Protect Sensitive/Blemished Skin with the Best Natural Sunscreen

I’ll start this post out by saying that I’m a huge fan of Botanic Organic skin care. Today I’m going to give Nancy Newsom (founder of Botanic Organic) the floor to share how best to protect troubled skin (acne, sensitive, blemished) during the sunny summer months with the best natural sunscreen. I met Nancy at a women’s entrepreneur event in San Francisco over a year ago, and after trying out a few sample products, I was hooked. We discussed my years of skin drama (and my eventual cure), the scarring that resulted, and the best ingredients to use for topical skin care to help keep my acne-prone skin looking its best. In fact, we’re working together to get my favorite products to you at a discount, but more on that at the bottom of this post.

Mineral Sunscreen (Natural Sunscreen)

One thing Nancy insisted on without giving me even an inch of leeway was the need for a daily facial sunscreen. The word “natural,” as in “natural sunscreen” is implied here, because BO products are among the cleanest you’ll find out there. I make that distinction, because some of the chemical sunscreens (even those designed for sensitive skin) are so questionable that you might actually be better off without them — wear a hat and call it a day. I haven’t done enough research on my own to draft a solid post about this topic, but here’s a quick reference from the Environmental Working Group that explains some of the risks of chemical sunscreen, including endocrine issues (something women with PCOS certainly don’t need). 

I’ve always hated putting sunscreen on my face. I hate that gross slick, that heavy feeling, that non-breathable gross glue that passes for natural sunscreen that you find on the shelves at Whole Foods (and I used to work there, so I’ve tried a LOT of them). Remember that stuff from the 80’s that was made in fluorescent colors trying to make slathering straight zinc oxide all over your face seem cool by making it pink or green or orange? I think it was called Zinc. Or Zinka. I can’t tell if this awesome picture I found is actually from the 80’s or if this is a new product that’s trying to be as “cool” as the one from the 80’s I’m thinking of.

best natural sunscreen

photo source linked

ANYWAY, you get the idea. But in the spirit of practicing sun safety as we approach what will likely be our warmest summer on record, I asked Nancy to write a guest post showcasing her “Toni-friendly” sunscreen options. Hilariously, she starts off right away with the ingredient I just complained about — zinc oxide. And I’m happy she did — I actually learned something about how and why it’s good for problem skin, and I bet you will too. 

Both of natural sunscreen products she shares are great — I use them without complaint, which is definitely saying something. In fact, I’ve already written a review about the Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer as part of my Summer Travel Skin Care strategy. It’s my favorite facial sunscreen of all time. 

Take it away, Nancy!

Zinc Oxide for Sun Care and Acne-Prone Skin

nancy newsom botanic organic best natural sunscreen

– Nancy Newsom, Founder and CEO of Botanic Organic

At Botanic Organic, we’re big fans of zinc oxide for skin care because of its ability to both protect and repair skin. Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound that can prevent sunlight and ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin and can also act as a barrier to protect skin from outside irritants. As a sunscreen, zinc oxide reflects ultraviolet rays away from the skin and provides protection against sun damage. It is particularly effective against long-wave UVA rays and appears to block out the harmful rays without actually penetrating the skin. (The two choices for sunscreen on the market are chemical barriers and physical barriers. Zinc Oxide is a physical (mineral) barrier and doesn’t pose the potential health risks mentioned in the EWG article linked above.) 

Sun Exposure for Acne-prone Skin

Why should acne sufferers be particularly careful about wearing a sunscreen? Tanning appears to cover up redness and dry up the surface of your skin, making some blemishes fade away temporarily. In reality, tanning causes skin irritation, especially if you stay out a bit too long and burn yourself. This adds to redness and leads to peeling, both of which may later aggravate the appearance of acne. Tanning also breaks down collagen. Collagen is one of your prime defenses against wrinkles because it keeps your skin elastic. When skin loses collagen, not only are you more likely to see wrinkles but your pores may appear larger as well.

Sun Exposure for Acne Scars

Those who are dealing with discoloration or scarring from acne may be tempted to sit in the sun to “even out” the dark marks or “camouflage” them with a tan. Unfortunately, sun is the last thing your scars need. Scar tissue is different from normal skin. Scars are less resistant to ultraviolet rays and much more prone to sunburn, especially if they are fresh. Prolonged sun exposure can also permanently darken a scar, especially in people with darker skin complexions. Therefore, scars should be protected from prolonged, direct sun exposure year round, not just during the warmer summer months. Using a sunblock on your face every single day is extremely important for this reason.

A sunblock containing zinc oxide may help to prevent scarring and hyper-pigmentation with moderate acne. Additionally, some potential scarring from severe acne might also be avoided with regular use. By reducing inflammation and encouraging proper collagen growth, the skin is able to repair itself and prevent future damage. Please remember that you may be at risk for increased sun sensitivity if you’re using an acne treatments. Products such as Accutane, Retin-A, and even over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide ointments recommend avoiding sun exposure due to an increased sensitivity.

 botanic organic best natural sunscreen

Natural Sunscreen, Antiseptic, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant … 

Sun blocking benefits aside, zinc oxide has mild astringent and antiseptic properties making it useful for acne and wound care. It is suggested that zinc for acne is effective because it can kill bacteria that causes red bumps during breakouts. By killing bacteria, the inflammation is reduced and pores can then be easily cleaned. It may also reduce overall inflammation and its antioxidant properties can help reduce skin damage during breakouts. Zinc oxide has been used for a number of dermatological conditions beyond acne, including infections, rosacea, pigmentary disorders (melasma), and basal cell carcinoma. [1]

High SPF zinc sunscreens can feel a bit thick and chalky for daily wear on face and neck. With this in mind Botanic Organic developed Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer. We designed this formula to encourage everyday use and included 11% zinc-oxide to provide a significant physical barrier to reflect UVA/UVB rays. Our customers who suffer from blemished skin find that it helps to control oiliness and acne without feeling heavy on the skin. Additionally, vitamin and antioxidant rich oils which are good for acne, provide organic nutrients to replenish skin and guard against environmental depletion. Green tea extract and sea buckthorn oil soothe redness and promote skin cell regeneration to aid in repairing UV damage. Shea butter, raspberry seed, buriti fruit and hemp seed oils have the natural ability to absorb a spectrum of UV radiation and therefore provide an extra degree of sun protection.

Read other Botanic Organic product reviews

Simplify Your Skin Care: Double Cleansing with Botanic Organic

Summer Travel Skin Care Made Easy with Botanic Organic

BO + CWB = <3

Great news! Nancy and I are joining forces to offer you an exclusive discount on all of my favorite Botanic Organic products! As soon as the page is built, you’ll be able to go straight to the products I use to help keep my skin looking great, and try them out for yourself. They’re all natural, organic, pure, and gentle — so clean you can eat them. We’ve been talking about doing this together for quite a while, and I’m so happy it’s finally happening! Stay tuned!


1. Mrinal Gupta, et al., “Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review,” Dermatology Research and Practice, July 10, 2014;

5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin [INFOGRAPHIC]

I’m excited to share a guest post today, featuring an infographic that focuses on nutrients for healthy skin created by Samantha Thayer. Samantha is a Health Educator and blogger in the health and wellness space, and we met on the interwebs because of a shared passion for holistic health and wellness.

Acne Cure

CWB covers a wide swath of topics (because I have a wide swath of interests) but one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to this site is for skin health information — specifically acne remedies. I had some seriously miraculous luck in clearing up my lifelong acne a couple of years ago, and since sharing my experience and some science behind why it worked, I’ve made connections with readers and bloggers across the globe who have either experienced similar results or are looking for answers for themselves. From time to time, I come across someone like Samantha who has a simple, easy-to-implement message that I think would be helpful to my readers in their quest for healthy, clear skin.

Heal from the Inside Out

The most important message I want those of you suffering with skin issues to receive is that healing starts from within. No amount of creams or potions will work topically if you aren’t providing your body with the right nutrients for healthy skin. What you eat matters, and this infographic is a great depiction of how to take care of your skin by feeding yourself properly.* 

*If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I’m not a big fan of low-fat dairy. I still chose to share this infographic instead of asking Samantha to redo it for my audience, so I’m making this brief caveat and offering a suggestion in its place. You can find my personal views on low-fat or skim milk in my post 7 Foods you Think Are Healthy But Aren’t.

I wouldn’t be sharing this post from Samantha if I didn’t stand behind the claims she makes.

Samantha shares vitamin A as one of the key nutrients for healthy skin. I agree with her on the importance of vitamin A; but there are other, more ideal food sources of vitamin A than dairy of any kind (which frankly I think shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have acne), such as fermented cod liver oil and organ meats.

If you want to consume dairy, I recommend full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised animals, preferably raw. Even then, if you have acne, something as insulinogenic as dairy should be limited if not totally avoided until you get your skin under control, and from there I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Eat Healthy Look Healthy: 5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin

– Samantha Thayer, B.S, CHES

nutrients for healthy skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use topically when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nourishing nutrients we need in order to look and feel our best.  

So, what are the most vital nutrients for healthy skin? And how do we find them in the foods we eat? 

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots, organ meats, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon! 
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

It’s also very important to have a healthy digestive tract to keep your skin looking great. (Learn about the connection between gut health and skin health.) Here are some additional nutrients to include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste and cleanse from within. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria living in your gut that protect your gut lining, preventing the skin and other health issues caused by leaky gut.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance the flora your digestive tract, keeping less helpful bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are also helpful in supporting a healthy immune system and keeping inflammation in check. 

Digestive Enzymes – Enzymes assist in the breakdown of the foods you’re eating. While the human body is capable of producing its own enzymes, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement if you find you’re having particular absorption issues that could be manifesting in your skin. 

Check out the infographic below that illustrates the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy gut to help keep your skin healthy!

nutrients for healthy skin   

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, B.S., CHES, who is an online education and outreach specialist for USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design is by Taylor Romney and used with permission.  For more information on health and wellness, feel free to visit us at her blog, What’s Up, USANA?.

Don’t Quit Your Day Dream: with Megan Lipsett

Today, in my first post of the new year, I’m thrilled to share a guest post from Megan Lipsett of COPIA Health. Megan and I went to grad school together, and, without realizing it, she taught me a lot about myself. Mostly by having the opposite point of view on just about everything, Megan challenged me to rethink what I considered practical compromises and incorporate personal ideals and principles — not in a pie-in-the-sky way, but in a way that interwove what could (or perhaps should) be with what is: in a way that’s truthful.

Her deliberate, thoughtful approach to human flourishing inspired me to challenge myself, to stretch out in ways that made me uncomfortable, but resulted in personal and professional growth. Megan is an inspirational thinker — a BIG PICTURE, systems thinker — passionate about living her truth, compromising nothing of her vision, and making her own personal and professional ambitions a reality. She’s a peer I admire and look up to, and I’m very proud to share her work with you today!

Megan Lipsett COPIA Health

A Deep Yearning

by Megan Lipsett, Founder of COPIA Health

Let me start by asking you a question that you likely avoid sitting with, but hold in some layer of your consciousness all the time: What is the deepest yearning you have in your life, but can’t quite find a way to actualize? Each one of us has a unique and important purpose on this planet – and each of us goes through a kind of deep initiation to learn to overcome the challenges that can sometimes pulverize us along the way.

In a world that is shaped by extrinsic rewards, addiction to technology, and disconnection from our deepest selves – how do we begin to reclaim true happiness? This is a question resonating from the hearts and minds of many of us today. We desire exhilaration and purpose. We long for freedom and connection. Navigating a complex world, we can sometimes find ourselves stuck, disempowered, and overwhelmed. We may be tempted in these moments to get lost in a world of “shoulds,” we may follow a trail of social media that starts with comparison and ends with self-doubt.

But what if I told you that the first place to begin — if you truly want to create optimal health, sustained contentment, and a meaningful impact on the world — is right in your own wise and loving heart?  True: self-reflection doesn’t pay the bills.  There is a need for dedication, organization, and practical behaviors that bring us income. AND, when we begin to infuse our everyday lives with a deep remembrance of the preciousness of life and a deep knowing of our unquestionable value, everything begins to change. 

Calm and Empowered

When we learn to practice awareness and equanimity, we get to bring a curiosity and compassion to some of our most debilitating fears and limiting beliefs — all of the ways that we have forgotten who we truly are, creating armor to protect the tender parts of ourselves. When we get to know ourselves in this way, we cultivate a sense of ease and personal empowerment. What’s more, we rekindle the passion that fuels our personal purpose in the world. We become discerning — we can see clearly those things that are aligned with our highest good, and have the vulnerability to pursue them!

Don’t Quit Your Day Dream: A Leadership Program to Learn to Live with Purpose and Passion

Five years ago, after graduating from the Integrative Health Studies program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (with the intention to become an Integrative Health Coach) it became strikingly clear to me that the program — as with so many therapeutic or healing focused programs — did not adequately prepare me and my peers to actually be health coaches. There was no training about starting a business, marketing, creating programming, or having a functional and secure life as a health and wellness educator.  Further, there was a lack of necessary inquiry into the social and individual root causes of the health imbalances we were exploring in class. Over the last five years, I’ve dedicated my professional pursuits to addressing these obstacles and finding answers.

Today, I teach at my alma mater, where I incorporate many of the practical and psychosocial concepts that were missing from my own experience. I also developed a leadership development program for all of the conscious entrepreneurs out there who are seeking guidance about how to leverage their passions and gifts into an actual career. The program is also for those who feel dispirited in the work they are doing now — those looking for a change.

As a community, we bridge the gap between the mystical and the practical, in order to create meaningful impact in our worlds and contentment in our lives. I urge you, from the bottom of my heart: Don’t quit your day dream.  Let your creative and enlivened self shine through each and every day. Be kind to yourself, especially the parts of you that you can tend to judge the most. When you do this, no matter what your role in life or position at your company, you will remind the whole world to shine. 

Find out more:

Are you ready to become a potent and awakened leader in the field of personal growth, health and wellness, or social change?

The COPIA Health 6-Month Leadership Program is designed for conscious entrepreneurs, health and wellness educators, and social change activists. This program supports visionary leaders to develop sustainable programs, build increased leadership capacity, and generate social impact. The program includes: monthly group sessions, individual development sessions, a workbook, a toolkit, online resources, and more!

Now accepting applicants for the January 25th start date.

Schedule a call with COPIA Health to learn more.


Megan Lipsett holds a Master’s degree in Integrative Health.  As a professor at CIIS, she teaches about the science of mindset, the role of meditation in health, sustainable health, and the business of wellness.  Megan is the founder and program developer at COPIA Health, an organization dedicated to individual, social, and environmental health and wellbeing. Megan has supported visionary leaders within organizations, hospitals, and through trainings.  She co-facilitated Off the Mat, Into the World’s Leadership development program, and Project Springboard, where she has been a mentor for the past four years.

Anti-GMO is not Anti-Science

I’ve got another guest post for you today! I don’t do guest posts that often, but when a topic as fraught as this one is covered in such a well-researched and thoughtful way, I want to share it. I’ve personally been steering clear of the topic of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) over the life of this blog, hinting here and there that I have an opinion, but leaving the topic mostly untouched, but that changes today. Part of the reason for my hesitation is the controversy surrounding GMOs. GMOs hold political weight, and most people who have an opinion on the topic feel strongly about it, one way or the other.

Anti-GMO is not Anti-Science

Loren Rothman: engineer, rock climber, conservationist, husband, and lover of this squishy animal

Strong views on any topic can send people running toward unsubstantiated claims, just to bolster their argument. They can blind people to the actual facts, which makes it hard to have a real conversation about any of it. This piece of writing brings a balanced perspective using analogous issues (albeit also controversial issues).

This isn’t just any old guest post though. This piece was written by my husband Loren Rothman. He’s a mechanical engineer and a self-proclaimed ‘science geek.’ When we first met, we debated regularly (sometimes heatedly) about whether or not science was the end-all, be-all of what makes the world go ’round. I would come home from my ‘hippy grad school’ with ideas he’d scoff at, but he’d later come around after contemplation (and likely some googling) on his own. As a rock climber and outdoor enthusiast, he’s also deeply committed to conservation, sound environmental practices, and sustainability. Loren offers this thoughtful, deliberate, and well-researched piece on a topic he’s contemplated a lot after many conversations and much deliberation, so I’m proud and excited to share it with you today. It accurately represents my views on the topic of GMOs (and the analogous topics he uses) so well, I wish I’d written it myself. 

Anti-GMO is not Anti-Science

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend of media sources dismissing the movement against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as anti-science quackery. Their argument basically goes that scientific consensus says foods from genetically modified crops are safe for human and animal consumption, therefore the stance against their use is mostly hysteria – per se irrational and unscientific. Comparisons to the anti-vaccine and climate change denial communities abound. Unfortunately, the behavior of the most extreme contingent of the anti-GMO movement legitimizes these accusations in many ways, and in turn distracts and detracts from the substantial, legitimate arguments against GMOs. These days, it’s the wackos that get the headlines, so the public is severely misinformed about the actual factors involved in the complicated question of whether we should be using GMOs. The issue has become a destructive false dichotomy that pits self-described rational people against the rabid extremists willing to use any tactic to achieve their goals, and, as is so often the case, the important nuances get excluded from the discussion. Hopefully this post will help clarify some of the myriad real issues at stake and point out why it’s scientific indeed to oppose genetically modified foods. I’ll use the analogies with the anti-vaccination and climate change denial movements as a spring-board, as I think they’re good foils for this discussion.

Anti-GMO is not Anti-Science

Image sourced through Creative Commons via Wikipedia by Rosalee Yagihara from Vancouver, Canada

First off, there’s no doubt in my mind that vaccines are a critical, massively beneficial part of the worldwide fight against preventable disease, and climate change is at least significantly exacerbated by human activities, which we desperately need to reform before it’s too late. The question of GMOs on the other hand is far less clear. Vaccines have been in use for centuries, and we have libraries of evidence as to their efficacy, risks, benefits, and costs. GMOs – not so much.

Climate Change vs. GMOs

Climate change data from a tremendous number of sources tell us that it’s definitely happening, and we’re nearly certain that humans are a primary driver of its effects. Our understanding of it is founded on the examination of trends over thousands of years as well as phenomena we can watch in real time. Importantly, even if we’re wrong about the causes of climate change, yet we still take steps to try to address its effects by moving to cleaner, renewable energy sources and limiting our greenhouse gas emissions, we will still yield huge benefits to the worldwide economy, environment, and rapidly growing community of industrialized nations, not to mention defunding many violent extremist organizations. It’s hard to fathom how the law of unintended consequences could come back to haunt us there, at least in a way that would seem disastrous in retrospect. On the other hand, it’s not difficult to imagine how the ubiquity of genetically modified foods, having displaced most or all traditionally farmed plants, and all that that entails, could turn out to be a huge mistake on which we can’t turn back the clock.

Vaccines vs. GMOs

Some major differences demand to be pointed out regarding the anti-vaccine movement and the anti-GMO movement. For one, the end goal of vaccines is singular: prevent the transmission of the disease for which a particular vaccine is targeted. In this goal, vaccines are wildly successful. In 1952, there were almost 60,000 cases of Polio in the US alone. In 2014, there were 359 cases worldwide. The negative side-effects of vaccine use, both for the individual and the world, have shown to be incredibly small relative to the damage that many of those illnesses cause. The cost-benefit analysis falls so heavily on the benefit side that it is deserving of mockery to claim we should not be vaccinating everyone who can be vaccinated.

The end goal of GMOs, however, is multiple. Some genetically modified crops are designed to produce their own defenses against bugs, theoretically reducing the need to use insecticides (so-called “Bt crops” – named for the bacterium they produce – Bacillus thuringiensis); others are designed to improve their resistance to herbicides used for controlling weeds (“Round Up Ready” crops); and others have improved nutritional characteristics that can address certain major dietary deficiencies, such as “golden rice” that has dramatically increased levels of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.

In terms of the cost-benefit analysis of GMOs vis-à-vis vaccines, the most glaring difference emerges when looking at the second class – Round Up Ready crops – the most common class of GMOs in use today. The benefits of these GMOs are largely economic – farmers can increase the amount of herbicides they apply, therefore yielding a more successful crop, therefore Anti-GMO is not Anti-Scienceincreasing the profit margin and/or lowering the price of the food. The problem is that this economic benefit comes with a hefty price tag in the form of environmental degradation and harm to human health. A recent analysis found that from 1996 to 2012, the total volume of glyphosate – the active ingredient in Round Up – applied to the three biggest genetically modified crops (corn, cotton, and soy) had increased 10 fold. That means 10 times the amount of herbicide going into our soils, groundwater, rivers, oceans, and ultimately, us.

The really bad news is that the World Health Organization recently published a paper in The Lancet Oncology, one of the most highly respected medical journals, indicating that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic. It has also been implicated in numerous deleterious effects to vital actors in both the natural food chain and our own food system as a whole. Scientific research is starting to look at the effect of glyphosate on honeybees and has found compelling evidence that suggests it plays a primary role in bee population declines.  It has also been directly linked to the fall in Monarch butterfly numbers.  

Pesticide Resistance

The comparison to vaccines is especially ironic to me, considering all you have to do is look at their cousin – antibiotics – to see a true cautionary analog. The alarm bells coming from the scientific and medical communities regarding the overuse of antibiotics has reached cacophonous levels. As in the emergence and proliferation of antibiotic resistance strains of diseases, such as MRSA and incurable gonorrhea, pesticide resistant weeds and bugs have emerged, and will continue to evolve past the defenses created by the genetic manipulation. And as the pests develop resistance, the efficacy of Bt crops decline, begetting the ever-increasing application of ever more toxic pesticides. So while it’s possible that current levels of pesticide application may not be severely harmful to people, it’s very likely that the continued accumulation and escalation of their use will be, given the WHO’s findings.

GMOs and the Developing World

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain. Image sourced through Creative Commons via Wikipedia by Sophie Clayton

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain. Image sourced through Creative Commons via Wikipedia by Sophie Clayton

At this point, I feel compelled to say that the potential benefits, particularly to the developing world, of the nutritionally-enhanced class of GMOs cannot be understated. In countries where many people live on fewer than 500 calories a day, offering them a food staple with dramatically more nutritional content has the potential to save many thousands, if not millions of lives. As an engineer and believer in the power of technology, I feel that we absolutely owe it to those people to continue cautiously pursuing the research and implementation of those products for the populations desperately in need of their impact. The anthropological and cultural implications of introducing these foods to populations in need is a concern, but that’s a discussion outside the scope of this post.

Safe for Human Consumption

I should also acknowledge that, at this point, the body of evidence does show that GM foods are most likely safe for consumption, as most of the studies claiming cancerous or other such outcomes have been refuted or significantly undermined. That said, I do think there remains the very real possibility that the genetic modifications themselves could yield serious consequences for our food and natural ecosystems that we don’t yet understand or foresee. It’s critical that rigorous testing on the safety for human and animal consumption continues so that we can build a record and understand the effects of their long term use. We can’t rest on our laurels just because a few years of study have sufficiently convinced us that it’s probably safe to eat. After all, look how long it took to establish a conclusive determination that smoking kills.

There is ample evidence, based firmly in mainstream, peer-reviewed, concrete science, that GMOs have serious consequences for our environment and health. I absolutely recognize that there are significant contingents in this movement that embrace virtually any notion that floats along that ostensibly bolsters their argument. Embarrassing terms like “frankenfoods” need to be eliminated from the movement’s vernacular if they expect to be taken seriously, and rational GMO critics need to do much better at promoting the legitimate reasons for opposition and try to distance themselves from such truly irrational, destructive movements like the antivaxxers and climate-change deniers. That said, painting this issue with such a broad brush is harming everyone, and true science demands that we look at the nuance and details of this complex issue and try to understand the full scope of the costs and benefits.

Balanced Wellbeing: 5 Elements and TCM

I’m super excited to introduce another guest blogger to the Cultivated Wellbeing community while I’m away at BlogHer!

We’ve talked a lot in the past few months about finding an outlet of some kind, whether it’s a way to be creative, find stillness, fulfillment, extra energy, or extra nutrition in the kitchen, and last week I even hinted at the connection between nature, health, and spirituality.

Now we’re going to talk about what this pursuit looks like through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

5 elements Marie BowserMarie Bowser, Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.)

Practicing in an integrative holistic clinic in El Cerrito, CA for the last 4 years, Marie has just begun sharing her expertise with the employees of Alameda Health System through onsite clinics. (I just set this up – AHS is my day job.) She’s been a pleasure to work with, and I’m really looking forward to visiting her practice myself in the near future.

Marie brings a wealth of knowledge on the subject of integrative health, weaving the eastern teachings of TCM into our modern western lifestyles. She calls on her patients to play an active role in changing their health, supporting each one with her unique combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle & nutrition coaching. Her training in massage therapy, qigong, reiki, meditation & mindfulness and energy work also inform her style of practice.

If you’ve been curious to learn more about acupuncture and TCM, this post is a great jumping off point. You’ll find Marie’s website linked to the bottom of this post where you can learn more about what her practice offers and how you might personally benefit from TCM.

Marie Bowser 5 elements five elements

Finding Balance Using the 5 Elements

Chinese Medicine is a system of diagnosis and treatment that relies on the Five Elements. The Five elements not only help to understand balance and imbalance in our bodies but also in our homes (Feng Shui) and in our lives.

Using the Five Elements is not only a fun way of looking at our lives and analyzing where we place our attention, but also a strategy for preventing/shifting illness. I often suggest that my patients look for ways to bring each of the Five Elements into a week, month or year to better achieve balance in their lives.

The Five Elements Theory is a poetic way of looking at the world. It’s also a practical system to analyze the areas of your life that could use a tweak. Personally, when I plan out my weekly to-do list, I categorize tasks by Element. If any particular Element looks overloaded I reorganize my week for better balance. If I don’t have enough fun (fire) planned for myself, I find some to schedule in. If I have a big week at work (wood), I make sure to schedule quiet time knitting or reading a good book (water).

The following is a brief discussion of the Five Elements, how they relate to the different areas of a balanced life and how we can use them to bring balance into our lives.

Marie Bowser 5 elements five elementsWOOD

Wood is related to creativity, planning and executive function. We nurture wood through planning and following through on our goals. For patients who feel stuck in this area, I often suggest incorporating creative activities to generate a flow toward bigger picture ideas. I also recommend working with a coach to help guide and motivate patients in creating and following through on a life plan.

Some people are overly identified with their life plan at the expense of other areas of their lives. They might be considered over-achievers or “workaholics.” A remedy for this is to participate in gentle wood activities such as spending time walking in nature or attending a restorative yoga class (wood is related to muscles and tendons, and stretching relaxes wood energy).

FIREMarie Bowser 5 elements five elements

Fire is related to joy, romance, and fun as well as connection with others. It’s said (and I believe it to be true) that our 20’s are the time for fire in our lives. This is when many of us leave our parents’ homes, create our urban families and start searching for a partner.

We’ve all had those wild weekends where we stayed out all night, had a fabulous time with our friends, and blew off the next day’s obligations. Not only is this is okay, it’s actually important to do occasionally, but fire imbalance can manifest through living this way EVERY DAY. Sound like fun? It can be for a while, but will eventually become taxing on the body.

In order to balance this excess fire energy, I recommend placing strong attention on water (meditation), wood (using a calendar to schedule to-do’s) and earth energies (making sure the home is clean, inviting and full of healthy, nourishing food).

Some people have too little fire. For various reasons, they feel uninspired, depressed, fatigued and isolated. They may be disconnected from the things that bring them joy. The first thing I get these patients to do is to brainstorm a list of activities that have brought them joy in the past. Once the list is made we find creative ways to reincorporate those activities into their lives. In the case of a patient who is feeling blue as a result of high pressure job stress, we might schedule a portion of their weekend to do something fun outside.

Marie Bowser 5 elementsEARTH

Earth is related to food and nourishment, nurturing and compassion, as well as to our home. Without proper nourishment and an orderly home base, it is challenging to be a grounded, functioning, healthy person in the world. Everyone benefits from placing attention on this element.

Unfortunately, our fast-paced, demanding culture causes people to neglect the earth element. We work through lunch at our desks; we skip meals; we eat processed junk food while on the run. Sometimes a person’s living situation is disruptive (hoarding, disharmony with housemates) which impacts basic household needs like cooking at home or feeling like there’s a safe place to decompress. Sometimes the most important things a person can do to make a health shift are things like scheduling grocery shopping, cooking meals for the week, packing the next day’s lunch and snacks before going to bed, cleaning and de-cluttering the home, and maybe even looking for a new living situation.

There are also people who eat in order to manage stress and soothe emotions (food, nourishment, and self-nurturing). They also benefit from assessing their situation and balancing the earth element in their lives.

Marie Bowser 5 elementsMETAL

Metal is related to self-worth and achievement (including financial and career achievement). This is where the fruits of our wood energy manifest. All that planning finally pays off in promotions, raises or professional acknowledgement.

Metal element is also related to how you spend your money. Do you treat yourself to indulgences occasionally? Do you save your money? Are you preoccupied with showing off the external signs of your achievement with toys and bragging or do you wear your asceticism like a badge of honor? How does all of this relate to your self-esteem? A good financial planner can help get you on a track with a savings and spending plan. A good therapist can help you to work out issues of self worth.

Marie Bowser 5 elementsWATER

Water is related to rest, intuition and wisdom. What are the ways that you nourish wisdom and intuition in your life? It is said that Einstein took naps and woke from them with breakthroughs in the problems and concepts he was working out. Sounds like napping could be pretty helpful!

Do you get enough sleep? Do you have a meditation practice? A restorative yoga practice? Do you journal? Are you listening to the information inside of yourself? If you’re not getting adequate rest, not only will your executive function (wood) suffer, you will become sick – never mind being disconnected from your own internal wisdom.

Info for Marie Bowser:

For a free 30 minute consultation with Marie, visit to schedule a visit. Mention this post and get $25 off your first session. 

9 Reasons You Need Coconut Oil In Your Life

I am SO excited to share a guest post today written by my long-time friend, Dana Gelsomino, RN. She’s been a force for good in my life for over a decade, and I can’t say enough about her medical knowledge and personal wisdom. I’m thrilled to see a  conventionally trained nurse ready to profess the wonders of coconut oil in her new book, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. Check it out on Amazon — TOTALLY FREE through May 17th at midnight.

Take it away, Nurse Dana!

coconut oil made easy

Hi, I’m Dana, and I’m a coconut oil devotee. I discovered coconut oil about 6 months ago, and the radical changes to my health that have come as a result are truly hard to believe. But first, a little background on me …

For years I suffered with severe, chronic depression — to the point that I was hospitalized for it twice. I was also diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which means my hormones had gone rogue, and I was prone to acne flare-ups, irritability, weight gain, and painful periods. You can also add chronic back and neck pain to my list of complaints.

Like most people with chronic pain and health challenges, feeling sub-optimal had become my new normal. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I didn’t try to feel better—believe me, I tried everything. Over the years I have been on Accutane, a handful of different anti-depressants, prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers. I’ve gone to chiropractors, massage therapists, doctors (was even physically carried into urgent care once for debilitating pain), physical therapists, herbalists, nutritionists, live blood cell analysts, Reiki practitioners, acupuncturists … You name it, odds are I tried it.

My First Teaspoon Of Coconut Oil

I first tried coconut oil at the behest of a good friend from Columbia. He said that he mixed some into his coffee every morning, and it really helped increase his energy. In no way was I expecting an effect on any of the health challenges I just mentioned.

The idea of oily coffee both disgusted and intrigued me — I had to try it for myself. After adding that first teaspoon of coconut oil to my coffee, the physical signs and symptoms of every one of my health challenges began to reverse, and now they are completely gone. I have no more chronic pain in my back or neck, no more severe PMS, no more depression and no more low energy. I don’t even take an Advil for cramps, because I don’t have cramps!

If I hadn’t experienced this first hand, I wouldn’t believe it. I began researching coconut oil and learned that my experiences are not unique! Thousands of people swear by the healing properties of coconut oil and have so many amazing stories to tell. Fascinated by Coconut Oil Made Easywhat I was reading, I decided to commit to using coconut oil for thirty days and recording what happened. Over those thirty days I learned more about coconut oil than I ever knew existed on the topic! I cooked with it, I used it on my body and face, I drank it in my coffee, and I replaced a few beauty products with it. I also  began telling anyone who listen about my experience and found myself answering the same questions over and over again.

And thus a book was born!

Here’s a sneak peak of some of the information you’ll find in my new book, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. I hope you enjoy exploring this amazing, healing food as much as I have — it just might change your life.

9 Reasons You Need Coconut Oil In Your Life:

  1. Lauric acid’s “Anti’s”
    Coconut oil is packed with over nine “powerhouse components” including perhaps the most important one, lauric (aka monolauric acid). This acid is anti- “bad” bacterial (fights off “bad” bacteria, while leaving beneficial bacteria alone), anticarcinogenic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial/infection fighting, antioxidant, antiparasitic, anti-protozoa, antiretroviral, and antiviral.
  2. Easy way to go chemical free
    Using coconut oil is an easy substitute for lots of chemical-laden products in our health and beauty routine. You can replace tens, if not hundreds or products  with a jar of $12 organic extra virgin coconut oil. There is no complicated labeling to decipher and no added ingredients—it’s just coconut oil. I’ve successfully rid my cabinet of eye make up remover, shaving cream, face and body moisturizers; all have been replaced with one jar of coconut oil.
  3. Few if any side effects
    Prescription and over the counter drugs often come with potential side effects. Some of these side effects are long-lasting, permanent, and can even be fatal! I’ve replaced my dog’s arthritis medication with coconut oil, and you won’t believe the spring in his step! The vast majority of people aren’t allergic to coconut oil, and those who are often find that any reaction they may have disappears with discontinued use.
  4. Saves money
    You can either spend hundreds of dollars on multiple products, or you can use a $12 jar of organic, extra-virgin coconut oil. The small list I named above are great examples from my own bathroom cabinet.
  5. Saves the planet
    By using one jar of coconut oil in place of so many other products, you are consuming less in general, which means less manufacturing, storing, packaging and shipping. Not to mention there is no toxic run off into the water table when you use coconut oil!
  6. Reduced transdermal exposure
    Our skin is our largest organ. Everything we slather on our bodies is absorbed to some degree. Most people find this fact interesting, but don’t take it as seriously as they should when it comes to choosing body care products. Lots of different medications come in a transdermal form — nicotine, birth control and pain patches as well as burn gels and creams, to name a few. Transdermal medications are just as effective as the oral medications or herbs that we swallow. Coconut oil can replace your chemical-laden moisturizers for your face and body. Good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin.
  7. Easy way to simplify your life
    I live in a small house where storage space is a luxury. Using one product instead of tens or hundreds, is an easy way to begin simplifying your life.
  8. The refreshing aroma
    Most people love the smell of coconuts — it’s like summertime in a jar! I love to throw it in a pan for stir fry and fill the house with the smell of the tropics.
  9. Fantastic flavor
    I encourage you to try using coconut oil as your main cooking oil for one week. The flavor is a lot milder than most people expect — I was a skeptic at first myself! Some delicious dishes to cook with coconut oil are fried plantains and sweet potato fries. Just pour a tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan, chop up the plantains or sweet potatoes, let brown and serve! YUM!

Author bio:

Dana Gelsomino is a Registered Nurse practicing and writing in Haslett, Michigan. Her miraculous experience using coconut oil to address her severe depression, low energy, hormonal issues and chronic back and neck pain has turned her from a skeptic to a coconut oil devotee. Dana recently published her first book on coconut oil, Coconut Oil Made Easy: Answers to the 102 Most Frequently Asked Questions. She has several other coconut oil related books in her writing pipeline, and is always open to any coconut oil related conversation and success stories! She is most easily reached through her Facebook group Real Coconut Oil or by email at



Daily Afformations – Wait, What’s an Afformation? | Cultivated Wellbeing

I’m very excited to welcome my first guest blogger Nathalie Beaupré to Cultivated Wellbeing! She’s the author of the children’s book Why Am I Perfect? and a blogger at Healthy Active Lifestyle. She’ll be covering a topic that’s 100% new to me, so I’m excited to share her knowledge with you today about afformations!


Nathalie Beaupré

Daily Afformations

by Nathalie Beaupré

To go from where you are to where you want to be requires a shift in your mind, and ultimately a change in your reality. It takes a tad of inspiration to think about what we want to create before feeling ready to see it come true, or manifestly visible in our lives. I believe that being conscious of the present moment and mindfully living and feeling it is the first step to manifesting what you want. The second step is seeing and feeling yourself where you want to be – this engages the imagination. The third step, which I won’t attempt to explain here, is letting go of the outcome.

To put these ideas in practice not only requires a concerted effort, it also requires a conscious “shift”, the need to move in another direction and change your perspective. We already know how to beat ourselves up emotionally – telling ourselves we aren’t good enough, attractive enough, smart enough; asking ourselves why we don’t have a better job or more money or better friends. What if we shifted those internal messages and, with a gentler tone, did some affirming of the positive things in our lives? Affirmations can come in handy right at these moments. They’re great for firming up what you want in a gentle, non-violent way:

  • I make positive contributions to the world and people around me.
  • I am attractive.
  • I am brilliant.
  • I have wonderful things to appreciate in my life.

I use affirmations to gain focus and guidance. They tend to bring on thoughts that point me in the right direction. Check out renowned author Louise Hay’s daily affirmations for some very well constructed examples of affirmations.

I am enough

What’s an Afformation?

A great way to turn an affirmation into an ever more powerful tool is to construct it in the form of a question. This is called an afformation. I actually prefer afformations, because they leave more room for the subconscious mind to build on the positivity of the question posed. Here’s a great example: compare how you feel after saying “Why do I always feel loved and supported?” with “I am always loved and supported.” These two statements come from the same place, and maybe even hold the same intention, but one asks your mind to generate examples, while one remains abstract.

With afformations, the trick is to practice to allow yourself to not answer the question. It’s a method developed by Noah St. John in 1997. He had been using affirmations daily but wasn’t quite reaching his desired effect. I learned about his story and this practice when I was going through a personal challenge – I was feeling scattered and unprepared, experiencing anxiety as I frequently do in the face of big changes in my life. In this case, I had incredible anxiety around the birth of my second child and the additional responsibility when my first son was just a year old. I was scared.

Manifesting Results:

Using afformations helped me reduce and eliminate my fear of not being good enough. I became more comfortable with my place in the world and over time felt more at peace with what was to come. I still remember the first afformation I chose to repeat: “Why am I more than enough?” After a few days of repeating this afformation, a light bulb lit up in my head: afformations are perfect for kids. Less than a week later my book for children, parents, and teachers was written and I was looking for a publisher. Talk about manifesting an outcome!

Growing up, I was somewhat fascinated with print and newspapers, and I always

preferred self-help books over the narrative. As I began developing my healing practice as an adult, I asked myself, “What do I need to learn? What do I want my children to learn?” I realized that I wanted to impart knowledge and practical life skills to my children. I wanted to provide them with tools for understanding life, for feeling fulfilled, for inquiring, tools for creating success in their own lives.

These types of questions are what have led me to create the Perfection Revolution, a movement that opens and unites. They have led me to write a book for children that shows them how to recognize their immediate wholeness. Why Am I Perfect? is a “toolbook” of empowerment for children – I believe that starting this process in early childhood will help build confident, self-actualized adults in the long run.


A friend and author, Greg Doyle, who recently read my book said:

“by wording an affirmation in the form of a “why” question, you allow your unconscious mind free reign to find its own answers, and by doing so, the innate perfection within reveals itself—effortlessly.  As someone who uses affirmations regularly, I have to say this book knocked my socks off!  It simply works far beyond the logical ‘demands’ of the stated affirmation.”

There are so many great tools out there that can aid our minds in releasing blocks and assisting us in feeling our very best – truly living our purpose. I coach my Forensic Healing clients with both afformations and affirmations.

My gift to you today is the following list of seven afformations.

They’ll be used in a multilingual e-colouring book I’ll be producing later in 2014. I challenge you to include them in your feel-good routine, starting today:

  1. Why is beauty everywhere?
  2. Why am I perfect love?
  3. Why does peace start with me?
  4. Why is each color a special gift?
  5. Why do I love BEING in nature?
  6. Why am I happy with myself?
  7. Why am I always more than enough?


Nathalie Beaupré is the first Forensic Healer in Canada and the author of Why Am I Perfect? a book to empower children, parents and teachers.  Meet her on Facebook where she’s created a group dedicated to her revolutionary book. Read her blog here. She also is on LinkedIn and has a very fun Perfection Revolution Pinterest board with brilliant learning activities for children. Listen to Nathalie’s one hour interview which features a childhood healing meditation FREE.

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