We are bombarded with toxins everyday, from the food we eat, to our beauty products, to the stuff we use to clean our homes. We also face an onslaught of environmental toxins in the air we breathe inside and outside, our drinking water, second-hand smoke, and a myriad of other sources. Many toxins are unavoidable, but there are some things we can do to lessen or avoid our exposure.
Toxins in Our Food
Our food is one thing we can control easily, just by being mindful of our daily choices. Processed foods contain many chemicals and artificial ingredients that we can eliminate simply by choosing to eat only unprocessed real foods. When processed foods are necessary, read the ingredient label and watch for chemicals and artificial ingredients. Try to buy foods that contain the fewest number of ingredients and use no artificial colorings or flavorings. Get to know your local farmer when buying fresh. It helps to know what methods he or she uses to grow the food. Look for a farm that uses organic growing methods, and does not use pesticides and fungicides, or chemical fertilizers on the crops. Meat should be pastured, grass-fed, or fed non-GMO organic feed for animals that require more than just grass. Properly preparing foods is also very important. Make sure you are thoroughly washing the produce before you prepare a meal to wash off any residual dirt or chemicals that may have contaminated the food. It is not necessary to buy all organic produce, but it is helpful to become familiar with which foods have the highest pesticide load so you can avoid conventional versions of these. Click here to view the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. Purchase the items on the Dirty Dozen list organically. Another way to avoid toxins in food is to grow your own. If you have a big enough yard to plant a garden, growing your own organic produce is a great way to avoid toxins and save money. If you have a small yard, you might want to try growing certain foods in pots on your porch, or even indoors. Tomatoes, greens, herbs, onions, and garlic are all great options for container gardening.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Think of the number of products we apply to our bodies daily – shaving cream, lotions, makeup, hair products, sunscreen, deodorants, perfumes, soaps and body washes, just to name a few. Many of these products contain a toxic slew of chemicals that are absorbed into our skin and directly into our bloodstreams and organs. Not only do these products irritate our skin and absorb into our bodies, many are very irritating to our mucous membranes and lungs. We expose ourselves daily to cancer causing chemicals and hormone disruptors just by performing our morning beauty rituals. One way to minimize these exposures is to read the label and choose products with natural ingredients. Try to avoid products containing parabens, aluminum, fluoride, phthalates, sulfates, and propylene glycol at all costs; however, there are so many other toxins in our everyday beauty routines. Nail polish remover, petroleum jelly, hair spray and many others are difficult to avoid, but very poisonous. Click here for the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep list for a review of many of the chemicals we are exposed to in our beauty products.
We all want a clean, sanitary, fresh-smelling home, but sometimes getting it exposes us to some really bad chemicals. Think about all the products we use on a daily basis to clean. We spray air fresheners, use oven cleaner, drain cleaners, laundry soap, bleach, fabric softener, all-purpose cleaners, dish soap, etc. Fortunately, there are many natural versions of these products that actually work as good as their toxic counterparts. It’s not hard to make your own products either; for example, vinegar is fantastic for cleaning windows and mopping floors. Oils with essential oil added are great for polishing wood furniture, and essential oils in water make a great refreshing room spray. Using essential oils in a reed diffuser is also a great way to freshen the air in your home. Also, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for suggestions on which chemicals to avoid.
Some environmental toxins are completely unavoidable unless we choose to live in a bubble. The air we breathe and the water we drink are examples. However, there are some things we can do to minimize our exposure. If you live in an area where air quality is a concern, pay attention to advisories from public officials and try to minimize time outdoors when the air quality is at its worst. Installing a water filter in your home is one way to minimize chemicals when we cook, clean, and shower. Filtered pitchers and drinking bottles are another way to keep those chemicals out of our bodies when we are on the road. If you live in an area with fluoridated water, make sure your filter removes fluoride, heavy metals, chlorine, and bacteria. If you live in an area with well water, get your water tested at least once a year so you know exactly what is in your well. House plants provide natural air filtration in our homes and offices, and add to the decor as well. Click here to view all the EWG consumer guides, including several that take a look at many of the products we encounter everyday at work and at home.
Stress and Mental Health
Let’s not forget the effect that toxic people have on our health. When others inflict their misery on us, we often feel stress that causes us to become ill. Some people we truly can’t avoid. For example, your boss might be the type of person who makes you cringe when you see him or her coming around the corner, but there are ways to avoid the effects of negative people. Realizing that it is their issue, not yours is one way to help minimize the impact that someone who constantly makes you feel bad has on your mental health. It is possible to reduce contact with some people by communicating via email or telephone rather than in person. There are also many support groups out there to help deal with people whom you can’t avoid; for example, Al-Anon can help support family members of people suffering from addictions. Sometimes it is necessary to cut the toxic person out of your life completely in order to heal.
My next free workshop will be on toxins and how to minimize them. Watch for details coming soon! I am also in the process of making all of my free workshops available via Skype. Hope to see you all there!