This is the story of my slow & steady transition to a toxin free (ish) home…
When I began exploring the alternative approach to healing from my autoimmune diseases, I was shocked by some of the information out there regarding the toxins we unknowingly expose ourselves to on a regular basis. I was somewhat aware of the harmful ingredients in many cleaning products. However, I certainly did not take the threat seriously enough to let it override my love of – and unhealthy dependence on – convenience.
I’ll be real; I made these changes kicking and screaming. I enjoyed the fresh smell of clothes tumbled with dryer sheets, I loved using the mascara that made my dwarfish lashes appear model-esque (if only for 10 minutes), and I got satisfaction when scrubbing my bathtub with bleach cleaner until it sparkled (that one time every other month when I bothered to do so). So trust me when I say that if I can make these changes over a year and some change that any bulk product buying, designer make-up loving, change-avoidant person can.
When I decided to dedicate myself 100% to healing, I knew I needed to take the process of removing toxic exposure seriously. My goal: take my toxicity level from Regina George to Winnie the Pooh. It’s been a lonnnnng process, and I’m breaking up the changes I have made into 3 parts: Kitchen/Cleaning, Bath/Beauty, & Detoxification Practices.
I’ll start by sharing my shock over how many products labeled “green” and “healthy” are anything but. I knew this was the case with food, and I had wised up that gimmick many years prior. News flash: healthy food does not need to be marketed as healthy. I buy organic berries every week, and not once has the label boasted that they’re gluten free, non-GMO, and all natural. This is also the case with cleaning products. When you have to be sold on something by use of the latest trendy catch phrase, chances are you’re being sold a large serving of BS.
When it came to discovering just how harmful some of the ingredients are in everyday cleaning products, my feelings would be best expressed via these classic lyrics (love you, Rod Stewart):
“I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”
I would made different choices if I had this knowledge years ago, but I am doing everything I can to make changes now. I clearly have opinions about both processed food and products we often use in our homes, but I want to stress that my primary goal is not to demonize anyone. This blog is a place for healing and personal growth. My wish is to inspire individuals to educate themselves in the hopes that their knowledge gained pushes them to make healthy changes in their own lives. Ultimately, I hope that this shift in consumer behavior pushes companies to practice integrity and make subsequent changes to their products. Support for regulatory changes wouldn't hurt either… just sayin'.
So what information spurred my quest for a toxin-free home?
The term endocrine disruptor peaked my interested since Hashimoto’s is a disease affecting the thyroid, the master gland of the endocrine system. Spoiler alert: these are found in TONS of products. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, an organization within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), endocrine disruptors are “chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.” I won’t go on about the process by which these chemicals can alter natural hormone levels and/or their receptors since Google will provide you with endless information on that breakdown. I’ve read many of the scientific articles published on this topic, and I am left with only one thought: These chemicals have no place in my body, and I will do whatever it takes to limit my exposure to them.
What are some of the most common endocrine disruptors, you may ask? BPAs, DEHP, and Phytoestrogens. If you take the time to read about what these can do to your body, you’ll likely be throwing away quite a few things. If you would prefer to not go down that rabbit hole, just trust me… if you compared their toxicity level to the toxicity level of friend, you’d be dealing with the likes of Regina George.
Heavy metals are another culprit that I needed to face. I was tested for heavy metals during my first visit with a functional physician. Although my levels were not alarmingly high, they were high enough to warrant detoxification and limit any further exposure. Some of those that call for concern due to their association with autoimmunity are mercury, arsenic, and cadmium… but the list is long. I took action. In addition to implementing the use of a few products, I began drinking this smoothie every morning. It’s been a recent addition to my routine so I look forward to sharing the results in a few months after I retest for heavy metals.
Last, but not least there are pesticides… YUCK. This is one type of toxin most of us are familiar with, whether due to their toll on the environment or their effects on our physical health. I personally didn’t do much to avoid ingesting pesticides aside from spraying my fruits and vegetables with a non-organic wash prior to eating them. I made a minimal effort for most of my life and let my already fatigued body take on the toxic burden as a result.
Once I had armed myself with the knowledge to make changes, I decided to start the transition with my cooking and cleaning routines. Let me be clear: I work full-time, currently live in the burbs, follow a budget, and unfortunately don’t have access to a local co-op. I like to consider myself an optimistic realist. I will not be moving to an organic farm, growing all of my own food, and/or making all of my beauty products by hand. It’s just not my reality, and I think a lot of people reading this are in the same boat. That being said, I was able to make impactful changes within reason.
Category 1: Kitchen & Cleaning
Transition to a Toxin Free Home #1: Avoid the use of plastic whenever possible, especially plastic containing BPAs. I invested in a set of glassware food storage containers, and I carry around a glass or metal water bottle everywhere. I have more dishes at the end of the day, but it’s completely worth the extra scrubbing.
Transition to a Toxin Free Home #2: Use non-toxic cookware. I switched out my non-stick cookware for enameled cast iron and glass. I also ditched my plastic cooking utensils and got some wood and metal replacements.
Transition to a Toxin Free Home #3: Use Essential Oils & Non-Toxic Cleaners. Do I sometimes miss the smell of a kitchen freshly cleaned with lemon scented bleach wipes? Yes. Do I have any regrets about ditching them? Absolutely not. My favorite brand so far is Dr. Bronner's. I also use this sanitizing spray to clean my fresh produce.
Transition to a Toxin Free Home #4: Filter your water. There are 3 filters I personally love, 1 for each type of budget (Let's call them the Toyota, Lexus, & Tesla models). I currently use the cheapest option so there is zero shame in my game. You always have the option of setting up a filter for your entire house, but this was not an option for me since I don’t own my current residence.
Transition to a Toxin Free Home #5: Clean up your laundry routine. Who knew when we were washing and drying our clothes that we were spinning them around with a whole lot of endocrine disrupting ingredients? Since waking up to this issue, I have switched to this brand of detergent and I use these dryer balls with a few drops of essential oils. There are a variety of brands available, I just happen to like this one the most out of the ones I’ve tried so far.
This post is part of a series which I will continue over the next month. I will share the changes I’ve made to my beauty routine and which products I now use. I will also shed some light on the detoxification practices and lifestyle shifts that are reducing my toxic exposure.
I genuinely hope this series is helpful for those looking to heal. Please know I am far from perfect, in case my blog’s name didn’t make that obvious. I have used toxic products when I was in a bind or traveling for an extended period of time. I have also used them a few times just because I wanted to (see: designer mascara). It doesn’t make me a bad person or un-dedicated. It just makes me human. Education and awareness are more important than following a strict rulebook 24/7. With that in mind, please be patient with yourself, practice a little self-compassion, and remember that even a small shift is a step in the right direction.