Let’s face it folks, there are many things in life that are beyond our control. Everyday we are exposed to thousands of chemicals in the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink and wash with, household products we use, and the hygiene, personal care and cosmetic items we put in and on our bodies. Scientific evidence suggests that exposure to these chemicals is contributing to a wide range of health problems including cancer, reproductive abnormalities and infertility, early puberty, and a slew of other endocrine, neurological and metabolic problems. We can’t totally eliminate exposure, but we can greatly reduce it by educating ourselves and making healthier choices.
Below is a list of things you can begin to implement in your daily life to reduce your overall toxic exposure and risk of developing many non-desirable health problems. This list is by no means complete – but it’s a place to start. With that said, it might feel overwhelming to some of you. If this is you, start with one or two items and gradually add more as you feel able to make the changes. Your health is worth the effort!!
Eat a diet of whole foods, ideally locally grown, seasonal, fresh and organic.
Read labels! Avoid packaged / processed foods with long ingredient lists of words you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce. In other words, EAT REAL FOOD! The simpler the better! Remember that processed and packaged foods are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates.
Eat as much organic produce as you can afford. Check the Environmental Working Group's current "Clean Fifteen" and "Dirty Dozen" lists at www.ewg.org/foodnews/ for the items that are especially important to eat organic and the ones that you can save money on by buying conventional. These are updated yearly based on tests measuring pesticides on produce.
Be sure to wash produce well, especially if it’s not organic. Soaking produce in water and apple cider vinegar can help remove pesticides.
Remember that conventional produce might be genetically modified, so be aware of the most common GMO foods including: soy, corn, sugar (from sugar beets), canola, "vegetable oils", zucchini, summer squash, papaya, and sweet corn. Your best bet is to stick with organic when buying these items (and products containing them), and look for the certified nonGMO label on packaged foods.
Oil – it’s super important to choose the right oils!! Choose extra-virgin olive oil for making dressing and for low-heat sautéing. Choose butter, ghee or coconut oil for cooking with medium to high heat. When eating out, ask your server if it’s possible to have your food cooked with one of these oils. *I can not stress enough how important is it to avoid canola, corn, and generic “vegetable oil” – these oils are extracted using extremely high temperatures, rendering them rancid and highly toxic (but they are deodorized and packaged so you’d never know). These oils cause inflammation in the body, and inflammation is the underlying cause of most disease. Avoid hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils like the plague.
If you eat meat, dairy and eggs, choose grass-fed / pasture raised / organic to reduce exposure to hormones, pesticides and fertilizers.
Avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH and rBST).
Chose wild-caught seafood, but limit even this, as our oceans are highly polluted and irradiated since the Fukashima disaster that keeps on giving.
Try to avoid plastics as much as possible (including plastic wrap). Store your food and beverages in glass. Mason jars work great and are super affordable. “Bee's Wrap” is a great reusable replacement for plastic wrap, or consider making your own if you’re a DIY guy or gal.
Carry a reusable glass or stainless steal water bottle with you at all times to avoid bottled water. Remember that bottled water sits in hot trucks while being transported, increasing the release of chemical yuck into your “clean” water. No bueno.
Filter your drinking and cooking water. There are many options - pitchers, filters that attached to your faucet, and systems that can filter all the water in your house. Choose depending on your budget and your needs.
Shop in the bulk section of your local health food store. This reduces waste from packaging, helps you avoid plastics, and allows you to use those mason jars. Win!!
Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans, as chemicals leach out of plastics into the contents. Even “BPA-free” plastics and can linings leach other hormone-disrupting chemicals that are equally as horrible for your health as BPA.
Use glass or stainless steal baby bottles and sippy cups for your small children.
Make sure your baby's toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings, and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on—even books, which are often plasticized. It’s advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.
Replace your non-stick pots and pans with cast iron, stainless steal, glass or ceramic. The non-stick surface leaches carcinogens into your otherwise healthy home-cooked food rendering it not so healthy after all.
Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME)—two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm. I personally rely heavily on plain white vinegar, baking soda and Bon Ami (a natural abrasive) for the bulk of my cleaning.
Switch to organic toiletries including shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, deodorant, toothpaste and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep database www.ewg.org/skindeep/ is incredibly helpful for finding safe personal care products. *I make a super simple and effective deodorant with only 4 ingredients. You can buy it here www.etsy.com/shop/damngooddeodorant
Replace conventional feminine hygiene products with safer options. Choose organic, non-bleached tampons and sanitary pads, or an alternative like the Diva Cup that can be cleaned and re-used, greatly reducing waste.
Look for fragrance-free products or those scented only with pure essential oils. One artificial fragrance can contain thousands of potentially toxic chemicals! Who knew?
Replace fabric softeners and dryer sheets with re-useable felted wool balls.
Replace your stinky, chemical-ridden vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one that can be washed and re-used.
Look for products made by companies that are sustainable, certified organic, animal and earth friendly, and GMO-free. This includes everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, furniture, mattresses, and others.
Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
When it’s time to buy new stuff, consider shopping for flame retardant free furniture, mattresses, carpet and carpet padding. Products made with leather, wool, cotton and silk are naturally less flammable than commonly used synthetic fibers.