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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

What is toxic-free living, and why does it matter?

Updated: May 8

If you’re familiar with my way of working, you’ll know that I like to adopt an integrative, collaborative approach which strikes a balance between conventional medicine and holistic therapies, alongside lifestyle changes which can support enhanced wellbeing. This is beneficial for anyone, and especially my cancer clients who can be more adversely affected by the toxins we come into contact with on a daily basis.

A non-toxic lifestyle supports cancer recovery and wellness in general in a number of ways – and it’s something I’ve always been interested in. I always talk to my cancer clients about reducing plastics in their home and other practical tips like turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off on their devices at night.

And I’ve delved deeper more recently and expanded my own awareness around toxic living. As a result of the (sometimes astonishing) things I’ve learned of late I’ve become even more passionate about sharing the benefits of a non-toxic lifestyle with my lovely clients and followers.

What is a non-toxic lifestyle?

Although studies are still in their early stages, many suggest that lots of common, everyday products we use can negatively impact upon health – and many more contain damaging substances such as known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors (chemicals which interact with our hormone balance - also known as EDCs).

Over the years, life on earth has sadly become more toxic. Due to the contemporary lives we lead, in many cases driven by convenience, chemicals and unnatural substances have found their way into almost everything we come into contact with on a daily basis. From plastic food containers and packaging, invisible fumes and pollution in the air from exhausts and industrial sources to the products we apply to our skin and household cleaning agents, it is estimated that the average person is now exposed to more than 700,000 toxic chemicals per day. Over time, these chemicals can accumulate in our bodies and have an effect on our health in the long-term.

In 2019, the Environment Protection Agency in the US conducted revealing research which found that of more than 40,000 chemicals used in consumer products, just 1% had been tested for human safety. With rates of cancers, chronic illnesses and other disorders on the rise, scientists and medics are becoming concerned that there could be a correlation between our increased toxin exposure and declining health.

That’s why I feel that raising awareness of living a less toxic lifestyle is so important. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to do, and when we consider that there are toxins surrounding us everywhere in our everyday lives, eliminating these products and household items can have a profoundly positive impact on our overall health.

Which products should I avoid to maintain a cleaner lifestyle?

Household cleaning products

Cleaning products are an obvious first choice because they are often made with harsh chemicals to help them to do a better job. Many of these chemicals are irritants, abrasives or corrosives which can affect our health even if they don’t get onto our skin or into our bloodstream. These can include bleach, laundry detergent, surface cleaners, toilet fluids and more.

Beauty, skincare and makeup

Unfortunately, many of the products we use daily such as moisturisers, serums, shampoos and handwashes contain harmful ingredients (including sulfates, phthalates and surfactants) which can affect our health. Make-up products can be toxic, too – containing ingredients such as parabens, oxybenzone and propylene glycol. This is one of the main reasons why women’s toxic exposure is estimated to be around 25% higher than men’s – we are using many more beauty products and make-up products on a regular basis. Shockingly these also include feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons.

Look for pure, clean natural beauty and make-up products made with organic materials where possible. There are plenty more of these brands on the market now including Faith In Nature, REN, and Neal’s Yard. These are usually well-advertised and may even use the ‘real’ names of ingredients alongside their chemical names so that you can be sure there’s nothing nasty lurking within.

Air fresheners and scents

‘Parfum’ is one of the biggest red flags for me in an ingredients list. You can see parfum listed in different skincare and beauty products, but also within candles, room sprays, plug-in scents and diffusers. Manufacturers don’t need to disclose what’s actually within this often artificially produced fragrance, and usually they contain chemicals which can negatively affect our health.

It may seem as though ‘parfum’ is in almost everything once you’re aware of it – so if it feels overwhelming, I do strongly recommend that my clients avoid commercial air fresheners at least. According to House Beautiful, toxins found in air fresheners can accumulate in the body over the time – and according to the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US these toxins may affect hormones and reproductive health, especially in children.

Food containers and cookware

If you’ve ever seen the film Dark Water, you’ll know all about the Teflon scandal concerning ‘forever chemicals’ which caused major health issues and birth deformities in the town where it was first leaked. Unfortunately despite the best efforts of environmental lawyers, these toxic chemicals did penetrate and pollute the earth’s water supply and some can still be found in non-stick pans. Polytetrafluoroethylene, the coating that makes products ‘non-stick’ releases dangerous gases when heated, all of which have been linked to putting humans at higher risk for cancer and other harmful health effects.

Plastics can also contain harmful chemicals which leach into our food and drink. To avoid this, you can swap plastic bottles and food containers for BPA free (or ideally glass) storage solutions, and avoid buying foods in plastic and choose stainless-steel or cast-iron pans over non-stick.

What we eat

Sadly, it’s not just what our food comes in that requires our attention if we want to reduce our toxin exposure – we also need to think about the types of food we consume and where they come from.

This is a huge subject in itself so it’s best reserved for a separate blog – but we really are what we eat and it’s important to pay attention to the quality and purity of our food when wellness is a focus. Choose unprocessed, unrefined natural and whole foods wherever possible – opting for organic when it comes to meat, fish, dairy products and fruits and vegetables. Organic food does tend to be much more expensive – so you might like to prioritise certain foods to lower your toxin exposure without breaking the bank. You can find lists of the most important fruits and vegetables to shop organic (often known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’) here:

Electronic devices

We are now surrounded by a variety of devices on an almost constant basis – and it is thought that this high level of exposure to some of these devices can impact upon our health. Notably it’s the RF radiation which give some scientists cause for concern, with some studies linking this to headaches and brain tumours.

I tell my clients to switch their phones and tablets off or onto Airplane Mode at night, and to avoid having them near them at all times throughout the day. You can also purchase products which can be placed in your home or on your devices which mitigate the impact of EMF waves, but the effectiveness of these is not extensively tested.

Want to learn more about holistic lifestyle changes you can make to improve your overall wellbeing?

Find more blog posts on living well here or get in touch to learn more about my integrative health programmes, clinic and dedicated cancer support.

If you’d like to learn more about toxic-free living I really recommend looking up a lady called Shawna Holman. She runs an incredible Instagram account (@alittlelesstoxic) which is packed with informative content. Her book A Healthier Home is also a lovely read, full of practical and simple tips to help you to create a less toxic living environment.

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