Over the last 50 years, approximately 80,000 to 90,000 chemicals have been introduced into our food supply chain and environment and this list continues to grow. Whilst many of us may seem to be resilient to these toxins every individual has a toxic threshold to the chemicals we can process before our detoxification system becomes overwhelmed. Toxic overload may affect our reproductive, endocrine, nervous system and can neurological damage. Signs of toxicity may include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Foggy thinking
- Heavy metal toxicity
- An inability to lose weight (toxins are stored in fat cells, making the body reluctant to burn excess fat)
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Joint pain and inflammation
It is easy to see how toxins infiltrate our environment and cause damage when we consider the probability of being exposed to toxins on a daily basis. Chemicals and environmental pollutants can be found in everything from our beauty and personal care products, body care products, food supply, medications, food packaging and of course the air we are breathing.
Whilst it can be hard to avoid all toxins due to the nature of our lifestyles, the approach I recommend is one where we reduce the most significant contributors to endocrine, immune and neurological disruption. Start with the products and foods that you are using on a regular basis. I have provided a few easy to follow tips below on reducing your toxic exposure.
- Skincare and Body Care
From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we hop back into bed, we are using countless products, many of them toxic, on our bodies. We absorb over 60% of the ingredients we put on our skin… and we are putting a lot on it. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, and it is permeable. This means that when we apply something to our skin, it doesn't just sit on the surface. Rather, it penetrates through the skin and into the blood where any toxins present in the products can contribute to hormone disruption, lowered immunity, allergies and toxin overload.
Over the past fifteen years, more than 10,000 Americans have had their blood tested by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an attempt to determine their “chemical body burden.” The results of the CDC study were stunning: even those who lived in remote areas were found to have hundreds of synthetic chemicals in their bloodstream. Many of the toxins identified are common ingredients in our mainstream personal care products.
How to. A few tips to reduce exposure to chemicals absorbed through the personal care products you are using include:
- Start to become aware of the ingredients list of the products you are using, this is the first step to making a change. Begin with the products you are using most frequently, for example your body wash, cleanser, lotion, lipstick and foundation. As you finish products, replace them with non-toxic alternatives and before you know it you will have a kit of natural and beautiful toxin-free personal care products. You will delight in finding natural and equally effective products by reputable companies!
- Keep an eye out and avoid the ingredients below:
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) / Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and other sulfate-based detergents
- Propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol and various ingredients formulated with PEGs and PGs
- Parabens (methyl, butyl, ethyl, propyl)
- Phtalates (DBP, DEP, DEHP, and DMP):
- Synthetic (FD&C and other) dyes and colourants
- Benzyl Peroxide
- DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine)
Read more about toxins in your beauty products in my posts below:
- Household Cleaning Products
When it comes to the home, many of our household cleaners can be as toxic as our skin care. By overhauling some of the main cleaning products we use, we can ensure our families’ health is not being impacted by harsh chemicals. You can power through most household dirt with inexpensive and effective homemade cleaners. You can also customise your cleaners with beautiful smelling bacteria-busting essential oils.
How to. A few tips on detoxing your cleaning products are below:
- Baking Soda: A truly multitasking cleaner, baking soda is a perfect alternative to cleaning powders that scour sinks and tubs without scratching. It’s also great for wiping down and deodorising the fridge. Combined with an equal amount of vinegar, baking soda can freshen drains and prevent them from clogging.
- Distilled White Vinegar: White vinegar is great at clearing grease and removing odour. Due to its neutralizing properties, white vinegar is also good for washing windows, cleaning kitchen counters and shining bathroom fixtures. Simply dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water. Vinegar is also natural antibacterial due to its high acid contents so it makes a great alternative to caustic cleaners on toilets and floors.
- Salt: Perfect for cutting through the grease in ovens, salt also works well for soaking up fresh carpet stains such as red wine or coffee. Pour salt on the wet stain. Let dry, then vacuum.
- Vegetable Oil (Castille) Soap:This natural soap is great for floors and all-purpose cleaning when combined with vinegar or even warm water. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1⁄2 teaspoon of soap to 2 cups of water. For floors, combine 2 teaspoons of soap with 6 cups of water. Make sure to rinse well to remove any dulling residue.
- Lemons:Lemon’s citric acid content makes it perfect for cutting through stubborn grease and makes your home smell fresh. Undiluted lemon juice can also be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits.
To find out more about what chemicals are found in your cleaning products read our post here
For a natural disinfectant recipe see our post here.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence linking chemicals food in our food supply to neurological and reproductive health concerns. Research is particularly strong linking pesticide exposure to reduced sperm count and quality, early puberty in girls, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. In the first study of its kind, scientists at Harvard found that men who ate food with more pesticide residue had lower sperm counts and reduced levels of normal sperm. Exposure to the herbicide atrazine has been linked to menstrual disorders,birth defects and immune system disruption.
How to. To reduce chemical exposure in your food supply:
- Choose organic fruit and vegetables and reduce conventional meat and dairy consumption.
- Find local farmer markets that can speak to you about how they grow their produce, whilst they may not be certified organic they may practice pesticide-free and sustainable farming methods.
- Wash all of your fruit and veggies using a veggie wash or add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to your sink of water and let your fruit and veggies soak before gently scrubbing, rinsing and storing.
- Avoid all preservatives – basically anything that includes a number should be avoided. You are likely to find preservatives in commercial dressings, dried fruit, snacks, packaged fruit, fruit juices, breads and most processed foods.
- If it is difficult for you to buy organic produce, make an extra effort to buy the below foods organic. They are classified as the “dirty dozen” due to their generally higher concentration of pesticides.
- The Dirty Dozen: Apples, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Grapes, Nectarines, Peaches, Potatoes, Snap Peas, Spinach, Strawberries, Capsicum.
Hydration is the key to vital health, both in terms of providing our cells with lifeforce and energy and also helping us to remove and flush out toxins. Sadly, water quality issues have been an issue for decades. Industrial dumping, pesticide runoff, leaky storage tanks, and government mandates have made it difficult to trust our water supply. Just some of the toxins found in water include chlorine, arsenic, dioxins, lead, mercury, drug residues and PCB’s.
How to. To avoid toxins in your water
- Find a good quality water filtration system which removes chlorine, disinfectant by-products (DBP’s), pesticides, drug residue and other toxins. Look for a filter with a pore size of less than 0.2 micron as this will ensure contaminants are being adequately filtered.
- Maintain your water filter regularly to ensure that it is continuing to operate efficiently.
- I prefer filters which clean your water, reduce bacterial and chemical contamination, and then rebalance, remineralise, protect and restructure the water after doing so. One of my favourite filters is the Zazen Alkaline water filtrations sytem.
- Note that boiling water does not remove these and the purity of bottled water is questionable (and they are often packaged in plastic) so a good water filter is crucial.
- Packaging and Cooking Utensils
Plastics contain dioxins, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that leach from the plastic into your drinking water/food. This gets worse if you heat food in plastic, or if you’re leaving plastic water bottles in hot cars.
How to. To reduce your exposure to plastics:
- Use glass containers to store food and left overs (this also reduces the need to use plastic wrap).
- Use a glass water bottle or glass jug to store water.
- Store nuts and seeds in the fridge in glass containers to reduce the chances of them becoming rancid.
- Avoid “take out” which comes in plastic containers.
Start to become more aware of how you are preparing your food and your cooking utensils.
- Get rid of your microwave (if you have one). Microwaves not only affect your health and fertility because of the radiation emitted, but also because of the changes caused to food molecules as a result of using a microwave. The damage to nutrients impairs assimilation, affecting the absorption of other important building blocks such as essential fats and proteins.
- Replace all Teflon and aluminium pots (tea and others) and pans with glass or enamel-coated cast iron. Consider replacing stainless steel pots and pans (with glass or enamel-coated cast iron), as they also leach heavy metals.
Whilst it can be daunting making these changes to your home and lifestyle, start by tackling the issues which you can see as being a biggest concern to you and your family. It may be that you are always drinking tap water or eating takeout in plastic containers or you may be using cleansers/lotions and body washes that are not as pure as they could be. Once you identify your biggest area of concern, replace these products with natural alternatives as you finish them and give yourself a time frame for tackling other goals such as changing your water filter system or cooking utensils.
Photo credit: Rusty Crawshaw