The Vibrant Health Podcast: Episode #33 – Safe Feminine Hygiene

by lydia on April 19, 2016

The Vibrant Health Podcast: Episode #33 - Safe Feminine Hygiene //

Today we’re talking about an intimate topic for women (but we’ll have lots of humor too), but for the men out there, you’ll want to read this too and pass it on to the women in your life – your wife, your partner, your daughter, your sister, your mother, or your aunt.

Most women probably don’t think about the feminine products they are using once a month, but they should know what’s in them. The safety of these products is not talked about a lot but it should be because women are being exposed to potentially harmful, toxic ingredients.

In this episode, we’ll discuss the reasons why women may want to consider making the switch to organic and/or reusable products. We will dive deep into the types of products available, how to select the right product for your needs, and how to care for reusable products if that is the path you choose.

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Listen to The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 33

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Ask the Vibrant Health Podcast Hosts a Question - Jessica Espinoza and Lydia Shatney //

Download The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 33

Introducing The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 1 //

Read The Vibrant Health Podcast Show Notes :: Episode 33

Safe Feminine Care Show Notes

Make sure you check out the Links from the Episode for lots more information on today’s topic.

Today we’re talking about an intimate topic for women, but for the men out there, you’ll want to read this too and pass it on to the women in your life – your wife, your partner, your daughter, your sister, your mother, or your aunt.

Most women probably don’t think about the feminine products they are using once a month, but they should know what’s in them. The safety of these products is not talked about a lot but it should be because women are being exposed to potentially harmful, toxic ingredients.

Toxic Chemicals (and GMOs) in Our Private Parts

A few months ago, glyphosate made a big splash in the news when it was reported that commercial feminine care products (disposable pads and tampons) contained extremely high levels of this pesticide residue. So, now women are putting one of the worst chemicals ever made into their hoo-hahs.

The new study, conducted at the University of La Plata in Argentina, reported their discovery that 85% of all cotton feminine products tested positive for glyphosate. In addition 62% of the sample they used tested positive for aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a derivative of glyphosate.

If you’re not familiar with what glyphosate is, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research arm has ruled it to be a likely carcinogen. Glyphosate is the main ingredient used in Monsanto’s hugely popular herbicide (weed killer), Roundup. It is widely used on staple crops, including cotton, which is quite often genetically modified and is also what conventional feminine products are also made of.

The toxicity of glyphosate is nothing new, though the powers that be have done an excellent job of hiding the truth from the general public. Thankfully, more reports are being published about the dangers of this toxic chemical and the truth is becoming more well-known. The alternative health world has been speaking out against the use of this horrible chemical for quite some time.

If you’re not already familiar with glyphosate and its dangers, we’ll link you to a bunch of resources for further reading.

Because our skin is our largest organ, you should be aware of what you’re putting on it and what it absorbs. When you’re using tampons and sanitary napkins in an area with high absorbency on a regular basis, you could be doing more harm to your body by absorbing these toxic chemicals.

Safer Alternatives for Feminine Products

It’s time to do our bodies a favor and switch to alternative feminine products. I have been using some organic feminine products for awhile now, but to be honest with you, I was still using disposable, non-organic pads as well. I just never found an organic product that worked as well as my favorite disposable product.

Thankfully, there are other healthier, safer options. The main options available to women right now are:

  • 100% Organic Cotton Disposable Pads and Tampons
  • Reusable Menstrual Cups
  • Reusable Cloth Pads
  • Reusable Cloth Panties

If you’re wanting to get started with safer feminine care products, but are just not ready to dive into the reusable ones, definitely look into organic cotton disposable products. Some regular grocery stores are carrying organic brands and all health food stores will have a selection to chose from as well.

Why Make the Switch to Reusable Feminine Products?

Let’s be honest. For some people, the thought of reusing a feminine product make send them running in the other direction. That is totally normal. I remember also feeling a little squeamish about it when I first started learning about reusable products about 10 years ago.

But, since then my bodily functions squeamishness is pretty much non-existent and I have no problems opening up and talking about issues that most people would prefer to keep tucked away in the dark.

In addition to the fact that a lot of women are exposing their nether-regions to toxic chemicals and GMOs, here are three other reasons that reusable products might be a good fit for you:

  • Environmental Impact: Did you know that roughly 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are being tossed in the landfills every year? The average woman will use close to 17,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in their lifetime. These items are not always biodegradable and may linger on this earth for hundreds of years in the future.
  • Financial Savings: Reusable products are a great way to save money in the long run. Cups can last up to 10 years and reusable pads can last at least 5 years, if not more. When it comes to the expense of washing them, that really is a non-issue for me, as they are very small and use very little water and resources. You can choose to air dry the pads to avoid running the dryer.
  • Comfort: One of the biggest things I’ve noticed after switching to cloth pads is how much more comfortable my periods are. The pads are breathable, move with my body, and don’t leave me feeling chafed. And I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to so many women over the last few months who have expressed the same thoughts.

Menstrual Cups

Cups are some of the most common alternative products and one that I was extremely nervous to try. I have never liked tampons — they were always very uncomfortable for me and I was concerned that the cups would be uncomfortable as well.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised, even after the first couple tries. Cups definitely take some getting used to and will most likely take you a few months to get the hang of them.

When it comes to selecting a menstrual cup, there are many brands to choose from. Almost all cups are made from medical grade silicone. I do not react to silicone, though I have met a couple women in my life who do, so this is important to keep in mind if you’re considering a cup.

I can tell you that you will most likely need to try out a couple different cups before you find the right one. While all cups are going to be similar in design, it’s amazing how even the slightest different in shape, length, and width can make for our delicate region. So, if the first one you try does not work well, try another one.

Also, another IMPORTANT tip is to not cut off the stem of the cup until you know for sure how far up the cup with sit. This is going to be based on where you cervix sits during your period. I watched a ton of videos before using a cup for the first time and immediately assumed I’d need to cut off the stem.

Turns out I didn’t need to because my cervix sits pretty high and, well, let’s just say getting that cup out after sleeping all night was, ummm, a little awkward.

And, lastly. If you’re not comfortable with your lady bits, prepare to get comfortable. You will learn more about your private parts during this process than any other time in your life. And, that is a GOOD thing! The more we know, the better our health will be.

So far, I have tried 3 different brands: Lily Cup (my fave), Ruby Cup (my second fave), and Diva Cup (my least fave).

Reusable Pads and Panties

I have wanted to switch to reusable pads for a LONG time, but for some reason, I have been a big fat chicken. I really thought that they would not be able to offer me the level of protection that I was getting with my favorite disposable pads.

Boy, was I ever wrong. Not only do my cloth pads work just as well as disposables, they are SO much more comfortable. I will never go back to disposable products. And, I’m kind of kicking myself for not making the switch sooner!

Figuring out how many pads you will need may take a couple of cycles. A good estimate is 2-4 per day, depending on your flow. If you are using a cup, you may only need 2 per day, or maybe only one if your flow is light. If your flow is a lot heavier, you may need more.

One thing to keep in mind when selecting cloth pads is the type of fabric used. Some reusable pads will be made from conventional cotton, which will most likely still contain glyphosate residue. Organic cotton pads are going to cost more, but it’s a worthy investment.

That said, it’s about progress, not perfection. If we wanted to go totally gung-ho about this, then we would all need to start buying clothes made from only organic cotton, and that, well, would be a costly investment and one that most people are going to be unable to make.

There are TONS of options when it comes to cloth pads and a simple Google Search will yield thousands of results. You can find so many different shapes, materials, lengths, widths, thicknesses, etc. There will literally be something for everyone.

In my research, I discovered that Etsy is full of amazing small businesses creating comfortable cloth pads, many made with organic fibers. I love supporting small, woman-owned companies, so this was really exciting to me.

The four brands I tried were:

  • LunaPads
  • Cozy Folk on Etsy
  • YurtCraft on Etsy
  • Brave Elegance Designs on Etsy

How to Care for Reusable Feminine Care Products

If you do make the switch to reusable products, caring for them is much easier than you think. Remember, if properly taken care of, your cups can last 10+ years and your pads 5+ years.

Menstrual Cup Care

These are SUPER easy to take care of. When you first get your cup, you will need to sanitize it in boiling water for 5-10 minutes before you use it the first time. Once it’s boiled, remove from the water and let air dry. All cups will come with a storage bag that is breathable and helps keep the cup clean.

During your period, you will use your clean cup as much or as little as you want. When you remove the cup during the day, you can simply clean with hot water and some non-toxic soap, shake to remove excess water, and re-insert. You can also boil it in between uses if you have time and are feeling a little paranoid about germs, but I never did. Soap and water was sufficient enough for me.

Once you are done with the cup for that cycle, boil it again for 5-10 minutes and then store in the bag it comes with. You can also re-boil it again before you use it in your next cycle if you would like. The silicone is very durable and sanitizing it in boiling water regularly will not harm the cup.

Cloth Pad and Panty Care

Cloth pads and panties can be washed by hand or in a machine in any temperature water with your regular laundry detergent. Pre-soaking or stain-treating your pads can be helpful, but I never pre-soak my pads and none of them ever have any stains on them.

They can then be tossed in the dryer or left out to air dry. Your preference. Drying them in the dryer does help them maintain their softness and it feels better against my skin than the pads that I let air dry.

I use warm or hot water, my normal laundry detergent, and a scoop of oxygen bleach in mine. To save energy and water, you can also wash them with your regular laundry. The thought of that may gross some people out, so do what feels best for you.

Some brands say to use vinegar when washing, while others say not to. It really will depend on the materials the vendor is using and each vendor should provide you with instructions for how to best take care of their brand of pads.

You do want to avoid using harsh chemicals, chlorine bleach, and fabric softeners on cloth pads. All of these will damage the cloth and degrade the quality. Because cloth pads can be a bit of an investment, you will want to do your best to take good care of them.

You can choose to wash your pads as you use them by adding them to your regular laundry during your cycle. Or, if you prefer to wash them separately, you can store your used pads in a mesh bag, wet bag, or some other breathable container until you’re ready to wash them. You do want to make sure you wash them soon after your cycle ends if you choose this method.



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