We are surrounded by harmful chemicals but a few small practical steps can pay dividends for our wellbeing
I remember when I first realized how widespread harmful chemicals were in everyday products. I had just given birth to my first baby and was sitting in the waiting room at my six-week follow-up appointment when I read in a magazine that for the first time in two centuries the current generation of children would have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Looking at my perfect newborn, I wondered why that might be and began researching.
That was 12 years ago now, and since then, I’ve founded an award-winning wellness blog and am the author of three bestselling books on how to live a healthy life. While I’m not a doctor, I’ve become a trusted source of wellness advice to millions of people. That’s largely because all of the health tips I share with readers are evidence-based and reviewed by our medical team of experts.
It’s scary to realize that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cosmetics we apply and the cleaning products we spray around our house all can contain chemicals linked to hormone disruption, asthma, cancer and neurological impairments.
That said, it’s important not to be defeatist about the fight against dangerous chemicals. Our bodies are amazing and have natural detoxification processes that can help counteract the barrage of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. Of course, we only have one liver and two kidneys, and they have a big job to do! That’s why it’s important to do all we can to help our body stay healthy.
Here are easy ways to protect our health:
1 – Get enough sleep (and wake up with water)
The body restores itself and regenerates naturally when we sleep. While we get our 40 winks, our liver works overtime to purify our system from carcinogens.
Unfortunately, statistics show that many people simply aren’t getting a a full night’s sleep. In a fast-paced world, it’s tempting to skip sleep. But don’t do it! Try ways to get better sleep instead:
Wind down. Bright lights tell our brains it’s time to be awake. Set an alarm 45 minutes before bed as a reminder to dim the lights and turn off screens to get those sleep-inducing hormones going. (If you have to use a screen, wear blue-light blocking glasses.)
Sleep in the dark. In most areas artificial light from streetlights comes in our windows even at night. Help your body get full restful sleep by eliminating light pollution with blackout curtains.
Wake up with water. Your liver works hard at night! Rehydrate in the morning (before having coffee) with one to two glasses of warm lemon water.
2 – Ditch the plastic
Most of the things we buy today come in plastic, including our fresh produce. Plastic certainly is convenient, but it contains hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA and phthalates. What’s more, as it breaks down with time, microplastics filter into our water and food sources, creating an even wider negative impact.
Don’t buy single-use plastic. Have a reusable water bottle for each member of the family. It’s better for you and much better for the environment!
Replace plastic cups, plates or silverware. Even if it’s one item at a time, change anything you eat or drink out of it to glass, stainless steel or even bamboo.
Stop using microfiber cleaning cloths. I know, microfiber cloths are synonymous with natural cleaning, but I’ve learned that even these contribute to the problem! Since then, I’ve switched to a simple natural fiber rag and my favorite natural cleaning spray.
3 – Swap out one health or beauty item a month
Most makeup, hair products, deodorants and cleaners contain a long list of chemicals and we come in contact with them every day. If making the switch to more natural products feels overwhelming, try switching out just one item in your home a month. I’d suggest starting with:
Antibacterial cleaners. Unless you work in a hospital, you simply don’t need antibacterial products. Our immune systems need exposure to some bacteria in order to develop and function properly. Instead of trying to create a sterile environment, strengthen your immune system with healthy food, probiotics and plenty of sleep.
Deodorant. Most deodorants contain aluminum and prevent our underarms from sweating, a natural detoxification process. Use a natural deodorant instead. I promise they actually work!
4 – Open the windows and get outside
Studies show that the paint, furniture, stain repellents, etc, in our homes release harmful gases into the air. You could build a house and all of your furniture yourself with natural wood and fabrics, or you could just open the windows every day! Here are some other ideas for better air quality:
Indulge in houseplants. Many plants absorb chemicals and release beneficial oxygen. These are some of the best types to have.
Get outside. Comfortable indoor environments and electronics mean we tend to stay inside more than ever. Nature therapy is a real thing! Get a break from indoor air and soak in some sunshine as well.
Together, simple changes matter
We can make a huge difference in limiting harmful chemicals within our own four walls by changing one simple habit or buying decision at a time. It is my hope that enough of us will join together in this effort that companies and policymakers can’t ignore what the market demands – a healthier world for all.
Katie Wells is the founder and CEO of WellnessMama.com and The Wellness Mama Podcast. She is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox
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