When it comes to supporting our immune system there are many diet, lifestyle, and nutrient choices we can make to actively build up the 'strength' of our immune system or work to reduce the workload placed on our body.
Our body can only do so much ‘work’ in a day. Making some small but effective changes in our environment can help reduce the workload placed on our body – allowing it to focus on fending off illness or recover quickly when we do get sick.
In this blog, we’re going to look at some unlikely environmental toxins and chemicals we’re getting exposed to every day in our very own homes, talk about how they can compromise your immunity and finish up with 10 simple tips to support you in low-toxing your life!
What can we do to support immunity?
Nutrient-dense, whole foods actively support our body’s health and our immunity by providing beneficial micro and macronutrients for fuel.
Then, we can start with simply reducing our exposure to everyday toxins where we can. Why? Because all toxins that enter our body need to be processed out of our body by our liver.
While our liver is an incredible detoxifier, it requires adequate nutrients to fulfil its duties! Because of the pace of modern living, liver loading substances such as caffeine and alcohol, and the sheer amount of toxins we’re now exposed to, our liver can struggle to keep up with the high workload that comes with our modern-day lifestyles.
What do we mean by environmental toxins?
The term environmental toxins refer to the total amount of toxic chemicals in your body at a given time, or the amount of a single chemical, for example, arsenic, lead, mercury, or heavy metals to name just a few. They are called this because we are exposed to these chemicals through our personal environment.
Environmental toxins are hiding in a lot of places around our home. Many of them you might not even be aware of! The hope of this blog is to make you aware of some of the common toxins we are exposed to so that you can make your own decisions. You don't need to remove your exposure to everything at once – it would be rather hard to do so – but you can start replacing these household items as they run out.
Here are 10 simple swaps you can make to reduce the toxic load in your own home:
Our mouths are actually one of the most absorbent places on our body.
Toothpastes often contain chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), propylene, fluoride and artificial sweeteners which are hard on the liver.
You can also make your own toothpaste. We like this recipe from Dr Mercola which contains only natural ingredients.
2. Fresh Produce
Sprays, pesticides and conventional farming methods expose us to chemicals, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones from fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products add to our toxic load.
Buying organic options where and when possible is a great start. Organic can make a bigger difference for some produce than others. Take a look at the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen, which is a list of the most contaminated foods, as determined by the Environmental Working Group.
When fresh produce isn’t organic, you can give it a wash when you bring it back home. Fill the sink with some water, add three caps of apple cider vinegar and give your produce a bit of a scrub and then a rinse to reduce your intake of any sprays and pesticides they may have been exposed to.
Deodorant contains many chemicals which can adversely affect our health, mainly aluminium, parabens and propylene. High levels of aluminium in the blood have been linked to increased rates of breast cancer, decreased bone density and Alzheimer's.
You can have a go making your own. We like this recipe from Nourishing Simplicity. You can buy natural, effective chemical and aluminium free deodorants. We like the deodorants produced by The Herb Farm, Everkind and the range at Commonsense Organics.
Our skin is our key barrier between us and the outside world and what we put on it does matter!
Up to 80% of what goes onto our skin gets absorbed into the bloodstream.
Once it’s in our bloodstream, it will have to be filtered through our liver (which we know is already pretty busy and probably won’t be stoked about the extra workload).
We recommend a natural, chemical-free sunscreen. We use Oasis Organic Sunscreen because it is organic, paraben-free and made using naturopathic principles without preservatives and chemical UV absorbers.
5. Skincare Products and Cosmetics
Did you know approximately 60% of lipsticks contain lead? Scary isn’t it? But the truth is, most commercial cosmetics are laden with heavy metals and other toxic ingredients.
When choosing makeup, choose a mineral foundation powder or research some natural beauty care product brands. The BePure team love Karen Murrell, a New Zealand range of natural, lead-free lipsticks! For moisturisers, toners and cleansers we love Tailor Skincare and Herb Farm.
If you want to learn more about which commonly used chemicals have been proven to cause harm, and see which companies with clean ingredients and eco-friendly policies, check out Safe Cosmetics.
6. Pots and Pans
Non-stick cookware has become increasingly popular because they’re hugely convenient! However, this convenience comes at a cost to our health.
A safer alternative is cast iron cookware and stainless steel pots.
Cast iron when well looked after—no detergent or washing liquid—and are seasoned with salt and oil are largely non-stick, can be used at any heat and create delicious textures on the outside of meats and vegetables.
7. Plastic Drink Bottles
The problem with drinking from plastic bottles is that the plastic leaks chemicals like PCB dioxins, which are xeno-estrogenic and mimic oestrogen in your body.
The simple swap is from plastic drink bottles to glass or stainless steel bottles. There are lots of great brands making eco-friendly water bottles but you can also re-use glass jars or glass water bottles from the supermarket.
8. Plastic Food Containers and Cling Wraps
The way we store our food has the same problems as water bottles. Plastic containers and food wraps contain BPA, PCB dioxins and chemicals that leech from the plastic over time, especially when heated. But all of us put food containers in hot cars, bags and the dishwasher at some point, right?
Swap your plastic containers for glass or stainless steel. For a cheap alternative, you can reuse glass jars or mason jars for storage or you can purchase speciality lunchboxes from eco-friendly brands such as Planet Box or Lunchbots.
9. Drinking Water
When it comes to hydration, the option to drink is pure, mineralised and slightly alkaline water. Obviously, for most of us, tap water is our only option. It's important to know that most tap water contains chlorine and fluoride, however, neither is ideal for long term consumption.
Chlorine is a mild bleach that has a bad taste and has been put in water to kill any bad bacteria. When you start drinking a lot of it, it starts killing the bacteria in your mouth and gut.
Fluoride also blocks iodine in the body. We have 72 pathways of iodine in the body that are vital to our health, therefore anywhere fluoride is blocking iodine will be causing you some serious issues.
10. Household Cleaners
What we clean our homes with leaves residues on all our surfaces. These particles also get into our clothes and bedding meaning we ingest, breathe, and absorb them. Using Conventional cleaners with parabens and carcinogens expose us to some very harsh chemicals and toxins.
The easiest way to resolve this is to switch to chemical-free, natural brands of household cleaners. Even large supermarket chains are carrying eco-friendly cleaning products by companies such as Ecostore.
For a thrifty tip, you can also use pantry-staple items such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon to clean your dishes and surfaces. Plain baking soda works well in your dishwasher and adding vinegar to hot water will clean your benches without streaks.
Oof, that can seem like a lot, right?
We don’t share all this to make you scared of your own home, but rather to bring some awareness to a lot of hidden sources of extra work for our bodies. When we are aware of what’s going on, we can begin to implement some positive and nourishing changes. These changes don’t need to be done all at once of course, and don’t put pressure on yourself to do so!
Do what you can, when and where you can, and don't sweat the stuff you can't control. All of the little things we do add up.