By Samantha Hall
We all work hard to eat well, exercise regularly, get sufficient sleep and attempt to achieve at least some degree of work / life balance in order to stay fit and healthy. We then go that little bit further and take vitamin supplements, do detoxes, sip on green juices, and find the discipline to say ‘No’ to that second helping of dessert (even if it looks really good and we really want it!), just to boost our systems and gain that extra bit of vitality in our step. But are our efforts being sabotaged?
Is there something holding us back from achieving true health?
The answer could be lying at home.
Don’t underestimate the powerful and lasting effects that your environment can have on your health.
We often overlook our homes as potential contributors to our health. The truth is – our environment plays a major role in our wellbeing, and has the ability to enhance our health, or make us very, very unwell. Our homes should be our sanctuaries – wonderful places where we can retreat from the world to relax, rest and unwind. But what if your home is doing exactly the opposite? What if your home is dampening your spirit, burdening your immune system and adding to your toxic load?
Is it possible that your home is hampering your health efforts?
If you aren’t sure how healthy your home is, here is a common list of health hazards that you should look out for:
- Cleaning and laundry products are major sources of chemicals in the home. It is not uncommon to find ammonia, bleach (sodium hypochlorite), ionic surfactants and fragrances amongst everyday cleaning products. These nasties can be absorbed through your skin, inhaled, or accidentally ingested where chemical residue is left behind on surfaces, in fabrics, or even on your hands.
- Cosmetics are a cocktail of chemicals that we willingly apply to our skin, near our eyes, on our lips, and in our hair. Manufacturers commonly use ingredients such as triclosan, ‘fragrance’, parabens, petroleum distillates and phthalates. Rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient, be very, very wary.
- Air Contaminants Poorly ventilated spaces can harbor nasties such as dusts, pollens, moulds, fungus, fibres, smoke, fumes, and chemicals. Even if you can’t see particles in the air, or smell a funny odour, doesn’t mean the danger isn’t there. Smoking, dirty air-conditioners, carpets, high temperature cooking and cleaning chemicals can all contaminate your breathing space.
- Artificial light sources Artificial lighting has its benefits (candles anyone?), however can disrupt natural circadian rhythms, and is a major contributing factor as to why we don’t get the amount of sleep that we require! Artificial light sources can come from a range of places including lights, lamps, TV’s, smartphones, laptops and ipads.
- Electromagnetic and Wireless Fields There aren’t too many homes that don’t have electronic and wireless products anymore. The long-term effects of EMF aren’t yet fully known, however studies are showing a link between EMF exposure and sleep disruption.
- Water contaminants The use of water filters is relatively widespread, however have you considered the water in your shower? Water can be a source of chlorine and fluoride (as well as microbes and other heavy metals if you are using rain or soft water sources), which can be inhaled or absorbed whilst showering.
- Plastics are virtually everywhere these days, however they can break down into toxic byproducts such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates and perfluorooctanoic acid, which can ultimately end up in your body and wreak havoc.
- Clutter To much ‘stuff’ at home can harbor nasties, make it hard to clean, increase your likelihood of losing things, pollute your visual environment, and can potentially increase your stress levels. Why struggle around mess or chaos if you don’t have to?
So what can you do?
It’s not like we are ever going to eliminate our exposure to toxic things –it’s a fact of life and a fact of living in a modern world. There are however, a number of things that you can do to make your home a healthier space.
Here are a few options to get you started.
- Audit your home: Do a walk through each room and see what you find.
- Embrace traditional and natural cleaning methods: Make like your grandparents used to and rediscover greener cleaning products such as soap, vinegar, bicarb of soda and lemons. You may find that traditional methods are not only healthier, but cheaper and better for the environment as well!
- Embrace fresh air and sunshine! There is nothing better than throwing open a window and letting the outside world in!
- Use damp cleaning methods and a HEPA filter on your vacuum to minimize the risk of airborne particles when cleaning.
- Clean your air-conditioner filters on a regular basis
- Leave your shoes at the door – don’t bring nasties into your home in the first place!
- Clean out your cosmetics bags. If you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient, or you can’t remember how long it has been in your cupboard (cosmetics have a definite shelf life), then it’s probably not good for you. Reduce the amount of cosmetics that you wear, and start asking questions about whether or not there are healthier alternatives for your favourites. And, (if you are like me and love your cosmetics), always ensure that you always wash them off before going to bed.
- Embrace minimalism: Let go of old clutter and excess items. You will be amazed at how much cleaner and lighter a space feels when it has less ‘stuff’.
- Be conscious of lighting around bed time and use blue light filters on smartphones or laptops if you need. Blue light has the most impact on disturbing melatonin secretion which is crucial for getting to sleep.
- Embrace sustainability – use glass containers instead of plastic.
- Switch off your electronics at night. If you don’t need to use it, turn if off!! Save electricity, cut down on EMF exposure and sleep better! And, if you do use a smartphone as an alarm clock, switch it to airplane mode or put it as far away from your bed as possible.
Our environments play a major role in our health. Start by having a look at how your environment may be affecting your health today.
Keen to learn more? Here are two great sites to get you started!
Sam is a Health & Wellness Strategist, registered Physiotherapist, and Integrative Health Practitioner. She holds Masters degrees in Health, has travelled internationally to study our ancestral backgrounds, and believes that good health is achieved by living life to the full! Visit her website at switchtogoodhealth.com