“Clean” living is all the rage right now, but just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it is being done correctly or should be done at all. But it also doesn’t mean we should be skeptical of it and roll our eyes at all of those crunchy essential oil users out there. I think everything in moderation is great. Natural products and clean living makes for a healthier home and family and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or crazy expensive. I think when you decide you are ready to detox your home you can break it down to three main areas: cleaning products, what we put in our bodies (food, drink, vitamins, supplements, and even medicines, as well as feminine hygiene products), and what we put on our bodies (skincare – including deodorant-, beauty products, and hair care).
Just because something says “all-natural” or “organic” doesn’t mean it is free of toxins or considered clean and safe. Learn to read your labels and the ingredients of the things you put in and on your body. Let me repeat that: educate yourself on the ingredients of what you are using and what some of those ingredients mean. For example, Propolyne Glycol is another name for what we call antifreeze. You know, the toxic poison that can kill you if ingested that we use in our cars! It is included in SO many products we use on our bodies, which is really shocking. It is always better to check the ingredients. Better yet, look for an EWG verified product or check it at the EWG database (a non-profit that rates products’ toxicity based on their ingredients).
As I’ve talked about before, I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis (and later went full hypothyroid) after the birth of my first son. I didn’t understand my diagnosis and I just did what my doctor told me: take levothyroxine for probably the rest of my life. There was no advice on diet changes or supplements, no talk of environmental factors, no real explanation of autoimmune disease. My treatment was only for my thyroid — there was no discussion on treating the Hashimotos. It’s basically “you have Hashimotos which caused Hypothyroidism. You have to take medication to replace the hormone your thyroid is no longer making.” It worked for a while. I felt a bit better after a few months of medication. I didn’t feel like I was dying anymore, but I was still fatigued, couldn’t lose weight, had irregular moods and bouts with anxiety and depression. And then when we tried to get pregnant with baby 2 I had a miscarriage and struggled for a year with infertility. I believe now that was due to my Hashimotos. It took having two more babies and getting really sick again (another bout with PPD, inability to lose any baby weight, fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, and now panic attacks for me to finally start to realize that I was not well despite my thyroid levels being within “normal range.” By this time there was a lot more awareness about Hashimotos and other autoimmune diseases as well as talk of root causes, gut health, diet changes, etc. So I started educating myself and realized that I had only been treating and masking my thyroid symptoms over the last 6 years but not making any progress on improving my health for the long term. And that is when I started making changes in my daily life that has made a difference (though I am still on the road to good health).
All that to say that there is a reason I started this wellness journey. I didn’t quit gluten because it is “trendy” and I don’t use essential oils because all bloggers do. Making changes to detox my body and home were done out of necessity in an attempt to feel better and to be able to be the mom, wife, daughter, friend, and self I want to be instead of feeling like an exhausted, achy, moody, swollen, anxious and depressed person. If you want to make similar changes but are overwhelmed by where to start, here are three simple things to swap out to begin your wellness journey (after the obvious diet changes of removing processed foods, sugary drinks, etc. and eating whole foods.)* I do vaccinate my kids, we take antibiotics when necessary, we eat microwavable meals sometimes. My kids get sugar. I don’t monitor every single thing that goes on or in their bodies. But I try my best to do the best I can to limit harmful things.
I barely buy any cleaning products for my home anymore. I have ditched dryer sheets for wool laundry balls. I do use laundry detergent but I use one from companies like Seventh Generation or Honest. At the very least you should purchase one that is “Free & Clear.” I make my own cleaning solution in a big spray bottle. It consists of white vinegar, water, and a few drops of essential oil like lemon and tangerine. I use this to clean pretty much everything: my kitchen, bathrooms, for dusting surfaces, and even my floors. The only cleaners I still buy are dishwashing detergent (if you’ve found a more natural one that you love and that works, please share!) and toilet bowl cleaner.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make your own cleaning products either. A few big spray bottles (I got the Up brand ones from Target), the biggest jug of white vinegar you can find (which is still under $5!), and water are all super cheap. You can even find good essential oils for reasonable prices — just make sure the ones you choose are pure and high quality. I love Simply Earth oils because they source their oils from farms all around the world, wherever the oil grows best. They bottle them in-house, to control quality. They double test everything to make sure it is pesticide free and pure, and they do so without charging a fortune like big oil companies do. Oh, and they donate a percentage of sales to fight human trafficking.
Swap Out Your Most “Personal” Products
Have you ever stopped to research how safe your personal products are? When my health took a dive and I was advised to remove toxins and chemicals from my environment. Many are known to be cancer causing and others like parabens and phthalates are hormone and endocrine disruptors. The two personal products I swapped out first — because of the high content of chemicals as well as the location of their use on and in my body — were deodorant and tampons.
Why Swap to Clean Deodorant?
Conventional deodorants and anti-perspirants contain a variety of chemicals and additives. un-natural to block the body’s natural ability to sweat and cool itself (it’s actually really important that your body be allowed to sweat!), and the chemical list in some deodorants is downright shocking:
- Aluminum (linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s)
- Parabens (hormone disruptor and found in biopsied tissue with breast cancer)
- Formaldahyde (a known carcinogen)
- Phthalates (endocrine disruptors that can cause hormone imbalance and infertility)
- Propolyne Glycol (also known as antifreeze)
When you think about where you put deodorant and anti-perspirants — so close to your breast tissue and lymph nodes — it is easy to see why this is a product to swap out first. I was super skeptical about trying natural deodorants. I mean, I’m semi-crunchy, but frankly I’d rather not walk around with body odor and weird pasty pits. Luckily there are some great natural deodorants out there that do the job without the chemicals and without leaving you feeling like a hippie on a commune. Here are two that I have tried and can recommend:
- Primally Pure Deodorant: This is the first natural deodorant I tried and I was extremely surprised by how much I loved it. I started with the charcoal one and loved it. I did go through a bit of an adjustment process at first — your pits are used to all of those chemicals and not being allowed to sweat so sometimes there is a detox period (or you can detox them yourself — just google “detox your pits” to learn how). I was a little sweaty and had a few razor-burn type bumps in those first few weeks. But I’ve been using natural deodorant for almost 6 months now and I really don’t sweat much anymore, the bumps are gone, and I’ve never smelled bad even on the hottest of days. I love that it comes in a deodorant stick vs. the paste-type of natural deodorants. I am now using the lemongrass and love that scent for summer (bonus if it keeps the mosquitos away!).
- Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant: I was so happy with Primally Pure I wasn’t really looking for another natural deodorant, but I did want to be able to answer questions and compare it to others. I’ve heard a lot of people recommend Schmidt’s and I happened to see it at Costco (a 3 pack was $12!) so I swiped it and gave it a try. I have the Rose Vanilla one and I love love love the scent! I did notice a bit more breaking out with this one (usually its from the baking soda) but after about a week it went away. It works great as well and is a good option that is a bit more budget-friendly for a natural deodorant. I think I prefer the Primally Pure overall but both do a great job without the toxins and chemicals.
*I’ve also heard great things about Native, but haven’t tried it myself.
Why You Need to Ditch Your Tampons
Much like mainstream antiperspirants and deodorants, tampons are filled with chemicals. Many contain bleach, dioxins, GMOs, and the chemicals listed above for deodorant. Would you ever intentionally insert those chemicals into your body? Into a place that is so connected to hormonal balance and where you might want to grow another human? Would you ever eat foods with those chemicals? Then why would you insert something into your vagina that is filled with those toxins? If you are thinking “there’s no way it would be legal to use those chemicals in products we put on or in our bodies!” then think again. In the US, they are absolutely legal and don’t necessarily even have to be included on the packaging and in the ingredient list (“fragrance” in the ingredient list often means these toxins are included without having to name them specifically, for example).
Instead of using mainstream tampons or sanitary pads, consider a menstrual cup. I have used this one for a while and find that they are safer, more affordable in the long run, and more convenient than tampons (you need to wash/rinse it, but that’s about it). They also help you to track your flow (how much, what consistency, any abnormalities). I will say that they do have a slight learning curve, so it is best to try one out when you’ll be home in case of a leak or other issue as you figure out how it works. Sometimes though, dealing with a cup takes more time than the 30 solo bathroom seconds I’m allotted by my kids, in which case I always have a safe organic cotton tampon on hand to use. I like the L brand (I usually get them at Target) and the Cora brand from Amazon. I’ve also heard great things about the ones from Honest and Lola. Regardless, make sure they are organic cotton, bleach and chlorine free, fragrance free, and don’t use adhesives.
Clean Up Your Beauty Routine
Your skin is your largest organ and is also the thinnest, which means anything you put on your skin can make its way into your bloodstream. Why do we think we can use products full of toxins and chemicals on that organ without suffering consequences that can seriously impact our health? I started doing even more research about what is allowed and is used in many of the most popular brands and common beauty products and the information was very eye opening, So I started researching clean brands and slowly trying new products. I have been doing it gradually so as to not overwhelm myself (or my bank account). I wasn’t expecting to find many clean ingredient products that I loved and found to be as effective as the stuff I was already using. To my surprise, I have not only found things I like as well or that work as well, I have found things that I love even more! I even fell hard for one of these brands (Beautycounter) and ended up joining the company since I loved how effective the products were on my skin and wanted to share my honest experience. I also love helping other women who may not realize how seriously the lotions and makeup and sunscreen we use can affect our health in such negative ways.
I started with skincare and have since started using their makeup and hair care as well. I’ll do a more in-depth post on which products are my favorite (you can find my favorite skincare ones here) but for now I just wanted to talk about how important it is that you start swapping out that big brand shampoo or drugstore brand moisturizer for products that are safer and free of toxic chemicals.If the expense is overwhelming, start small. Choose mascara and eye makeup remover (I’m obsessed with both from Beautycounter) or a cleanser and moisturizer. If you want to start swapping but aren’t sure where to start or what products are best for you, I’d love to help! Shoot me an email and I’ll answer any questions you have.
*A note on food, supplements, and medications
This deserves a post all its own, but eating whole foods and removing processed foods from your diet is huge. If it comes in a box, bag, or can it has been processed. I make boxed mac n cheese for my kids way more often than I care to admit — I’m not perfect on this myself. But it is something to be aware of if you are going through the effort of removing toxins from your environment. We try to eat only grass-fed beef. My kids drink regular milk but I choose organic, grass-fed, etc. if I can find it. Or they drink kefir milk a lot (they call it their “smoothie”). Regular dairy and meat often contains hormones from the animals being given hormones, antibiotics, and feed laden with chemicals. Consuming products from those animals can disrupt your own hormones. Dairy can also cause inflammation in your body, but that’s a whole other issue, especially for people like me with autoimmune (gluten triggers the same response for me, which is why I try to avoid it as well.)
You might think you’re doing yourself or your family a favor by taking supplements, a probiotic, or a multi-vitamin, but be sure to read the label first. Many contain dairy, soy, gluten, and other things you want to avoid in your supplements. Also, many kids vitamins (especially gummies) have corn syrup and artificial colors. So check the label and ingredient list before you buy. Avoid gluten and soy especially.
If you are taking thyroid medication (or other medications, especially in a generic form) be aware that many have fillers and additives that often contain gluten. I was taking (and still am) levothyroixine for my hypothyroidism for 7 years before I learned that Synthroid sometimes and generic brands usually contain gluten. GLUTEN! The thing I’m supposed to avoid because it makes my Hashimotos (which is what caused my hypothyroidism) WORSE. And it is in the medication that I take daily to treat that condition. It makes no sense, but it is true. And you might not find it in a list of ingredients because filler ingredients don’t have to be disclosed and can change month to month in generic meds. Tirosint is a cleaner brand of levothyroxine medication with only 4 ingredients and I’ve heard wonderful things about the bovine version of thyroid medication (like Armour) but have never tried them personally. Talk to your doctor but go armed with knowledge. If your DR rolls his or her eyes at you or becomes annoyed by your asking questions, it is time for a new doctor.
Have you made the switch to non-toxic living yet? Why or why not? Do you want to but just feel overwhelmed by it all? That is where I was a year ago and I’ve come so far since then and it didn’t stress me out. I still have a ways to go but if I can help you in any way or be a resource to you, please let me know. In the end we are all better off when we eliminate whatever we can. There are so many toxins, chemicals, and pollutants that we encounter that we have no control over, so getting rid of the ones we can really makes a difference for our long-term health. Our families deserve that — and so do we.