I have a confession. I’m a purity snob. Like seriously, annoyingly, self-righteously a pain in the ass. I come to this affliction naturally. When you are a highly sensitive person with highly sensitive children, you research everything and take it to the Nth degree. But if you aren’t like my family? Should everyone be as careful as the most sensitive among us? I say YES, and here’s a breakdown of why you might want to consider a “hippy” lifestyle like us.
The first point it’s important to consider is that we are living in the most toxic environment in the history of the world---mankind is exposed to more synthetic chemicals every day then ever before, and most of those chemicals have not been tested for safety. And even if they have been tested individually, they have not been tested for reactions when multiple ingredients are combined. Take this chemical soup, add in the fact that environmental toxins can effect our DNA expression, and you might begin to understand why more than 50% of American children have a chronic health condition. Those conditions include asthma, ADHD, autism, food allergies….and those are just the “A’s”. Even if you’re not sensitive now, continued exposure can cause sensitization. We are all exposed to toxic emissions in the air, chemicals in our water supply, and off-gassing from building materials on a daily basis. My stance is that because there are so many things we can’t control, it’s in our best interest to control the things we can. So here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your family from toxic exposure.
Historically, all food was raised organically. After World War II we ushered in the “better living through chemicals” era and things slowly began to change. More chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers were added to our food supply. Synthetic food additives like red dye #5 and MSG made their way into our food. In 1980 high fructose corn syrup became widely used when Coca-Cola added it to their products. And then we went through the era of chemical sweeteners like aspartame. Finally, in the mid-90’s, genetically modified foods hit our grocery store aisles, which skyrocketed herbicide and pesticide use. The most widely used herbicide, Round Up, has the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate is considered a potential carcinogen, it is a known mineral chelator, and it is registered with the EPA as an anti-biotic. Add to this chemical soup the hormones, antibiotics, GMO-feed, and factory farming practices, and the animals we eat are unhealthy too!
The human body is made to digest natural foods, but the enzymes to digest synthetic food additives, genetically modified foods, and chemicals aren’t necessarily a part of our genetic make-up. We now know that we cannot properly digest food without probiotics, the gut flora that breaks down nutrients in our body. And we know that these chemicals in our food disrupt the healthy flora. We know that chemicals like synthetic food coloring and MSG are neurotoxic excitotoxins, meaning they over-stimulate the brain and central nervous system (think ADHD). We know that hormones being fed to the animals we eat are throwing off our own endocrine systems. I can go on and on and on, but the point is this: the healthiest way to eat is to do so naturally---meaning eat food the way it is found in nature without any man made interference. Shopping the outer perimeter of the grocery store, reading labels, and buying organic is now more important than it’s ever been.
VITAMIN & NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Because our food system has undergone so many changes from 100 years ago, a lot of people feel they need to supplement their nutrition. However, this is another category that isn’t always what it seems. Only 10% of a product needs to be natural in order for the company to call it “natural” on the labeling. What that means is you could be paying a lot of money for synthetic nutrition made in a lab. Advocates for lab-made vitamins will tell you that the synthetically derived vitamin is no different than if you were to eat it in it’s natural form. And frankly, that’s just not true for a few reasons.
Our bodies are designed to absorb our nutrients from food, where co-factors, enzymes, and the balance of vitamins and minerals is found in a balanced manner similar to how it is needed in our bodies. Synthetic nutrition has none of those qualities.
The vitamins and minerals found in synthetic nutrition are not in the same chemical formula as they would be found in nature. On the up side, if you can call it that, this simply means the body doesn’t absorb them well and you end up paying a lot of money to pee it out. You also end up having to take a lot more of the synthetic in order for the body to get what it needs—a good example of that is Vitamin D2 (you actually need D3). However, in other cases the body cannot actually convert the synthetic form to a usable form once ingested. However, that synthetic form will still bind to the cells in the body, which will keep future nutrition from being absorbed. Recent research in genetics and epigentics (the way genetics are expressed) show that folic acid (the synthetic form of b-9), and cyanocobalamin (the synthetic form of b-12) are two of those synthetic vitamins that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb them. Both those vitamins are necessary for the body to create energy, and without them many body functions suffer and chronic disease ensues. The inclusion of folic acid in everything from cereal to protein drinks to bread and on and on, as well as the suggestion that pregnant women take 800 mcg of folic acid daily during pregnancy is believed to be a major reason behind an increase in birth defects such as lip and tongue ties. Approximately 50% (I’ve seen ranges of 40% to 75%) of people cannot use folic acid and therefore become deficient in B-9. Look for supplements with Folate (natural B-9) and with methylcobalamin (natural B-12).
Most vitamin supplements include a host of synthetic fillers, binders, excipients, preservatives and are often full of genetically engineered ingredients and pesticide residues. From hydrogenated oils to artificial colors to microcrystalline cellulose (wood pulp) to titanium dioxide and magnesium stearate, you are paying for products that have no nutritional value and can actually be harmful. Nearly all Vitamin C is made of genetically engineered corn. Binders in vitamins can actually keep them from breaking apart in your digestive tract so you can’t actually absorb anything from them.
So what’s the bottom line? You want FOOD-BASED nutritional supplements that do not use synthetic ingredients, fillers, binders, etc of any kind, are GMO-free, and have no pesticide residues. There are VERY FEW companies out there that meet these requirements. In the store “Garden of Life” and “Megafood” are your best bets. Most natural practitioners carry high quality supplements—examples are Designs for Health and Physica. We do carry professional level supplements at our wholistic center, so please email me if you are interested in having something sent directly to you. I also represent Purium Health Products, an Organic Whole Food, Farm-to-Table nutrition company--you can find out more about them here.
PERSONAL CARE & HOME PRODUCTS
You would think that what you put on your skin wouldn’t necessarily be as important as what you eat, but that isn’t true. As your largest organ, almost everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream. As I mentioned earlier, my children and myself are very sensitive. Over the years I hunted for truly safe personal care products like lotion and sunscreen, for safe and effective cleaning products, and even things like safe candles. Over and over again I would buy products that were labeled “natural”, “eco-friendly”, “Non-Toxic”, “Botanically-Based”, etc., and over and over again I would use these products only to have my son break out in a rash or have trouble breathing after I cleaned the bathroom. That’s when I learned that personal care and home products ARE NOT REGULATED AT ALL!! The marketers of these companies can quite literally say whatever they want on their labels. This has led to a rash of what many call “Greenwashers”. These are companies that claim to be “green, organic, botanically based, etc” on their label, but their ingredients and company practices do not back up those claims. The only thing that is important is the ingredients and any third party certification the product has.
So how is one to choose?
Whenever possible, choose brands that have third party organic certification. That certification ensures that only the ingredients listed on the label are in the product. It also ensures the products have no pesticide residue and no genetically engineered ingredients.
Choose Toxin Free over Non-Toxic. Non-toxic means that any poisonous ingredients in the product have been buffered down until they are no longer poisonous. Toxin Free means the ingredients in the product were never poisonous to begin with.
When reading the label of the product, avoid any ingredients that are acronyms (PEG, BHA, DEA, etc.)—those ingredients are typically man-made from petroleum products and are often contaminated with carcinogens that will not be listed on the product. Also, avoid ingredients that have numbers in them (Quaternium-15, Polysorbate 20 (or 80 or 60)).
Avoid Mineral oil---also known as petroleum jelly, vaseline, etc. It is left over from the petroleum refining process and usually has toxins in it. It also clogs the pores of the skin, keeping the skin from being able to breathe.
Choose Products that have short ingredients lists. Most chemicals used in personal care products are not tested for safety. However, when they are tested they are tested individually, but not in concert with other ingredients. The more ingredients in a list, the more possibility of dangerous chemical interactions in the product itself. Also, the more ingredients, the more over-priced the product is likely to be.
If a products claims an ingredient is“proprietary” then it isn’t a natural ingredient. Natural ingredients cannot be patented—only ingredients made in a lab can be patented. So if the company claims it is proprietary information, then the ingredient isn’t natural. However, natural ingredient ratios can be propriety—for instance, what percentage of an essential oil is in a product.
Avoid chemical preservatives in your products. Preservatives harden your cells—not something you want. In quite a few cases a product will seem really great until you get to the end of the ingredients list and see sodium (or potassium) benzoate, phenoxyethanol, sorbic acid, any type of paraben, any formaldehyde based preservative like diazolidinyl urea, methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone.
Avoid synthetically scented products, as they often have phthalates in them—a potent endocrine disruptor. Lotion is a big one for this. But the worst? Laundry detergents and fabric softeners and air fresheners.
Use your resources! There is a lot of information out there about this topic. When someone from an MLM company is trying to sell you a night creme that costs $102 you want to be able to read the label and know for sure if it’s truly as safe as they claim it is.
Here’s some great resources for further research:
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/
Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database: This database does a good job of rating chemicals based on their safety. A word of warning, however. Sometimes a chemical will get a low score because they just don’t have enough safety data to judge it. Also, many “greenwashing” companies will not allow their products to be in this database, so it’s a red flag if you can’t find their products in the database. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
My Safe List:
From formaldehyde containing wood cabinets and floors, to mercury contaminated dry wall, to toxic carpet glue, to toxic paint, most conventional building products are toxic to the human body. That “new car” or “new house” smell is quite literally killing you. It can be tough to find better products for your home improvement projects, but they are out there.
Things to consider:
Wood Products—go for formaldehyde free and FSC certified.
For things like caulking and sealants, check out AFM Safecoat products. http://www.afmsafecoat.com
For flooring, only staple, don’t glue, carpets.. If at all possible go for wool carpets. Other safe flooring choices include marmoleum, cork, and bamboo (assuming they are using formaldehyde free glues).
For paint, choose water-based paints that have zero VOC’s. Benjamin Moore’s Natura and Mystic paint are both good ones.
My go to source when I have questions is: http://www.greenbuildingsupply.com
We all need it, and most of it is contaminated. Between fluoride and chlorine added to our water, pharmaceuticals and pesticide residue making it’s way into our water supply, and plastic bottles that leach toxins into bottled water, it’s tough to find good water. In our home we opted for a reverse osmosis filtration system and we use stainless steel water bottles or glass to hold our water. Reverse-osmosis takes the toxins out of your water, but it also removes necessary minerals that your body needs, so if you decide to go this route you will need a high-quality trace mineral supplement to replace the minerals being removed through reverse-osmosis. We carry both Physica Spectralyte Trace Minerals and Purium's Ionic Minerals (contact us to have them directly shipped to you.) Berkey water filtration systems are another popular system, but research shows they may not actually remove everything they say they do so I am a bit hesitant about them. Short of the ideas I’ve mentioned here, I don’t have a lot more research on this topic, but I thought it important enough to mention.
In this day and age it’s impossible to avoid all the toxins in our environment. Of course, this list is in no way comprehensive, but I hope I have given you some ideas and resources on how to control the things you can. If you have a particular product you’d like me to look over, please don’t hesitate to use the “contact” button and ask for more information. You can also find us on Facebook on our public page at “Higher Living Journey”, or our closed group “Higher Living Journey” where we explore and discuss topics like the ones above.
Once again, for more information on Purium Health Products click HERE. And for Poofy Organics Bath, Body, & Home, click HERE.
And as always, here’s to your Higher Living Journey.