Rethink Your Environment

When it comes to taking care of our bodies, our environment can be just as important as the foods we consume. Environmental toxins play a large role in contributing to the detriment of our systems, but are often overlooked, even by those who are otherwise health conscious.

One of the biggest challenges has to do with the impact of environmental factors on the functioning of our gut lining. Dr. Josh Axe includes the environment (along with stress) right up there with poor nutrition as one of the primary causes of illness and disease. In his book, Eat Dirt, he explains, “our modern environmental toxic load is too vast, our food is too nutritionally bankrupt, and our lives are too stressful for our bodies to thrive. The intestine’s microbial balance and extremely delicate gut lining can only take so much abuse before the barrier breaks down and the bad guys start to get through.” This is what is known as leaky gut and it has ties to autoimmune conditions and a host of other ailments. More and more we are realizing that disease is linked to problems in our guts. For the health of our gut lining (did you know that the gut lining makes up 70% of our immune system?!) we need to take environmental toxins seriously. Dr. Axe goes on to say, “there are more than eighty thousand largely untested chemicals that have been introduced into our environment in the past fifty years” (pg. 124). Everyday we are bombarded with toxic chemicals in our environment—everything from cleaning products, to dryer sheets, to air fresheners and plastics. Find a better way! Start to make changes that purify your environment and protect your health.

First, we must pay more attention to the products we use to cook and store our food. For example, Teflon is a bad idea—use cast iron instead! Avoid plastic containers by storing your food in glass jars or glass containers with lids; plastic lids are okay, especially since they likely won’t touch the food anyway. Silicone, a man-made polymer, isn’t as natural as glass but it is a good option as it can be frozen and heated without leaching chemicals like plastics can. For a few great resources on health food storage tips, check out the following articles by Wellness Mama and Lily Nichols on why cooking with aluminum foil isn’t a good idea and why you should consider using parchment paper instead.

When it comes to taking care of our bodies, our environment can be just as important as the foods we consume.

Second, avoid synthetic air fresheners. A great way to lift mood and purify the air naturally is to use good quality, therapeutic-grade essential oils. This is a great way to avoid toxic air freshener. Oils like lemon and tea tree are also great to add to your cleaning product recipes.

Third, clean up the cleaning products you use, including laundry detergent. Make your own cleaning products whenever possible as a lot of companies claim to be natural but aren’t. Here are tips and cleaning product recipes from Wellness Mama.  Why bother with Windex when a water/vinegar mixture works just as well? And avoid dryer sheets, which coat your clothes in toxic, synthetic smells.

Fourth, steer clear of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Overuse of antibiotics and over-sanitizing has had dire effects on the diversity of our microbiome. Absolutely do NOT use hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap because these products are not discerning and destroy beneficial bacteria too. And while, of course, antibiotics save lives and have their place, be sure you really, really need them before taking them. Try to get a little dirty whenever you can. Putting your feet or hands in the dirt, swimming in the ocean etc. are all great ways of exposing ourselves to different microbes.

Action Steps:

  • Pay attention to the products you use to cook and store your food
  • Avoid hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps and only use antibiotics if absolutely necessary
  • Get a cool-mist essential oil diffuser and avoid synthetic air freshener
  • Make your own cleaning products, or at least swap conventional brands out for more natural versions
  • Avoid products with fragrance
  • Switch your laundry soap to something natural and fragrance free
  • Use wool dryer balls that cut down on drying time and remove static.

Tips from my kitchen (and the kitchens of those I admire):

  • Use silicone freezer trays for homemade baby food.
  • Baking soda, vinegar and castile soap are great for household cleaning. Use water, vinegar and essential oils to clean surfaces and floors, baking soda and vinegar to clean toilets and tubs, and water and vinegar to clean mirrors.
  • Because we no longer get as much soil microbes from our food, consider taking a soil-based probiotic like this one.  Ask your healthcare practitioner if this makes sense for you.
  • Consider incorporating clays into your diet. 1 tsp of bentonite clay in water can absorb toxins and also helps with food-born illness, similar to activated charcoal.
  • Eco Nuts is a great, effective laundry soap. Here is a post by Wellness Mama that talks a little more about soap nuts.
  • Instead of toxic dryer sheets, I recommend wool dryer balls that cut down on drying time and remove static. Optional: add a couple drops of essential oils to the dryer balls.
  • Cast iron pans are great and as long as you season them properly. Use lots of healthy fat to cook and you’ll have great success. It might seem strange to not use soap but as long as you clean them relatively soon after using them, they’ll come clean easily with a scrub brush.
  • Instead of aluminum foil, use parchment paper
  • I love Abeego reusable food wraps instead of plastic wrap.
  • Tea Tree oil is naturally antibacterial. Add this to your cleaning products.
  • Rose water spray is a great natural linen spray
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