It wouldn’t occur to you to take a bath in formaldehyde or shoot gasoline into your veins, right
No, of course not. That’s ridiculous.
You wouldn’t intentionally harm yourself in those ways.
And yet, every day most of us subject our bodies to a relentless assault of toxins in our environments. Most of them are so small that we aren’t aware of them (or we have grown so accustomed to them that we tune them out), but over time they compound each other.
The Importance of a Healthy Environment
As we prepare to welcome Dr. Eduardo Maristany to our last Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner of the season, I want to revisit an article we wrote several months ago about environmental wellness. He is going to be sharing with us about how cleaning our environment — both internal and external — can reverse cognitive decline and prevent disease. I’m super-excited about his presentation and I believe you will walk away feeling empowered to take steps in your living and working environments to protect your brain.
Wellness Is Multi-faceted
As we say here every day, we are not just doctors, we are wellness coaches, and we consider wellness to be a multi-faceted deal. It’s not just diet and exercise. Wellness can be measured in your diet, exercise, hydration, sleep, and stress management. There’s emotional wellness, mental wellness, spiritual wellness, career wellness, and environmental wellness.
It’s so important to remember that they are all interconnected. When your wellness in one area takes a nose-dive, it affects all the others. That can be really frustrating if you are focused on rebuilding your wellness in one area and you don’t recognize that a different area of wellness is under attack.
Detox Starts With Recognizing the Toxins
I often talk here about detoxing your body with nutrition (including the 28-day detox program I use for some of my patients), but you can offset the benefits of a good diet by constant exposure to environmental toxins. After all, while your digestive system has a filter in place to identify and destroy substances that are harmful to you, your skin does not. Toxins that enter your body through your skin, hair, and lungs go straight to your organs unfiltered.
For instance, you can’t smell radon gas, but it can make you sick over time. On the other hand, you can usually smell mold forming in your house – depending on how sensitive your sense of smell is – but if you don’t recognize that it’s mold, you might not take appropriate action to get rid of it. There’s no telling how many respiratory infections, allergies, and rashes untreated mold causes. Same goes for mildew. I can’t wait to hear what Dr. Maristany has to say about that tomorrow night.
It Starts Small
If a gaping hole opened in your roof or wall, you would immediately take action to seal it, but the little leaks are harder to spot. It is so easy to let water seep in and soak the wood and sheet rock in our homes. It happens so gradually, especially in our damp local climate. Especially now in the rainy season. You could have a leak in your roof or your exterior walls and not even know it. If you let a pipe drip once every five minutes, it seems like it would be no big deal. But after a year of little drips, you can have major structural damage to a home. By the time you can smell it, your body has already started forming a counter-offensive, and that usually means symptoms.
Naturally, when people figure out they have mold or mildew in their homes, they go right to Walmart and buy a jug of the latest “mold and mildew treatment” for their homes. It’s usually a strong chemical formula that destroys the bacteria at the source. But, just like an antibiotic kills everything around it indiscriminately, household cleaners are loaded with chemicals like ammonia (remember when Windex commercials used to point out that they had extra-strength Ammonia-D?). Ammonia isn’t just poisonous to mildew, it’s directly linked to inflammation of the lungs.
When The Solution Is Worse Than The Problem
The common ingredients you see on the packaging of household cleaners (chlorine, sodium hydroxide, triclosan, Butoxyethanol, etc.) are dangerous to your lungs, skin, brain, and many are hormone disruptors as well. All of them can cause or inflame cancer if you spend too much time with them. Sure, they’re powerful cleaning agents, but at what cost?
A poison by any other name…
Triclosan is the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers and it is really on my radar right now. I am seeing more and more research coming out showing that “antibacterial” products are causing more harm than good. Like prescription antibiotics, they kill cells indiscriminately and are linked to a rise in antibiotic-resistant strains of viruses. If you kill 99.9% of bacteria, guess which ones survive? The strongest ones, right? If the strongest virus cells begin reproducing with their DNA adapted to protect them from antibiotics, eventually, you have a super-race of bacteria you can’t kill with chemicals. That is the looming crisis the medical community is facing. We have been dishing out antibiotics like candy and the bacteria we’ve been trying to kill have outsmarted us.
What about plastic containers? There has been some major pushback about plastic packaging over the last 20 years, as people become more aware of the ways plastic cells leach into water and food. Remember back in the 1970s when people discovered that the sealants in aluminum food cans were leaching mercury into the food supply? This is like that. Now, your plastic containers have little numbers imprinted on them to show you what type of plastic they are made of. Some are high in a chemical called Bisphenol-A, which can cause reproductive disorders. If you leave a case of plastic water bottles in the car and they get hot, don’t drink them. Heat accelerates the toxin leaching. Choose stainless steel or glass containers for your food and drinks.
Have you ever walked into someone’s home and the smell of air fresheners was so strong that it just about knocked you out? You might be better off staying outside. One of the key ingredients in air fresheners, scented soaps, and detergents is phthalates. Phthalates are linked to endocrine problems. Your endocrine system regulates your hormones and neurotransmitters. They control your body’s height, weight, metabolism, sexual development, and so on. If you have children in your house, you definitely want to minimize the use of fragrances around them. I understand the desire to mask the odors around a teenager’s bedroom and bathroom, but those developmental years are when they most need to be protected from strong chemicals. There are better ways, and next week I will share them with you.
Take An Inventory
I want to encourage you to take an inventory of the chemicals in your house. Over time, we will start to replace them with organic alternatives. Some of these will be easy to swap out with a better alternative; others will be more difficult:
- Cleaners with ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide, butoxyethanol (or anything that includes “ethanol” in the name). Oven cleaners and drain cleaners are especially corrosive.
- Fragrances, air fresheners, soaps, shampoos, detergents, and even toilet paper with phthalates.
- Aerosols (I’ll get into the dangers of aerosols later).
- Gasoline, paint, pesticides and herbicides.
- Mold, mildew and dust in the A/C ducts (have them inspected).
- Radon gas or leaking natural gas (again, have them inspected).
- Formaldehyde in the carpet, bedding, and “flame retardant” clothing.
I know it feels like I’m nitpicking, but even though each of these products may fall under the “safe” threshold for household use, they add up and compound each other. It’s like the old example that says, “one marble won’t fill up a Mason jar, but if you keep pouring them in, it will fill up.”
Plus, some of them can be deadly in combination. If you have ammonia and chlorine leaching fumes into a cabinet together, they can send you to the hospital.
A Better Way
There are a number of ways to keep your house clean, shiny, and mold-free that don’t require any harmful industrial chemicals. People just don’t know what their options are. They keep using the same aerosol cleaners and concentrations their mothers used and never make the connection between their mom’s thyroid cancer and the cans under her sink.
Just switching to vinegar for all your surface cleaning would have a massive impact on your household wellness. I wrote down some healthy cleaning tips for a healthy environment here. And don’t forget the power of plants. I’d be willing to bet that Dr. Maristany is going to go deeper on that, as well.
Join Us For the Deep Dive Tomorrow Night
I don’t want to steal Dr. Maristany’s thunder, so I’m going to end it here. I mostly wanted to get you thinking about the topic before you arrive, so you’re primed and ready to receive (and he’s going to have a great presentation for you — you will definitely fell like you learned something you can put into practice immediately.)
In the meantime, if this article provoked your thinking a little bit, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share it on your favorite social channel. Help me get the word out about wellness to a generation that is getting sick because they just don’t know there’s a better way.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas