Toxins are everywhere in this world of ours, so it's not necessary — or possible — to try to avoid them all. But if you're worried about more toxins in your body, it can help to be aware of the daily habits that might bring you in contact with certain chemicals. And maybe even choose to make a few changes as a result.
Keep in mind, though, that the body is really good at detoxifying itself. "It’s pretty incredible how much the body can handle," Gene Gresh, founder of Pioneer Health Center and chief compounding pharmacist at The Feel Good Lab, tells Bustle. "However, with the abundance of chemicals in both the food we eat, the skincare products we use, and the products in our environment, our body can’t detoxify everything we’re throwing at it."
If your daily routine includes "toxic" habits, certain health issues may become more likely. "[Toxins] can build up in the body [and] wreak all sorts of havoc, including autoimmune problems, skin conditions, sleep problems [...] allergies, brain fog, and even cancer, to name a few," environmental toxicity specialist Tonya Harris, MSHN, BCHN, tells Bustle.
While it's not necessary to zero in on every possible toxin in your life, making a few small changes here and there can help keep your risk down. Read on below for some daily habits that can contribute to toxins in your body, according to experts, as well as what to do instead.
1. Not Using Microwave-Safe Dishes
It's so easy to throw leftovers into the microwave, have a quick snack, and move on with your day. But if you'd like to eliminate a few potential toxins from your life, you'll want to take a quick look at the types of bowls and plates you're using.
"Food containers are labeled 'microwave-safe' or 'microwavable' for a reason," Ysabel Montemayor, lead RD at Fresh n' Lean, tells Bustle. "If food containers aren’t microwave-safe, it may contain toxins that can leach into food when heated."
2. Drinking Out Of Plastic Containers
Even if you don't put them in the microwave, using plastic bowls, plates, and water bottles can lead to problems, too.
"Plastic food containers and water bottles can contain chemicals such as BPA and phthalates, that can leach into foods and beverages," Harris says. "These chemicals can disrupt hormones by affecting the endocrine system, where our body’s hormones are made and secreted."
Going forward, it can help to swap 'em out. "Replace plastic options with glass and stainless steel," Harris says. "Choose your one or two most-used plastic food storage containers and bottles, and just replace those first — you don’t have to replace everything all at once."
3. Using Room Sprays & Scented Candles
It might be tempting to buy room sprays, plug-ins, and scented candles. But breathing in fake scents all day long isn't particularly safe.
"Fragrance is considered to be a 'proprietary' formula, or a trade secret, so its individual ingredients are not required to be listed on the label," Harris says. That said, many fragrance-related chemicals have been linked to things like hormone disruption, nervous system toxicity, and allergic effects.
In order to spare yourself, Harris suggests diffusing essential oils to freshen the air instead. And opening your windows as often as possible.
4. Using Household Cleaners
Breathing in fumes from typical household cleaners can take a toll on your health while you're using them. But they can also have an impact when they're simply sitting around.
"Cleaning products can give [...] off gas into the air, even when they’re not in use," Harris says. "So DIYing your own cleaning products is an easy alternative." She suggests whipping up a few using things you probably already having lying around, such as white vinegar and baking soda.
While these chemicals will still get the job done, they aren't ones that are associated with "toxins," or negative effects on the body.
5. Eating Non-Organic Food
It isn't always possible to eat an entirely organic diet. But you can keep the "Dirty Dozen," or foods with the most pesticides, and the "Clean 15," or foods with the least pesticides, in mind, as a place to start.
"Buy organic versions of the produce on the Dirty Dozen list, such as strawberries and spinach," Harris says, "and you can get away with buying conventional off the Clean 15 list (such as avocados, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower)."
This is one way to avoid consuming pesticides, which can have a big impact on health. "Pesticides can be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and can disrupt hormones," Harris says. "The good news is that studies have shown that eating organic for as little as six days can greatly reduce the level of pesticides in the body."
Remember, it's just about doing your best, and making small changes wherever you can.
6. Sitting On Chemically-Laden Furniture
7. Cooking With Non-Stick Pans
While it's always nice when eggs slide easily off the frying pan, non-stick cookware can contribute to the toxin levels in your body all thanks to fluorinated chemicals, which are what keep food from sticking.
As Harris says, these have been "linked to cancer, immune system problems, developmental issues, low birth rates, and infertility."
If you're worried, cast iron pans can be a great alternative, as well as greased up stainless steel, enamel cast iron, or even pure ceramic pans.
8. Using Toxic Personal Care Items
If you're concerned about toxins, consider what you're putting on your skin each day, including the types of lotions, makeup, and skincare products you use.
"Our skin is an organ, and anything you are putting on your skin can go straight into your blood stream, since the skin doesn't have the luxury of the liver (the body's detoxifier for toxins that enter our mouth)," Erin Assenza, an integrative nutrition health coach, tells Bustle.
To find out which products are safest, Assenza suggests looking them up in The Environmental Working Group "Skin Deep" app, which you can use to research the toxicity levels of beauty and household products before using them.
9. Leaving Dust Lying Around
Dust is everywhere. But even though it seems benign, it's often loaded with toxins, including ones from unhealthy building materials, toxic flooring, lead paint, and even your furniture, Harris says.
It might seem like there's nothing you can do to keep dust at bay. But there are plenty of options. Harris suggests vacuuming frequently, and making sure you use a HEPA filter. You can also clean up with a damp mop or duster (instead of a broom), to prevent dust from floating back up into the air.
Taking your shoes off before going inside can also keep toxic junk — such as pesticides or chemicals from work — from being tracked in.
It may all seem overwhelming, but try not to worry too much. "Don’t stress about dusting every room every day," Harris says. If you focus on cleaning the areas where you hang out the most, you'll be OK.
And the same is true for making other changes, as well. Start small, be consistent, and you should be able to live a cleaner life, and help your body out when it comes to dealing with the toxins it encounters every day.