I work with a LOT of women during their preconception care. It’s such an exciting time and an opportunity to really look at all aspects of health before bringing a baby into the world.
Beyond nutritional advice, the first thing I want to discuss is environmental exposures to toxins.
Why is this so important?
Well, I honestly don’t mean to scare any mum’s to be here (or mum-shame at all!) – but a whole host of health issues (from increased risk of allergies, auto-immune conditions, learning & behavioural problems) have been linked to environmental toxin exposure.
And scarily, the impact of our own environmental exposures can be passed to our children during conception and pregnancy.
Embryo and foetal growth is extremely rapid. Cells are constantly dividing. DNA is continually replicating. There really isn’t any room for error. I mean – we all began as one fertilized cell, which by the next day were already four cells, and 16 the next. How amazing is that?!
But with that in mind, it’s easy to understand how health issues have been traced back to a lack of specific nutrients in the mothers system at vital times of growth (we can be talking minutes), and / or exposures to certain chemicals at specific times of growth as well. And given many pregancies aren’t always exactly planned, you can see where I’m going here….
So if you are planning a pregnancy, there are few things you can do to reduce your toxic load (though I think it’s a good idea for us allto look at these aspects of our health, regardless of whether we’re planning a bub or not). Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Ditch the perfume
Commercial perfumes are laden with synthetis chemicals that are not only toxic to the cells, but are also endocrine disruptors (meaning they mess with your hormones). Any time you see ‘fragrance’ listed on a bottle, read between the lines- it will actually say ‘chemical shitstorm!’.
Instead, use some pure essential oils to make yourself smell gorgeous.
2. Overhaul your cleaning products
How often have you used a commercial cleaning product and become overwhelmed by the fumes? Or worn gloves because it’s caustic to the skin? Or rushed to clean it off the table before your toddler licks it, because you know it could make them sick?
Cleaning products are full of chemicals that are toxic to our cells. We know this. We’ve known it for a long time. And as a mum of two toddlers, if I have to lock something away so so my kids can’t get to it because it can make them sick (or worse) – then it has no place in my home.
There are so many options for natual cleaning solutions there really is no need for chemical laden products anymore. I make my own cleaning products using pure essential oils which work fabulously, are not toxic, and end up costing me mere cents to make.
Citrus oils (lemon, litsea, wild orange, grapefruit, lime) are great for cutting through grease.
OnGuard – cinnamon, clove, wild orange – make a fabulous all purpose cleaner.
Lemongrass helps remove texta & crayons from walls (I know – I’ve done it!), gum from hair, and nail polish from nails.
3. Swap your deodorant to natural alternatives
Deodorant is full of chemicals and particularly, aluminium. It only takes 26 seconds for the substances we put on our skin to be absorbed into our bodies – meaning the chemicals in these subtances make their way to our bloodstream & travel around the body.
Aluminium is a huge issue, as it accumulates in the lymph nodes and has been linked to cancer. It’s used in deodorants for it’s anti-perspirant properties – it blocks your sweat glands, reducing the amount you sweat, which in turn reduces odour.
One of easiest ways to reduce your chemical exposure is to swap to a natural deodorant alternative, many of which are based on bi-carbonate soda. I know a lot of people are a bit tuned off natural deodorants as they’re not ‘anti-perspirants’ as well. The key here to make them work for you is to ‘detox’ your pits! This helps draw out sweat and impurities which is what contributes to smell. You can do this by applying a mud mask (yep – the type you would use on your face!) to your ‘pits’ weekly.
4. Remove plastic from your life
Plastic is awful. Truly awful. And it’s slowly poisoning us.
Plastic takes masses of harmful chemicals to manufacture. These chemicals include bisphenol A (BPA) which is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to cancers and other serious health concerns; Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors and has been linked to infertility, obesity, cancers and diabetes; Polystyrene, which can cause migraines, irritate nose, throat & eyes; PET which is a suspected carcingen; PVC which can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, and chronic diseases…..and a whole host of other harmful chemicals.
These chemicals can leach into the food contained by it, are released into waterways and pollute our lands as they break down. This is particularly amplified when heat is also applied – so remember to never, ever re-heat food whilst it’s in a plastic container.
The best way to avoid plastics is to invest in glass food storage solutions, use beeswax wraps over cling wrap, use a stainless steel or glass water bottle rather than plastic, and purchase whole foods over precessed, packaged foods.
If you have little ones at home and plastics are unavoidable, invest in Tritan™ plastic bottles and items – it’s a plastic that doesn’t contain BPA, BPS or any other bisphenols. It’s been shown to be free of oestrogenic and androgenic activity.
5. Use natural bath products
Knowing chemicals applied to the skin make their way into your body so quickly, I bet you’re going to start looking at the ingredients panels on your bathroom products! Shampoo & conditioner, bath wash & soap, exfoliators, toothpaste…are all full of harmful chemicals.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a known carcinogen. Tricolsan in toothpaste is believed to contribute to antibiotics resistance, is harmful to the immune system, and is an endocrine disruptor…..the list of harmful ingredients truly goes on.
There are so many natural options available these days – check out your health food store and oraganic grocer for no-tox alternatives.
6. Switch up your skincare
I personally love using simple, natural options for my skincare. I use coconut oil as a body moisturiser, facial oil cleanser (& make-up remover) & frizz fighting hair serum. It’s cheap as chips and a great all rounder! I also love tea tree oil as a spot treatment, witchhazel & tea tree as a toner, rosehip oil with frankincense essential oil as a moisturiser, and serums with helichrysum, cedarwood and rose essential oils for an undereye treatment.
7. Invest in natural make-up
You’d be amazed at the types of ingredients used in your cosmetics. Lead is still commonly used in lipstick! Eeeew!
With so many options now available there’s really no excuse for using the big brands. I personally love the 100% natural brand of cosmetics (their mascara is beyond amazing and smells like blueberries), and there are so many other vegan, chemical & cruelty free brands that I honestly can’t think of any reason to buy harmful make-up!
8. Buy organic (where you can)
I highly recommend getting loads of fresh, wholefoods in the diet, organic where possible, and reducing refined sugars , carbohydrates and processed foods.
If you haven’t ever heard of the ‘Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen’, this is a list of foods released yearly by the Environmental Working Group, outlining the crops that require the most intervention to thrive (ie. Persticides, fungicides, fertilizers) aptly named ‘The Dirty Dozen’. These are the fruits and vegetables you should aim to buy organic if you can.
The ‘Clean 15’ are fruit & veg that require the least intervention to thrive (or have the lowest levels of toxic chemicals within them) which you can feel better about not buying organic. It’s a great initiative that helps you prioritize where to spend your dollars when it comes to organic (which we all know is not always affordable).
9. Reduce your intake of tinned fish
I love tinned tuna as much as the next person. It’s cheap, ready-packaged and a great source of protein. However, as tuna is a predatory fish, heavy metals can accumulate in its flesh. So aim to limit your consumption to no more than 3 x 90g tin per week.
Tinned salmon is a better alternative, but just check the label that the fish is actually wild caught, farmed salmon contains high levels of dioxins, pesticides and chlorine, as well as antibiotics.
10. Let the fresh air in (and get out in it, too)
Have you ever heard of sick bulding syndrome?
It’s where occupants of a building start to experience non-specific symptoms, as a result of living and working in controlled environments that have trapped pollutants in the air.
In our homes, if we don’t ventilate properly, we are constantly breathing in pollutants. The most common contaminants of indoor air include paint, dust, asbestos, and also Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) which are found in adhesives, upholstery, electrical goods, carpets, manufactured wood products.
Opening windows to allow for better ventilation, having house plants that offset this pollution can reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals. Getting outside and breathing in fresh air (as fresh as you can get in a city) is a great idea as well.