How Toxic Is Your Home?

When we are at home the last thing we think about is toxins, we are in our safe environment, or so it seems but we are increasingly becoming aware of the potential dangers lurking in our home and quite rightly we are now questioning them and unfortunately finding out more than what we bargained for.

The Living Room and Bedroom:

Let’s start with the 1970s when flame retardants were added to foams, plastics, furniture, carpets, building insulation and children’s car seats. Most flame retardants escape from the products into dust and the air we breathe. When dust contaminated with flame retardants gets on the hands, you can easily end up ingesting the dust in your mouth and also through your skin. Scientists have found exposure to flame retardants can affect the nervous and reproductive system and some flame retardants like PBDEs may be linked to neurodevelopmental problems, including impaired cognition and ADHD, particularly if exposure occurs at a very young age. In Europe the use and export of brominated flame retardants have been banned or severely restricted but PBDEs are still used in plastic manufacturing in China.

To minimise and limit your risk of exposure try to keep dust levels down by wet-mopping, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter and wash your hands before eating and avoid buying furniture filled with polyurethane foam.

The Kitchen:

In most homes the kitchen tends to be a minefield, do you ever use the self-cleaning feature on the oven?  Many people assume that the self-cleaning feature does not involve chemicals so it’s a safe choice. Self-cleaning ovens work by heating the oven to insanely hot temperatures and the problem is that the walls of many self-cleaning ovens are coated with Teflon that actually begin to break down at high temperatures, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Inhaling these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, so get your rubber gloves on and get some hot soapy water and use elbow grease to clean your oven, and avoid the self-cleaning oven feature like the plague.

woman in black and white striped shirt eating food from pot
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Talking of Teflon, have you checked your Teflon pans lately and seen scratches on them? if so time to say goodbye to them, many people are still using non-stick pans even after they have become damaged and begin to flake off.  The chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which was used in non-stick Teflon pans up until 2015 and has been linked to many diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver tumours, and reduced fertility. This chemical was found to build up in people’s bodies so if you are using your frying pans daily you will be at a higher risk.

Ceramic coated pans are one of the best replacements to Teflon as they are free of toxins. Always choose a brand that clearly states it’s toxic-free and environmentally friendly.

Do you dry your clothes in a dryer that resides in your kitchen?  Every time you put a load of washing on or dry the clothes inside the machine it gives out volatile organic compounds, which include Benzene and Acetaldehyde, carcinogenic substances which are not something you want to breathe in regularly, so if you live in an apartment and cannot dry your clothes outside just open those windows whenever you use your appliances.

The Bathroom:

Some bathrooms tend to be a damp haven which is a breeding ground for bacteria and harmful organic matter, mold can build up on tiles, on the walls and even on shower curtains and is usually caused by lack of air ventilation, so make sure you have a fan built in to your bathroom or open the windows when you shower or bath to avoid this build-up as the spores from mold can cause toxic disturbances and illnesses over a long period of time.  Throw away old shower curtains, re-masticate the tiles and keep mold away by using white vinegar.

Most cleaning products you also use in the bathroom and kitchen are filled with hazardous chemicals which you ultimately inhale when spraying them onto the surfaces, thankfully there are many less harsh cleaning alternatives on the market nowadays and I find my favourite natural solution is white vinegar, it is a great and safe substitute for cleaning anything but especially great for taps, shower screens, mirrors, and mold too. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar try adding some lemon oil.

(Never use chlorine bleach on mold which is often used to clean all manner of surfaces, not only does it produce fumes that pollute the air it also generates a by-product called dioxin, which is linked to cancer. Used over time, bleach builds up these pollutants in the environment, the last thing you want to do is create more toxic chemicals in your home, mold is toxic enough.

The World Health Organisation has pinpointed environmental pollution as a serious contributing factor to diseases and there have even been calls for a ‘Healthy Home Mark’ to be brought in that could be as important as energy efficiency when it comes to people’s decision to buy a home say Envirovent. 

As to how bad your house is, there are a number of tests and outside agencies that can come in to assess the quality of your air especially if you suffer from respiratory or asthma symptoms, it might be worth checking out whether the toxins in your home are to blame.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally

As someone who has personally suffered from the effects of anxiety and stress, I know how it feels to live with the fight or flight response, which is often permanently active and the consequences of this condition mean exhausted adrenals, fatigue and a general feeling of malaise.

One study shows that 3 million adults in the UK currently suffer from anxiety disorders, some claim that anxiety is the disease of the 21st century. Many psychologists working with young people have noted a substantial increase in the number of people, young and old, reporting with symptoms of anxiety.

So what are we getting all anxious about? 

It seems to be a problem mainly associated with the modern world and can be triggered by stressful events, work or relationship problems. Some people find the news makes them anxious and it wouldn’t be surprising. The news is full of stories of conflict, natural disasters, economic troubles, and crime and that can also add to our anxiety. 

What is Cortisol and what effect does it have on the body? 

Cortisol is a stress hormone which is produced by our adrenal glands and is usually released in response to events such as exercising and stress.

It’s a healthy response when it is required especially if we are in a dangerous situation but the problem is that this stress response is being triggered too frequently from our ever-stressed, fast-paced lifestyle and our bodies are pumping out cortisol almost constantly, which can wreak havoc on our health. 

Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia.

The Effects of Elevated Cortisol 

– Elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels which could cause blood sugar imbalances and put our bodies at risk of type 2 diabetes. 

– The purpose of Cortisol is to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppresses the immune system. Chronic inflammation caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, contributes to keeping cortisol levels soaring.

–  It’s important to eat your meals in a quiet manner allowing your digestion and absorption of nutrients to work at its peak performance, however if you are stressed, indigestion develops and the mucosal lining becomes irritated and inflamed. This inflammation can lead to a higher increase in the production of cortisol and the cycle continues as the body becomes increasingly burdened.

– Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia, chronic fatigue, and depression. When we sleep our cells renew and regenerate and in situations of chronic stress these systems are compromised allowing cortisol to soar. 

Eat More Greens

How Can We Reduce Cortisol?

The best approach to keeping cortisol levels at bay is mastering stress management and optimising our diet.

1. Tackling Stress: Exercise is a great way to release built-up stress, emotions, anger and the toxin overload that comes with it and this will also help to promote a better nights sleep. If you need to talk about what is causing your stress, try seeing a therapist, whether its someone who can just listen or perhaps someone who can find an alternative way to break your stressful thought patterns such as hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.

2. Be Mindful: Try practicing Yoga and Meditation, I found it easier to start by making it part of my morning or bedtime routine, even if its just 10 minutes of stretching and conscious breathing. Yoga, Meditation and other mind-body practices train your body and mind to be able to cope with stress which can also improve overall health and well-being.

3. Lower Inflammation: Systemic inflammation causes elevated cortisol levels. If we can naturally decrease inflammation in the body and minimise stress, decreased cortisol levels should follow. Try sticking to a low inflammatory diet which includes lots of organic plant-based foods, fibre, nuts, seeds, and beans and cut down on inflammatory foods such as processed take away meals, high sugar, alcohol, caffeine and foods high in saturated fats. 

4. Laugh: I don’t know about you but after a good belly laugh, nothing can change my good mood, Its just addictive and I crave more and more laughter. Spend time with friends that are fun, that make you laugh or watch a comedy or funny cats on youtube, whatever makes you smile. Those feel good endorphins that you release will naturally lower your stress levels and if you make time for regular laughter this should help to keep your cortisol levels at a low. Also sometimes when I am meditating I find that if I smile to myself it really has an effect of, its all ok, everything is going to be fine even if I don’t feel it is at that moment just fake it. Smile or laugh as much as possible and your high cortisol levels will have no place to hide.