Our Sad New “NORMAL”
Australia is the fattest country in the world. We eat less fresh fruit and veg than the US population and we’re becoming more and more unhealthy.
Our guidepost for “normal” is shifting. If you go to your doctor and say, my skin is crap, I can’t sleep, I’m so tired and cranky all the time, I can’t shift this weight and my stomach is always bloated. I go from constipation to the runs on an almost daily basis and I have just general aches and pains…they’ll probably say “You’re just getting older. Everyone is like this.” That is everyone’s normal. Nothing specific just a general feeling of blergh all the time. It’s time we looked at our whole life. Everything on the big picture.
What you use around your home and on your body does matter!
Around the Home
Some common chemicals in your cleaning, food storage and personal body products are known hormone disruptors. These chemicals absorb through your food and through your skin; and they are having a real impact on your body and your health. And by hormones we don’t just mean your sex hormones: oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone (but they are absolutely affected). Your hormonal system (endocrine) encompasses about 50 different chemical transmitters that float around your body. Little messengers that control and coordinate activities throughout the body.
Tell you when you are hungry, full, tired, need to wake up, feel good after exercise and they play a huge role in your mood and energy. Sex hormones impact your libido, fertility and things like hair growth, body fat distribution and muscle development.
Throw in some nasty chemicals that put all of this in jeopardy and you can easily imagine why your body feels so out of whack!
What you use around your home and on your body does matter! This list of hormone disrupting chemicals is by no means exhaustive but these are the big ones I am actively trying to avoid bringing into my home:
Why Is It So Bad?
Most of us have heard of BPA (bisphenol a) and we’re told to use bottles and other items that are BPA free for our kids. But you should be avoiding them too. BPA is a sex hormone disruptor and mimics our natural oestrogen (note: men and women, boys and girls have oestrogen in them so this affects both sexes). Unfortunately that oestrogen disruption has been linked with all kinds of horrible things from obesity, early puberty, heart disease and reproductive issues.
How Do I Avoid It?
Avoid canned foods as most are lined with BPA, thermal paper like receipts are lined with BPA, go green and try an cut back on your plastic use. The recycling triangle with the number ‘7’ inside is code for “other” plastics suggest is MAY contain BPA. If it is a “7” but the product says its BPA free then likely it is.
Why are they bad?
These buggers are hidden almost everywhere. It’s basically impossible to eradicate exposure to Phthalates from your life entirely but you can do lots of things to reduce your exposure. Why do they suck? They can trigger your body’s natural self-destruct mechanism in your cells. This is usually a very normal process and we turn over billions of cells every single day. But they have a big impact on the male reproductive system. Phthalates can trigger this early death in testicular cells. It can lead to a higher incidence of hypospadias (male baby birth defect) in pregnant mums exposed to phthalates in the workplace (1). They have also been linked with increased risk of breast cancer and early breast development in girls.
Where Do I Find Them?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics and make fragrances last longer. You’ll find them in perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys, and your car’s steering wheel, dashboard, and gearshift. (When you smell “new car,” you’re actually smelling huge amounts of off-gassing phthalates.) Medical devices are full of phthalates — they make IV drip bags and tubes soft, but unfortunately, these chemicals are being pumped directly into the bloodstream of ailing patients.
How Can I Avoid Them?
The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a label almost always means phthalates. So perfumes and body sprays are out and you should check the labels of the products in your home and bathroom. Only use products with “no synthetic fragrances”. Create your own beautiful essential oil perfumes instead. Diffuse essential oils for a fresh and beautiful home rather than chemical laden Glade fresheners and the like. Don’t take hand me down soft plastic toys. Several types of phthalates are now banned from children’s toys, teethers, bottles, and feeding products. But these laws only took place in 2009, so anything made of soft plastic that was manufactured before that probably contains phthalates. Makes me sad and angry to think our babies were sucking on them before that!
I judge a product based on the back of the bottle. Read labels; check ingredients.
Why is it bad?
Triclosan is a widely used antimicrobial agent but it’s also a known hormone disruptor with particularly significant impact on the thyroid and reproductive hormones. Environmentalists have long fought for Triclosan to be banned as the small doses ending up in our waterways are contributing to increased antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What’s it in and how can I avoid it?
You should check the label of anything that says “antibacterial”. This nasty chemical is a big skin irritant and yet you’ll find it in hand soaps and most shockingly in Colgate dental products like their toothpaste and mouthwashes. Even some deodorants and antiperspirants have this stuff hidden in there. Plain old soap and water is extremely effective at cleaning your hands. I make my own foaming handwash using Castile Soap, a bit of coconut oil, On Guard essential oil blend and water! Use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain triclosan. I use doTERRA On Guard toothpaste.
Why are they bad?
Parabens are widely used preservatives in cosmetic products but they also mimic our natural oestrogen in our body. This means that a paraben with bind to a receptor site of oestrogen blocking the oestrogen your body produces and the effect it should have. It’s like this paraben is parked in your garage instead of you and now you can’t get into your house. Oestrogen is produced by both genders so don’t think this is only a female issue but if you’re having issues with fertility, libido, regularity of your cycle or vaginal dryness…it’s time to check your makeup and cosmetics for parabens.
How can I avoid them?
Check labels! I was pretty shocked to find just how many products in my home were preserved with parabens. You might find them listed as any of the following: butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, or propylparaben. Thankfully, the adverse effects of parabens has been known for a while so there are many companies know avoiding them in their products and lots will say this right on the label. Look into natural makeup options like Modere Colour, Arbonne, Inika etc. that don’t contain nasties.
When chemicals are tested for safety they are almost always tested in isolation. Which is not how these chemicals enter our lives!
SLS + SLES
Why are they bad?
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are known skin, lung and eye irritants. In fact, when researchers are conducting experiments and they need someone’s skin to be irritated, guess what they use? Yep, SLS. On it’s own SLS and SLES are irritating but the major concern is how these chemicals interact with the other chemicals in your body products. When chemicals are tested for safety they are almost always tested in isolation. Which is not how these chemicals enter our lives! It’s a crazy concoction of many chemicals in a body wash or shower cleaner. SLS and SLES combine with some other chemicals to form nitrosamines which are a known carcinogen (cancer causing chemical).
How do I avoid them?
SLS and SLES basically make things foam. It’s a surfactant that is found in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products. Because who doesn’t love a good lather right?! I’m going to say it again…check the labels. Flip that bottle over and read the ingredients and look for Sodium lauryl sulfate or Sodium laureth sulfate. Think bubble bath, shampoo, conditioner, toothpastes, body washes, foamy cleaners. This is not something you want to be adding to your little one’s bath and have them float around in it. I know bubbles are fun, but it’s not worth the risk on their tiny developing bodies.
Why Is It Bad?
This one hits a little too close to home. I love sushi and sashimi but it could be filling my body with higher levels of Mercury. Methylmercury exposure most commonly occurs through the ingestion of shellfish and fish that have high levels in their tissues. We burn coal for electricity; that gas and contaminated water ends up in our oceans building concentrations in the fish populations, particularly as you go up the food chain. Women are most at risk with Mercury binding to progesterone (3), a hormone that helps regulate menstrual cycles. Effects of mercury on the body include:
- loss of peripheral vision
- “pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth
- lack of coordination of movements
- impairment of speech, hearing, walking
- muscle weakness
It has also been shown to accumulate in the foetal brain and interfere with brain development (4). Babies exposed to methylmercury in the womb can have impacts on their:
- cognitive thinking,
- fine motor skills, and
- visual spatial skills.
How Do I Avoid It?
Go for fish lower down the food chain and sustainable, wild caught fish over farmed. Farming fish is a nasty business. Keeping thousands of fish in close proximity leads to disease and antibiotic use. The food they feed the fish is often very low quality, all of which results in poisoned water leaching into our oceans and low quality, tainted fish. Find a dentist that uses Amalgam Free fillings. Old dental fillings could be a big source of leaching mercury into your body. Thankfully, the preservative form of Mercury (thimerosal) was removed from Australian Childhood Schedule Vaccinations (ask your GP or Pharmacist about other vaccines like the Flu Vaccine) however this report (5) showed that Infanrix hexa still contained trace levels of the additive despite claims it did not. This vaccine combines Diphtheria-Tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTPa), hepatitis B, poliovirus and haemophilus influenzae type B.
PERFLUORINATED CHEMICALS (PFCs) / PERFLUORALKYL ACIDS (PFOA)
Why Are They Bad?
The perfluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware can stick to you. Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies (2). One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation.” In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment – ever.
That means that even though the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. This is worrisome, since PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.
How Do I Avoid Them?
The best way to avoid these persistent chemicals is to avoid stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets. And steer clear of Teflon coated cookware, instead look for ceramic based non-stick technology.
You can’t avoid all these nasty chemicals when you walk out your front door and go to work. But what you CAN DO…is control what you bring into your own home! You can make the choice to find better alternatives. To use a product containing only natural ingredients. Make a commitment to READ THE LABELS. This was one of the most eye-opening and yet empowering things I did. I didn’t go off what the front of the bottle told me. Not the pretty picture or the nice colours. I judge a product based on the back of the bottle. Read labels; check ingredients.
The choice is within your control. Just take ownership.
Live gently, raise gently,