Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DIY Natural Hand Sanitizer

I've always been one to chuckle to myself at "those people" who carry hand sanitizer around. I don't keep my house clean by any means, but I have always assuaged my guilt with the rationale that it's good for my kids' immune systems (and it is). The only reason I have any antibacterial hand soap in my house is because I got a bunch for free with coupons last year. I'm not a germaphobe because I know that there are germs, bacteria, and viruses lurking everywhere. Everywhere. And I think our attempts to avoid them are somewhat delusional, and sometimes only succeed in turning the bugs into supers.

So my approach has always been... rather than trying to kill/avoid the bugs, make it possible for us to live in peace with them by strengthening our immune systems so they're no longer a threat. So far my approach has worked well. We rarely get sick, but when we do it's usually because we've let our immune systems get weak by staying up too late (repeatedly) or eating too much sugar.

The problem is... your immune system can't protect you from everything. Sometimes a healthy immune system malfunctions. Sometimes those malfunctions manifest themselves in frightening ways. As some of you are aware, my baby was admitted to the hospital last week with what they eventually diagnosed as Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP). HSP usually occurs when the body is exposed to a bug and sort of overreacts to it and causes the capillaries in the skin to become inflamed and bleed creating a rash, aches, and swelling. It's not fun. Here's a pic of my Bubby from Sunday...So although he never got "sick" with the bug, the bug did make him "sick" by provoking his immune system to overreact.

The good news is that he's doing much, much better. The swelling has disappeared and the rash is slowly fading. He is almost back to his happy self again. The bad news is that a good portion of those who experience HSP will have another bout of it, usually within a month through exposure to another virus. One bout of HSP was more than enough for us! And I no longer have the illusion that I can live in complete peace with the germs around us. Any one of those bugs could bring another HSP nightmare upon us. (This experience only fueled my distaste for hospitals and the "bad eggs" of the medical establishment... ugh!)

So I've turned into a germaphobe. At least temporarily. I will not be taking my baby to the store, to the school, to the church, or any public place for at least a few weeks (or months?). I will be slathering my daughters' hands in sanitizer before they get into the car after kindergarten and preschool. And we will be washing our hands thoroughly first thing when we walk in the door.

As I was talking to my brother about my new-found-inner-germaphobe, he mentioned that there are natural hand sanitizers out there if I want to avoid the harsh commercial ones. Did you know that the alcohol-based versions say they're not suitable for infants? So that got me thinking... maybe I could make my own natural sanitizer? I turned to google and found quite a few recipes. They all had roughly the same ingredients, but with quite an array of proportions. So I took a couple of them and sort of morphed them to make my own version using the ingredients I had.

Disclaimer: I'm no chemist. I have no idea if this will actually kill germs. It's my understanding that a sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol to do the job, but I don't know what proportions are necessary when you're using other antibacterial agents. Here's what I do know: vinegar and lavender essential oil can be used as antibacterials. So I figure that whether or not my natural hand sanitizer kills everything, it's bound to be better than nothing. I chose lavender because I had a bottle in the cupboard and it's safer for children than the more potent tea tree oil most of the sanitizer recipes called-for.

So here's what we used... Natural Hand Sanitizer

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup distilled water
approximately 1 3/4 cup 100% aloe vera gel (12 oz bottle)
14 drops lavender essential oil

We mixed the ingredients in a glass bowl with a whisk and then poured the mixture into an empty soap dispenser. The remainder we poured back into the aloe vera bottle to use for refills. My husband and I tested it out last night. I was initially worried that it would either smell too strongly of vinegar or too strongly of lavender. Neither of those smells is really noticeable. In fact, mostly it smells like the aloe gel with just a hint of vinegar and lavender. Not bad at all. A bonus to using these ingredients--alcohol-based versions will dry out the skin, but aloe vera and lavender will benefit the skin.

Will it work? I don't know. But here's my plan... I will use our "natural" sanitizer when I know we will soon be able to wash our hands (after-school, etc.). But I will also keep commercial sanitizer in the car for times when we are in exceptionally germy situations or not likely to have access to a sink or soap within a short period of time. So it'll be good enough for our purposes.

Anybody else make their own sanitizer? Does it seem to work for you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eye-opening little nugget

I was googling "rhombus of michaelis" to see what else was out there on the web and found an archive link apparently documenting a letter written by a chiropractor, Todd Gastaldo, to Jean Sutton. I guess they were in some disagreement about what happens to the pelvis when the rhombus of michaelis moves, but that's not my reason for posting.

They were in total agreement that lying on the back or semi-reclined on the tailbone prevents the birth canal from opening to its full capacity--substantially. Apparently by 20 to 30%! That's huge. Then the doc gave the following eye-opening observation, calling it "obvious OB crime" (and I would add that OBs aren't the only perpetrators--midwives are also to blame sometimes):
OBs are slicing vaginas en masse (euphemism "routine episiotomy")--surgically/FRAUDULENTLY inferring everything possible is being done to OPEN birth canals--even as they CLOSE birth canals − up to 30%.

OBs are slicing abdomens en masse ("c−section")-- surgically/fraudulently inferring everything possible has been DONE to open birth canals--even as they CLOSE birth canals − up to 30%.

Now--to be sure--allowing the birth canal to open the "extra" up to 30% is not going to prevent all caesareans and episiotomies--but it can't hurt. Incidentally, when babies' shoulders get stuck, OBs KEEP the birth canal closed--even as they say they are opening it maximally.

OBs don't charge for their mass vagina slicing--but it is known to increase severe perineal tears by 50X--and perineal tearing is the most common reason for hospitalization of women:

"The most common diagnosis for hospitalization among all women is trauma to
perineum due to childbirth"
It blows my mind that we just lie down and take this... over and over and over and over and over and over again.

When will we demand that these crimes end?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stand by me

A statement out of a recent Midwifery Today E-Newsletter reminded me of something I've been wanting to blog about ever since my doula training almost a year ago. Dutch midwife, Gre Keijzer, explained:
In my view, starting the second stage in a standing position can be seen as a preventive measure against the occurrence of shoulder dystocia. If it does occur, it can be easily corrected without having to perform all sorts of heroic manoeuvres.
I've become somewhat obsessed in the last year with giving birth in standing positions. My fascination began when my doula trainer, Mary, shared a handout adapted from an article by Jean Sutton called, "Physiological Second Stage or Birth Without Active Pushing."

Jean Sutton, my doula trainer explained, was an engineer before becoming a nurse/midwife. So she applied her understanding of engineering to the human pelvis and determined the optimal maternal stance for the baby's smooth journey through the birth canal. She argues, "Human birth is an engineering situation . . . . We have tended to ignore the way the maternal pelvis and [fetal] head are designed to interact. Parents should be given the facts about how the process works." She also says, "In a normal physiological birth, the mother has no need to deliberately push her baby into the world." Here are the particulars of achieving this apparently effortless process:

1) Optimum fetal positioning. In order for this smooth "fetal ejection reflex" to occur, the baby should be in the anterior position (facing the mother's back) before the pushing stage begins. The website Spinning Babies has excellent resources for encouraging babies to rotate into this optimal position before and during labor.

2) Supportive environment. The laboring mother needs to have freedom of movement. Jean Sutton recommends having "strongly fixed rails or bars at or above normal waist height." A sturdy support person to hold onto may also be sufficient.

3) Optimum maternal positioning. The laboring mother should be in an upright position--standing or kneeling. The mother's weight should ideally be "in front of her ischial tuberosities" (the bones in your bum)--so the upperbody leaning slightly forward. The mother's hands should be grasped onto something above waist height to release tension in the lower body. Her back arched, head thrown back. If ideally supported, her body will sag and her knees will rotate outwards, and the lower part of the woman's spine which includes the tailbone (the Rhombus of Michaelis) will move backward causing her pelvis to destabilize. Midwifery Today describes this fluid physiological process this way:
The following spontaneous actions then occur: the mother reaches upward for something stable to grasp; her body sags forward and knees roll out; her back arches and she begins to wriggle her lower body; the uterus contracts and forces the baby downward (a series of actions very similar to those during orgasm).
Jean Sutton argues that any position raising the knees above the seat, reclining, or squatting will cause the pelvis to be "splinted" and fixed. It is also important that a woman's tailbone be free to flex and move out of the way of the baby's head as it travels down.

A woman reclined in a bed cannot experience this spontaneous, fluid process. She also can't experience it with an epidural. Jean says:
I think we need to get women to understand that, although epidurals are great for pain relief, they actually get in the way of a spontaneous second stage and vaginal birth. In many cases, the reason they've got an epidural is that the baby wasn't in the best position when it started, and the baby in the less suitable positions needs all the space he can get to turn around in.(Source)
Jean Sutton also emphasizes that it is crucial to resist the temptation to "help" a woman through this process: "Women may be left with permanent damage if the legs or pelvis are moved at the wrong time or at the wrong angle. It must be understood that the spine has no support once the Rhombus moves."

I've given birth three times. Every time I have been squarely on my tailbone with my knees up... like so...And pushing took a great deal of effort every time. It's my dream to someday experience this spontaneous physiological process as God and nature intended--standing upright!

You may also enjoy this article about the Rhombus of Michaelis and physiological birth by Sara Wickham and Jean Sutton.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

PMS Tips

Diana J. asked if I would explain more about my PMS game plan choices, so here goes.

I started suspecting that my PMS was caused by a hormonal imbalance awhile ago. Progesterone came up on my radar screen mainly because progesterone levels are high during pregnancy, and pregnancy is when I feel most "myself," happy, and emotionally-stable. I've also gathered that abnormally high estrogen levels can cause the anxiety, aggression, and irritability some PMS-sufferers experience (PMS type A). So I'm thinking it's likely I have elevated estrogen levels when they shouldn't be high and not enough progesterone. Maybe.

Based on what I found digging on the internet, I created my own game plan to attempt to regulate my hormones as follows:

1) Early to bed. I'm a night owl. (And I have a baby who nurses off-and-on in the night.) So I'm basically in a state of constant and chronic sleep-deprivation. In fact, I think I could say I've been sleep-deprived since I was in high school when I started frequently staying up late. So that's over a decade of lost sleep. Based on what I've been reading, sleep loss can wreak havoc on your hormone levels. Ooooops. It's also my understanding that our bodies are designed to sleep from about 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Varying from that can cause big problems. Interestingly enough, there was one week-ish when I was consistently going to bed by 10:00 and getting up around 6:00, and I was amazed how great I felt. I'm doing better, but still working on this one.

2) Down with the xenoestrogens. You know... those chemicals in our environment that act like estrogen. They're everywhere! It's virtually impossible to eliminate them from our life, but we can try to minimize our exposure through using more natural and organic products and avoiding foods and drinks heated in plastic, etc. This is one of the reasons why I started drinking organic milk, buying more organic meat/produce, using natural products for lotion, shampoo, conditioner, and drinking from a less-toxic water bottle when I'm out of the house.

3) Mushrooms. In my research, I discovered that mushrooms may reduce estrogen levels and decrease breast cancer risk. If I do have elevated estrogen levels prompting my PMS symptoms, I figure more mushrooms are in order, especially on days 26 and 27 of my cycle (when I usually experience the anxiety, aggression, and irritability). Plus I think they're yummy. So far I've been eating them somewhat randomly, but I think I will start reserving them (they're kind of expensive) specifically for the "luteal phase" (last week-ish) of my cycle. I've never seen or heard of using mushrooms to treat PMS, but I figure it makes logical sense... worth a shot.

4) Other PMS prevention measures.

* Exercise
* Omega-3s
* Avoid junk food
* Get extra calcium (more yogurt), magnesium and vitamin E (almonds), vitamin D, and B vitamins

These are all natural PMS remedies I found popping-up all over the web. I am still trying to work regular exercise into my routine. This site has some excellent tips on what to eat to beat PMS.

I hope this helps! It seems to be helping me so far, and that's a HUGE relief!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Good news and bad news

The bad: Lyla's back. (Code name my h.s. girlfriends and I used in reference to our menstrual periods when our guy friends were around.) She arrived a few weeks ago, and she was heavy! Hey, I thought you might want to know, especially if you've been following my quest to "keep the monster at bay."

The good: She arrived without a demonic prelude! As in, no PMS! I was initially bummed to see Lyla's return, but the joy of having avoided my usual demons chased the woes quickly away. Plus I realized that Lyla's return will make following our preferred natural family planning technique possible again. Oh and I also didn't have any cramps which was unusual but delightful.

The most consistent changes I've made as part of my PMS game plan were eating (a lot) more mushrooms, purchasing/drinking organic milk and yogurt, using olive oil in place of lotion/moisturizer, taking more omega-3's and vitamin D, eating more almonds (huge stash in my fridge) and trying to get to bed earlier (I was doing pretty well until the holidays hit). I'm also in the process of a gradual weaning from shampoo/conditioner. I'm using a baking soda and water mixture with a bit of shampoo mixed in and vinegar for "conditioner" (Sorry if I smell like a salad these days... just blame it on the olive oil and vinegar). We also got BPA-free reusable water bottles for Christmas, and I've been really careful to avoid microwaving things in plastic (to avoid environmental estrogens). Apparently something's working. Yay! (Oops, I forgot olive oil in my pic. Dang.)

And, speaking of womanly cycles, I'm thinking of reading The Red Tent per Liz's suggestion. She says it's full of birthy-midwifey stuff. Sounds heavenly. I'll be checking it out from the library, I think... if I can ever figure out how to make time for reading books again.

For those of us who yell at the t.v. (and everyone else too)

For more info, see here and here and here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

9 months today

I can't believe this adorable kid has now been outside of me for longer than he was inside of me!

(Happy New Year!)