- shampoo and conditioner
- face wash and lotion
- household cleaners
- soap altogether
- your coffee cup
- phone cases
- food storage
- cookware and utensils
- food bought at the store in plastic containers and water bottles
- microwaving and heating in plastic
- yesterday’s drama
- non-organic food- especially the dirty dozen
When did living simple become so hard? It seems like every day another known carcinogen or hormone-interrupting ingredient is brought to my mind. The more I know the more I am driven to reduce my waste but more importantly I’m concerned about the toxic load my body is exposed to on a daily basis. These are toxins that are affecting our hormones and every part of our bodies.
The truth about hormones is tragic and lovely because hormones are responsible for how we look, feel, and think. For example, they tell us we’re hungry (leptin), happy (serotonin), sad, drive glucose into our cells for energy (insulin), help us respond to stress (all stress including sickness and injuries-cortisol, epinephrine, etc), not to mention the sex hormones that give us our figures, skin, and make reproduction possible. Unfortunately our environments and daily routines are hindering these hormones from operating correctly. No wonder almost every girl I know is on birth control pills for acne or period problems, accutane is more than common, my brother has to inject hormones to manage his diabetes, my mom is on thyroid medications, we obsess over what foods we can and can’t digest, and so many people are taking medications to manage stress. Right? When one hormone is out of balance, all hormones are out and so are many other bodily processes because the body has to work as a SYSTEM.
Do you see why I said the hormone story is tragic and lovely now? Because hormone levels will literally make or break your life. Imagine a clear focused mind, your ideal weight, beautiful hair and skin, a stable mood, energy like no other, and perfect sleep. I don’t know about you but I’m not there.
I often need my daily coffee, whether it be to wake up or to help move things out of my system, I’ve had problems sleeping ever since I can remember, I have an irregular period, I get headaches, and often can’t focus. That’s why I was so happy to pick up a new book to get some of this straightened out…..
The book is called “Cooking for Hormone Balance” by Magdalena Wszelaki. I have a hard time reading real books so a book full of practical information and recipes to apply that is my kind of book. She also has a great website you can check out for great resources and tips: https://hormonesbalance.com/
What exactly is putting all these hormones out of balance might you ask? Magdalena Wszelaki in her book lists:
- poor nutrition
- birth control pills, hormones, and antibiotics
- toxins in skin care and house-cleaning products
- chronic stress and lack of self-care
- lack of sleep
- genetic predisposition
Let go through these:
Toxic pesticides and even toxins and components naturally occurring in food are harmful to our organs and hormones. Two quick things to do to help out your hormones and body are avoid pesticides, antibiotics and chemicals directly added to food and through processing or packaging. How to do that:
- Start buying organic– I know it can be expensive but there’s ways to get around it because it really IS important. You can buy more in season and buy cheaper fruits and vegetables like bananas, celery, potatoes, coconut, frozen berries, and kale.
- Buy local (this is even better as organic crops can still contain organic pesticides that are carcinogens and you have no way of knowing what is on your food)
- Grow your own food. It is so easy to grow spinach and other salad greens as well as herbs, and even peppers. You don’t need a full garden, reuse jars your food came in or grab some small pots!
- Buy grass fed meat. Fun fact, animals are fed gmo-corn and soy as their main food and these are foods that encourage bacteria growth like e.coli especially in the nasty conditions of mass farms. That’s one reason why they are shot up with antibiotics. Did you know if cows were finished on grass for even five days, five days! it would kill 80% of e.coli? For a good movie you can watch Food Inc on Netflix to see how foods are processed farm to factory to the store in America.
- Imagine exactly how the ingredient made it into the food. If you don’t know how an ingredient even came about, maybe avoid it until you do. PS natural flavors aren’t really natural at all. They originated from something natural like citrus or cinnamon bark but as consumers we have no idea how they were extracted. Needless to say these are made in a lab with chemicals that we have no knowledge of.
- Consider the packaging and how you are preparing food. Cans and plastic can contain BPA which is a known hormone disruptor and carcinogen and metals and products from China often contain lead. Every time something is heated, whatever that food is in is leaching into your food, that’s just what happens. Avoiding non-stick cookware, plastic, and aluminum is all a great place to start. Drink out of glass and ceramic when possible and use when reheating food. Is your morning coffee mug or water bottle plastic? Do you put hot leftover into plastic containers or heat them in the microwave? Do you use plastic spatulas to cook with? These are all areas to think about making some swaps! I started using all glass for baking and found out that it is actually quite non-stick not even requiring much oil!
I know this is all overwhelming. ITS OK! I say with anything we all just do the best we can with what we have and what we know! So don’t go getting your cortisol levels out of balance on me!;) Start somewhere: I started with just buying the dirty dozen organic, maybe that’s a great start for you! The dirty dozen contain the most pesticides and are:
- Find more info here.
The clean 15 list is as follows. You can visit the EWG site here. These are the safer fruits and veggies to purchase non-organic and wash really well!
- sweet corn- although I disagree. Most corn is genetically modified (this is probably why its on the clean 15 because its been genetically modified to not need as many pesticides) so it should always be purchased organic.
- papaya- another one that is often gmo so be careful
- frozen sweet peas
- honeydew melon
- cantaloupe melon
Hormones and antibiotics in the form of pills
Many of us are diagnosed with some sort of hormonal imbalance and just given a pill. For example, birth control pills or thyroid medicine. This may hurt as much as it may help because as Msyzelaki explains pills like birth control pills actually cause imbalance of important vitamins and minerals and affect the microbiome (all the little bacteria guys in the gut that synthesize vitamins and run our immune system). Over time, exposure to synthetic hormones can also cause cancers associated with sex hormones like breast cancer. So this is a big deal. Not to mention a pill is often just a bandaid affect. It’s important to get to the root cause of what the imbalance is and where it could be coming from because otherwise the imbalance will just keep occurring and you will just keep band-aiding it. Does that make sense?..like a wound that never heals. This is going to be a journey, not a quick fix. It might be worth working with a nutritionist and/or naturopath or doing some muscle testing to find foods and environmental factors that don’t agree with you and where you are deficient. You could also work with your regular doctor and a health coach if you’re wanting more consistent support. Obtaining necessary nutrients from foods and supplements to support our hormones is absolutely necessary. One example is I started eating just a few brazil nuts every day because they are high in selenium which enables the thyroid to function. Each nut contains somewhere around 70mcg!! Like what?! I also use Himalayan pink salt only because it contains many many trace minerals in a natural balance from the earth instead of iodized table salt which only contains sodium and chloride created in a lab. A great resource for easy to understand nutrition information is the book The World’s Healthiest Foods. It literally goes through each vegetable, where to source it from, how to store, how to cook for optimal nutrient absorption, in addition to talking about all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need and how to get them plus more. You can also visit the author’s website: http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php and type in anything you’re interested in.
Toxins in Skin care, cleaning products, and other things like:
- shampoo and conditioner
- detergent and laundry softener
- face wash and lotion
- soap and perfume
- household cleaner
- phone cases (BPA)
- sunglasses (BPA)
Unfortunately body care and cleaning products contain a lot of synthetic fragrances and ingredients that contain xenoestrogens and other carcinogenic chemicals. Did you know that there are actually multiple types of estrogen? When we talk about xenoestrogens, we’re referring to the fact that these products mimic one of those types of estrogen and throw out of balance the other types of estrogen which escalades and throws the other hormones in your body out of balance (BPA is an example). I never thought that it mattered so much what I was putting on my skin, I thought it was far more important to pay attention to what I was putting inside my body. I was wrong, these chemicals are absorbed just as much if not more through the skin and must be filtered by the liver too. The skin is our largest organ after all! They can throw off the gut microbiome which again affects your metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune system, and neurological systems. That’s a lot of systems! Here’s a list of things to look out for:
- Parabens (synthetic preservatives)
- Phthalates (makes products smell nice)
- Triclosan (an antibacterial agent)
- Aluminum (makes deoderants more effective)
- Sodium Lauryl/laureth (foaming agent that is completely unnecessary)
- Formaldehyde (bonding agent)
- Synthetic colors
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs- used in nonstick cookware)
- Bleach (ps this can also exasperate asthma and lung funtion)
To get you started though here’s some swaps I’ve made:
- sweet almond oil infused with rose- literally fill up half a bottle with dried rose petals or hips or whatever herb you want (many bulk herbs are very cheap at natural grocers or in bulk bins at natural grocery stores, make sure to grab organic though) and then pour oil over it. Allow to infuse for 6 weeks (if you’re impatient like me you just use it whilst infusing haha). I chose rose because it is tightening and toning but different herbs have different properties. To use spray your face with water then rub the oil in. Easy peasy!
- Mad Hippie Vitamin C Facial Serum- this is alcohol free and amazing for my face! Alcohol destroys the elasticity of skin over time and it’s in literally every lotion and a lot of body care products! I buy this again at Natural Grocers but I think it’s pretty widely available in health stores and online.
- Soap bars from farmers markets or Natural Grocers. These cut down on packaging waste and at farmers markets you can have a conversation about what is in the soap
- Castile soap diluted with water in a foaming soap dispenser. This is a natural non-drying way to wash your hands and body.
- Norwex face and body cloths in place of body wash, shaving cream, and face wash. Just use water and it pulls 99.9% of bacteria off the skin!
- White vinegar in the washer instead of fabric softener or use a filler free laundry detergent, like Norwex, that doesn’t leave residue in your clothes causing them to become stiff and need softener.
- Baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar instead of bleach to clean the sink or norwex cleaning paste
- Pretty Frank deodorant- It’s a little more expensive but the best I’ve found so far and affordable as far as natural deodorants go. Natural deodorants are hard because they often don’t really do the job or cause skin irritation. I’ve tried COUNTLESS deodorants and so far this is the one for me. You can always use the Think Dirty app to find a good one at your local health food store. I buy the Pretty Frank deodorant from Natural Grocers but I see they also have it online.
- 1/2 white vinegar 1/2 water to wash produce- just put in a spray bottle or soak veggies in a bowl. let sit 10-20 minutes then rinse. Use for all veggies and fruit except mushrooms as they will absorb it!
- Norwex microfiber towels to sanitize everything including my bathroom, kitchen, and yoga mat. They contain silver which holds the bacteria in the towel instead of spreading it around so I don’t have to use chemicals to sanitize-just water and for peace of mind sometimes some vinegar and/or tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is antibacterial plus I love the smell. I’ve also heard the face towels are great for washing your face without soap. PLUS this saves me money! 🙂
- coconut oil pulling in place of mouthwash. It’s simple, swish around about 1/2 -1 T of coconut oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. Spit in the trash to avoid clogging drains overtime. Coconut oil is antibacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and is amazing!
- Essential oil diffusers or beeswax candles scented with essential oils in place of candles.
Chronic stress and lack of sleep:
Stress is something we all deal with and it is normal. The body has processes set in place to handle stress and in fact it doesn’t even distinguish between different stress. Where stress becomes dangerous is when it becomes continual. The process goes like this: Alarm (your brain receives the stress), Resistance (your body utilizes cortisol and other hormones to deal with the stress), Recovery (your body recovers from the stress and homeostasis is restored). Long-term stress occurs when the resistance stage is extended and you don’t recover from stress. Your body starts ignoring the high amounts of cortisol (fight or flight hormone) and this hormone keeps circulating in your body. Maybe for you this means you don’t sleep- that’s what happens for me. I don’t have an answer to combat stress but I do know that we could all benefit from reminding ourselves to be present and re-centering through perspective. I wish I did yoga every day or could take a long bubble bath- but that just doesn’t happen. One practice I do every day is I pray. If that’s not your jam another thing I do is simply thinking about the universe and something bigger than me like the stars or all the cells that make up everything on earth from soil to plants which we eat, to us, then back to the soil when we die or lose a strand of hair, etc. Right now, think of a time when you were awestruck. Do you remember what you felt in that moment? Didn’t you feel a release? There’s something magical and peaceful about re-centering ourselves and rescaling our problems to size. 🙂 Awe has that effect on us, so try cultivating that. And BREATHE- like actually fill your body with all the air you can get, I like putting my hand on my tummy to feel it happening, and then empty your body. This shifts you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic aka your body’s stress management mechanism. That’s just science folks! As far as sleep goes, I continue to have sleep problems but I used to go to bed at 12am or 1 every night. It came down to just creating the boundary that bedtime was 10 no later than 11. I also started eating dinner earlier and found that to help me get to bed sooner. Grounding and having a bedtime ritual can help too.
The last piece that affects hormones is genetics. Maybe you have a history of thyroid issues in your family or you are predisposed to have a sluggish liver. This is real, but this is not your destiny. You see all the concepts discussed in this post up until this point have an affect on whether these genes are turned on or not. Some deep investigation into what you can change in your routine is worth it and getting to the root cause of your body’s needs are where we need to start.
I know this information is all so so overwhelming, I get it, I’m there right now. I feel like I’m just afraid of the world and I can’t trust anyone or anything. Like I said, we all just do the best that we can with what we have and what we know. Just think about how much you are benefitting yourself by gaining this awareness! Start by making small swaps perhaps like the ones I suggested in this post. If you are really concerned see a doctor for tests. Magdalena Wszelaki recommends saliva and urine tests for hormones instead of just blood tests because your blood maintains constant levels to be able to keep the body running and you alive. So a blood levels of hormones and nutrients etc may misrepresent results of hormone and nutrient levels in your body. I’ve never done it so I can’t speak from experience. Talk to a naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, or whoever you see for health care and they may be able to explain best. BUT realize that this is a journey and you know yourself better than anyone else- it will just some tuning in.:)
I’m so glad you took the time to read this detailed post! I could write for hours! If you would like to connect with me for more information, suggestions, questions, or just to make a friend, I would seriously love it!! Below is my contact info or you can visit my contact page to send me a message!
Instagram and Facebook: @abigaileholistic
Disclaimer: These statements are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am not a licensed nutritionist or medical doctor. This post does contain affiliate links. As a norwex consultant all products provided are products I have used myself and and are posted with my readers’ health and wellbeing in mind. Of course if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me.