Healthy home guru Sophia Gushee is sharing some real talk about the health risks associated with the cleaning products and home essentials you use every day. Read on to see what the Well+Good Council member wants you to know about your toxic exposure.
From a young age, I did everything I thought one could do to be healthy: I ate well and exercised a lot, and my weight was always on the low end of the normal range.
Yet, I always felt bad. I suffered from low and unstable energy, developed precocious puberty at age 10 (that was considered really young back then), had highly erratic and painful menstrual cycles, and my emotions followed the same volatile path! And, despite eating lots of vegetables, I suffered from severe abdominal discomfort and digestive issues.
I’ve never exercised less, and I don’t sleep enough. Yet, I’ve never felt better. The key change? I’ve hacked my toxic exposures.
I accepted this state of existing as my normal—while thinking there must be something wrong with me. Today, as a mother of three relatively young girls, with a full-time job outside the home, many parts of my life are less healthy: I’ve never exercised less, and I don’t sleep enough. Yet, I’ve never felt better. The key change? I’ve hacked my toxic exposures.
Here's why I did it, and 4 reasons doing a home detox could improve your health as well.
The truth about toxic exposures
Since World War II, more than 84,000 chemicals have been introduced into American commerce. These chemicals show up in our homes as useful consumer products, like cleaning or beauty products, furniture, carpets, candles, pots and pans, and more. However, the chemicals in our household goods don’t stay in their containers. Over time, they're released and contaminate their surroundings, like our water, food, indoor air, dust, and bodies.
In fact, hundreds of industrial chemicals have been detected in our bodies, including chemicals used in food packaging, pesticides, clothing, and textiles. This accumulated chemical load is known as our body burden.
Some chemicals don’t biodegrade easily so they'll remain on our planet for decades— even centuries—and travel the world through wind, water, consumer products, the bottoms of our shoes, and our international food supply. In fact, there's no population in the world that's exempt from a body burden of industrial chemicals: We're interconnected by our global chemical production and use.
This is why your “home” isn't just your real estate home, but also your body and this planet. It's also one of the most compelling arguments for reducing your exposure to toxins. Here are four more.
1. Hundreds of chemicals can disrupt your hormones
Hormones are involved in many biological processes—like growth, development, metabolism, sleep, repair, restoration, detoxification, and aging. And hundreds of chemicals used in our household products can interrupt the way they function. They're called endocrine disruptors (EDCs).
2. Tiny doses of EDCs can have powerful effects
At doses that are approximately a drop in an Olympic-sized pool, EDCs can disrupt your endocrine, reproductive, metabolic, and neurological systems—which can lead to infertility, thyroid disorders, obesity, immune disorders, and more. Similarly, toxic exposures this tiny can interfere with your biology: development of a baby, puberty, and menopause.
3. There is an unknown cocktail effect
Chemicals that may be considered safe can be harmful when mixed with others. In a home, and within a body, unintentional mixtures occur all the time, and they're not fully understood. But what researchers are discovering urges us to hack our toxic exposures. For example, chlorine, a common household staple, can create toxic fumes when combined with ammonia, which is found in toilets (urine) and some glass cleaners. The possible unintentional mixtures in your home and body are endless.
4. Detoxing your home can boost your diet and exercise goals
I now view toxic exposures at least as important as diet and exercise. Small adjustments can lead you toward elevated energy, a body you feel great about, more clear and glowing skin, improved sleep, less anxiety, better moods, and lower risks for all health issues and diseases. Preliminary studies indicate it could improve our metabolism, fat storage, fertility, mental health, risks for endometriosis and various cancers, and much more.
An effective detox is a marathon, not a sprint. So focus on the small tweaks that you don’t mind making! The potential benefits, both personally and as a society, are immeasurable.
Sophia Gushee is a sought-after toxic exposures expert, author of A to Z of D-Toxing, and founder of Practical Nontoxic Living, a multimedia company that produces podcasts and is incubating the D-Tox Academy, an online portal that will make practical nontoxic living simple and accessible.
What should Sophia write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to email@example.com.
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