When I was expecting I started thinking more carefully about my health. I was more aware and concerned because I was bringing a new life into this world. And who wouldn’t be when your body is changing in a way that forces you to wake up and listen. From the moment you conceive until you give birth and beyond, you have a whole new perspective of the world.
I always believed our bodies are designed to keep our babies protected. Do you remember when you first noticed your heightened sense of smell? I remember feeling completely nauseous every time I would walk out my front door because we had onion grass growing everywhere in our yard. Who would have thought that would become an issue for me when I became pregnant. Most of us begin to get aversions to certain foods as well as desire foods we wouldn’t normally eat. These symptoms keep us on our toes and mindful of our choices.
TOXINS – In the air we breathe
We should all pay attention to avoid toxins in our environment whenever possible, and especially during pregnancy and early post-natal life. That first trimester in particular is the most vulnerable time for the development of the fetus. But where do these environmental toxins come from? Most basically, everything you breathe, what you consume, and what touches your skin are all ways environmental toxins can enter your body.
I remember when I was pregnant there were many instances where I found myself needing protection from the air I was breathing. I would ask my husband to bring my car to the gas station when I needed a refill so I could avoid breathing in petrochemicals. I also remember walking into a mattress store only to be blown over by the intense smell of mattresses off-gassing. It made me realize that we needed an organic mattress because our baby was going to be spending a lot of time in our bed. I learned that all U.S made mattresses are required to be sprayed with flame retardants. But it doesn’t stop there, most furniture, car seats and even some children’s clothing are sprayed with these chemicals. All these products off-gas VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) which enter the air we breathe and get into our rugs and furniture. They come into contact with our skin on a daily basis as our pets and children lay on our couches and crawl around on our floors. A study conducted by The Environmental Working Group and Duke University found that some of these chemicals were 4.9 times higher in children then in their mothers. Here’s the link to the study: https://www.ewg.org/research/flame-retardants-2014/inside-ewg-duke. This is why it’s so important when you are buying these big purchase items like beds, furniture, area rugs or carpeting, to investigate how they are made and what chemicals they are made with.
There are many other household products that contain toxins and off-gas VOCs. For more details on what to avoid, check out this link: https://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/pregnancy
Here are some examples of what you can do to clean up or avoid those exposures:
• Get rid of plastic food containers and switch them out for glass.
• Use the right kind of pots and pans as to avoid contaminating foods (cast iron and stainless steel are the best). You don’t want to ingest the specs of Teflon that scratch off of non-stick pans.
• Surround your home with healthy plants that can help purify the air and/or buy an air purifier.
• Remove shoes at the door to keep pesticides out of the home.
• Only use VOC free primers and paints for your home or furniture.
• Stay clear of flame retardants in clothing (popular in kids pajamas) and furniture. Furniture is typically sprayed with formaldehyde and Benzene. All these chemicals are commonly known carcinogens.
• Choose household cleaning products that use natural ingredients in place of chemicals, or make your own.
• Choose safe skin care products and cosmetics (especially avoid retinol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding).
PRODUCTS – What we put ON our body is just as important as what we put IN
Of course, we can’t control everything we are exposed to in our environment, but we can be more aware of where those toxins exist that we come into contact with. Some chemicals in our environment are more obvious than others. We may not think about the ingredients in our skin care or cosmetics but the choices we make regarding our personal healthcare products are equally important. Since we know that 60% of what we put on our skin will be absorbed into our bloodstream, those common toxins such as phthalates, parabens, and synthetic fragrances are found in most products on the market. We may think the FDA would not allow anything harmful in our products, but in fact the FDA has only banned 30 chemicals from our skin care and cosmetics in total, while the European Union has banned roughly 1,300. It’s a good idea to check on the safety of the products you use on the Environmental Working Group website. Here’s the link where they review personal care products for safety: https://www.ewg.org/ewgverified/
Think about the most widely used products around your house and look at the ingredients. You will most likely find many common offenders in your dish soap, laundry soap, hand soap, shampoo, body wash, face cleansers, and so on.
It can be overwhelming to think about all the products you use and whether they are safe. I mean, who really who has time to do all the research? I often think our busy culture prevents us from being informed. We have so many jobs in life that something has to give and unfortunately it tends to be our health. It’s easier to ignore the issue or be in denial UNTIL something happens to someone we love or our own health becomes jeopardized. That’s when some of us wake up and decide it’s time to take charge of our own lives.
Some of the products I use on a daily basis:
Just think, anything category you swap out now, whether it be your household detergents or your skin care, is a step in the right direction. Here are some of my favorite products that are safer:
• Young Living Dish Soap: (There are blogs online on how to triple the supply of this dish soap to make it more economical.) https://www.amazon.com/Thieves-Infused-Young-Living-Essential/dp/B017Y8VAZY
• Griffin Remedy Hand Soap: https://griffinremedy.com/product-category/foaming-hand-soap/
• Molly’s Suds Laundry Soap: https://www.mollyssuds.com/
• Beautycounter Skin Care and Cosmetics: https://www.beautycounter.com/christinekenyon
*Since I’m a clean living advocate and love to help women be there healthiest self, I decided to become a Beautycounter consultant. Adding the clean line to my offerings allows me to educate women on this important environmental issue and provide my clients with a range of personal care products I trust . This link will lead you to my webpage. Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to sample a product.
Most importantly, check out the NEVERLIST. Cross check the ingredients in your products with the ingredients on this Neverlist: https://www.beautycounter.com/the-never-list. These can be potentially harmful to your health.
Want to learn more about how toxins in skin care and cosmetics can affect your health? Check out this HERMOSA study: https://news.berkeley.edu/2016/03/07/cosmetics-chemicals. And if you want to dig a little deeper and learn what chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and what they do in the body, click here: https://niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/
CREATE A HEALTHY BALANCED DIET – Eat more plant foods!
Let’s face it, we are living in a more toxic environment compared to our ancestors. With the introduction of so many chemicals each year, our soils depleted of nutrients, and our foods being modified to keep up with production, it’s no wonder so many of us are suffering from chronic disease.
If we want to avoid most toxins in our food, we need to buy all organic fruits and vegetables, including organic, grassfed meat and well sourced wild fish. But it’s not just about purchasing the right foods, it’s equally important to create the right balance of foods in our diet. When you do not have a healthy gut balance, your susceptible to all kinds of health conditions.
However, lots of factors affect gut balance- toxins, stress, amount of sleep, medications, exercise, pain, and your DNA. Some of these factors are hard to control, but one thing we can choose is how we eat. You see, the foods we eat hugely affect the kind of gut bacteria that grow in our intestines. Proteins like meat and dairy contribute to certain types of bacteria, just as vegetables and fruits contribute to the growth of other types of bacteria. If your diet has an abundance of acid producing foods like animal proteins, dairy, and grain sources and very little plant sources, your body can become a host for inflammation which can lead to the growth of disease.
Eating an abundance of plant- based foods that are alkaline detoxify the liver which thereby reduces the toxic load that our bodies fight against every day. The research suggests that plant foods should consist of roughly 75% of our diet, along with plenty of good fats, and that animal protein comprise the smallest portion of our plate. The documentary, Forks over Knives, is just one source that provides evidenced based research to support this balanced diet. Unfortunately, most Americans eat the very opposite way, with the largest part of their dish comprised of animal proteins and starches like potatoes, pastas, bread, or rice. Why do we eat this way? There are a host of different reasons embedded in our culture, including the lack of education around food. But with all the demands on our lives with work, children, and activities outside the home, it’s no surprise that there is little time to prepare healthy meals.
One way that helps me get in more plant foods for my family, is to make a healthy smoothie drink sometime throughout the day. I fill it to the brim with plant foods and toss in some fresh or frozen berries. Adding in some healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil or almonds to help your body break down and absorb those fat-soluble vitamins is a good idea. Or instead, you can add in rich omega-3 sources like walnuts, chia, flax, or hemp seeds, a great way to get in more omega-3’s in your diet. Check out some of the smoothie’s that appear on my Instagram account for ideas: @reversejia.
Another way to get in more plant foods for your family is to add a few vegan meals a week to your meal planning. You’ll find plenty examples of healthy vegan meals on my Instagram account as well. And don’t forget plenty of fruit and raw veggies for snacking. Dips like hummus, ranch dressing, or even nut butters can really help your kids eat a good quantity of raw vegetables.
Creating a healthy gut balance is easier when you add fermented foods throughout the week. Fresh pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut can be added to meals as a side or given as snacks. Adding good bacteria each day will help keep your immune system strong.
Planning ahead and organizing your meals can make providing a healthy balanced diet easier than you think. Having salads or chopped vegetables ready to use make preparing a healthy dinner much easier and more efficient.
Lastly, I have found involving my children in some of the tasks surrounding mealtimes can create such positive outcomes. Learning gardening, how to prep vegetables, make smoothies, and other foods they love, provide them with new skills, independence and confidence. It’s also so fun for kids to be creative with food. It inspires us all to eat healthy, and enjoy the process together.
The best way to teach your child to eat a healthy and varied diet, is to model that behavior. Your child learns from your example, so if what you eat is fresh, unprocessed, whole foods from nature, they will learn to eat them too, and enjoy them. Just keep putting those fresh foods on the table.- Christine