and face washes, but never noticed much of a difference. When I decided to transition my personal care items to clean, toxin-free products, the fancy (read: expensive) skin care products were some of the first to go.

I’ve been using one version or another of this salt scrub recipe for about 8 months, and I can promise you that my skin is healthier than ever. Those deep forehead lines? Well they are quickly fading away. Perhaps what I love most about this salt scrub is that it cleanses, exfoliates, and moisturized the skin in one simple step. It can also be used all over the body to do the same- this would have been great to use during the long, cold winters that I spent in NYC.

One last thing- keep in mind that this recipe can be adjusted to fit your needs, and feel free to try different types of salts, oils, and scents to see which suits your skin best.

Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub Recipe

1 1/2 Cups Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Coconut Oil
10-15 Drops Lemon Essential Oil (I use Young Living)
7-10 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped and ground with pestle and mortar

If you try a salt scrub recreation, I would love to hear about it, as I am always looking for exciting variations. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter (@KaylaMarieDenny), or simply leave a comment below.

Xx, K

How To Have a Less Toxic Nail Polish Addiction

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If you know me well or follow me on Instagram, then you know that I have a not-so-mild obsession with nail polish and nail art. What you may or may not know though, is that nail polish is essentially a small bottle of chemicals that have easy access to your bloodstream once applied to the nail. Not to mention the brain cells it kills with toxic fumes! So now your next question is- Isn't this a conflict of interest for your chemical-free, natural, clean lifestyle?

Yes, I concede that it is, however, it is one that I will allow for two reasons: 1.) For a very long time, painting my nails was literally the only creative outlet that I could take pleasure in, and it helped to keep me sane and escape my world of pain and sickness for a short time, and 2.) It makes me happy, and anything that makes me happy is worth doing (within reason, of course), I figure that whatever damage the nail polish toxins are doing are being counteracted by the happiness I feel when I look down at my nails and see something prettily painted upon them. Judge if you want, but everyone deserves to have a guilty pleasure or two, and painting my nails is mine.

Even though most popular brands of nail polish are in and of themselves quite toxic, the polish world has made much positive progress in creating less toxic polish formulas over the past few years. New brands of polish are popping up everyday, and indie nail polishes are on the rise. Nowadays there are more options than ever, and you can even buy vegan or water-based nail polish with all natural ingredients, which are virtually void of toxins and are even safe for the minis in your life.

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Before we get into my recommendations for leading a clean nail polish life, let’s cover a few basics…

What does 3 Free, 4 Free, and 5 Free mean?

For many years, most nail polish companies included three very scary ingredients in their formulas: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. The combined effects of these three ingredients have been known to cause reproductive issues, disturbances in the endocrine system, nervous system impairments such as dizziness, fatigue, and headaches, and have even caused cancer in lab rats. You can learn more about these chemicals here, but suffice it to say that you don’t want these toxins to be absorbed into your blood stream (heads up: toxins can enter straight into your bloodstream through your nail bed). Luckily, most big nail polish brands like OPI, Essie, Butter London, China Glaze, and SOPI have removed these three toxins, and therefore, such polishes are referred to as ‘3 Free’, meaning they are free of the three big nasties.

But even if a polish doesn’t contain these three dangerous toxins, you can bet that most contain all kinds of other harmful chemicals, and some brands have taken it a step further by removing formaldehyde residue (4-Free) and camphor (5-Free). This article in Slate describes some of the hurdles that still exist, even in these less toxic brands of nail polish.

So now that I’ve taken all of the fun out of painting your nails, let’s get into a few very basic rules that I try to live by when it comes to my polish habits.

1.) Only use nail polish brands that are 3-Free or higher

I’ve made it a personal rule that, moving forward, I will only allow myself to purchase polish brands that are 4 Free or (preferably) 5 Free, but since I have a boat load of 3 Free polishes (hello, Essie), I do still allow myself to use them. You can bet that I threw out all of the polishes that weren't at least 3 Free though, because, well… formaldehyde. Personally, my favorite brands right now are Julep (4-Free), Zoya, and Deborah Lippmann (both 5-Free). If I'm feeling really dedicated then I go with an organic line like Mineral Fusion or Karma Organics that can be found at your local Whole Foods.

Psst… This site is a great resource for checking out the level chemical contaminants in different nail polish brands.

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2.) Replace your traditional alcohol or acetone-based nail polish remover with a naturally based one

I’m sure that by now most women know that acetone is not only terrible for your nail health, but can also be harmful to your general health. But even most non-acetone polish removers are loaded with their own toxic chemicals. Luckily, there are lots of other options out there today for the health conscious consumer. My nail polish remover of choice is by Karma Naturals, it may be more expensive than your typical alcohol- based nail polish remover, but it lasts about 10 times longer, plus, instead of stripping your nails of the moisture they need, it actually replenishes moisture as it gently removes polish. I will warn you that it requires a tad more elbow grease than what you may be used to, especially for those who use acetone, but there’s no doubt that with a bit of effort you’ll have a much healthier nail as a result of ditching your old remover. I bought this bottle on Amazon almost a year ago, and it’s still about 1/2 full.

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3.) Proper ventilation

This is probably a no-brainer for anyone who’s ever walked into a nail salon, but proper ventilation makes an enormous difference. Turn on a fan, open the window, make sure to paint to your nails in an open space instead of a smaller closed off bathroom. And for goodness sakes, ladies, try not to get too close to that open bottle while applying your polish, the smell alone could knock you out.

4.) Try not to let the polish touch your skin, and/or clean up quickly upon application

Just as nail polish toxins can seep into your body through your nail bed, they can certainly be absorbed by the skin, so make sure to use your toxin-free remover or a hot bath to remove any excess polish that has gotten onto your skin or cuticle area.

With these four easy rules, I hope that you feel a bit more comfortable, or at least less guilty, about partaking in a potentially toxic habit. Good luck ladies, now let’s see those manis!

XX, K

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Coconut Flour Bread

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I’ve had a bit of a rough week, and when I feel terrible I tend to crave things that are more likely than not to make me feel worse- can we say french fries and rice pasta? So in an effort to keep myself from eating all of these starchy, high carb foods that Lyme flourishes off of, I decided to try out a new recipe for coconut flour bread. I found a recipe with relatively few ingredients on Lexbake’s blog, and then my friend Betty, who cooks for me on Wednesdays, made a few tweaks to make the recipe even better.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this bread, it’s not too sweet, but does have a hint of sweetness, probably from the coconut oil. If you wanted to make a more dessert type bread and you’re not watching your sugar intake, then feel free to add a bit of honey or stevia to sweeten it up. I haven’t tried using the bread to make a sandwich, but it sure is tasty with some pumpkin seed butter spread in top, and I can think of about ten other things that I want to try with it. Endless possibilities.

In other news- I’m currently working on a new post with a treatment update to fill everyone in on my progress, or lack thereof, and I promise that you’ll hear from me again soon(ish).

X, K

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Ingredients:
3/4 C coconut flour
1/2 C virgin coconut oil, melted
1/4 C ghee
6 eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pan with coconut oil. Separate egg whites from yolk, and place in two separate bowls. Beat egg yolks until frothy. Beat egg whites until fluffy and voluminous. Combine egg yolks, ghee, and coconut oil in a bowl. Add salt, baking powder, and coconut flour and combine with egg yolk mixture. Fold in egg whites. Mixture will be a thick paste. Push it down into the loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Staving off Candida & Hearty Oat Bran Muffin Recipe

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About a month ago I found out that I have a moderate case of systemic candida. I had suspected this might be the case for quite a while because I’ve had body wide itching for over a year now but have never been able to attribute it to a specific allergen or anything else. I had taken a candida test early last fall that came back negative, but the test I took in December came back positive, so here I am, treating yet another chronic infection in addition to the Lyme. I’m hoping that knocking the candida will knock the itching and will also speed up my Lyme treatment, which seems to be moving at a glacial pace, but I guess that only time will tell.

For those who don’t know, candida is a fungal infection that occurs when the flora in the gut becomes out of balance and bad bacteria begins to overwhelm the good bacteria. It has been said that all health starts in the gut, and gut flora is so complex that doctors and scientists still know very little about the multitude of microorganisms that reside there.

What we do know is that a healthy gut contains an 80:20 ratio of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria and is also indicative of proper immune function. However, toxins like pesticides, GMO’s, and antibiotics are all known to severely alter and disrupt proper gut flora, making it immensely difficult to maintain intestinal integrity. Since it’s almost impossible to avoid all damaging contaminants, one really must remain diligent in maintaining proper intestinal health.

Since digestive and intestinal issues have been a problem of mine for the past ten years, I knew that regaining my health in this area was of vital importance to my overall healing journey. Some of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably remember my post about a healing dietary plan called the GAPS diet, which I spoke about here, and I am happy to report that I have gained some weight and am more properly digesting and absorbing my food now. However, with the new candida diagnosis, I decided to refine my diet yet again.

While treating candida, it’s crucial to eliminate ALL sugar, grains, dairy, and starchy vegetables, because sugar is essentially what allows the candida to flourish (starchy foods metabolize into sugar). Even though I eliminated conventional sugar, dairy, and gluten long ago, I decided to follow a bit of advice from the official Candida Diet which requires the elimination of honey, maple syrup, agave, and fruits (with the exception of green apples and grapefruit), rice, and root vegetables (goodbye sweet potato fries).

Luckily for me, oat bran and coconut flour are still permitted on the candida diet, and when I stumbled across this oat bran muffin recipe by Whole New Mom, I knew I had to try them. I modified the recipe a bit, and the results are delicious, just trust me on this. If you’re not watching your sugar intake, feel free to top your muffin with a natural fruit preserve, honey, or nut butter for an added pop.

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Ingredients:
2 1/2 C uncooked oat bran
2 t baking powder
1-2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1 C water
2 t vanilla extract
2T coconut oil
2 T ghee
2 sm green apples, peeled and cut into chunks

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Cook apples in saucepan on medium-high heat until soft. Purée and add to wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Butter or grease muffin tin (ghee, grassfed butter, or coconut oil), and spoon batter into tins. Bake 10-20 minutes, or until the muffins set up nicely. Top with butter, raw honey, jam, your favorite nut butter, or enjoy them all by themselves!

*Makes about 14 regular sized muffins.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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Thanksgiving may be a few months behind us, but I’m enjoying pumpkin smoothies more than ever. This recipe is dairy-free and very low in sugar, it makes for a wonderful breakfast or snack.

Ingredients:
1/3 Can of canned organic pumpkin (15 oz), or homemade purée
1 Tbsp raw honey
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp dried ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 medium sized pear
2-3 handfuls of ice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a high powered blender (I’m obsessed with my Vitamix, but any decent blender will do the trick), and blend until all ingredients are blended well and desired consistency is reached. Top with cinnamon and chia seed and enjoy!

I’ll be posting another story in The Lyme Diaries tomorrow, so you’ll be hearing from me again very soon!

XX, K

Thanksgiving: What’s on the Menu

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Worried about selecting just the right [Paleo, gluten free, clean] diet friendly delectables worthy of your Thanksgiving table? Don’t be. A simple google or Pinterest search will render all kinds of delicious options, and luckily for you, I’ve already prepared and taste tested a few recipes. Best of all, each of these recipes are Paleo friendly, gluten free, and full of nutrients. Below are some details about the recipes that are on the menu at our house- just click on the link to view the original recipe + pictures.

On the menu:

Grain-free stuffing– Who says you need bread to make stuffing? There are lots of gluten free stuffings to choose from these days, like stuffings made with rice or gluten free bread crumbs, but this year I chose a grain- free version, and it just might be my favorite yet. It’s light but still hearty enough to fill the role of standard American stuffing. The fresh herbs are really the key to delivering the fall flavors that you’d expect in a stuffing.

Mashed Cauliflower – If white potatoes aren’t on your diet, or if you’re just looking for some variety, then try some mashed cauliflower instead. The texture is naturally a bit different but it’s sure to satisfy, and most importantly, tastes great with gravy.

Cranberry Sauce– This spiced cranberry sauce is simply divine. I think it would be just as satisfying a la mode as it is with the Thanksgiving turkey. Plus, it’s so simple to prepare that there’s no reason to ever go back to the canned stuff.

Green Bean Casserole– Personally I’ve never been a fan of green bean casserole, but when I came across this recipe I knew I had to give it another chance. We modified the recipe and didn’t use the nutritional yeast called for because I’m allergic to yeast, but it still turned out deliciously. I can only imagine how scrumptious it would be if you followed the recipe completely.

Rolls– Let me first say that it’s tough to create a good gluten free roll or biscuit. I’ve tried many different recipes and most successful executions have been achieved with rice flower. Since I want to keep rice out of my diet for a few months though, I was excited to stumble across this recipe. The outside of the roll comes out crispy and wonderful, which can be tough to achieve when working with gluten free flours. The inside is a bit spongy, almost as if it’s not quite cooked all the way, which is definitely because of the tapioca flour. These rolls may not be for everyone, but I really quite like them and will definitely keep this recipe handy for future use.

Gravy– I have to be honest and say that I was underwhelmed by this recipe, and it took some tweaking to create something that would add the pizzazz that’s necessary on Thanksgiving. Adding some extra salt and thyme definitely helped but I can’t say that this is the best gravy I’ve ever had.

Flourless Pumpkin Bars– Ditch the crust and dig into these delicious pumpkin bars. I can’t say enough good things about these bars, they turned out beyond expectations. We subbed sunflower seed butter for almond butter and created our own glaze by mixing coconut oil, honey, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Even my gluten-loving boyfriend loves them.

What are you T H A N K F U L for? My wish for you is that you take the time to meditate on and give thanks for all if the wonderful blessings in your life, no matter how big or small.

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I am T H A N K F U L for access to clean and delicious foods, and I am especially thankful for the hands that prepare them. I’m T H A N K F U L for supportive friends and family and the memories that we have made over the years. I am T H A N K F U L for my health, even as it is being restored to me. I’m T H A N K F U L for a cozy house and warm clothes on my back. The list goes on as I sit and reflect on past experiences, challenges, and victories, and relish in the simple joys of life, like painting my nails and sipping on tea out of my favorite mug.

Wishing you lots of love this Thanksgiving!

XX, K

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GAPS Diet, Butternut Squash Pancakes, & Fancy Applesauce

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For those of you who follow me on Instagram (username: kaylamariedenny), you have probably noticed that my food pictures have gone from tasty gluten free treats to meat broth soups and bone marrow. I’m confident that I’m not gaining fans in drones with my new dietary approach, but then again that’s not the point.

A few weeks ago I started on a new diet called GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome). This diet is widely known and praised in the autistic community and is beneficial for anyone experiencing intestinal issues, such as leaky gut syndrome. GAPS is designed to heal the intestinal lining and restore the proper balance of good bacteria vs bad bacteria in the stomach and intestines. This is done by nourishing the body with easily digested, enzyme rich foods like meat broths, cooked veggies, cooked meats, fermented vegetables, and grass-fed animal fats like clarified butter (ghee) and lard. Similar to Paleo, grains and sugar are not permitted since they damage the integrity of the intestinal wall and promote yeast overgrowth.

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The first time I heard about GAPS was from one of my allergists who also treats many autistic children. He suggested that I look into the diet to heal some of my allergies. I did look into it but was overwhelmed by the strict parameters and decided to shelve it for another time. Then, a few months ago I participated in an online summit called Lyme Less Live More (I wrote about it here).Throughout the summit I listened to many discussions about proper gut health and the various methods of repair. The GAPS Diet seemed to have significantly helped many Lyme patients to repair their guts, so much so that they were able to tolerate long-term antibiotic therapy when they could not have done so before. This was quite appealing to me since stomach issues were the reason that I had to stop taking my conventional antibiotics. I had intestinal issues even before I began long-term oral antibiotics, and I always felt that I needed to do more to heal my intestines, after all, health starts in the gut. I had tried juicing but didn’t tolerate it well and eventually set my juicer aside. What I was hearing and reading about the GAPS Diet made sense to me, and I was ready to give it a shot. To read more information about GAPS, click here and/or here.

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There are two main phases of the diet- the intro phase and the full GAPS diet. Since my diet has been free of gluten, refined sugar, dairy, and nuts for over a year now, I didn’t think I would have a super hard time transitioning over to the GAPS Diet. The first phase of the diet is super strict though, basically requiring you to subsist on meat and vegetable soups for up to a week. Let’s just say that I may have initially overestimated my will to resist starchy foods like rice and potatoes, which aren’t allowed. I’m typically very good about following my diet plan and will only allow myself to cheat every few months, usually in the form of Chick-Fil-A waffle fries. A lot of people have commented on my eating habits and some even seem to be in awe of my dietary decisions, but I honestly don’t think that it’s that big of a sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. I am willing to bet that if you were as sick as I have been, you would be willing and eager to do/eat just about anything in the name of health. Anyway, I had planned on starting my GAPS experience with the intro diet, but after the first day it was clear that I would be sneaking in a few rice chips and fresh berries. I decided that it would probably be a wise decision to ease into the diet, rather than forcing myself into it cold turkey, and so I’ve tried to just cut back on my starch intake and have nixed my tasty gluten free treats altogether. I do allow myself a small piece of unsweetened cacao everyday though to help with the sugar cravings. At some point in the future I do plan on adhering completely to the strict intro phase, but until I feel a little bit better I’m not sure I have it in me.

Below are two of my favorite new, GAPS approved recipes. The first is for butternut squash pancakes, which were to my surprise, quite delicious. The recipe is grain free and is super simple to make. These would be a great option for those who are on Paleo or are looking to cut out grains or carbs. It should be noted that the consistency of the pancake is somewhere in between a pancake and a crepe, and the the recipe that you see below is adopted from The Blog of Summer Harms. The next recipe is for a decadent homemade applesauce, which seems appropriate for this time of year. It honestly tastes like the insides of an apple pie and is sure to warm your heart and soul. S O. G O O D.

Butternut Squash Pancakes

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Ingredients
2 cups cooked butternut squash
8 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. honey, optional (I don’t use honey in mine as they are sweet enough for me without it)

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a blender or in mixing bowl to use a hand mixer. Grease a cast iron pan with coconut oil or grass fed butter and bring to low- medium heat. Use a large spoon to pour small dollops of batter (2-3 inches in diameter) in the pan. Flip when bubbles appear on top and pancake is cohesive. These can be enjoyed immediately or reheated in the oven or skillet on the stove. Makes around 16 pancakes. Top with desired topping- I love sunflower seed butter, honey and warm homemade applesauce (recipe follows).

Fancy Apple Sauce (read: apple pie filling)

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Ingredients
4 medium apples of your choice, peeled and sliced thinly (we prefer Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
4-5 small pats of butter
5-6 Tbsp organic agave (you can use more or less depending in how sweet you like it)
Cinnamon to taste (we use a TON)

Directions
Place one layer of sliced apples in a medium size saucepan. Top with one or two pats of butter, a few tablespoons of agave, and cinnamon (we’re quite generous with the cinnamon, but you can add however much you like). Repeat this step two or three times until you run out of apples. Let simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. As the applesauce cooks it will become mushy, cook for a shorter amount of time if you like your applesauce a little chunky and for a longer amount of time for a smoother texture. Remove from heat and enjoy it while it’s still warm!

Makes 6-8 servings. Eat by itself or use as a pancake or waffle topping, over ice cream, and even in cobblers and pies.

Fall Favorites: Clean Products

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Eating clean, nutrient rich food is no easy task these days. Our foods have been genetically engineered and chemically altered to such a degree that our bodies literally cannot recognize, process, absorb, and convert many foods to useful nutrients. The result of toxic food is multitudinous in its effects on health, and it is my personal opinion that nutrient depleted, toxic food is responsible for many modern day illnesses, such as autoimmune disease, chronic illness, and food allergies. I could go on about the state of food in America and it’s effect on health, but instead, I thought it would be more beneficial to share some simple tips for selecting clean, nourishing items. I’ll also mention three wonderful products that I’ve been enjoying over the past couple of months.

Let’s start with a few simple, clean rules to live by:

1.) Buy/Eat as many fresh, organic, whole foods as possible.

2.) If you buy any food that comes in packaging, make sure that the ingredient list is short (think five ingredients or less). Also, make sure that there are no ingredients that you cannot pronounce.

3.) If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body. The skin absorbs nutrients too, and it’s just as important to consider what you are applying to your skin as it is what you eat. For instance, try to use organic oils instead of paraben/chemical packed lotions and moisturizers, my personal favorite is organic, extra virgin coconut oil.

Now for what you’ve been waiting for. Following are three of my favorite healthy & healing items at the moment.

Favorite #1: Raw Cacao

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Cacao is packed with antioxidants as well as other helpful vitamins and nutrients. Rich in iron and magnesium, cacao powder can be used in baking, as an addition to smoothies, or can be mixed into almond or coconut milk with a dash of stevia to create the perfect cup of hot chocolate. The possibilities are endless with this superfood. Personally, I don’t need any extra persuading when it comes to chocolate, but if you’re interested in learning more about the extensive health benefits of raw cacao, check out this article.

Favorite #2: Pink Himalayan Salt

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Salt is an amazing healer. Unfortunately, what is most commonly used as table salt (NaCl) is hardly reminiscent of real, naturally milled salt. NaCl is a stripped down and chemically processed compound that has sadly replaced natural, real salt in the modern American diet. Nowadays, as people have wisened up, most have replaced their table salt with with sea salt. The trouble is that many sea salts have been processed with other chemicals under high heat, which as you guessed, depletes the salt of its healthful effects. My suggestion when looking for salt is to look for a salt with color. The more chemicals are added, the whiter in color and the more nutrient poor the salt becomes. There are many wonderful types of pure salts, but one of the best salts on the earth today comes from the Himalayas, where exposure to toxins and modern day pollutants is virtually non-existent. The salt milled there is pure, just the way God intended, and is packed full with trace minerals. The taste will win you over, and even though it may cost more than your table salt, it will go further because the saltiness is more salty. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you are doing your body good.

Favorite #3: 100% Pure Lavender Body Wash

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As mentioned above, many lotions, body washes, face moisturizers, and hand soaps contain chemicals and parabens, which have been proven to cause cancer. After much searching, I have discovered an absolutely delightful body wash in one of my favorite, relaxing scents, lavender. 100% Pure makes many other lovely items and even some products for kids. Their products are made with all natural ingredients (no gimmicks here!) and are scented with essential oils to leave you feeling clean and refreshed. I am in love.

One of the best things about the three products mentioned above is that they can all be purchased online on Amazon. You may not consider Amazon to be a trusty source for healthy items such as vitamins, supplements, and other clean products, but let me assure you that it is a wonderful resource. I have found that the prices are comparable to those you would find in a brick and mortar establishment, plus you won’t have to spend time searching many different locations to find the more exotic items you may be looking for.

Lastly, if you have any favorite products that you think I should know about, please feel free to share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Take good care,
K