Most of us moms realize the absolute necessity of good nutrition for ourselves and our families. Nutrition affects our overall wellness – the food we put into our bodies literally makes us. Hopefully, your family is already eating a clean, balanced diet. But lately, I’ve come to realize there is something else we need, and I have a sense of urgency to tell you about it. We need a non-toxic home, and we need it NOW.
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When I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder I started researching – because that’s what I do. I want to share with you what I have learned to save you time and save your health – and your family’s health. The main thing I’ve learned so far is that in these modern times we are all likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder or disease sometime in our lifetime.
If you are curious about my health history, you can read My Health Journey.
What is an autoimmune disorder?
Our immune systems are designed to help protect our bodies from infections and disease. If you have an autoimmune disorder, your body’s immune system makes a mistake and attacks your own healthy tissues. There are about 80 different kinds of autoimmune disorders. They are chronic disorders that can be debilitating, and some are life-threatening.
Examples of Autoimmune disorders and diseases:
- Skin (psoriasis, eczema)
- Endocrine system (thyroiditis, type 1 diabetes)
- Joints (arthritis)
- Gut (Crohn’s, celiac, irritable bowel syndrome)
- Nervous System (multiple sclerosis)
- Lungs (asthma)
- Multiple systems (lupus)
The incidence of autoimmune diseases is increasing. Currently, it is believed to affect about 50 million Americans. You can compare that to 9 million Americans with cancer, and 22 million with heart disease. I am sure that as you read over that list you thought of people you know who are suffering from those diseases – maybe even people in your family.
One of the things I find scariest about these diseases is that people often go undiagnosed for many years. Autoimmune diseases can affect multiple systems in your body, and the early symptoms often include fatigue, joint or muscle pain, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression. It can take a long time for someone to even decide to go to the doctor for symptoms like these, and then a long time for the doctor to figure out what is causing the symptoms. Which means that the things in your lifestyle that are making your disorder worse are not being addressed, and you could potentially be making yourself sicker and sicker without knowing it.
I’ve noticed there is a lot of acceptance in our society of not feeling that great. Many people feel tired, have low energy, don’t sleep well, suffer from headaches, joint pain, digestion issues, low moods…and just think that it’s their normal. A lot of people don’t have optimum health and don’t even realize that they could do anything to improve their situation. They see others that do feel good and energetic and think that those other people are just lucky.
But what if you could feel better? What if you are sluggish because you are unwell? And what if you could feel better?
What is causing the increase in autoimmune disease?
Research is being done to determine what is causing this increase. Some people are more susceptible to autoimmune disease and may have genetic predispositions. If someone in your family has an autoimmune disease, you are more likely to develop one (and likewise, if you have one yourself, your children are more susceptible).
Continued analyses seem to lead us to the conclusion that environmental factors are triggers for autoimmune diseases, as well as certain viral and bacterial infections. Changes in our environment and lifestyle over recent decades are likely causing the increases in the prevalence of autoimmune diseases.
Environmental toxins surround us every day. It is absolutely necessary that you do what you can to decrease your family’s exposure to toxins. The products you buy to clean your home, scent your home and fabrics, clean your family’s bodies and hair…all of these products are absorbed into your family’s bodies through their skin and inhalation into their lungs.
I read the book The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Meyers. In it, she teaches about the ideas I’ve already explained and presents solutions including diet recommendations. But what I want to share with you today are her ideas about creating a more non-toxic home. She includes a list of ingredients that she says we need to keep out of our homes because they are toxic chemicals.
I spent some time researching each item on the list as well as other information I’ve found from reputable sources, some of which I have linked to specific items below. Some of these are found in household cleaners, others are in self-care products, and some are in both. Here are the ones I think you need to watch out for:
- parabens (such as methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl): can cause hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and have been linked with hormonal cancers including breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. n Mimics estrogen. They can also cause skin irritation and neurological issues.
- benzalkonium chloride: associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, they are especially dangerous for people with asthma or skin conditions such as eczema.
- formaldehyde: highly toxic, it severely irritates skin and respiratory system, causing a burning sensation and can cause dizziness, coughing, and nausea. Several different preservatives used in household items release formaldehyde, including bronopol, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, and imidazolidinyl urea.
- butyl acetate: can be irritating to nose, eyes, throat and skin.
Inhalation can be detrimental to the lungs, nervous system, and reproductive system.
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole): possibly linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Also a skin and respiratory irritant.
- Coal tar: Sometimes found in shampoos, it’s been shown to increase risk of cancer and neurological issues
- DEA (diethanolamine). Also found in compounds such as Cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA: DEA is banned in the European Union. It’s linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and builds up to toxic levels in the liver and kidneys.
- ethyl acetate: Irritating to skin, eyes, nose, and throat. A greater exposure can cause dizziness and fainting, and prolonged exposure can damage the liver and kidneys.
- fragrance (parfum): the problem with fragrance is that a lot of it is made with synthetic chemicals that aren’t regulated very well. Studies show that about a third of fragrances are toxic, and you don’t know which ones are in the products you buy because they are just listed as “fragrance.” Toxic fragrances can be hormone disrupters, cause respiratory damage, cancer, or productive harm.
- hydroquinone: used in skin lightening products (such as erasing dark spots) it is linked to cancer and eye damage.
- Chlorine: can affect thyroid health, leading to Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, and other forms of thyroid dysfunction. Can also be a respiratory irritant, causing coughing or wheezing. Also leads to headaches and dizziness.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MI/MCI/MIT) & methylchloroisothiazolinone: preservatives that have been linked to allergic reactions as well as possible lung toxicity and neurotoxicity.
- phthalates: Often found in synthetic fragrances mimic estrogen and disrupt the endocrine system. Has been linked to causing early puberty in girls and has been linked to breast cancer.
- PERC (Perchloroethylene): releases gases that can damage neurological system. Can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and reproductive harm.
- triclosan: causes hormone disruption and may also harm our immune systems and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs.
- ammonia: the fumes can cause coughing, wheezing, headaches, laryngitis, nausea, asthma, and high blood pressure. It’s especially dangerous for people with asthma.
- sodium hydroxide (lye): found in oven and drain cleaners, it’s corrosive to eyes and skin, and can cause a burning sensation and sore throat.
All of this is pretty intimidating and hard to keep track of. If you want to do research on specific items that you have in your home, you can go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website. They have a Skin Deep consumer guide to help you find safe body care products, and a home cleaning product guide to help you find safe cleaning products.
Unfortunately, you can’t just buy products labeled “all-natural” or “organic” and forget about it. The industry is not well regulated, and many of those products still have unhealthy ingredients. When I first started on this path, I bought some of the well-known “natural” brands – and was soon disappointed to see that they don’t do well under scrutiny.
Make it easy on yourself
Don’t have time for all that research? I get it, you’re a busy mom. Let me help you! You can just follow my advice! I’ve spent hours reading books and articles and listening to podcasts on this topic. I’m researching like crazy, reading and listening to experts – functional practitioners, doctors, endocrine experts, aromatherapists, dieticians. I’ve stood at Target reading package labels and comparing the labels to the EWG website.
I want to make my family healthier and your family, too! This is my promise to you: I will learn and weigh the information and get the best info to you, so that you and your family can be healthy and well. I want you to have a more non-toxic home. I’ve got lots of info for you, so why don’t you pin this article and save it for later?
I’ve been rethinking my household cleaners and products. Rethinking my self-care and that of my kids – soap, lotions, shampoo, etc. I’m learning as fast as I can and changing what I can without breaking the bank.
I’ve been working on switching out my self-care products and cleaners and I’ve added essential oils to my life. My research has taught me that essential oils can help support your body’s systems just like eating fruits and veggies. Our skin absorbs what we put on it, whether toxins or nutrients. Our body is affected by what we inhale and breathe in. We can breathe in toxins in harsh household cleaners or synthetic fragrances in body care products, or we can breathe in natural essential oils that support our health and influence our moods. To learn more, read this article:
I have been trying out lots of different things. I’ve bought a variety of new products and also started making my own.
I am going to write more articles explaining how to handle each type of product in your home. For now, I want to make it easy for you and show you the best of what I’ve found.
When starting to make a more non-toxic home, laundry is an important place to start because the chemicals that touch your clothes directly touch your skin all day long. So my laundry room was one of the first places that I started making changes.
Some people find that it is difficult to switch out their laundry detergent because the healthier versions don’t get their clothes as clean. Because of that, I was a bit nervous. So far, my results have been pretty good!
- Trader Joe’s Liquid Laundry Detergent has been my choice for the past month or so. I am very happy with how it cleans the clothes. It scores a “D” on the EWG website. However, when I looked more closely, I saw that part of the reason it scored poorly is because it had “poor ingredient disclosure” when they evaluated it in 2016. Looking at the bottle I have, there seems to be a more detailed list than the one they are using. I tried researching the individual ingredients and it seems that they are not too bad. Here’s the list: “Purified water, Plant-based surfactants (coconut), soy-based fabric softener, cellulose optical brightener, lavender oil.”
- Ever Spring, Target’s less toxic store brand (I bought it last week to replace the poor-scoring TJ bottle before I researched it further) is rated “A.” I will update after I try it and let you know how it performs.
- Planet laundry detergent is rated “A” by EWG and has very good reviews on Amazon.
- Biokleen laundry detergent is also rated “A” by EWG and also has pretty good reviews, although it is pricey.
- Attitude laundry detergent is also rated A and also has pretty good reviews on Amazon.
- Thieves all-purpose cleaner has a pleasant cinnamony smell and is very versatile. This is what I’ve been using in my home. It’s available online through Young Living. To learn more about Young Living, please read my article about essential oils. I had been using Mrs. Meyer’s and Method before, but I realized the ones I had picked rated poorly on the EWG website. Thieves is not on the EWG website, I assume because it’s not available in stores. However, they fully disclose their ingredients so it’s easy to research that way. I like its versatility. I bought some empty spray bottles through Amazon, and I am able to choose how concentrated I want my spray to be for different household uses. 30:1 is what I chose for starters and use it daily to clean my kitchen counters.
- Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Vinegar is available through Amazon. It rates an “A” on the EWG website. It comes in several different scents and has good reviews on Amazon.
- Puracy Multi-Surface Spray is also rated an “A” by EWG and has good reviews.
- Greenworks rated a “C, D, or F” depending on the formula, Seventh Generation rated a “C,” Whole Foods 365 rated a “C”, PineSol rated a “D,” Method varied from “C-F” depending on the formula, Mrs. Meyer’s rated a “D” or “F” depending on the scent, and Simple Green rated an “F.”
For years I’ve enjoyed buying pretty-scented foaming hand soaps in decorative bottles. Well, now I’ve learned that they are made with toxins. Sigh. So I’ve been doing my best to find better choices. There are lots of soaps on the market that claim to be “green.” If you read the ingredients, though, you will be disappointed – and a bit shocked, to be honest. So here are the better, actually non-toxic ones I’ve found:
- Everyone Foaming Hand Soap has a stellar ingredient list, a pleasant scent, and cleans your hands well. It comes in several scents, including lavender + coconut, spearmint + lemongrass, and apricot + vanilla. It’s top-rated on the EWG website.
- Sallie B’s Skin Yummies is the other most highly rated choice on the EWG website. It comes in citrus vanilla, lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint.
- Kosmatology Botanical Bliss hand soap also has a good rating on the EWG site and comes in several scents.
- Puracy Natural Dish Soap in Green Tree & Lime is a great choice. It rates the top score on the EWG website and it is what currently is in my kitchen. It seems to work just as well as the traditional, more toxic brand that I had before. It’s also a pretty good deal. The price I linked here is for three bottles.
- The Honest Company Dish soap is also rated well on EWG – I haven’t tried it, but it has 4 stars on Amazon reviews. A few reviewers said they found it didn’t cut the grease as well as traditional dish soaps. It also is a more expensive choice. I am still including it here because I know a lot of moms really like the Honest Company.
- Trader Joe’s has a pleasantly scented lavender dish soap which is a great price like all of their products. It’s rated an “A” by EWG, but I have to be honest- I’ve tried it and I don’t think it works very well. Again, I’m mentioning it here because so many moms (including myself) really like Trader Joe’s products.
- Ecos dish soap also rates an “A” by EWG. I haven’t tried this one, but it is priced nice and low and the reviews are good on Amazon.
- Method, Mrs. Meyer’s, and Everspring all rate a “D” by EWG. Dawn and Palmolive both rate “D” or “F” for their various choices, including the ones with words like “pure” and “eco” in the name.
Wrapping it up
I hope my research has helped to make your life easier! Have you found more non-toxic homemaking items that you love? If so, let me know in the comments. If you want to try making your own products, start by reading my article about essential oils.
Don’t forget to replace any plastic items in your kitchen! For tips on this, read my article about non-toxic straws.