My Wake Up Call with Toxins
It was exactly three years ago today (is that weird that I can remember that?) when I first realized how sensitive my body was to environmental toxins.
I had taken my three kids, all under 6, to the cutest little local strawberry picking farm. We got this sweet little basket to put our strawberries in, picked and tasted the reddest, most juicy strawberries, talked all about farming and how we get our food, took pictures, posted on Instagram, and had a wonderful morning.
A couple hours later, I started itching all over. I had red bumps all over my body and could not figure out why.
I took a Benadryl (which apparently I happen to be extremely sensitive to), basically passed out and spent my husband and I's anniversary as one big red, itchy, passed out mess.
Products around the house started triggering my hives
The next day I was better, but randomly after that I would have a smaller, but similar reaction to things.
I started noticing I would break out in hives when I used a new shampoo, or tried a new lotion. When I bought a different kind of laundry detergent, or used scented dryer sheets I had the same reaction. Weird, right?!
Actually, it’s not that weird if you think about it.
When your body is on overload, things start to breakdown
Our bodies were made to detox - to get rid of the chemicals put into or on our bodies. And usually our bodies do a great job of it!
But at this point in my life, my husband traveled 5 days a week and I had quite a bit of stress in my life. I was fatigued with three young children, depleted of essential vitamins and minerals, and just run down. A little while later I figured this all out and corrected it (which is another blog).
But at the time of my weird reactions, the chemicals I was exposed to was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The chemicals that the strawberry farm used on their plants were probably not harmful to most, but they sure affected me.
When your body is stressed to the max internally, it can’t handle environmental stress as well. Eventually, your cup overflows!
And if you’re lucky enough to not be that stressed, why put your body through processing such harmful chemicals out of your body?
Some chemicals are safe & some are toxic
Chemicals are everywhere. Even water, H20, is two hydrogen molecules attached to one oxygen molecule.
Your body needs certain chemicals. But some chemicals are harder for the body to process than others. Some chemicals have actually been shown to be endocrine disruptors, which affect the hormonal processes in your body.
Hormones basically control everything in your body. So once those hormones are messed up, you can have all kinds of problems. These endocrine disruptors have been linked to all kinds of diseases, from early puberty to learning disabilities to thyroid problems to obesity to even some types of cancer.
What’s even scarier is that these endocrine disruptors have an even bigger impact on children and growing fetuses (and yes, some chemicals can go through the placenta to unborn babies). These are the ones we especially need to worry about, and try to avoid.
So, where are these bad chemicals found, and what can you do about it?
Here are the main ones we worry about at our home.
Pesticides & Fertilizers
Think about it... the reason to eat organic stems from these chemicals. If you don't want farmers using chemicals on the food you end up eating, why would you want anything different on your own garden or lawn? Among others, fertilizers can have lead, cadmium and even arsenic in them, none of which you would want to put in your body. Round-Up has probably gotten the most bad press lately. When put on your garden, these chemicals are in the dirt and on the food you grow and eat. When put on your lawn, you walk through it and then track them all through your house. This can be especially dangerous if you have children (especially young children crawling around) or pets. We avoid using pesticides and fertilizers, and take off our shoes when we walk in the house.
Non-stick cookware with Teflon sure is easy to scramble your eggs on, but the PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) coating turns dangerous when at a high heat. To learn more about this go to organicauthority.com.
A better choice is to use ceramic cookware (there are all kinds available now!) or cast-iron. There are way more options out there now, and the prices really aren't that bad!
Plastic food storage
Food stored in plastic (i.e. food that comes in plastic containers, plastic water bottles, food storage bags, leftovers in Tupperware, even plastic straws) can be dangerous.
Bioactive chemicals such as BPA and phthalates in the plastic can leak into your food, and it is even worse when heated. Your best bet is to avoid plastic food storage containers whenever possible.
We invested in some glass food storage containers (if you are Type A, make this a challenge to get some matching containers – your refrigerator will look so amazingly organized with all of your glass storage stacked on top of each other you will want to take a picture!).
We also rarely use water from water bottles. We use our reusable water bottles instead. We also started using metal straws instead of plastic. Be very careful if you do drink out of a plastic water bottle after it has been left in your car. If it was heated up, you will smell the chemicals from the plastic that leaked in if you try to take a sip. Gross!
Laundry detergent & dish detergent
Anything with “fragrance” on the list of ingredients can contain chemicals, even phthalates, that companies hide under the term “fragrance.” Look for “free and clear” or “fragrance-free” when looking at detergents.
Organic detergents are the best, but you can also find some good ones without the Organic label. Also – if you use dryer sheets, make sure you look for fragrance-free options.
The Environmental Working Group database is a great resource - all you have to do is put in your product, and they will give you a rating as to how clean or toxic the product is!
Antibacterial soap & hand sanitizer
Focus on what you can control, the things you use most, and don't worry about the rest.
This list could go on and on and on. It’s almost like once you open your eyes, you can’t shut them.
Everything… your food, your personal care products, your household cleaners, your clothes, the new car smell in your new car, furniture made with synthetic wood…seems to be full of toxic chemicals if you are not careful.
You can’t avoid them all.
You can’t switch to all organic everything.
You can’t be that crazy person that is afraid of the world.
But what you CAN do is make a conscious effort for those you use most and those that will impact your family the most, and start there.
In our family, we focus on living clean where and when we can, and then try to not worry about the other things we can’t control. You can’t get away from it all, but you can do what you are able to do to reduce the toxins in your life so your body can function at it’s best.
All I know is, since making these changes, I haven’t had another reaction. Since making these changes, my body hasn’t been as sensitive to other things because I know it is functioning better. And I feel better!
Start with one thing to switch up in your house, then another, and another. Then see how you feel when you are living your life with less toxins!
If you have any specific questions, as always, please feel free to reach out to us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Armstrong - Propello Lifer & Mom of 3