The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Junk Food Through Your Skin?

We live part of each year in Asia. For a few months, I was posting articles for you from various villages. The town shower of one is pictured at right - not the hut, the outdoor green post with hose. Imagine what the Internet café was like.

On the flights over, our only bag was lost. US transportation security required us to check our sole knapsack, since it had a small gift for friends containing liquid. It never reappeared. We don't need "things" and it was just as easy to make our own soap, comb, and toothbrushes as carry them.

In Western stores, I am astonished by the number of "personal care items." Not just shelves full, but aisles. Each promising better hair, skin, nails, and other parts, but with ingredients that are not healthy for your body, produced in ways that pollute the world, and packaged in plastics that are unhealthy to produce, pollute when discarded, and which apparently leak chemicals into the product that can be absorbed through your skin - see Green Water. A study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association found that even shampoos, body washes, and lotions labeled "natural" and "organic" can contain unhealthful, even carcinogenic compounds.

I feel high maintenance just carrying a toothbrush. Then we arrived without even that. What freedom.

We made simple hand sanitizer from coarse salt, rubbed between the palms.

For body, face, and hair, we picked aloe leaves, squeezed out the gel inside, and rubbed directly on - see Fast Fitness - Aloe Inside and Out. It dries non-sticky, and makes your hair shiny, clean, and healthy. We used the rest of the gel in food and drink for healthy digestion.

Bamboo is easily made into cooking pots (photo above left). We also visit our favorite bean sprout PadThai restaurant - an outdoor wok on wheels run by a friend. Paul is always popular when we travel (photo at right). The others are not sitting; Paul is really that tall, and has to duck those umbrellas, doorways, and ceilings.

Baking soda and salt makes clean toothpaste. Even without them, a short branch called a neem stick with one end mashed until fibrous, makes a soft, effective bristled toothbrush. Neem extract is said to be a good antiseptic, and effective against various health ills and germs.

After a long day at work and after hard training, instead of hand lotion, you can rub sesame or other light healthy cooking oil onto your hands and feet. You can scent it with mint leaves, citrus peels, spices, and flowers. More ideas in Healthy Mother's Day.

I don't use sunblock, even in the tropics. I do use something to stop some of the unwanted effects of too much sun, but I do not want to block the Vitamin D and other helpful effects of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones) and osteomalacia (rubbery, demineralized bones). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of a few types of cancer, including lung cancer. Studies find that people with low blood levels of vitamin D were more likely to have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cystic ovary, and type 2 diabetes. Another study found that a number of patients with aches and weakness were vitamin D deficient and concluded, "A lot of 'fibromyalgia' may be D deficiency."

Instead of blocking or deflecting UV rays using chemical sunblocks that may contain chemicals that I am not sure are healthy, I mix my own, that I hope stops the oxidizing effects and makes my own body better able to stop skin cancer mechanisms. I mash together fresh coconut pulp, green tea, vegetable sprouts, mashed turmeric root, and aloe gel.

A study by Johns Hopkins researchers, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 30, 2007, vol. 104, no. 44, 17500-17505) found that rubbing an extract made from broccoli sprouts on your skin may help prevent skin cancer from high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Broccoli, and the sprouts in particular, contain a chemical called sulphoraphane, which is found to activate cancer-fighting enzymes in your own cells throughout your body, not only skin cells.

Instead of chemical anti-mosquito products, we try various things. Marigold flowers rubbed on the skin seem to work for us. I don't seem to be "sweet," and mosquitoes often ignore me while going after Paul. We have heard various theories from locals. One is that he eats sweet rice while I eat more garlic. Various grasses rubbed on the skin also work well for us. There are vines growing in Thailand with beautiful purple flowers. When you rub them on wet hair, it leaves your hair soft and shiny and sweet smelling, but the bugs do not like it. There are other vines that, when mashed with water made effective gentle soap and mosquito control combined.

In Asia, martial arts training is often more rigorous and disciplined than is common in the states. After hard evenings of training, I would sit by a candle made from oil and tightly wrapped bamboo leaves, and rub salt and oil into my, and Paul's, tired feet. Bliss.

  • You can exercise for your health. Why undo that by eating junk food - Is Your Health Food Unhealthful
  • or by adding junk food to your brain through thinking unhealthful thoughts - Healthier Heart
  • or with junk food directly through your skin.

The biggest worry for Paul is just ducking the doorways.

Photos © copyright by Dr. Jolie Bookspan

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.