If you’re listening to health-conscious thought-leaders and paying attention to the media sources daring to inform us of inconvenient truths, then chances are you’re at least vaguely aware that we are living in a pretty toxic world.
There’s chlorine and heavy metals in our water supply.
Our cleaning and personal care products contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (dun-dun-dun), meaning that they bind to our hormone receptor sites so that our very own hormones can’t attach to these sites and elicit their intended effects.
Plastics also disrupt normal hormonal function and unfortunately going BPA-free won’t necessarily offer you protection … they’re replacing BPA with alternatives that aren’t all that safe either.
Then there’s car, bus, plane and train fumes. Off-gassing from factories and industry. Heck, even new carpets and furniture off-gas chemicals that disrupt our physiology.
Let’s not forget (as much as it’s tempting to) the pesticides, fungicides, herbicide, additives, preservatives, colourings and flavourings in the food supply.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, because thankfully our body’s are freakin-amazing and want to protect us from all of this chemical exposure. We just have to help them out.
It would be pretty depressing to think that we were powerless in all of this. That predicaments such as autoimmunity and cancer were inevitable and that we are merely at the mercy of our genetics.
Yes, all of us have some unfavourable genetic mutations, some worse than others no doubt. However it’s our environment – what we are exposed to each day, that really determines which genes are switched “on” and which genes are switched “off”.
I was talking to my cousins yesterday and I made a joke about how you virtually have to be a “crazy hippy” (like me), just to have a chance at thriving in this world. We sort of laughed about it, but did agree that’s it’s more or less the truth. There is definite merit to being a bit more “alternative” that your peers.
Below are some of the easiest ways to support your body so that when you are inevidably exposed to toxins; heavy metals, phalates parabens, pesticides etc. your body has the strength and reserves to detoxify, meaning that you have the best chance of avoiding the diseases currently plaguing modern society; autoimmunity and cancer being some of the biggest players.
Settle petal. Stress causes an acute inflammatory response that will sustain and become chronic unless you find ways to dull this heightened state of alertness. Some stress is good; the urgency to get an important task completed, the fatigue-inducing physical stress of a workout well-done. However, the inflammatory response of stress suppresses the immune system and sustains high cortisol levels – which can eventually cause adrenal fatigue and may contribute to unwanted fat storage. Some stress is inevitable and we can’t run away and live in a zen little bubble of tranquility (as much as living in a crystal cave or quirky treehouse is tempting, it’s probably not a reality for me right now, if ever!).
We can however, do little things to remedy this inevitable stress response. We can have periods of the day where we don’t check technology, ensure we enjoy regular belly laughs, take time out to breath and prioritise our chores; keeping lists and remaining organised so we have plans of attack and feel calm and in control. I don’t know about you but I reckon one of the best stress busters is a good morning routine; some stretching, a little exercise and a healthy brekkie before jumping into the rest of the day.
Use Essential Oils
Deodorants, perfumes, room sprays, air-fresheners and those plug-in wall thingy-majigs are dangerous little buggers. I’d bet you anything that the array of (goodness-knows-how-many) chemicals contained in these products explains, at least to some degree, the rise in lung cancer incidence, despite society’s overall decreased smoking prevalence. I’d also partially blame these sly products for our breast cancer epidemic – along with pesky personal care and cleaning products; think moisturisers, cleansers, surface sprays, shampoos, conditioners, soaps and detergents. Phalates, one of the many classes of chemicals contained in such products, increases oestrogen levels in the body. Let’s keep in mind that breast cancer is generally an oestrogen-positive disease! Plus on top of this, pretty much all toxins bind to the proteins contained upon our own cells, altering their structure and making them appear to the immune system as foreign bodies … hello autoimmunity!
The solution: buy the most natural cleaning products on the market (Alexx Stuart has some great resources and advice for the safest brands). Switch to natural personal care and make-up brands. I’m not talking about the ones where they say “made with natural ingredients” or “enriched with avocado oil” but you turn the container over and it reads like a year 11 chemistry textbook. I mean brands such as twenty8 that don’t use ANY harmful ingredients at all. If you aren’t sure what qualifies as harmful, now is a great time to get researching and becoming your own empowered and knowledgable health advocate. As for smelling great, there are some fantastic toxin-free deodorants at the health food store (again, do your research to make sure you aren’t being seduced by scammy claims) and if smelling nice is all you’re after, look no further than a few dabs of essential oil on your perfume points (neck, wrists etc.). I also love vaporising essential oils in my home, either with an old-school candle burner or an electric diffuser – all natural, smells incredible, will calm the nervous system and beats hormone-disrupting commercial plug-ins any day! Buy a small glass spray bottle and fill with water and a few drops of your chosen essential oil, this can be used as a toilet spray, facial spritzer or carried in your handbag (or man-bag fellas) as a pick-me-up. In a pinch, a few drops of your fave essential oil on a tissue is a great rescue remedy when you’re out and about. I always have one in my pocket when I’m in the city and exposed to things like train, bus and cigarette pollution.
Move ‘dat Ass
Exercise baby! Endorphins, natural (safe) chemicals released into the bloodstream as we exercise (or have sex for that matter), down-regulate the inflammatory response. Regular movement also helps to release pent-up tension and anxieties – so it virtually has a double-whammy effect on boosting mood and taming the stress so notorious for making us sick. Get moving outdoors and you have the added benefit of sneaking in some sunlight for the all-important vitamin D (which isn’t a vitamin at all really but one of the most important hormones in the body, contributing to countless physiological processes). Adequate vitamin D levels are essential for preventing autoimmunity as, like movement, it helps to dull systemic inflammation and support optimal immunity.
Fucking Get On The #JERF Bandwagon
Yes that F-bomb was necessary … this one is super-important! You see, food serves two purposes in maintaining good health. Firstly, properly nourished cells maintain their structural integrity, a vital part of self-tolerance (the immune system distinguishing your cells from foreign bodies such as viruses and bacteria). Secondly, a diet full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fats and quality protein assists the body’s natural methods of detoxification. There’s another fantastic reason to eat as close to nature as possible. Here is Australia, our food supply contains an abundance of ingredients that quite frankly aren’t doing us any favours. There’s the glyphosate sprayed on wheat crops. This chemical depletes us of vital minerals and inhibits neurotransmitter production. The pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the grasses our animals eat, as well as the fresh produce we consume; think berries and greens, kill bugs – including our all important gut bugs. Then there’s the array of packaged foods we eat, most full of preservatives, colourings, flavourings etc., most of which come with health warnings when consumed in isolation, let alone when combined with several other additives in the one product.
Priorities … Ideally we’d all have access to organic food (or as our grandparents called it; food) and be fortunate enough to sport the funds to afford it. Where possible, try to buy as much organic produce as you can afford, I’ll often go without other “luxuries” so that I can spend my cash on a big bunch of organic bananas or several heads of beautiful organic broccoli. The second best option is to stick to real food, even if you’re still getting a few sprays of pesticides here and there. When I say real food, I’m talking fresh fruits and veggies (wash or peel before use), nuts and seeds (raw and no vegetable oil added), fresh fish (oily is particularly nutritious as omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory), grass-fed meat (there are heaps of butchers specialising in grass-fed meats these days), gluten-free whole grains (think buckwheat, rice, amaranth etc.), legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils etc.), cold-pressed oils (think olive, macadamia, coconut) and miscellaneous items such as pure sea or Himalayan salts, herbs, spices, raw cacao, spirulina, coconut water etc.
It’s amazing how just getting rid of the packets and returning to good, honest, flavoursome REAL food can turn your health around super-duper fast. My health started to recover long before I went organic, even my fragile little system that had autoimmune-induced liver cirrhosis was able to handle a small amount of pesticides etc. I think all of the goodies in fresh fruits and veggies and the probiotic bacteria in foods such as coconut yoghurt and kombucha tea balanced things out a fair bit.
See my transitioning to whole foods page for ideas on how to get back to a simpler and nutrient dense way of eating, without having to go cold turkey or feel at all deprived
Also, let’s not forget that a diet high in fibre works wonders for keeping the bowels regular. There’s a reason that taking a good, satisfying dump feels so euphoric. Your body is eliminating waste – the more you poo, the more toxins and dead cells you’re excreting. Yet another reason to favour antioxidant and fibre-loaded plant-based foods.
Sleep Your Cares Away
When we sleep our the immune system has time to recalibrate. Old cells slough off and new cells are produced in their place. Our nervous system gets to slow down and take a load off. Our digestive organs get a break from ingesting foods and liquids and have a chance to detoxify (ever wondered why you need to pee or take a dump first thing in the morning? That’s the body getting rid of the waste products from its overnight detox). Sleeping in a quiet, cool environment, away from bright lights (don’t even think about bringing that phone into the bedroom with you – leave it out in the kitchen or living room), will give your body a peaceful opportunity to completely switch off from it’s conscious state. Rejuvenation and repair are daily requirements and so much easier for our beautiful body’s to undertake if we let them be and give them the rest they deserve.
Have trouble sleeping? Try some calming essential oil drops on your pillow (I love roman chamomile, rosewood and sandalwood) or a calming cup of herbal tea; such as chamomile or ginger with raw organic honey. While we’re on the subject of beverages, if you know you’re sensitive to caffeine, even more mild forms such as green tea, avoid consumption after midday. When I was fifteen it took me months to figure out that it was my matcha smoothie and green tea habits keeping me awake for hours at night (whoops!).
A few more hints; separate your final meal for the day and bedtime by at least an hour – it’s super hard to fall asleep when your body is busy digesting. Magnesium spray can also be super-useful, just spray some on your calves and feet and rub into the skin. When all else fails, get into a comfortable position and read a book until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer. The latter is great if you’ve had a late dinner and need to start winding down but can’t lie flat straight away – it’s amazing how time flies when your read. Before you know it, your food is digested and you’re feeling mellow and sleepy.
So there we go … five lifestyle changes that can be the difference between falling ill and winning at life. Sure we live in a crazy, busy, chemical-laden world, but that doesn’t have to hinder our health nor define our gene expression. We can be strong and happy and healthy. We just have to eliminate the environmental triggers where we can, so that when things are beyond our control, our bodies can say “No problemo amigo! We got this, it’s all gonna be a-Okay!”
Aren’t our bodies just the bomb-diggity? I think YES!