Chances are you are already doing something natural, whether eating more fruits & vegetables to try and shed those unwanted pounds, implementing home remedies for cold & flu or a host of other things. Whether you are new to natural living or a seasoned vet, it’s important to keep up with new information in our food and healthcare systems.
The bottom line is true natural living has a low impact on people and the earth. It’s more than buying products labeled “natural”. Marketing companies have highjacked the terms “Natural”, “Green” and even “Organic” (outside of the food industry) and few make mention of the truths of toxic manufacturing. Natural living is about making choices that are truly “pure” and without added chemicals, preservatives, additives or processing.
Yes, there is a process of transferring all our toxic choices to greener options that have a low impact on people and the earth. But legislation can affect truth in labeling laws, (requiring transparency of manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies to disclose all ingredients),and regulations should be in place to protect consumers. Unfortunately, those safeguards have served more to preserve the economic interest of companies who are patenting new pharmaceuticals, home and body care products and tens of thousands of other chemicals formulated to make our lives “better”.
How much trust do you put in commercials, magazine articles, infomercials, even other people without doing some research yourself? Researching information yourself not only helps you understand it better, it’s important to the process of adopting healthy habits.
Gluten-free is a hot trend right now, also a lifestyle of “Paleo” diets (similar to “Southbeach Diet” in the 90’s), many making choices because it seems like the the thing to do. 30 day challenges, 60 day challenges, extreme exercise, tri-bi-marathon mania are all ways we can live more naturally, but often at the expense of becoming obsessive. I think it’s awesome that anyone could train and complete any major athletic event, I was a competitive gymnast and can appreciate the hard work and discipline it takes to achieve goals. My husband has done several athletic events: triatholons, running and cycling races, but he always has excellent perspective in having it be a small part of his life, not what defines him. His training is all-encompassing: diet, exercise, low exposure to toxins. I’m surprised at the number of athletes who train hard, workout, then overindulge in alcohol, smoking or even fill their bodies with chemical supplements and diet foods.
Natural living looks a little different for everyone, based on your personal circumstances, income, community you live in and many other factors. No, I don’t propose that you sell all your electronics and go live in a solar powered home off the grid with cattle, goats, feed your family off your own organic garden and raise llamas for your wool clothing. It’s a gentler progress that is not unlike faith.Everyone is at a different point in their journey and I am not going to force anyone to follow my choices on my timeline. Yes, I can offer suggestions, but ultimately you need to decide what you will or will not do. You need to take initiative for your journey and start making better choices. Some are on the fast track or in crisis mode where you need to make changes quick: cancer, job loss, or other defining moment are times when the changes might come quicker. Our family is gluten-free but I have not gone completely grain free as Paleo. I do like my wild rice and soaked, steel cut oats once in a while. Natural living is finding those points of moderation in our daily lives that fit our personal needs. Drinking fresh carrot juice all day, every day would not be good. Any healthy choices can be taken to extremes.
New discoveries are made about what is truly good for us (often with arguments cited on the “other” side with defense against information). The internet can provide a lot of information, some of it conflicting. What’s a consumer to do? Arm yourself with information, listen to your body and make wise choices with that knowledge. The latest studies show that even though we are one of the richest nations, the USA is one of the sickest. Prescription drugs and medical complexes fuel a large part of our economy – this is not natural living. Below I’ve listed some natural living terms that are flying around the internet and at local health food stores. Natural living almost has it’s own language and I’ve just covered some popular terms for those of you who look at this as Greek. Following the definitions, I’ve got a list of 10 commandements of Natural Living that I put together for a Mom’s of Influence worshop I spoke at a few weeks ago. I hope these definitions will give you better perspective in navigating the sea of information:
Organic – Generally means grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones (opponents of organics argue that manure and natural fertilizers put us at a higher risk of E coli, salomonella) or GMO’s.
CSA – Community supported agriculture, usually a semi-formal way of farmers to get their fresh produce to local “subscribers” who pay ahead to have set boxes of produce delivered each week throughout the growing season. Look to the right for the link to find a CSA in your area. Now is the time farms are filling up their subscriptions, get it set BEFORE the growing season. Farms typically fill their subscriptions which become unavailable once the season starts in April or May depending on your growing season. In Milwaukee, our family has participated with Springdale Farms, Rainbows End and Wellspring. We’ve been happy with all of them.
GMO – Genetically modified organism, usually at the plant or seed level. Seeds altered to increase crop yields, withstand droughts/frost/pests. The most well known being Monsanto’s Round-Up ready Soybeans and Corn which have been engineered to withstand Round-Up Ready spray. Yes, the weed killer that kills everything, can be blanket sprayed on entire crops leaving only the soybean or corn crops which are later harvested for people or animals to eat. Don’t eat conventionally grown soybeans or corn….guys shouldn’t be eating soy either, but that’s a whole other article in itself. Soy is a form of estrogen. Leave it at that for now :). The problem with GMO plants and animals is we don’t know the long term effects on humans other than studies like those on the harm GMO corn that continue to arise as research is done. Do you want to be a guinea pig? If not, do your research, these definitions should be helpful. Know why you are making natural choices and understand what it means when you do. These definitions are pretty simplified just to save space.
Locavore – Eating foods grown in your local area. Take advantage of the resources in your neighborhood or local community and you’ll support local agriculture and the economy. It will save money and pollution from long term transport and your foods will be fresher. PBS featured some practical tips on 10 ways to become a Locavore including visiting farmer’s markets in season and visit restaurants that use local produce.
Vegetarian – Not consuming meat. There are many offshoots of vegetarian in which some eat eggs, but not poultry, others eat fish. For simplicity’s sake, this definition is not eating meat or meat products, but may eat eggs or dairy.
Vegan – Avoids all forms of animal products in foods (eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin) and some may avoid animal products like leather shoes & clothing and beeswax.
Paleo – Grain free diet
Gluten Free – Some, but not all grains have gluten in them: wheat, barley, rye have been genetically modified for decades to increase crop yields and gluten content. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot process these unnatural levels of gluten that give breads and baked goods fullness and soft texture. Those who have gone gluten-free (like our family) due to allergies find that wheat gluten is used in many products as a “filler” (spices, packaged mixes, soups) or in processing MSG, found in flavored soups, chips and savory snacks. Some take to a gluten free diet as a healthy alternative to eating wheat products, but be aware that many Gluten Free options are made with corn, rice, tapioca and potato flours that are just another carbohydrate filler for foods. Alternatives with higher protein content like coconut, almond or garbanzo bean flour are good alternatives.
Lactose Intolerant – Body that is unable to properly digest lactose, a milk protein. This is different from a true milk allergy that can cause a histamine reaction including asthma, ear infections, hives or swelling.
Hypo-Allergenic – Designed to minimize the likeliness of an allergic reaction. Definition of specific allergens is not included in this term.
Approved by Dermatologists – Dermatologists defined as doctors who treat diseases of the skin. This label does not refer to a governing body of “dermatologists” but rather a generic term to include any dermatologists in any studies. Using a product approved by dermatologists does not guarantee it to be free from causing allergic reaction since the “approval” is not clearly defined.
Green – Generic term used to define anything that might be connected with a more natural environment, less manufacturing, recycling or reusing, reclaimed goods, less impact on the environment or using less energy. The term definition changes depending on the industry and context in which it is used. For example, “green cotton” is not organic, but may be less processed or have fewer chemicals than conventional cotton, but the exact definition is evasive.
Eco-friendly – Similar to “green”, eco-friendly is a term ideally used to identify products, goods and services that have a positive impact on the environment, use less energy and create less waste. The term is often used in marketing but does not need to be clearly defined. For example, a hotel I researched identified itself as “eco-friendly” because it asks guests to hang up their towels and re-use them once or more to save water in laundry. So, is the hotel eco-friendly because they offer the reminder to do this or is it the guest who chooses to be mindful of resources and only use what they need regardless of what signs are displayed in the room?
Recycled, Reclaimed,Renewed -Anything that is saved from a landfill and re-purposed into something that can be re-used. Common recycled items include plastics from water bottles (though the processing of these plastics is pretty toxic to the environment), paper (which does save trees) and just about any other consumer good: often made by local artists. Check out Etsy for some fun resources that you can purchase locally or at least domestically.
Pure – When I began writing on Pure Home and Body 4 years ago I had great hopes of adding another positive term to the Natural Living community. Sadly, I’ve seen it overused and misused as just another “buzz word”. However, I continue to use it on my website and you can trust that when I speak of something as Pure, the definition is true: without additives, fillers, colors, chemicals or anything man-changed. The foundation of Pure is anything that God made, nothing more, nothing less.
That said, my definition of Natural Living is based on my faith. It can be defined and it’s not just a vague, warm-fuzzy feeling. In a world of relative truth, real Natural Living is true, honest, pure. Some may think wisdom from the Bible is outdated and irrelevant, but if we want to make the world a better place by the choices we make, we must have some consistent definition of how to make those choices. I’ve included these Ten Commandements for Natural Living to help guide you. God gave us the Ten Commandments as rules to help us make the best choices in every day living. He said that we would be blessed if we follow Him. I’ve adapted these to help us make choices in our modern world and live a more natural life. Obviously, these are not meant to replace the original commandments, but to give you another perpsective as to how we can apply them. I hope these give you some direction. Be blessed,