What you don’t know

BY: Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that for everything that ails us physically, there is a weed in a field, jungle, rainforest or on the side of some road that will cure us.  Of course, we are destroying those jungles and rainforests at an alarming pace, and polluting our fields and roadsides with plastic waste that will never disintegrate…but that’s a subject to be explored in another article at another time.

Useful links Ghana Politics | Ghana Celebrity News | News in Ghana

I have absolute faith in the healing power of fruits and vegetables, especially in their natural, uncooked state.  I’ve seen, firsthand, how people have reversed conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, even cancer using little more than a diet of whole, uncooked foods.  But mmm, do I love goat and bacon and every type of carbohydrate known to man, especially when it’s spiced and fried…(oh, my beloved kelewele…yum, yum, and yummity yum).

However, several health concerns inspired me to return to a cleaner, healthier diet:  my fibroid tumours, which a dozen years ago I’d undergone a myomectomy to remove, grew back; scans revealed something in my breast that my doctor said, with a disturbing degree of uncertainty, could be a calcification, which was probably benign but could potentially also develop into cancer.    

After several weeks of eating a diet of (to borrow a friend’s description) leaves, bark, berries, nuts and seeds, I could see changes, but they were minimal:  the tumours were still a source of terrible inflammation and various other uncomfortable symptoms, and I had lost only a couple of kilos. In fact, I looked like I was five months pregnant.


Useful links Ghana news | Ghana Business News | News in Ghana

Frustrated and determined to not undergo another surgery, I told my business clients, my friends and family that I would be unavailable for four weeks.  I then checked myself into a body-mind-spirit health facility in America, where I discovered that everything I’d been doing was correct.  It was, rather, something I hadn’t been doing, something I did not know, that was standing in the way of my healing.

Most of us are aware that we are what we eat, that there is a direct correlation between food and disease.  For example, animal flesh adds cholesterol to our diet; table salt leads to water retention, which increases blood pressure; sugar, which is all but lethal to the pancreas, leads to Type 2 diabetes.  Because we know these things, many of us have become quite vigilant about what we put into our bodies.  But not so much about what we’re putting onto our bodies—and that is because we don’t know.

The body’s largest organ is the skin.  Together with the lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder and reproductive organs, the skin is your body’s way of elimination. That’s why we develop fevers and sweat when we’re ill.

for current Ghana news | Ghana Business News | News in Ghana

What I didn’t know is that everything we put on our skin is immediately absorbed and goes directly into the bloodstream to travel through our circulatory system.  Don’t believe me?  Put an onion or a clove of garlic in your socks; it won’t take long before you can actually taste it in your mouth.

Something else I didn’t know:  the cosmetics/personal care industry is one of the most unregulated in the world.  Manufacturers can pretty much put anything into their products—and they do.  Here are three chemicals that are commonly found in cosmetics, and a brief description of what they can do to the body.

Anything ending in “paraben” (e.g. methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben,  isobutylparaben, ethylparaben, etc.).  Parabens interfere with our hormone functions.  In women, parabens mimic estrogen (women with fibroid tumours tend to be estrogen-dominant). Parabens have also been found in breast cancer tissue. In men, parabens affect the secretion of testosterone; and studies suggest that parabens are related to a decrease in sperm production.

Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES).  It can also be listed as just sodium lauryl sulfate or as sodium laureth sulfate.  It’s a chemical that helps with foaming, so it’s usually found in shampoos, soap, washing detergent, even toothpaste.  The problem is that it’s contaminated with carcinogens. 

Numerous studies have shown that the use of sodium lauryl sulfate is linked to organ toxicity, developmental and reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, possible mutations and cancer.  Also, sodium lauryl sulfate disrupts the proper functioning of the endocrine system, the glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream.

Polyethylene glycol, which is often listed as PEG.  Because it’s extremely effective at stripping oil and grease, it can be found in many facial and personal care products.  It can also be found in antifreeze, spray-on oven cleaner, and other household cleaning products.  When it is not combined with glycol, polyethylene is just plain plastic, one of the most common forms of it in the world.

Unfortunately, these are not the only dangerous or cancer-causing chemicals that can be found in the products you use every day on your skin; there are dozens more. If you’re interested, they can be easily researched online.  Read product labels very carefully.

What I know is this:  after four weeks of not exposing my body to these products, many of which interfere with human hormones, scans now show that my fibroids have started shrinking.  The inflammation is all gone, and I’ve started to release weight.  The calcification in my breast has also dissolved.  Just coincidence?

In a few days, I’ll come back home.  I’ll be going to the market for plain old, chemical-free shea butter, and because I’d just as soon support a Ghanaian company than stuff my suitcase with US-made products, I’ll be getting my deodorant, toothpaste, etc. from Healing Earth, an Accra-based company that produces natural, organic personal care products. (I know it’s more expensive, but it’s extremely important to buy organic, perhaps I’ll discuss that in another article.)

If you know of any other companies like Healing Earth, please email me and let me know so I can let everyone else know.  Contrary to that old adage, ignorance is not bliss.  Knowledge is true power.

So…now you know.

Daily Graphic/Ghana

A version of this article appears in print on November 8, 2013, on page 7 of the Daily Graphic edition with the headline: What you don’t know