Toxins are poisons whether we’re talking about chemical toxins, food toxins, or emotional toxins. So it makes sense that we want to minimize or eliminate as many as possible from our lives. Here are 5 steps you can start taking right now toward a less toxic life.
**There may be affiliate links in this article. If you purchase something through one of my links, I may earn a small commission but you will not be charged any extra. You will, however, have my everlasting gratitude. Also, I only recommend things I use or love. And regardless of any compensation, all opinions are strictly my own. My full policy is in the footer under “legal stuff.”**
The words chemical toxins are pretty straight forward but what am I talking about when I say food toxins or emotional toxins? Obviously, the first step in this process is to define toxins.
A toxin is:
a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation
1: containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation 2: exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis 3: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful
So most of the time when we talk about toxins we’re actually talking about toxic substances. However, the two are often used interchangeably nowadays and I tend to do so also.
I refer to a toxin or a toxic substance as any chemical, poison, thought, emotion, food, person, etc., etc., etc. that causes harm, disease, or death. The amount of harm is inconsequential by definition as it’s all relative to the person or situation.
This opens a BIG DOOR leading to what is or can be toxic. I’m starting with 5 areas in which the toxins can be pretty easy to understand overall. I won’t go into great detail in this post because these areas are very comprehensive, but I’ll give you a glimpse of baby steps you can take in each area.
Choose Better Food
Highly processed foods can contain any of the following and typically contain many of them: preservatives, GMOs (genetically modified organisms,) chemicals, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, excess sugars, excess salt (sodium,) high fructose corn syrup, endocrine (hormone) disrupters, neurological (brain) disrupters, pesticides, low nutrients…
Most of the additives in processed food are not beneficial to our health and would, in fact, be considered detrimental to our health. Many are added to extend the shelf life of a product, “fortify” it with artificial vitamins (many of which can not be used by our bodies,) add bulk, enhance flavor or excite the brain so we want more of that food – so we become addicted to it even.
This post also talks more in-depth about a healthy diet and a challenge I participated in.
The most nutritious food is the least processed. Although proper growing practices must be used so the soil nutrients aren’t depleted, excessive pesticides and chemicals aren’t used, and animals are fed healthy (non-GMO) feeds so their meat is healthy. Growing your own foods or buying from a local farmer you know and who’s growing practices you know are the best choices. If those aren’t possible buying organic foods and produce can be a great choice.
But organic produce can be hard to find or expensive. I can totally relate! So many times I don’t eat organic produce. But I do try to buy organic when I’m purchasing foods that are typically the most highly contaminated with pesticides. How do I know what foods those are?
Every year the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, tests the most common fruits and vegetables to see which are typically highest and lowest in pesticides. They then publish these on lists called the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.”
Follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen
The EWG has a ton of great information on their website about all different kinds of toxins and I suggest you check them out but for simplicity sake here are the lists for 2019:
Dirty Dozen: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and hot peppers.
Clean Fifteen: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, sweet peas frozen, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons.
***Note: although sweet corn is listed on the 2019 list for clean 15, many varieties of corn are GMO – particularly field corn. But more and more GMO sweet corn is grown every year. The clean 15 ONLY checks for pesticides. If you aren’t certain, you are ALWAYS better off with organic corn which cannot be GMO.
Bottom line? Read your food labels. Eat real, whole, fresh foods (that don’t come with labels.) Eat organic produce when possible and especially if it falls in the dirty dozen!
Use Less Toxic Cleaning Products
Cleaning products are filled with chemicals that clean, degrease, and disinfect – and leave behind a film of toxicity. Unless you wash the surface with plain water after you clean, the chemicals stay. And who’s going to do that?
The internet abounds with recipes for DIY recipes for non-toxic cleaning solutions. Try some of them out! And I’ll have some DIY recipes in a later post also.
Many essential oils are incredibly useful for cleaning. They can clean, sanitize, even remove glue residue. After one look at Pinterest, you’ll have more suggestions than you can ever try out. Just take all the promised results with a grain of salt. 😉 And ALWAYS do your own due diligence on the safety of ingredients or mixing ingredients!
For example, citrus oils are especially well known for cleaning. Some of the more well known commercial products even use citrus oils – along with their toxic ingredients…
There are also more and more non-toxic brands springing up which makes it convenient to purchase non-toxic cleaners in your local store if you don’t want to DIY them. Just be sure o read the ingredients because many companies try to claim to be healthier when they aren’t!
My Favorite Cleaner
MY FAVORITE CLEANER is a cross-over. It’s as easy as adding a capsule to water to get a non-toxic cleaner as effective as bleach! It’s called A Force of Nature and you must order it but they have introductory specials all the time. I’ll try to keep up with the specials in my Things I Love section. Other non-toxic companies, such as Norwex, have been around for 25 years or more.
Norwex’s signature Envirocloth has an incredible microfiber that cleans better than any other one I’ve tried. They clean incredibly well just using water and have micro-silver strands woven in to prevent cross-contamination and to self-sanitize the cloth. They are definitely a worthwhile investment. Their window cloths give a clean, streak-free finish using just water also!
And while microfiber cloths have come under fire for releasing micro-plastics (potentially) into the ocean, I have heard about a possible solution. I’ll be checking into that and I’ll keep you posted. Also, Norwex accepts its microfiber cloths back for recycling into renewable energy. And several Norwex products are made from recycled plastic bottles!
Control Air Pollution
And don’t forget about indoor air quality. Virtually all “air fresheners” that plug into the wall, commercial sprays, odor “eliminators,” and even candles with artificial fragrances are toxic.
Many of them contain benzene, formaldehyde, propellants, solvents, and other toxic ingredients. These ingredients can cause headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions, and contribute to or aggravate lung conditions like asthma and COPD among other side effects. Some of them are even carcinogenic.
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the air inside the typical home is often 2-5 times more polluted (sometimes WAY MORE) than the air outside because of toxic building materials, toxic cleaning and fragrance products used inside and more.
Again, it’s a relatively easy fix using essential oils in a diffuser (this is a pretty inexpensive one with good reviews) or to DIY scent gels, etc. Growing and picking or buying a fragrant bouquet of flowers is also a possibility or using all-natural, nothing-added, dried potpourri.
Bottom line? DIY cleaning products and air fresheners with easily accessible things like baking soda and essential oils or purchase non-toxic cleaning products like Norwex.
Pick Less Toxic Beauty Products
This is a tough area and one that many women, in particular, forget about or, more likely, don’t want to even consider. And I get that! We want products that “work” to keep us clean and pretty. 😉
Unfortunately, most commercial products include ingredients that are horribly toxic to us! And our skin is the largest organ in/on our bodies so anything we put ON it gets IN us.
Parabens, petroleum and coal tar products, preservatives, mineral oil, formaldehyde and even mercury (thimerosal) can be found in makeup and skincare products among MANY others. And some of these ingredients are carcinogenic. We know they cause cancer when ingested or eaten but very little to no research exists on the effects of applying them topically.
And that is how beauty companies justify using these ingredients. Because these chemicals haven’t been proven to cause cancer (yet) when applied topically. But again, everything that is put on our skin will eventually get inside our bodies. And our rates of cancer are rising. Is that a coincidence? Personally, I think not although it’s certainly not the only reason.
Toxic Products Are HORRIBLE for our Hormones
Our infertility rates are skyrocketing also and many of these products contain ingredients that are hormone (endocrine) disruptors as well. These ingredients often mimic hormones and bind to our body’s receptor sites so that our own, real hormones can’t. This wreaks havoc on our endocrine system.
I finally found a company I can stand behind in this area: BEAUTY COUNTER! They are helping to change the way the business of beauty is done with non-toxic products THAT ACTUALLY WORK as well as, or better than, the big hitters’ toxic products! They, too, often have discounts for first-time buyers which I will try to keep updated on my Things I Love section. Or feel free to reach out to me for a discount code if I get behind. These are the products I use!
Use the Skin Deep App
With all this confusing data, how do we know what’s safe? Again the EWG has a great database regarding the toxicity of hair, beauty and makeup products. Their Skin Deep App can even be downloaded on your phone so it is easily accessible when you’re shopping.
And many companies are becoming aware of the public’s distrust of these dangerous chemicals. So they are offering lower toxicity alternatives in their product lines along with new, non-toxic companies springing up.
Or again, you can DIY many of your own beauty products. Heck, even pure coconut, jojoba, or argan oil alone (or with a couple of essential oils added) work as a moisturizer depending on your skin type!
Bottom line? Use products with natural ingredients or DIY your own. Buy from a company that sells non-toxic products that actually work like Beauty Counter. At the very least, choose products that have a lower toxicity score on the EWG Skin Deep App.
Detox Your Laundry
The ideas behind making changes in our laundry products are very similar to the changes in cleaning and beauty products. Again, the skin is our largest organ so the clothes we put on – that are loaded with toxic chemicals from laundry detergent and fabric softeners – hold those toxins up against our skin all day (and all night) long.
Laundry detergents many chemicals that are not only toxic to us but to our waterways and environment. Without going into details on all the chemicals I can barely pronounce, let me just say that the side effects can include respiratory issues, skin rashes, eye irritation, organ toxicity, more endocrine disruption, and even possibly cancer.
Seriously? Yes, seriously. Read your label and use fewer chemicals or less toxic laundry detergent. There are a lot of options here and even some DIY choices so I’ll probably go into this in a later post where I can go into more detail.
Make Better Fabric Softener Choices
Fabric softeners contain even more chemicals. Whether it’s a liquid softener or dryer sheet, they’re both toxic. And both permeate the fabric and do. not. get. rinsed. off.
But who wants to walk around with clothes that cling to you, full of static, or are all rough and wrinkled? No one, except maybe my youngest son. I don’t think he really cares. 😉 LOL!
So, options… Remove clothes from the dryer and fold or hang them as soon as they are done or hanging them to dry can help with wrinkles.
White vinegar can be used in the washer as a non-toxic fabric softener or on fabric pieces in the dryer as a dryer sheet. Typically you don’t notice any vinegar smell after they are dry but if you do, or are just too afraid to try, you can use what I use.
Use Wool? YEP!
Wool dryer balls. Just toss 3 (or up to 6) dryer balls like these in the dryer with your clothes and dry as usual. Crazy, right? They actually soften the clothes and shorten the drying time a little by keeping the clothes moving. Thereby saving money! They also collect much of the fuzz off your clothes and diffuse the static in them.
Now I will say there is sometimes a little static left – especially in the winter – but adding a couple more balls usually takes care of that. And for scent, just add a drop or two of essential oils to them. Just don’t use too much!
And if by chance, you’re allergic to wool as my cousin is, you can get a plastic version. It’s not quite as good as the wool version and it wouldn’t be my first choice because – plastic. But it’s still way better than the traditional softener choices. In a pinch, a balled-up piece of aluminum foil will also work.
Bottom line? Use natural or less toxic laundry detergents. You can also DIY them. Use vinegar for fabric softener or use wool dryer balls and save money by shortening the drying time. Essential oils can add scent.
Just Say NO!
We all lead incredibly busy lives nowadays. And it seems there’s always someone trying to put more on our plates. But you have the right to say no.
For many, many years I was busy volunteering in organizations that were important to me, in my community, in my kids’ schools. Pretty much wherever and whenever asked I said yes.
I was the person who always said, “Well, SOMEBODY has to do it.” And that “somebody” was usually me.
After suffering a health crisis that made me realize that I needed to make big changes in my life, I began to say no. And as hard as it was and as awkward as it felt at first, it now feels wonderful!
It felt wonderful to give my time to the few projects that really bring me joy. It felt wonderful to have more time for my family, my husband, and me.
And it still does!
I have time to practice self-care and to spend on projects that are important to me like my crafts – and this blog! I also don’t need to ward off the energy vampires who keep looking for more time, more energy, more ME.
You can say no too! Say no to the stress brought on by doing more and being more. Say no to time wasters. To people and projects that don’t bring you joy – or worse, that bring angst.
Choose Less Toxic Relationships
You do not have to be everything to everyone. In fact, you CAN’T be!
Okay, yes. You may have to take care of your family. But once they’re old enough kids can pack their own school lunches. And husbands can find their own keys. You get what I’m saying here.
Allowing kids the opportunity to be responsible for themselves actually helps to set them up to be more responsible adults. So you’re doing them a favor whether they like it or not! LOL!
Obviously, you may still have to do things you aren’t fond of like projects for work or cleaning the toilet. Unless that’s another favor you decide to pass on to your kids. 🙂 But consciously saying no to projects and people that don’t bring you joy (when you can) is one of the easiest and more profound ways to detoxify your mind.
Oh, and in my own experience, I found that when I stopped saying yes to things I didn’t enjoy, other people did step up to take my place. I wasn’t as indispensable as I think I am – and that’s a good thing!
Bottom line? You can’t be everything to everyone. So don’t try. Detoxify your mind and eliminate stress by intentionally choosing what to say yes to. Then say no to everything else.
These are five areas that you can begin taking baby steps in for a less toxic life. They are broad generalities and still, this post is ridiculously long! But I wanted you to have a starting place and enough background to be confident with those baby steps.
Obviously trying to change everything at once isn’t feasible and it definitely isn’t sustainable! Pick one or two areas that are more important and/or easier to start. Take those baby steps and once they become habits add another step or two.
Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a less toxic life you love. And ditching the toxins is a big step on the way to a happier life.