While many of us are becoming more aware of the chemicals we are putting into our bodies via the food we eat, chemicals from other sources are lesser known or talked about. At Natural Nourishment we are committed to considering all aspects of health & lifestyle, not just what our clients eat & drink.
As we spend more time at home, it’s important to look around us to consider how our environment may be affecting our health. Most homes contain a dizzying amount of synthetic chemicals, in the cleaning products we use, to the furniture we sit on.
These synthetic chemicals are man-made & when released into the environment can have a detrimental effect on our health.
Some chemicals in the UK are indeed heavily regulated, such as certain agricultural pesticides & some previously found in cosmetics. There are, however, an enormous number still present in products we use daily. For the majority of these, their toxicity or acceptable human exposure levels are unclear.
Below are a few to be aware of:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – these leach out of numerous sources such as home furnishings, carpets, plywood, deodorants, dry cleaned clothes & scented candles.
- Pesticides – from food & some chemical garden treatments.
- Mould & other fungal toxins – from contaminated buildings, damp areas, air conditioning units.
- Phthalates & PVC – cling film, plastic food storage containers, fabrics, carpets, vinyl flooring, cosmetics, car exhaust fumes & cigarettes.
- Heavy metals – found in tap water, building materials, dental amalgams, household paint.
WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Many of these chemicals are known endocrine disruptors. This translates as meaning they have the potential to alter hormone action within the body & this is often an underlying driver for conditions such as unexplained infertility, early onset menstruation, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, breast cancer, low sperm count, & reduced testosterone (to mention just a few).
Pollutants & toxins can also trigger our inflammatory response. Inflammation is not in itself a damaging process, but continuous exposure to these substances through our environment means a fairly constant state of inflammation in the body which is damaging to our tissues & cells.
Instead of being a short lived survival mechanism we get a continuous slow burn known as chronic low grade inflammation which has been identified as the underlying driver for myriad health conditions such as autoimmunity & cancer.
Natural cleaning products – both for the health of our environment & our bodies, swapping to natural cleaning products is one of the first things we can do to reduce the toxic load in our homes. Both Method & Ecover have a brilliant selection which smell amazing. They also sell in bulk so you can refill your bottles to save on waste – it’s a win win.
Air humidifiers & purifiers – to avoid the release of VOCs you ideally want to keep the humidity level of your house below 60%. Dyson has an excellent selection.
Indoor plants – plants are incredibly effective at mopping up VOCs & neutralizing synthetic chemicals (they look super chic too). Look for plants such as English & Devil’s Ivy, Rubber Plant, Anthurium, Corn Plant, Peace lily, Bamboo & Snake Plant. We like Patch Plants & The Stem for their great variety & beautiful pots.
Avoid plastics – chuck out your cling film & swap to Beeswax Wraps, tin foil leeches aluminium so use unbleached baking parchment instead. Swap plastic tupperware & bottles for glass or stainless steel (Black + Blum are our favourites & amazingly designed to be both functional & beautiful).
Cookware – you want to avoid Teflon, aluminium, copper or any pan that is peeling on the bottom. Instead go for a ceramic coated pan, stainless steel or cast iron. Ninja is a fantastic choice & makes excellent non-stick pans which last forever. Classic Le Creuset is great too, as are cast iron skillets & Pro Cook have a selection of stainless steel cookware, baking sheets etc too. For baking try silicone (cupcake moulds, cake pans, bread tins etc), not only are these non-toxic but you also get rid of the need for extra baking parchment, again limiting your household waste!
Natural candles & diffusers – to avoid chemicals given off by the burning of paraffin wax which a lot of scented candles contain, go for natural versions which are phthalate, paraben & synthetic free. You also want to check where the fragrance comes from, chemicals versus natural essential oils. Neom is our choice here, both their candles & diffusers as they contain no nasties, & use the power of aromatherapy to give off their divine fragrance.
Water filter – tap water is a major source of endocrine disrupting chemicals & toxins so we highly recommend using a water filter. We love the Berkey Water Filter or you could start by popping a charcoal water filter into your water bottle. If filtering your water you will need to add back in some electrolytes, we suggest the Elete Hydration drops.
Nutrition – you want to be really aware of including a wide range of antioxidants in the diet as they help mop up some of the free radical created by synthetic chemicals. Think a wide variety of colourful fruit & veggies. We love Haskap Berry Powder which is an incredibly strong (& delicious) antioxidant that can give an extra helping hand in buffering the effects of free radical exposure. Fresh herbs, dried spices such as turmeric & cumin, anything with an intense flavour as well as colour, that’s where the protection party is at!
Written by Florence de Walden
Associate Nutritional Therapist