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8 Ways to Reduce Your Chemical Exposure

Have you ever thought about the cocktail of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis? That we directly apply to our skin and body, use to clean our homes, consume via our water and food sources, and are surrounded by in our homes, offices, gardens, playgrounds, and workplaces? Not to mention our toxins of choice – caffeine, alcohol, and artificial ingredients in processed and takeaway foods. Have you taken a moment to wonder how these unrelenting, repeated exposures might affect your health?

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Numerous food chemicals, personal care ingredients, and industrial chemicals have been detected in human blood, urine, hair, breast milk, and even umbilical cord blood. What’s more horrifying, is the thought that the vast majority of chemicals in circulation and use have not been adequately tested for their accumulative impacts on human health or development.

Rather than burying our heads in the sand about this enormous and daunting topic, it’s important to become educated so that we can make informed and conscious choices on a daily basis – to protect our own health, the health of the people we love, and the health of our precious planet.

It’s empowering to know that small changes to our daily routine can add up to have a significant impact on our body’s chemical burden. I have pulled together my top eight tips on helping you do just that.

8 Ways to Reduce Your Daily Chemical Exposure

  1. Living simply has been shown to reduce chemical body burdens. By eating unprocessed foods, avoiding canned foods, eating some of your own home-grown produce, choosing to walk or cycle over frequent car use, buying second hand, lending, borrowing, and filling your home with fresh air and furniture made from natural materials, you can have a significant impact on your and your family’s exposures. It’s all about adapting your way of living and coming back to nature at every opportunity.
  1. When you choose to buy organic, you significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides, GMOs and fertilisers. This especially applies to animal produce – meat, chicken, eggs, milk products – as these may contain higher levels of some persistent pollutants due to the fat content – it is within the fat of other animals that many fat-loving, long-life chemicals accumulate and magnify. For your fresh produce, you may wish to make the EWG’s a priority to buy organic, particularly for infants and young children. If you don’t have access to organic produce, consider eating less meat and high-fat dairy products, and stick to the EWG’s clean fifteen lists of fruits and vegetables.
  1. Look to reduce your use of personal care products, makeups and perfumes. Simplifying your beauty regime can significantly reduce your accumulative daily exposures to synthetic chemicals. Specifically avoid face and body scrubs that use plastic micro-beads, foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulphate, and nasty preservatives such as parabens –opting for natural ingredients (that you recognise and can pronounce!). Become familiar with some of the wonderful natural make-up and essential oil perfume brands out there that lean on nature’s bounty of plant-based ingredients. There are so many wonderful companies to there making conscious products that are nourishing to your skin without harming the environment.
  1. Minimise the number of household cleaners you use, and choose to only bring chemical-free cleaning products through your front door. Have a look at the cleaning options at health food stores or visit EWG’s DIY Cleaning Guide to make your own non-toxic cleaners using natural ingredients such as white vinegar, bi-carb soda, lemon juice, and essential oils. A little elbow grease goes a long way!
  1. Ditch the perfumes and artificial fragrances. Products such as air fresheners, fabric softeners, scented candles, and cheap incense contain synthetic fragrance ingredients called phthalates, which disrupt healthy hormone signalling pathways. Opt for fresh flowers, essential oils, and natural alternatives instead. If you must use a perfume, use it sparingly and spray on your clothes, rather than your skin.
  1. Move away from plastics, particularly when it comes to storing your food and drinks. Plastic containers, plastic food bags, water bottles, coffee cup lids and the like contain plasticiser chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol-A, which can migrate into foods and liquids. Store your food in glass or steel containers whenever possible, as these are inert. In particular, don’t microwave in plastic or with cling film, as microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots where plastic is more likely to break down and leach into food. Choose glass or ceramic for heating instead and cover food with a paper towel rather than cling film.
  1. Avoid toxic cookware. Despite being in most Australian kitchens, non-stick cookware can off-gas over high heat, creating toxic fumes. There are many new products on the market that are advertised as “green” or “not non-stick”, but companies are not required to release their safety data to the public. For safer cooking, try cast iron, steel, ceramic, and oven-safe glass.
  1. Run your tap water through a home filter, or drink spring water. Filters can reduce levels of common tap water pollutants. Reverse osmosis (RO) filters are the bees-knees, and highly effective at fluoride removal; but a good quality Carbon filter is still going to be effective in removing the majority of other impurities such as disinfection chemicals and their byproducts, particulates, and heavy metals.

The little decisions you make each day can add up to have significant impacts on your and your family’s accumulative chemical exposures. The key is to always be moving forward, no matter how slowly. It’s not a matter of striving for perfection, but rather striving for progress – one bite at a time.

If you found these tips helpful and would like to learn more, check out One Bite at a Time. One Bite at a Time is a must-have resource for those wishing to reduce their chemical burden and optimise their body’s resilience and health – whilst protecting the planet too.

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2015 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in NYC

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International HealthCare Symposium in New York, Feb 2015.

This Symposium was a privilege to attend, and a gathering of some of the world’s leading integrative medicine practitioners and researchers. It was truly uplifting, and I hoped to share with you a quick summary below of some of the outstanding things I learned.

One of my standouts was Dr Phillip Landrigan, an extraordinarily accomplished person (who’s Bio takes three days to read), is an American epidemiologist and pediatrician and one of the world’s leading advocates of children’s health. His pioneering work in the 1970’s led to removal of lead from gasoline many years ago. His efforts were instrumental to a measurable and timely reduction in blood lead levels in American children and public. He’s extremely humble, accomplished, and one of my personal and professional heroes.

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I was lucky enough to see Dr Philip Landrigan speak about exposures to toxins in paediatrics. The environment is a very big determinant in health for all of us, but particularly in children. He discussed evidence behind environmental causation in disease being strongest in asthma, and in neurodevelopment disorders, and the major costs that this places on society. He passionately discussed the complete failure of chemical regulation around the world, and shared some take home messages about the necessity of identifying in consultation with families, people high at risk to environmental chemical exposures, to asbestos, lead, pesticides, plastics, and flouride. I have implemented some of his specific questioning into my  work and his talk was very aligned with the current Book project I am undertaking with Dr Sarah Lantz. Hearing him speak was so consolidating to the work we have already invested.

I also heard inspiring speakers such as Aviva Romm (MD, Midwife and Herbalist) & Dr Lise Alschuler (Naturopathic Doctor and Naturopathic Oncologist) speak of the adverse physiological and physical effects of stress, particularly on overloaded women. “Allostatic load” is also a major driver of salt, fat and sugar intake. Strategies to better manage our responses to stressors around us were discussed, as well as the benefits of constantly trying to find your ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to balancing the stressors in your day, with breath, a nourishing diet, tight blood sugar control, exercise, and biological support such as nutritional supplementation and the use of adaptogenic herbal medicines. Strategies I find myself discussing every day with my gorgeous clients.

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The proliferation of  Wifi  (Electromagnetic Radiation) with wide-spread phone / gadget use and the health effects was also discussed, and is a “newer’ area of environmental health medicine that is building momentum as we understand more about it. The term ‘distance is your friend’ was used to describe the importance of keeping your phone when not in use on Aeroplane mode, or keeping it at least off your body with an ear piece when you do take a call. I think we are going to see a lot more about this in the future!

I hope you enjoyed some of that food for thought 😉

Wishing you all peace & happiness. 

Yours in good health,
Tabitha x

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How Can I Reduce My Chemical Exposures? By Tabitha McIntosh ND

Have you ever thought about the hundreds of different chemicals we are exposed to each day – in products we use to clean our homes, the personal care products we use on our bodies, in the pesticides we spray in our homes, offices, gardens, and playgrounds and in our food, water and air?

Numerous industrial chemicals have been detected in human blood, urine, hair, breast milk, and even umbilical cord blood.

It’s an even scarier thought that the vast majority of chemicals that are in use and in circulation have not been adequately tested for their impacts on human health or their particular impacts on children and developing babies – yet – it is now widely recognised that babies and young children are at greatest risk from these chemical exposures. Some chemical exposures can have life-long impacts on an infant’s health, immune function, and ability to learn.

As a mother, I want to do everything I can to keep my family safe from harmful chemicals, and no doubt you feel the same way. Parents can do a lot to protect their children from chemical hazards simply by changing their own personal behaviours and consumption patterns.

So if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, are breastfeeding or have young children, it is advisable to pay particular attention to reducing chemical exposures as much as possible.

Here’s a ‘starter-list’ of some practical measures you can take to protect yourself and your children from common chemicals: making yours and your family’s life just a little less toxic.

Stay tuned for information to come about a lecture I will be giving on this exact topic atBondi Beach Public School in August this year.

Store your food in glass containers whenever possible, as it is the most inert container you can use. Don’t microwave in plastic or with Gladwrap: use glass or ceramic instead. It is especially important to look for BPA-free bottles for your infants (these will have a golden tint); and BPA-free water bottles for your children and yourself. Ask your health care provider for some options of suppliers.

• Avoid processed foods, and become a food label detective. Avoid artificial food additives of all kinds, including MSG and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are found in most chewing gums, diet foods and drinks, and some children’s medications.

Buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic foodswhere possible, to reduce your exposure to pesticides, GMOs and fertilizers. This especially applies to animal produce (meat, chicken, eggs) and full-cream dairy products, as these may contain higher levels of some pollutants. If you don’t have access to Organic produce, consider eating fewer meat and high-fat dairy products. In addition, ask your Naturopath or Health care provider about the EWG’s ‘Clean Fifteen’ Vegetable and Fruits List.

Avoid the use of insecticides / pesticides in the home or garden, or on your family pets. Examples of common things to avoid: Mortein, Baygone, garden sprays, flea treatments, mosquito repellants that contain DEET etc. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.

• Throw out your Teflon pots and pans and instead use safer cooking materials like ceramic, stainless steel, and glass.

Run your tap water through a home-filter, or drink spring water. Filters can reduce levels of common tap water pollutants.

Avoid artificial fragrances: in air fresheners, fabric softeners, perfumes, cheap candles, and other synthetic fragrances. Use fresh flowers, essential oils and natural alternatives instead.

Reduce the number of cosmetics and other personal care products you use, which can contain harmful chemicals and can be sold with no safety testing. With most people using about 10 cosmetic and personal care products each day, aim to switch to Natural brands of personal care items: including shampoo, toothpaste,antiperspirants and cosmetics. Skin care products are notorious for containing a slew of dangerous chemicals. See the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database or ONE Groups’ Chemical Directory for more info.

• Avoid Nail polishes and Nail polish removers; aerosols like hairspray, conventional hair dyes and bleaches while pregnant and breastfeeding.

Carefully consider what you put on your baby’s skin: be cautious of Ingredients such as preservatives, parabens, foaming agents (SLS), fragrances and petroleum-based ointments. Speak to your Health Care provider about some alternative brands and products.

Carefully consider the toys you choose for your children, as children like to ‘mouth’ things. Avoid toys that have been painted overseas, plastics, adhesives, lip-glosses, nail polishes, etc.

When renovating your home, look for “green”, toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paints, varnishes and floor coverings. Use low VOC paints, varnishes and sealants (available from your hardware) and avoid formaldehyde resins. Ideally, aim to finish the Reno’s, polish the floor boards, and paint the baby room well before you conceive. See the Safer Solutions website for more advice on healthy home renovations.

Become a conscious purchaser when buying house-hold goods, cleaning chemicals, aerosoles, air fresheners etc. Look for green, toxin-free alternatives.

Reduce the number of household cleaners you use; and only use natural cleaning products in your home. Most health food stores will have these available or you can search online for them.

See the Safer Solutions website for keeping your home healthy and green

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