Editor’s note: Those of us with fibromyalgia or ME/CFS are notoriously sensitive to everything … smells, lights, noises, medications, supplements, specific foods … and the list goes on and on.
I’ve taken steps over the past few years to limit my exposure to certain toxins. I replaced most of my harsh cleaners with more natural ones like vinegar and baking soda. I’ve cut out fast food, junk food, sodas and pretty much anything with ingredients that I don’t understand. I went gluten free six months ago and am trying to get motivated to cut dairy. Despite these changes, I’m still sick.
A few weeks ago, I read a post by fellow blogger Jaime Heidel and realized I’ve been overlooking two HUGE sources of potential toxins in my life: my bathroom and laundry room!
According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average woman uses 12 beauty and personal care products, containing some 168 different ingredients, every day. Women use so many of these products that one United Kingdom study found we absorb up to 5 pounds of chemicals through our skin each year. Now let that sink in for a minute …(literally)…
Jaime’s post gave me the push I needed to start the process of detoxing my makeup drawer and shower. As I run out of products, I’m trying to replace them with less toxic versions. Will it make a difference in my fibromyalgia symptoms? Who knows!?! But logically, I know it has to be a good thing to reduce my body’s exposure to known carcinogens and other harmful substances.
I’ve learned a lot going through this process and thought you might find Jaime’s work interesting, too. So, today, Jaime is making history (at least in my little part of the blogosphere) as FedUpwithFatigue’s first guest writer! I hope you’ll enjoy her article on …
Environmental Detox: The Missing Link in Treating Chronic Pain Naturally?
By Jaime Heidel, author of “Life Beyond Chronic Pain: The Step-by-Step Guide to Healing Chronic Illness Naturally”
If you’re trying to treat your chronic pain and fatigue through dietary and lifestyle changes, but they don’t appear to be working, you may be unaware that something in your environment is rendering them useless.
It’s easy to understand why natural treatments for chronic pain have been touted as “snake oil” and “woo medicine.” It’s because so many people turn to a gluten-free diet, organic supplements and stress management only to find all that expense and effort did nothing to improve their health.
If you can relate to this, you’re not alone. After all, how can you know you’re triggering flare-ups every time you clean your home, shower or put on some lipstick? It’s not like they put that on the warning label!
10 Hidden Toxins in Your Environment That Could Be Causing Your Flares
1. Air Freshener
If you use air freshener to “improve the smell of your home,” there’s something you should know. There’s a chemical contained in commercial air-freshening sprays designed to deaden the nerve cells in your nose by coating your nasal passages in a type of film. This chemical is called p-dichlorobenzene, and it is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
Furthermore, non-aerosol air fresheners such as the type you plug into the wall contain a chemical called benzyl acetate that has been linked to asthma, allergies and neurological damage.
To freshen your home naturally, use an oil warmer and organic essential oil. Essential oils are safe to inhale and make your home smell warm and inviting.
2. Laundry Detergent
Another toxin lurking in your home is commercial laundry detergent. Even if it claims to be “unscented” or “hypoallergenic,” it may contain toxins that could trigger flare-ups and worsen autoimmune disease.
These toxins include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), 1,4-dioxane, NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) and phosphates. These additives have been linked to severe upper respiratory allergies, hives, unexplained muscle twitching, infertility and even cancer.
To prevent further health problems, trade in your brand-name laundry detergent for a plant-based detergent made with citrus fruit extracts.
Each time you step into the shower, you could be worsening your chronic pain. Many commercial brand shampoos contain a potent neurotoxin called methylisothiazoline (MIT).
Furthermore, many commercial shampoos contain dyes such as yellow #5, which has been linked to insomnia, migraines, allergic reaction, hyperactivity and mood swings.
Castile soap is 100 percent natural and can be used in place of your regular shampoo. Alternatively, there are dozens of organic, synthetic-free shampoos available online or at your local health food store.
4. Hair Products
Most commercial hair care products are loaded with toxins called parabens, which have been linked to infertility, neurological disorders, developmental disorders, learning impairment and even cancer.
Parabens have also been linked to the development of autoimmune disease.
Some safer, natural alternatives to hair gel and other styling products are coconut oil and aloe vera gel. Just a little goes a long way, and they will leave your hair feeling healthy and moisturized.
5. Body Lotion
The body lotion you use every day may be worsening your chronic illness. Common toxins in commercial body lotion are propylene glycol and phthalates.
Propylene glycol, which is considered a “penetration enhancer,” has been linked to chronic upper respiratory problems, liver damage, heart damage, central nervous system malfunction and cancer.
Phthalates are considered endocrine disruptors as they mimic the effect of estrogen in the body. These chemicals have been shown to cause headaches, dizziness, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, numbness and tingling, and unexplained muscle tics and tremors.
Organic coconut oil is the ideal replacement for all commercial skin lotions. It contains lauric acid and linoleic acid, both of which fight free radicals and improve the look and feel of your skin.
Makeup is one of the most overlooked household toxins because it looks and smells so inviting.
It may surprise you to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate any brand of makeup. This means manufacturers can add whatever preservatives, dyes, perfumes and colorants they want.
Your favorite blush may have a honey or cinnamon scent, but it’s anything but pure. When you see the word “fragrance” used in cosmetics, this usually translates to parabens, phthalates and other harmful chemicals.
The best thing you can do for your health (and your looks) is to switch to organic mineral makeup. It provides the coverage and enhancement you want without worsening your chronic symptoms.
7. Pain Killers
When you’re in pain, you want it to stop, and you’re going to take a pain killer regardless of how “unhealthy” it may be. I completely understand that. I do the same thing.
However, habitual use of over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can cause a condition called leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the lining of your intestines becomes more porous than it should be, allowing bacteria, undigested food and other toxins to leak into your blood stream.
Over time, this can trigger chronic inflammation and worsen painful symptoms.
For natural pain relief, look to an herb called boswellia. Boswellia decreases pain and inflammation naturally without the dangerous side effects of some prescription drugs.
Other alternatives include turmeric, cayenne and wintergreen essential oil (the latter of which may be used topically, but not taken internally).
8. Household Cleaners
Commercial household cleaners like glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and mildew removers contain harsh chemicals that not only irritate your lungs and mucous membranes but could trigger neurological and autoimmune reactions.
These chemicals include ammonia, bleach, lye, formaldehyde, phenol and kerosene. Such a potent cocktail of household toxins can cause a host of problems with your nervous, digestive, immune and metabolic systems.
The best way to avoid the harmful effects of household cleaners is to switch to natural alternatives. Castile soap, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, vinegar, olive oil and sea salt are all natural cleansers that won’t keep your immune system on high alert.
9. Carpet Shampoo
Carpet shampoos are among the deadliest toxic poisons you can bring into your home. These cleaners contain a cocktail of chemicals that hang in the air long after you’ve finished cleaning.
Long-term exposure has been linked to learning disorders, mental health problems, autoimmune disease, heart disease and cancer.
One dangerous chemical in carpet cleaner is sodium hydroxide. It is a strong alkaline solvent designed to corrode anything in its path. It has been linked to chest tightness, throat swelling, wheezing, asthma attacks, pulmonary edema and skin inflammation.
For a safer alternative, use white vinegar. It naturally pulls dirt and odors out of carpet fibers while brightening your carpet. With proper ventilation, the vinegar smell should dissipate within a few hours.
10. Feminine Products
Commercial feminine products contain a dangerous chemical called dioxin, which is a carcinogen created by the bleaching process. Continued use of commercial feminine products, whether pads or tampons, can lead to vaginal irritation, chronic yeast infections, endometriosis and infertility.
Improve your health by switching to all-natural, bleach-free feminine products. Also, never use scented washes on your genital area. They strip your natural pH balance and introduce dangerous chemicals into your body.
Even when you put only the healthiest foods and supplements into your body, this natural approach will not be effective if the chemicals in your home continue to slowly poison you. Once you trade in these toxins for natural, organic products, your body will be able to heal.
In my book, “Life Beyond Chronic Pain: The Step-by-Step Guide to Healing Chronic Illness Naturally,” I explain how to heal chronic illness in the right order. Once you begin this journey, you’ll understand why natural treatments have not worked for you and the simple but critical adjustments you need to make to finally put your condition into remission.
About the Author
Jaime A. Heidel is a professional freelance writer with a passion for natural health and wellness. After being sick from birth to age 22, a naturopathic physician finally gave her a reason for her lifelong mystery symptoms: gluten intolerance.
Since discovering the profound connection between food intolerance, nutrition and health, Jaime has made it her mission in life to help others struggling with chronic pain and autoimmune disease. She understands what it’s like to have an invisible condition that others don’t take seriously, and the emotional and psychological toll it can take on a person already suffering.
This is why she named her blog “I Told You I Was Sick.”
Jaime is a Connecticut native who has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. When not glued to her laptop, Jaime can be found hiking in the woods, haunting thrift stores, having tea or lunch with a good friend, getting down on the dance floor or buried in a good book.
Natural Resources Defense Council: Protect your family from hidden hazards in air fresheners
Autoimmune Mom: Autoimmune disease and parabens
Your Infinite Health: The dangers of phthalates
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Sodium hydroxide
PubMed: Autoimmunity and the gut