Detoxing your home can make you a little crazy. When I realized that a lot of my acne breakouts were related to my cycle and the hormonal shifts associated with it, I decided to do everything possible to reduce my exposure to chemicals that could further disrupt my endocrine (or, hormone) system.
The NIEHS describes endocrine disruptors this way:
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.
Well, that’s like…everything.
My life suddenly seemed like one giant series of evil endocrine disruptors. I felt a panicked need to throw out my couch and rugs (that were no-doubt doused in toxic flame retardants), cleanse myself of every plastic item in my life and basically become bubble boy.
Reality check: I live in New York City (read: all the pollution and chemicals), I’m busy, and sometimes the ideal is just not attainable. So, what I needed to do was substitute products with potentially toxic substances for “better” products. This goal was far more sustainable and has become a guiding principle without sending me into an OCD death spiral.
Here are a few small changes I made to reduce my body’s chemical load:
1. Purchase organic produce
Avoiding endocrine disruptors means avoiding pesticides. Unfortunately, conventional produce is chock full of them. If I’m going to compromise here, I only buy conventional produce that has a thick skin I won’t eat like pineapples, papayas, mangoes and various melons. It’s impossible to wash pesticides off of salad greens, berries and thin-skinned fruit so opt for organic to reduce your exposure.
2. Avoid plastics
I’m not saying I’ve never wrapped a half-eaten avocado in plastic wrap. But I’ve greatly reduce the amount of plastic products I’m exposed to. Instead of storing (or worse, reheating) foods in plastic tupperware, I purchased a glass food storage system like this one from Pyrex. I also invested in a water filter at home. When I’m on the go I fill a glass water bottle rather than purchase plastic water bottles (a great money-saver as well).
3. Treat your skin as well as you treat your belly
I had already been trying really hard to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Yet a lot of my cosmetics and personal care products contained parabens (a preservative) and phthalates (a chemical that helps dissolve solid ingredients). Both are endocrine disruptors. Your skin is your largest organ. Why not be just as discriminating about what you put on your skin as you are with what you put in your mouth?
Cleansing my cosmetics drawer was probably the hardest part of this process. It took me quite a while to find products that both worked well and didn’t contain scary ingredients. I ultimately transitioned my cosmetic bag to all products from Afterglow Cosmetics. Afterglow openly discloses their ingredients lists and has clearly labeled their products organic, crueltly-free, gluten free and paraben free.
As far as skincare, I tossed my old Cerave cleanser (methylparaben is on their ingredient list) and switched to an artisan, hand-made skincare line called Willow & Oak. The ingredients are all things you could find in a supermarket–no chemicals, no preservatives and no ingredients I couldn’t personally identify.
4. Avoid canned foods
BPA is another icky chemical you do not want in your food. Unless otherwise labeled, most canned food is exposed to this chemical. Eden’s Organics has a whole canned line that is labeled BPA free. They are my go-to in a bind.
There’s some debate as to whether the BPA alternative in BPA-free cans is safe in itself. For this reason, I’ve slowly transitioned away from canned foods and do my best to buy food in its natural form. Though this means soaking dried beans and adds a few more steps cooking certain meals, my hormones have thanked me.
5. Be selective about your laundry and home cleaning products
Most typical cleaning products use proprietary blends of chemicals. So, who knows what’s in them? I only use cleaning products made by companies who are willing to disclose their ingredients lists. My favorites are Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers.
Is my system perfect? Absolutely not. There’s definitely more I could be doing if I was trying to create a perfectly organic environment. I dye my hair at the salon and use a chemical straighter (though I opt for a formaldehyde-free formula). I like to get manicures and pedicures here and there. There are chemicals involved. However, with just a few relatively painless substitutions I’ve lowered my overall chemical load and my body has thanked me.