Although consumer trends point to a greater awareness in the quality of food people are eating and what ingredients they are putting on their skin, we are seeing more people than ever before developing chronic conditions at younger ages and in greater numbers. Autism, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancers are all on the rise.
A major contributor to the nation’s health problems is the excessive toxicity to which we are exposed daily. As scary as that may seem, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves, in addition to the basic living ideals of eating a whole food diet, sticking to grass-fed animal products and organic produce, and drinking clean water.
To understand why we are facing such a toxic load, we first need to understand that everything we breathe, eat, and expose to our skin is filtered by the liver. More and more people are becoming environmentally sensitive because their bodies are over-burdened with chemicals from the outside world. Although it can be difficult to control your outside environment, with a bit of guidance you can at least control the environment in your home.
DETOX THE KITCHEN —
Because most families congregate in the kitchen, it is one of the more vital rooms to focus on. If you have allergies, asthma, or any autoimmune disease you should avoid conventional cleaners (yes, those same ones that are probably under your sink right now)! Chlorine, bleach, phosphates, phthalates, petroleum-based products, fragrance, and VOCs can exacerbate asthma, allergies, and environmental sensitivities. Moreover, dishwashing soaps and drying agents contain even more toxic chemicals when heated, and when plastic is exposed to the extreme heat of the dishwasher it releases BPA and other petrochemicals.
When cleaning your kitchen and dishes, try non-toxic soaps, borax, and natural cleaning agents like vinegar and water, rubbing alcohol, lemon, and baking soda with hot boiling water. These natural products can replace most of your household cleaners.
WASH YOUR CLOTHES NATURALLY —
Scented products are potentially dangerous for respiratory and autoimmune disorders. A large percent of synthetic fragrances are petroleum-derived (crude oil), and include benzenes, aldehydes, and toluene — all endocrine disruptors which can cause various diseases (kidney, skin, respiratory, reproductive), CNS disorders, and allergies. Chemically-made fragrance lingers on clothes, and, even when you think your clothes have aired out, can take anywhere from three to six months to completely be removed of the fragrance. Other culprits are dryer sheets and fabric softeners, which are both loaded with petrochemicals.
Instead, try using unscented laundry detergent from a natural brand and wool dryer balls that you can put essential oils on. There are even organic lavender sachets that are made with unbleached material and real lavender flowers!
SAY NO TO FRAGRANCE —
A great alternative to air fresheners, sprays, and common commercial grade cleaning products are natural essential oils, that can be used in both your house and your car. (Just make sure to first dilute essential oils with water or a carrier oil as they are volatile and can burn your skin — a little goes a long way!)
Another fix for a smelly home is aromatic herbs. Boiling cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg in water can make a house smell wonderful, especially during the holidays. Try opening the windows to create cross ventilation. Our homes today are designed to be airtight and many of us forget the power of fresh air. And sometimes indoor air pollution can be even worse than outdoor pollution!
GREEN BEAUTY —
Many of the dangerous chemicals present in our environment also appear in our skin and beauty products. And people are finally taking notice. The organic beauty industry will be a 13 billion dollar industry this year (doubling since 2012), proving that consumers expect more from their cosmetics.
Start with switching out your shampoo, conditioner, and other products that you use in the shower. The main ingredients to avoid are sodium lauryl sulfate and fragrance. An excellent resource for evaluating the quality of your personal care products is the Environmental Working Group (or you can check out The Fullest’s SHOP as all the products they sell are of the utmost quality and ingredients).
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner is a Doctor of Chinese and Integrative Medicine and an Acupuncturist. For more information about Elizabeth, visit elizabethtrattner.com or find her on Instagram at @dreliztratts, Facebook at @drelizabethtrattner, and Twitter at @acumom.