Are Cosmetics Really Toxic?
What We Need To Know To Understand
What We Are Putting On Our Bodies

Buying Cosmetics

With all the recent press on both the health and safety of our personal care products as well as the limited FDA regulations on labeling them, the average consumer is both disillusioned and concerned. This consumer is however helping to create the necessary change needed for the cosmetic industry.

Cosmetic sales are projected to reach 9.9 billion dollars in the US by 2016. And the largest contributor to this growth will come from products touting “natural” and “organic”. This section in particular has boomed in the past ten years. Small companies “known” for producing all natural products are quickly being gobbled up by large firms, from Shiseido’s acquisition of Bare Essentials to Clarins’ acquisition of the French organic brand Kibio. These two examples are only the most recent in a slew of acquisitions. Additionally with Johnson’s & Johnsons announcement that they are removing certain chemicals from their baby products by end of 2013 and then, do to the positive feedback from that announcement adding the removal of a “host of potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from it’s line of consumer products by the end of 2015”, even the biggest players in the cosmetic industry are vying for a place in the natural market. With Johnson’s & Johnsons positive feed back both Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble made similar announcements. What this shows is that the market for natural skincare products is gaining momentum, and mainstream companies want a piece of it.

Just as exciting chemists and raw ingredient suppliers are trying to keep up with all the natural demands. This year, the Society Of Cosmetic Chemists had a holistic symposium at their annual convention. I was honored that they choose me as the keynote speaker addressing and representing the natural/green beauty market. I was excited to have this topic be the center of the convention as this is a big step for mainstream chemists to recognize the need and pull in their industry to have authentic natural alternatives. These chemists and cosmetic industry executives know, in order to keep current and offer what their customers and consumers are after and to grow their business they will have to know how to formulate natural products, understand what this new consumer wants and where this sector of the industry is going. With the projections in sales for the natural sector being the fastest growing part of the personal care industry, they cannot afford to miss out. Natural cosmetics is a topic I am so passionate about, I was thrilled to be the keynote speaker for The Society Of Cosmetic Chemists as the natural industry representative. It is an honor to be the voice of what is truly natural, how to formulate natural, what the consumer looking for and how to meet their demands in a sea of miss information. The prospect of lecturing to the most influential chemists and executives is both exciting and groundbreaking for clean cosmetics. The power the consumer (and non stop media attention) has driven to the cosmetic industry is proof that consumers can, and do make change.  The impact is just beginning and we have a lot of work in an effort to keep the momentum up.

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Posted by on Oct 31, 2014| 0 Comments

Be Well Kitchen: Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

By Be Well Health Coach Jackie Damboragian

This time of year, I love pumpkin everything. Most of the pumpkin foods I love are rather indulgent, like my favorite… pumpkin pie. This smoothie helps to ease a sweet tooth and satisfies my pumpkin pie craving, without weighing me down.


  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup organic canned pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp Be Well Fiber
  • 1 tsp real maple syrup
  • 4 ice cubes


Blend & Enjoy!

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014| 0 Comments

Conquering Constipation

Yoga Pose for Constipation
By Be Well Health Coach Kerry Bajaj

If you are dealing with constipation, you should start with the basics: eat a whole foods diet, avoid processed foods, and drink lots of water. Often doing a Cleanse and taking a good probiotic is helpful.

However, if you have tried all this and still can’t get things moving, here are some other tools we use at the Wellness Center.

1. Magnesium

Taking magnesium at night can be very helpful. Dr. Lipman recommends a high dose of 1000 to 1500 mg of magnesium. Not only will it help with constipation, but it also helps to calm down the nervous system and give you a good night’s sleep. We’ve had great results with the Liquid Calcium Magnesium by Integrative Therapeutics. Many of our patients also like the Natural CALM by Natural Vitality, which is easy to find at Whole Foods or a health food store.

2. Triphala

Triphala can be a lifesaver too. This Ayurvedic herbal supplement has a gentle cleansing and detoxifying effect on the body, but without causing irritation in the colon. This is not like other laxatives that can be depleting and cause cramping–instead it has strengthening and gentle properties.

3. Increase Fats

One trick that can be really helpful is to increase the fats in your diet. Some ideas to increase your healthy fats: add a tablespoon of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, have avocado in your salad, use olive oil and lemon as a salad dressing, take fish oil  supplements and/or eat fatty fish like salmon and sardines.

Chia seeds have omega 3 fatty acids and lots of fiber which can be great for digestion. You could try simply adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to your glass of water, or you could add them to a smoothie as well.

4. Yoga Poses for Constipation

Certain yoga poses, especially the twists, are known to aid detoxification and stimulate digestion. You can try this Seated Twist and here’s a good roundup of yoga poses for constipation.

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Posted by on Oct 28, 2014| 1 Comments

Interview with Kathie Swift About Her New Book “The Swift Diet”

The Swift Diet

Dr. L:  It seems like every month brings us the latest, greatest diet book. Why contribute to the glut?

Kathie:  Believe me, I’m as tired of these magic formula for losing weight as anybody: “eat this number of calories or this ratio of carbs/fats/protein for Phase 1, then for Phase 2…” Almost nobody can follow these formulas for very long. Writing The Swift Diet was for me a chance to celebrate the importance of healthy whole foods, especially vegetables, fruits and legumes. I’m translating the nutritional science onto the plate. The book was also an opportunity to look at both weight-loss and digestive health through the lens of the gut, emphasizing the role of the bacteria that live there. These bacteria, called the gut microbiome or the microbiota, are necessary for digestion – we couldn’t break down plant fiber without them — but they influence so many other aspects of our being: our immune function, our hormones, even our moods! The more we learn, the more we appreciate that in health, all roads go through the gut!

Dr. L:  What inspired you to take this approach?

Kathie: In the past couple of years, the research on the microbiota has gone through the roof. The old view of bacteria fixated on a relatively few invaders from the outside world that could make us sick. Now we’re learning that weight control and a smoothly functioning digestive system, the two areas that I’m focusing on, depend on a harmonious relationship between our human cells and the bacteria that live inside us. This dovetails perfectly with my experience as a clinical nutritionist for the past thirty years. So many of my clients with digestive problems – IBS-type symptoms, GERD, you name it – were also struggling with their weight. And visa versa. In The Swift Diet, I write that they’re two sides of the same coin – Irritable Bowel and “Irritable Weight.”

Dr. L:  So how does the bacteria in your gut influence your weight?

Kathie: We know now that weight gain or loss can’t be reduced to simply “calories in/calories out.” Just as important as the number of calories we take in is how these calories interact with the body, including the microbiota. Scientists are still working out the precise mechanisms but one major way that a poorly chosen diet can drive up weight is through inflammation, a root cause of so many diseases. When we’re not eating enough plant fiber – vegetables, fruit, legumes — we’re not feeding the friendly bacteria in our system which in turn support the health of the lining of the gut. When those bacteria decline in number, that lining can grow porous, a condition called “leaky gut syndrome.” That opens the door for unfriendly bacteria to enter the bloodstream triggering inflammation. That can cause digestive upset inside the gut but it can also cause system-wide problems, like insulin resistance which promotes fat storage and weight gain. This isn’t an esoteric corner of microbiology anymore. A major new study in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet lists disruptions in the microbiota as one of the likely major drivers of obesity worldwide.

Dr. L:  So dietary fiber is a key way to address weight and digestion?

Kathie: That’s right. The fiber superstars are the “non-starchy vegetables,” an umbrella term that covers a huge number of veggies: leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower, asparagus, artichoke, the list goes on and so. But the plant-fiber roll call doesn’t stop there. We’ve got the so-called “starchy vegetables” like sweet potatoes and acorn squash; fruits, especially the berries; legumes like chickpeas and black beans; so-called “pseudo-grains” like quinoa and buckwheat. I call these foods the “MicroMenders” because the fiber in them helps mend the microbiota. The fiber takes up a lot of space in the gut and it slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream, both of which help control and curb appetite. But these good foods are good in so many different ways. They’re also rich in disease-fighting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and they’re generally low in calories.

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Posted by on Oct 27, 2014| 0 Comments

Smoothies: Why We Love Them

Green Smoothie

I recently suffered a nasty side effect of Doxycycline which made it difficult to swallow and painful to eat solid foods, making liquids my only option.

For a week, I sipped, slurped and spooned homemade smoothies while my throat healed.  They allowed me to get the nutrition I needed without causing me any pain!  This experience once again reminded me why I love smoothies and how they are such an essential part of a healthy diet.

Just so you know, I’m not talking about those fruit juice, sugar laden smoothies – I mean whole food smoothies that are loaded with nutritious ingredients!  I love to use a whey protein or a pea protein powder and blend it with nut milk or coconut milk, healthy fats, leafy greens or a greens powder, and sometimes a little organic fruit.

Here Are My Top 3 Reasons Why Smoothies Are So Good For You:

  1. They are nutrient dense: a smoothie makes an easy canvas for creating a powerful nutritious meal. Protein powders supply essential minerals, vitamins and amino acids, leafy greens are chock full of phytonutrients and the addition of healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, chia seeds, flax seeds keep you feeling full and satisfied, and can even help boost your metabolism.
  1. They offer digestive rest: since your meal is in liquid form, it is easily digested, meaning  that your body does not have to harness any additional energy to break down your meal. This extra energy is then used to repair and restore the body, which is incredibly important in maintaining general health and well being.
  1. They can include a variety of ingredients: you have probably heard the term “eat the colors of the rainbow,” and because you can use such a wide variety of ingredients, smoothies are probably the easiest way to incorporate the “rainbow” into your diet. Some smoothies maybe primarily green (phytonutrient rich) consisting of leafy greens such as kale, spinach, chard, lettuce or a greens powder.  Others might be a purple or pink color and rich in antioxidants found in blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Blend your favorite combinations – you’ll never be bored plus a smoothie is a great way to sneak in veggies for those who are veggie phobic.

Here Are Some of the Ways That You Can Enjoy a Smoothie:

  • At breakfast, they can set you up with a strong nutritional foundation for the rest of the day.
  • As a post workout recovery drink, they help muscles get the nutrients and amino acids they need to restore and recover after exercise.
  • In place of a late afternoon sugary snack, reach for a smoothie instead and your cravings will be well satisfied.
  • As a “reset” if you have been overindulging, 2-3 days of smoothies only can help orient you to getting back on track again.
  • To fill in nutritional gaps if you have been ill and unable to eat properly.

And as an added bonus:

Green Minty Magic Smoothie (Serves 1)

  • 4 oz Chilled mint tea
  • 4 oz Unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Scoop Be Well Whey Protein Powder (or 1 packet Sustain Protein Powder)
  • 1 Cup kale
  • 1 Cup spinach
  • ¼ avocado
  • 10 Fresh mint leaves
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Optional – 1 t Be Well MCT oil

Blend till smoothie and creamy

Need help making your own smoothies?  Check out our Smoothie Making 101 post for some great ideas and guidelines!

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014| 5 Comments

Why Your Hand Sanitizer Doesn’t Stop the Flu (And Might Make You Sick)

Hand Sanitizer

Despite my longtime annoyance with Purell-toting moms, once I had my own children I found myself–to my horror–becoming something of a germaphobe. When my sons are sick, we all suffer–they miss school, I can’t work, and no one sleeps. I’m judicious with the use of fever reducers and painkillers (here’s why), so some level of misery is inevitable. And in New York City, it’s hard to ignore how much exposure the kids have to germy surfaces, especially as babies (when mine can typically be found gumming the nearest subway pole). So, while you won’t see me with Purell in the sandbox, I have been known to surreptitiously spritz my kids’ hands with a natural sanitizer before they eat their snacks, hoping no onlookers are judging me.

Are Antibacterial Products Toxic?

Most antibacterial products are decidedly toxic. Triclosan is the most popular ingredient in antibacterial hand- and dish-soaps, and lots of research has shown it to be an endocrine disruptor, with some studies suggesting it may also be harmful to the immune system. Worse, bacteria that’s been exposed to triclosan is likely to become resistant to antibiotics, leading to the emergence of so-called superbugs. And get this: triclosan only works against bacteria—not viruses! And while obviously we want to protect our kids from salmonella, I suspect many of us use sanitizing soaps, wipes, and sprays with the hopes of staving of influenza and other miserable viruses.

The good news is that triclosan will not be found in any leave-on sanitizers (like Purell, which uses alcohol to do it’s germ-killing job). The bad news is that products like Purell have other problematic ingredients, like retinyl palmitate, which may create free radicals when exposed to sunlight, and propylene glycol, which is linked to cancer and reproductive damage. Any scented hand sanitizer likely contains hormone-disrupting phthalates, and while the ethanol (alcohol) isn’t so bad in itself, it enhances the penetration of the other ingredients.

Do Hand Sanitizers Prevent Illness?

If you’re thinking that the risks of small amounts of these ingredients is worth the benefits of sparing your family from nasty illnesses, this may change your mind: while alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill flu and other viruses in a lab setting, in actual practice they seem to be pretty ineffective. Most studies show no reduced risk of infection with the use of hand sanitizers, perhaps because most upper respiratory infections (like the flu) are more likely to be spread via airborne droplets—from sneezing and coughing–than from touching germy surfaces.

The Bottom Line on Hand Sanitizers

There is very good reason to wash your hands after using the bathroom (obviously) and before eating. Studies have consistently shown soap and water to be more effective than hand sanitizers at removing germs from hands. Need another reason? Sudsing up removes a host of environmental toxins—from flame retardants to heavy metals to pesticides—that you and your children have likely touched while going about your day. My kids definitely know to wash their hands whenever they come home after a long day out and about in the city, and before they prepare or eat food. I continue to carry a natural hand sanitizer in my bag for times when we can’t get to a bar of soap before they eat, but I’ve relaxed enough to let my 4-year-old hold onto the subway pole, even if another kid has just sneezed all over it.

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014| 2 Comments

Spaghetti Squash With Cherry Tomatoes and Kale


Spaghetti Squash

By Be Well Health Coach Amanda Carney

Tis the season for squash, and if you haven’t tried spaghetti squash yet, now is the time!  With it’s pasta-like strands and delicious flavor, spaghetti squash makes for a wonderful alternative to pasta.

You Will Need:

  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 5 medium cloves of garlic, minced (or less for a less intense garlic flavor)
  • 1 quart of cherry tomatoes
  • A sprinkle of red pepper flake
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh pepper


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

First, slice your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.  Drizzle with a little olive oil along with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper.  Place squash face down on a lined baking sheet (I prefer using parchment paper) and cook for about 45 minutes – until tender.

While the squash is baking, get your kale and tomatoes ready.  Rinse tomatoes and chop into halves or quarters.  Rinse kale.  Using your hands, rip leaves from the stems and tear into small pieces.  Set everything aside.

Next, place a few tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flake in a pan over medium heat.  Simmer for a few minutes (until garlic begins to brown) and then add tomatoes and kale.  Cook for a few more minutes until tomatoes are tender and kale begins to soften.

When squash is done cooking, remove it from the oven and let cool a few minutes so you can handle it without burning yourself. Using a fork, scrape out the insides of squash, which will come apart in strands.  Place strands in a bowl and mix with kale and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt and black pepper to taste.


Posted by on Oct 22, 2014| 0 Comments

6 Healthy Lifestyle Apps

Lifestyle Apps

By Be Well Health Coach Jackie Damboragian

Here at Be Well we love anything that makes living a healthy lifestyle easier. Apps are a great way to do just that! Here are 6 of my favorite healthy lifestyle apps.


We often recommend this app to clients that have a hard time relieving stress. This meditation app makes it easy to fit a ten minute meditation into your day.  Beginners may find it particularly helpful because it’s guided, which can be a really accessible way to learn more about the practice of meditation.

Pocket Yoga

If you travel a lot, or have a super busy schedule, this app can be a great tool in helping you sneak yoga into your day! It offers various experience levels and class length options.

EWG Shoppers Guide

Eating organic and high quality fruits and veggies is your safest, healthiest bet. However, organic foods aren’t always available. This great app shares a list of “The Clean 15” (the least pesticide ridden fruits and veggies, which are ok when non-organic) and “The Dirty Dozen” (fruits and veggies that are heavily pesticide ridden and should only be purchased organic). Use this app to help you navigate the supermarket!

EWG Skin Deep

It is estimated that 60% of what we put on our body is absorbed into our bloodstream. What does this mean? It means we need to be really careful what we use in our body care routine – products such as hair care, moisturizer, soap, face wash and more should be clean and green! This amazing app rates products toxicity level so that you know how healthy or dangerous various products may be. For many products you can simply scan the barcode or you can enter the brand and product name and the rating will pop up. The lower the number, the better it is for you!


In a new neighborhood, city or town and looking for some healthy drinks and eats?! Greenhopping has you covered. Greenhopping focuses “on showcasing the entire exclusively natural, organic, healthy, and farm-fresh-to-table style restaurants in each city.”

Nike + Running

This fitness app can be a great way to stay motivated by keeping track of your mileage, speed and progress. You can set and achieve training and race goals, create or join running challenges, share your runs on social media and more.

Posted by on Oct 21, 2014| 2 Comments

4 Reasons Why Agave is Not a Health Food

Agave Plant

Millions of people have their vices, and for many it’s that available-without-prescription drug known as sugar. Its destructive and addictive abundance has helped make more than two-thirds of American adults either overweight or obese, not to mention saddling them with life-altering problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. Its disease-promoting effects are proof that sugar is anything but sweet. Excess sugar, in all its guises, causes so much illness and suffering. I cannot stress enough how important it is to kick it and all sweeteners as well. And trust me, I know how challenging it is – I once had a sweet tooth too!

Back when I still felt I “needed” the sweet taste, I, like many others, looked for healthier alternatives, as in sweeteners found in nature not in the lab. I made the switch to agave nectar – and I wasn’t alone. Its popularity spread – it’s gluten-free! diabetic-friendly! vegan-friendly! – and seemingly overnight a billion dollar industry was born. Fast-forward a few years, and unfortunately, the stuff has revealed itself to be a classic case of ‘too good to be true,’ not the free pass everyone thought it was. So if you’ve been feasting on agave thinking it’s a health food, here’s your wake up call, and four reasons why you don’t need agave nectar:

1. It’s Tarted-up Junk Food, Marketed as a Health Food

Agave. It’s an exotic name that conjures up images of the azure skies and painted desert landscapes of Mexico, where much of it is grown. The ‘nectar’ (such a delicious word!) of this exotic plant is sweet and golden like honey, blending easily into just about everything you wish to sweeten. Problem is, it’s also a smoking pile of marketing hooey. As appealing as this dream-like image may be, in reality agave nectar little more than a high-fructose syrup, as nasty to your health as its corn-based cousin – and possibly even more damaging.

2. If You Like Your Sweeteners With Chemicals, You’ve Come to the Right Place

Along with the agave nectar mystique, there’s this little problem of processing. While many people envision sap flowing down the plant and farmers tapping the stalks they way they do maple trees, there’s no old-timey tapping going on here. Instead, the leaves are cut away, the juice is expressed from the remaining root base bulb, heated (concentrating the sugars) and then filtered into a syrupy, fructose concentrate. Along the way, most producers will treat the syrup with caustic chemicals, enzymes and acids to clean, tint, clarify and preserve the liquid. So, if you think you’re sweetening with some groovy, raw, pure, unfettered, close-to-the-earth sweetener, more likely, you’re not.

3. It Won’t Spike Blood Sugar BUT Worse, It Drives Insulin Resistance!

Among the reasons agave nectar took off was that it is gluten-free and a seemingly more natural sugar substitute for most vegan and paleo types. And doesn’t trigger blood sugar spikes, making it technically OK for diabetics. But all that should go out the window (along with your bottle of agave) when you take into account the fact that processed agave nectar can be anywhere from 55% to 90% fructose, whereas plain old sugar comes in at 50%. Keep in mind that does not mean one is healthier than the other – both are lousy choices. And while marketers continue to hammer home the happy-sounding news that fructose doesn’t spike blood sugar, the reality is that it gets sent straight to the liver where excessive amounts can trigger insulin resistance, a true health nightmare. Eat too much fructose – particularly in the form of agave nectar, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. – for too long and you’ll be on the road to diabetes and a host of other chronic diseases. My advice? Pull off the processed high-fructose highway long before your engine starts to sputter.

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Posted by on Oct 20, 2014| 6 Comments

Fodmaps Diet Simplified

Fodmaps Diet
By Be Well Health Coach Kerry Bajaj

When we see patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, we often start by doing a Cleanse and using lots of probiotics to balance the bacteria in the gut. However, if their symptoms persist, one thing we might encourage the patient to explore is following a low-FODMAPs diet.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest. According to Chris Kresser, “they are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria.”

Who is This Diet Good For?

This is a good diet for people with IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diahhrea and constipation.

How Long Should I Stay on the Diet?

You should stay on the diet for 2 weeks. Then you can test certain foods and see if your symptoms return.

What are the Key Foods to Avoid?

Here is a list of the key FODMAPs foods to avoid. You’ll notice that many of these foods are traditionally thought of as healthy, and they are. It just may be the case that certain people have trouble digesting them.

Fruits to Avoid:

Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Cherry, Mango, Nectarine, Peach, Pear, Plum, Watermelon. Dried fruit and fruit juice.
High in fructose/ polyols.

Sweeteners to Avoid:

Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Sugar Alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol).
High in fructose/ polyols.

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Posted by on Oct 17, 2014| 1 Comments