Organic Manic!

There's an important change taking place in my life, and one that I'm pretty excited about. I'm cleaning up some of the toxins and replacing them with all-natural ingredients, foods and products.

Now don't freak out on me and think I've gone all "granola-crunching save-Mother-Earth" on you. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it's just not me.

I have to be perfectly honest that way back in the day, like early teenage years, I always rolled my eyes at people that talked about eating organic and saving ourselves from all the harsh chemicals in our everyday environment. But then I had an experience of my own that changed my mind, and another recent meeting with a gal who is also walking proof that purifying our lives however we can is truly worth it.

About 17 years old, I had to deal with some medical issues that were not easily treatable. There was a risk of cancer if I didn't find a treatment that worked, and the doctors simply weren't able to solve the problem. So finally I went to see a nutritionist one of my docs recommended. We discussed my illness, my diet, my lifestyle habits, what I drank, how I slept, the amount of stress in my life and on and on. Finally, we talked about natural supplements and things I could take to help even out the chemical imbalances in my body and give my immune system a serious boost to help heal itself. For three months, I stuck to this program. I was taking nutrients and supplements throughout each day, all day long, some of them - like a potent Vitamin C powder with food or it made me so sick. It wasn't always easy or convenient but I did it. I also altered my diet, avoiding processed foods whenever I could, eating lots of greens and fruits and cut out aspartame completely for about a month. (This coming from a former Diet Coke addict. And I mean, addict. More to come on that later, though.)

At the end of the three months, I went back to the doctors office and received a clear report on my health. It was such a relief, a joy and a wonderful accomplishment for me. I can't say for sure if it was the supplement program or not, but I feel that it certainly was and that it played a huge part in my recovery.

Fast forward about eight years later, and I'm recalling that tried-and-true experience while chatting with two young ladies, who are also my age, that run their healthy living company, Three Branches Health. It's based in Houston but is all online and provides 100% vetted products for everything from sheets for your bed and organic salts to cleaning products for your home (they just released their own line!) and lotion for your face. One of the girls', Allison, has a story that supports everything she does in life. For the sake of repeating it, I've borrowed text from their website for the following:
While Allison’s health struggles are deeply rooted, they forged a God-paved path that led the three owners together.
During her sophomore year at The University of Texas, Allison’s body began to break down as she was riddled with mysterious back and neck pain, numbness in her arms and legs, and loss of motor skills. She spent over a year searching for answers, but traditional doctors were dumbfounded, finding no consistent solution or agreed-upon source.
Though she had reservations, Allison began to pursue natural medicine and her aunt Marilee’s guidance. Marilee opened her niece’s eyes to the effects of everyday chemicals found in our food and environment, helping Allison understand that it was her brand-new apartment complex sophomore year that had incited her pain. Full of new – and highly toxic – carpet, paint, glues, grout and finishes, the chemical load was more than her body could bear. After moving to a cleaner environment, adopting a pure diet and using non-toxic body care products, Allison found tremendous relief. She now strives for a diet free of preservatives, processed foods and refined sugar and prudently avoids chemicals, toxins, pesticides and electromagnetic radiation exposure. This has proved to be the answer to her inexplicable symptoms as Allison’s daily routine of muscle relaxers, painkillers, and anti-depressants is now a thing of the past.
Astounded by her body’s natural ability to heal, Allison developed a passion for gaining knowledge that she believes can lead people to a fuller, more vibrant life. She created Three Branches to provide the information that brought her out of a season of pain and to prevent others from settling with the lower quality of life that many believe is their only option. She is whole-heartedly devoted to this company, knowing that Three Branches is more than a place to find products, but instead an easy access to Marilee’s wisdom that stems from years of helping people find renewed health through natural means.
Allison uses her trials as inspiration that anyone can heal themselves if given the right information, enough persistence and, most of all, faith that even small changes can produce big results!
Allison graduated from the University of Texas in 2008 with a major in Public Relations and a minor in business. She is a recent newlywed who now lives with her husband in their hometown, Houston, TX.

It's an amazing story - and one I'm inclined to connect with. It's even more amazing that letting our bodies do their work without interference from man-made chemicals like harsh cleaning toxins, preservatives and added hormones can be beneficial farther than we realize. I do have to state that I know there are folks for which this sort of lifestyle is not possible, especially if they're receiving medical care or other treatments, and I completely respect that. In fact, one of Allison's dreams is to incorporate their Three Branches cleaning products into hospitals. Like she says, people are in there fighting for their health, why not give them a fighting chance with a cleaner environment?

All of this is to say that having met Allison and recalling my own personal experience, I was motivated to give up Diet Coke once and for all about a month ago. I have switched to drinking one regular Coke a day, and supplementing the rest of my thirsts with more water, tea, or sparkling water mixed with all-natural fruit juice. Turns out, it's not so bad! I've definitely had to get used to the switch, and I didn't want to give in this time, so I immediately got rid of all the Diet Coke in the house and made sure I had those healthy alternatives on hand for whenever a craving strikes.
"When you consume Aspartame, within about 20 minutes, your body breaks it down into Methanol, Formaldehyde (a Class A carcinogen) and Formic Acid," says Allison. "These create acidity which is the foundation of disease."

In order to further rid myself of the harmful aspartame, I've also switched to using Truvia or Stevia as my sweetner for tea. Both are a naturally occurring sweetner made from the steviol glycosides found in the stevia plant, which is said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's even diabetic-friendly and kosher-certified!

Plus, as of today, I have removed all my normal cleaning products (except for laundry supplies, still working on those) and replaced everything with just three supplies:

Click to read labels.

That's right! You're looking at all my cleaning products, which are plant-based - one for mirrors and windows, one all-purpose and one for toilets. That's really all you need if you think about it. Oh, I did hang on to my Orange Oil for all the wood furniture we have. But that's it, clean and simple. They smell good and, so far, seem to get the job done just fine. All of these were available at my local HEB, and also at places like Kroger, Whole Foods and Central Market. (Maybe even more, but I wouldn't know without a little research.) I don't buy special toilet paper or recycled paper towels, but I do believe that reducing the amount of chemicals we're around on a daily basis can dramatically improve our body's functions. Allison says that switching out your cleaning products is a great place to start because it's one of the easiest things to do.

"It's best to REMOVE bleach, Windex, etc. from your house as it creates a low-level chemical soup that you're breathing in daily," says Allison. "Think about how smelly the cleaning aisle of the grocery store is and those bottles haven't been opened! They're finding chemicals from cleaning products in baby's umbilical chords...yikes! You can check out our new line here."

I also intend to gradually supplement my makeup with more toxin-free choices. At first, I thought it would be near impossible - even all mineral makeup isn't safe, though much of it claims to be. For starters, Allison swears by Jane Iredale as well as the W3ll People brand, produced out of Austin and available at specific retailers in Texas. But if you don't want to take the plunge into totally non-toxic makeup, like myself, then consider at least reducing the amount of toxins you use in soaps, makeup, lotions and washes. I check out the site, Skin Deep, which I found through Three Branches. You can enter just about any beauty product and it will rate it on a toxicity scale and expand upon the ingredients it uses. Just the same, you can also use the site to discover less toxic products that are better for you!

Lastly, there's food. I started small by focusing on getting rid of the most important stuff first - hormones and preservatives. These are hugely found in dairy and meat products. That 97% fat free turkey lunch meat you by (or at least I did every week)? Check out the ingredients label and see if you can pronounce all the chemicals in there. Thanks to Allison's advice, I took my first trip to the deli counter at my local HEB (I also love supporting this amazing Texas grocery store chain, they're awesome!). I asked for thin cuts, 1/2 pound each, of all-natural turkey and ham. There they were, Boar's Head, with no hormones or preservatives. From the butcher, I got organic beef, all-natural hormone- and preservative-free chicken and pork chops. It wasn't even that much more expensive than the regular stuff. The pork chops were $2.79 a pound! 

Down the aisle, I noticed a small section I'd never stopped at before which contained all-natural lunch meats, organic cheeses and even turkey bacon - all packaged up and ready to go. The brand was Applegate, and I was excited to find some pre-cut meats at about $4 a package. Better for the budget than the deli and much faster. "Conventional lunch meats are known for being very high in chemicals, especially nitrate, which they use as a preservative," says Allison.

Next was dairy. In this department, I chose organic milk, eggs and butter spread. Easy enough and didn't break the budget, either! Finally, I picked up a sprouted whole grain bread that Allison had suggested by Alvarado Street. "What's different about these is that they're sprouted which makes them very digestible, not acting like normal wheat which is very glutenous and hard to digest," she says.

And that does it for my organic manic "makeover!" I'd been thinking on the whole process for about two weeks, and had done some researching of my own online, so when I finally got to the grocery store, it was easy for me to make decisions and choices on what I wanted. Hopefully I've inspired some of you to do the same, or at least shared some knowledge you may not have been keen on before. I know the lifestyle isn't for everybody, and the husband and I are certainly far from it. I still love my cheap-o Totino's pizzas and I won't hesitate to grab a burger at a drive-thru every now and then. What's more, is that I'm not adhering to any strict super-healthy diet - however it may sound on this post! So just know these are ways I feel I can improve my immediate surroundings with less toxins that interfere with my body.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2011!


  1. Interesting! I will read the labels a little more carefully myself!

  2. Good for you!!
    When you want to try laundry detergent, I really like Meyers. They actually had a ton at the Crate & Barrell outlet in Irving recently for a good price.
    Also, does Houston have a Sprouts? I buy a lot of great stuff there for really inexpensive.

  3. I found a lot of the things you said to be very interesting, and I plan to definitely make certain changes in my diet! The one thing I don't agree with I Allison's comment that aspartame is turned into formaldehyde. While this is true, it is straight away turned into the formic acid. The amount of formaldehyde left in your body is trivial compared to what other foods leave in your body.

  4. Anon - thanks for your comment and sharing your insight! There's certainly a lot of information out there to, er, digest and feedback is key. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Amber! I'm catching up on your blog and came across this post...I could NOT be more happy that you've made these changes in your life. Seriously, I"m BEAMING with excitement for you!!! Your blog is wonderful and full of great info, I'm so happy our lives crossed paths. Let me know if you have any more questions regarding "clean" living! And we need to have a lunch date...

    As for the comment above regarding formaldehyde, my take is that even "trivial" amounts are too much! :)


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