Avoiding Chemicals During Pregnancy and Other Times.

Many of us have packed up smoking, been on hormone replacement therapy, used strong pain-killing drugs or even visited an aromatherapist. We embrace the concept that the skin is not only an excretory and secretory organ but that it also absorbs nicotine/hormones/analgesics from patches and essential oils used in massage.

So why do we have such a hard time accepting that any chemicals (depending on their origin) applied to the skin can end up in the blood stream? I have said recently in the case of alcohol, that the body has a brilliant set-up for detoxing itself and this is true. But modern living exposes us to more and more chemicals.

What do you use? Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, hand-wash gel? Facial products and sunscreens? Make-up, deodorant/antiperspirant, toothpaste, mouthwash (which may promote oran cancers) lip balm? Then there are the occasional items such as perfume/aftershave, hair colourants/mousse/gel, face-masks. The list goes on and on and the reason we use them is because we have been exposed to advertisements that tell us “It’s nice to know that you’re nice to know” (antiperspirant, I know – showing my age!), “Never touch a germy pump again” (hand wash) and “Nothing is more effective at treating gum disease” (mouthwash).

When we are exposed to these and other adverts on a daily basis – bombarded with them in fact, it is so easy to lose focus of what is actually important which is to be clean and not smell! During my childhood, we had a bath once a week and other times if necessary. For the rest of the week we had a wash morning and evening – but only the bits that mattered! We didn’t smell. Hair-washing was weekly too. Teeth were brushed twice a day with a pea-sized blob of toothpaste – no fluoride, no whitening effect and no anti-bacterial chemicals. You might wonder how on earth I have survived to past middle age and my parents survived into their 80s – with their own teeth!

preg_18815451Water is the cleanser. Again – water is the cleanser. Try for a couple of days washing or showering with just water. Brush your teeth with just water (or try coconut oil) and use a natural deodorant (there are lots around). I promise you, you will smell just fine. When you need to wash your hair, again use a tiny amount of a natural shampoo and conditioner. We all use far too much of everything exposing our skin to an overload of chemicals. Long-term, we probably don’t yet realize what damage we may be doing to ourselves but why take the risk? If you are pregnant, why put your baby at risk? If you are ill, the last thing your body needs is to have even more toxins to rid itself of.

The benefits of this are several. You protect your vital skin flora – this is what keeps your skin healthy, not anti-bacterial shower-gel and hand wash! You lessen the amount of potentially harmful toxins that you absorb. You save money! It doesn’t get better than that really. If you want something that will linger on the skin, why not try a few drops of an essential oil in the bath or in a natural vegetable carrier oil/gel as a body moisturiser? (Care must be taken during pregnancy as some oils are not recommended at this time.)

The original research reported in the papers, also highlighted the chemicals we consume – knowingly and otherwise. Food and drink packaging, antibiotic residues and hormones in meat, colours, flavours, preservatives, can linings, plastic boxes and cling film – all add to the toxic load ingested. The solution is easy. Cook from scratch, buy drinks and foods in bottles rather than cans, buy organic meat from a butcher, buy wild rather than farmed fish, use glass bowls for storage etc.

Chemical products in the home should be limited. Some vinegar, a little eco detergent and lots of water and elbow grease will sort out most of the usual housekeeping tasks. Use solid polish as aerosols should, preferably not be used at all. There are many publications describing natural cleaning solutions so this will suffice here.

We can’t avoid all chemicals and we should not be paranoid about it – just careful. Right, now off you go and sort out your under-sink cupboard, your bathroom cupboard and make a shopping list!

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The Getting of Immunity

An elderly relative recently moved into a nursing home and I was offered some of her effects. During the clear-out of her home, I was shocked to see the amount of cleaning products that she was using. These products always have warnings on them, but that means they contain toxins!

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We are led to believe that we need a different product for every job and the ads are obviously very effective. In fact go into any large supermarket and you will see a whole aisle of these products and they are not cheap. Quite apart from the fact that they are largely unnecessary, what about the chemicals? These are not innocent and can be hazardous when wrongly used and/or for people with respiratory or skin problems. Good old soap and water will do a great job without upsetting the delicate microbial balance. It is quite amazing what can be done with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice!

Potentially, the biggest problem with many of these substances is their germ-killing ability. In a hospital, it is essential to keep infection to an absolute minimum – for obvious reasons so their use is necessary to prevent cross-infection – ill people are very vulnerable. It is at the very least a contributory factor that the nation’s generally poor immunity generates the need for stronger and stronger antibiotics and antimicrobial agents. Chronic illness such as asthma, eczema, autoimmune diseases, gut problems and so on are increasing year on year are whilst our immunity is decreasing – thus making us that much more susceptible. What is missing is a robust immunity.

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When we are born, we inherit the gut microbes of our mothers – whether they are good or bad. Most often they are the beneficial to health and they need to be nurtured. This piece of research highlights the importance of building a healthy immune system – the best insurance policy for a child’s future life. Allowing children to walk bare-foot, having pets, playing in the garden and digging the soil – are all measures that allow a healthy immune system to develop. Work-surfaces must be kept visibly clean – but not sterile.  It is possible that when an immune system is busy naturally making antibodies to antigens, it won’t be bothered with a bit of cat fluff, feathers or pollen.

We are also rather paranoid about food beyond its sell-by date. Maybe it is prudent with packaged foods as there is no way of knowing how long they’ve been on the supermarket shelf – but foods like cheeses, meat and vegetables need considered opinion. My mother used her sight, sense of smell and sometimes even taste to see if a natural raw food was still edible. Many natural foods contain enzymes and other substances beneficial to the immune system – cheeses for example. Naturally fermented foods such as cheeses and yogurt, sauerkraut, (properly prepared) salami and so on are teeming with beneficial bacteria. The inclusion of these foods into the diet can help build good immunity.

Lastly, here is a little experiment for you. Have your usual shower and use a sponge/flannel but no shower gel. You will not smell! It is fine to use a little, two or three times a week but it is the water that cleanses you. In this way you will leave the skin to care for itself (which it does exceptionally well), the ph is intact, the oil isn’t stripped and the microbes are left to protect you.

We are supposed to live in harmony with microbes – we can’t exist without them so let’s stop the massacre!

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