Environment: The Forgotten Pillar of Health

This is the final post in my Rising to Joy wellness series... but I find it's subject the most difficult to share... And certainly the most neglected. After the first two pillars of wellness (Nutrition and Movement), the subject of environment almost seems excessive. Or nutty. Or maybe just overwhelming.

Stay with me for a couple minutes while I make my case. I'll tell you why I must prioritize it... and why it is making a difference in my journey to health and joy.

A couple things before I dive in...

  • I'm not a doctor. Please don't use my opinions to replace those of your physician.
  • This is not a journey of perfection but of wellness. Small forward steps are still victories. 
  • Our bodies are different... our journeys are not going to look the same.
  • There are affiliate links in these posts which means I earn pennies if you click and buy. But I don't link unless I love and use the product and would recommend it to you over a cup of coffee. Exceptions will be noted.
  • Above all, remember to submit everything to Christ... so that any perceived failures, sufferings, or victories will all be for His glory and your sanctification.  

ONWARD!


ENVIRONMENT

It has become so commonplace to hear about the toxins in our food, air, water, shampoos, etc. that most of us either ignore it or give a brief nod to our concerns by occasionally buying "green." We are desensitized, tired and busy. 

We all get it. We want to do better. We wince when we recognize known (or probable carcinogens) in our personal care or cleaning products . So we buy a "natural" product, don't love it or can't afford it, and decide the greater of two evils is the present difficulty and not the remote possibility of fatal disease. We care but...

We're surrounded by toxic chemicals anyway. Really... how much control can we have?

I'm going to tell you my story as a way of answering that question. And then I'm going to tell you my plan for taking my health journey another easy step forward...


MY BODY SAID "ENOUGH"

Many of you have already read about the decades of chronic pain and illness that drove me to undertake a dramatic dietary overhaul. It changed my life. Brought me back to life. But in addition to the major systemic symptoms that I experienced for most of my life, I also have sensitivities to other environmental factors as well.

Among those challenges are migraines, asthma, allergies, and contact reactions. Annoying and disruptive. Even before I ever thought about changing my diet, I was already changing my environment just to survive my reactive days. 

For the past 10 years, I have only been able to wear handmade make-up that I purchased on Etsy. I have been unable to use any commercial lotions, moisturizers, or perfumes. I avoid Bath and Body Works like the Bubonic Plague and once, in high school, I spent an hour in the bathroom hiding and crying after applying a friend's Victoria Secret moisturizer to my dry face. (Picture a sun burn covered in bee stings and you've got it right.) As an adult, I still have a mini panic attack when I have to sit next to a highly synthetically scented person in a public waiting area. My frequent plea: Please God, get me through this without wheezing , hives, or unsightly grimaces.

I never thought this made me a health freak. It was pure survival. When your face breaks out into painful hives after applying a commercial "natural" product, you learn pretty quickly what ingredients to avoid. For me, it was pretty much everything synthetic. But I never thought about it as a "health" issue... only vanity and annoyance. 

When I changed my nutrition habits and became a food label reader, the connection between environment and systemic health began to make sense to me for the first time. Here I was scouring labels like the food detective that I needed to be... just like I had been a product label reader for a decade. And the toxic chemical connection began to click...

My body hates this stuff. All of it. Beyond that, much of it is known to harm the body... so what I am I doing? If I won't eat it, why I am smearing it all over my skin where it leaches into my blood stream? Why am I using toxic products that are known to cause cancer AND cross the placenta? I recently read that tests done on newborn cord blood revealed the presence of over 200 chemicals.

Okay then...

I began to make some of my own products...

  • Laundry detergent is one of the most toxic household respiratory dangers in the house? And the number one health related disease in those who work at home is respiratory? Call me a chemist... I'm mixing up my own soap.
  • Face cleansers burn and cause me hives? Okay then... I'll use the oil cleansing method.
  • Lip balm causes my lips to peel? Heat up the double boiler... we're making our own.

My response was primarily reactionary. But now I'm transitioning to the intentional. Does it matter if I can't see or feel the results? Shouldn't I still pay attention? There are so many things about our environment that we can't control. But if I can clean some of it up, why don't I? 

This pregnancy has dealt my body a very hard blow and as I focus on rebuilding my shattered immune system, I know that I have to make lifestyle changes across the board. There was one recent lesson that really hit home...

To save time and energy after running out of my homemade laundry soap, I used the back up bottle of commercial (dye free, scent free) detergent that I had sworn off. The result ended in a painful and terrible two days for my daughter who, like me, has a body that quickly says ENOUGH. And so I said it, too... ENOUGH! And I started over...


SOLUTIONS

I'm going to stop my story there and move on to solutions since that really is the big question. Who doesn't want to be toxin free? No one wants cancer or endocrine disease. Most of us do care but...

1) Don't realize the cumulative negative affect toxic chemicals have on our body's ability to thrive. and
2) Find the cost or time of pursuing a better environment prohibitive. 

I know that some of you are going to say: "Look. We live in a toxic world. We can't escape it. I've got things to do... priorities. I don't have the time or money to be a control freak about this stuff."

I hear you. I hear you. In a culture where corporate marketing drives our consumer habits, living simply with healthy ingredients has become a privilege for the wealthy. Bizarre.

We also live in a culture that is plagued with disease because of our dietary choices, sedentary lifestyle, and fixation on pleasure, convenience, and gluttony. Sometimes, we need to just say... I don't want to buy in. God made me for more. 

I can't pretend that this topic and it's solution don't involve STUFF... because they do. This is about what we use on a daily basis through choice or necessity. But it is pretty much about stuff. We wear make-up, wash our hair, clean our floors, lotion our legs, apply deodorant, wear perfume, burn candles, spray air freshener.... we shop and consume. A lot. 

The sad truth is that just because a bottle in the store says "natural" or "green" and has a leaf on it, doesn't mean that it isn't toxic. FDA regulations only cover so much. We have to be smart consumers. 

So what I'm going to do here is share my absolute favorite resources for purchase for those of you who are in a position to buy (or who, like me, are forced to prioritize spending for health reasons). There are other resources but these are ones that I spend money on and use daily so I have zero qualms about recommending. I will also share resources for those who can afford the time to make your own (or who, like me, have a secret dream of being a soap maker when I grow up).

Enjoy... and please feel free to contact me with any questions.


MY HANDS-DOWN FAVORITE 'CLEAN AND HEALTHY' PRODUCTS


ESSENTIAL OILS

I know... It's a fad. But when undertaken with care, it's a pretty amazing fad. Give me your ear for an hour or two and I'll tell you how these little brown bottles have improved my (and my family's) days, weeks, and life. Magic? No. But REALLY good. 

There are two primary ways that I use essential oils to improve my environment...

1) I diffuse to improve air quality and to derive essential benefits aromatically, and
2) I use them topically and in my homemade products (bath and body, cleaning, immune support) to real benefits and a gorgeous scent (that doesn't set off my asthma).

I can go on all day but I'll just share a link here where you can find out more about why I love them, which ones I use, and where to get your own. Yes, I am a representative for my favorite company. And if you know me, you know that means I'm willing to stake my reputation on them. READ MORE HERE about my approach (and how to buy)...

Any Blossoming Joy readers who end up purchasing with me will receive a free "RISE" bracelet from my shop, free bottle of orange essential oil, roller bottles, and education support package. We're in this together and I want you to know how much it means to me. (Make sure to drop me a note so I know you're a reader!)

(And please don't buy oils from Walmart just because they're cheap. The market is saturated with oils that say "pure" but neglect to inform you of the synthetic fillers. Pure essential oils are very costly to distill and... Synthetics are cheap. So that's why some oils are cheap. Bad for the body. I would feel terrible if you went and did that and I hadn't warned you!)


BUY FROM GOOD COMPANIES

Sometimes I don't have the time or inclination to play chemist. I have tried to DIY my make-up and... I didn't excel. I have done my fair share of cleaning DIY... but the results are not always as safe as I would like or as effective. My make-up supplier is temporarily closed (huge bummer) so I will share that as soon as I'm able in another post. But here is my recommendation for basic cleaning when I don't have the time or inclination to make my own...

DR. BRONNER'S  

There's not a whole lot you can't use this soap for. It's basic, it's versatile, it's safe. I like to buy the larger sizes and use small amounts to fill scrubbing buckets, all-purpose sprayers, and various other needs like laundry or hand soap. These are the two varieties I buy:

Dr. Bronner's Fair Trade and Organic Liquid Castille Soap

My favorites to use are the almond scent and the unscented soap. A little goes a long way! The unscented allows me to add essential oils for any extra benefits or scents that I like. Gentle but effective. Friends of mine even use this soap for teeth brushing! For more ideas...  18 Uses for Dr. Bronner's Soaps

Dr. Bronners's Sals Suds (Cleaning Soap)

This soap is still mild but with more cleaning power than the liquid castille. It has a light pine scent that is nice on it's own but faint enough to add your own essential oil to without issue. Use diluted as a laundry pretreatment or add a teaspoon to a quart of water for most surfaces. Available in 16 oz, 32 ounce or Gallon sizes. A little goes a long way!


DO IT YOURSELF {It's not that hard}

If you do nothing else in the way of homemade loveliness, please do make your own lip balm. It's almost fool proof and you will have enough for a year in under an hour (if that). Use your favorite gorgeous essential oils (mine are orange, grapefruit, and peppermint) and have the satisfaction of just knowing you did it. Aside from that, I'm going to step aside and just give you a few amazing links that will keep you occupied with recipes for as long as you like. If you want me to let your husband know that you'll be busy for a while, just give me his email... I'll handle it.

  • Pinterest - Welcome to my ever growing board of "Handmade clean and healthy"... and my newer "Essential Oil DIY." Tons and tons of resources and easy, beautiful recipes. You could spend your entire earthly life following gorgeous links on Pinterest... ask me how I know. ;)
  • Mommypotamus - Tons of DIY recipes and information
  • WellnessMama - Many beautiful options for homemade goodness.
  • HumbleBee and Me - For those who want to dive a little deeper, this gal has an archive to drool over. Her ingredient lists are often longer and more complex but not always. I often find great ideas here and look for simpler solutions elsewhere based on what she is making.

Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Please share here or send me a note. We're all on the same journey and I'm eager to learn from you!

 

 

Posted on January 25, 2016 and filed under wellness, nutrition, fitness, Beauty.