As a true Californian, I grew up practicing yoga and eating organic produce grown in my own backyard. While I definitely went through a brief junk food phase in college—hello, late-night runs to In-N-Out—I’ve continued to embrace the slightly crunchy lifestyle my parents taught me at a young age. When I first became an independent adult, I started with the most obvious choices: I eat whole foods (and organic whenever possible), opt for hormone-free birth control, and drink plenty of water.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized that a natural lifestyle goes beyond just eating your veggies. From household cleaners to your favorite Frappuccino, we’re surrounded by products that aren’t ideal for optimal health. Thanks to a lot of research, trial and error, I’ve amassed a slew of tricks to go all-natural.
Eat whole, clean foods
We all know the saying: “You are what you eat.” If you’ve ever gone on a three-day fast food bender, then you really understand the meaning of the phrase. Basically, if you eat processed, nutritionally empty foods, you’re going to feel it. Instead, opt for unprocessed, whole foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and ethically raised meat. If you can afford organic, great. If not, make sure you scrub your produce — we love this ergonomic, palm-sized one.
Improve your gut health
Sure, eating fresh produce is a great way to clean up your lifestyle, but what if your body isn’t optimizing these incredible nutrients? It’s probably a good time to brush up on your knowledge of gut health.
Basically, gut health refers to the the good and bad bacteria in our small and large intestines, and how they can impact our wellbeing. The gut is often referred to as the body’s second brain, and by tending to this vital area, you may be able to treat everything from mental health disorders to common skin afflictions. By adding foods with probiotics like yogurt, kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut to your diet, you’ll be tending to this delicate and important microbiome and possibly reducing your need for certain moderating medications. Who knew that your expensive kombucha habit was so beneficial?
Switch to non-toxic household cleaners
Many people will swear by organic foods, then turn around and scrub their toilets with cheap powdered bleach from the drugstore. As more consumers are growing weary of the questionable ingredients in household cleaners, an increasing number of companies are rolling out non-toxic choices.
Brands like Seventh Generation offer great options including laundry detergent and dish soap, plus they’re available at major retailers like Target. If you’re on a budget, vinegar and baking soda are your best friends. On their own or combined, these two pantry staples are powerhouse cleaning products and can tackle some of the toughest spots in your home.
Embrace clean beauty products
Turn your favorite makeup upside down (or fish the packaging out of the trash) and you’ll probably notice a list of chemical-sounding ingredients you can’t pronounce. If the thought of switching to organic alternatives conjures images of mascara that flakes off in five minutes, it’s time to change your thinking. Fortunately, the clean beauty industry is continuing to improve, with online marketplaces such as the Detox Market (think of it as Sephora’s eco-friendly cousin).
Detox Market has a number of award-winning beauty products like their bestseller Expressionist Mascara by W3LL PEOPLE ($21.99). And this lipstick by ILIA ($15.60) that comes in 15 bold shades and boasts organic ingredients.
And when it comes to skin care, it’s just as easy to DIY some of your most-used items. This banana face mask only requires three ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now: one ripe banana, one tablespoon of honey and 10 drops of lemon juice. For you skin to reap all the benefits of this homemade mask, exfoliate first.
Switch to natural deodorant
For an active and healthy individual, what’s more natural than a little sweat? But when our sweat mingles with the bacteria on the skin’s surface, it has a tendency to smell. Enter body odor (delightful, right?). To prevent this, we’re instructed from adolescence to wear a deodorant or antiperspirant. While deodorants combat the stink, antiperspirants tackle sweat.
Deoderants typically have antibacterial agents that kill bacteria to prevent the stench and most antiperspirants employ aluminum chloride, which work to clog the pores to stop sweat in its tracks. Though some scientists have voiced concern about antiperspirants having a possible link to breast cancer, no study has yet to prove this connection. But if you’re looking to life a more natural lifestyle, this could be a factor that gives you an extra push to look around for a natural deoderant.
Nowadays, natural deoderants are so common, there are plenty of options available — even one of the biggest names in the game, Dove, recently released one with zero percent aluminum. Schmidt’s Deoderant and Tom’s of Maine are two more brands you can shop at big box stores that offer reliable and proven natural alternatives since they rely on absorbent powerhouses like baking soda to eliminate odor. Or, if you want to save a few bucks, try combining baking soda, coconut oil, and your favorite essential oils at home to create your own deodorant.
Ditch the hormones in your birth control
Speaking of unnatural additives: Have you ever thought about how your birth control may not be fitting in with your namaste lifestyle? It’s well documented that commonly used hormones in birth control can cause a host of unwanted side effects including mood changes, weight gain, intermittent spotting and decreased libido.
If you are in a committed relationship, the copper IUD is a great way to avoid pregnancy for up to 10 years while steering clear of hormones. Instead of releasing synthetic hormones, the copper IUD is 100 percent hormone-free and simply uses copper to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
Filter your water
Whether you want to filter your water to free it of contaminants or just prefer the taste, it’s worth taking a look at what kind of filter you’re using and questioning how clean it is for both your system and the environment. Consider upgrading the plastic pitcher in your fridge with a larger, stainless steel version. The Berkey Water Filter is a great way to remove bacteria, viruses, chlorine, pesticides and herbicides. Starting at $249.99, these water systems are a bit pricey, but each filter will last up to 6,000 gallons, ultimately making it more cost-efficient than that old plastic filtration system you’ve been schlepping around since college.
Try natural remedies for common pain
From cramps to headaches, most of us take over-the-counter painkillers to cope with day-to-day aches without giving it a second thought. But some natural remedies can do the job without some of the potential side effects that come with medications.
Curcumin, an ingredient found in the spice turmeric, is a known anti-inflammatory powerhouse, and can be a great alternative painkiller, as well as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, and psoriasis. You can purchase turmeric in capsule form at most drugstores, or you can buy it as a powder and add it to your favorite teas, smoothies, or stews. Other natural pain relievers include willow bark and ginger, which offer up all of the benefits of your typical over-the-counter meds without the potential side effects.
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