How To Improve The Health of Your Family and of Your Baby
Because You Can Minimise Your Baby Exposure To Toxic Chemicals at Home
I was born in a fantastic hilly area, bathed by warm rays of sun and long summer days, and colored by red and yellow autumn leaves and snowflakes in the colder months. We were also bathed by pesticides and herbicides sprayed by helicopters, in order to preserve the quality of the vineyards that grew all around my house, the school I went to, and the parks where I spent most of the time as a young kid and teenager. I have basically spent my entire life breathing toxic chemicals, and I ended up paying the consequences for it years down the track.
It didn’t bother me much until I had Luna; all of a sudden I became hypersensitive to the nasty smell of the exhalation fumes, I couldn’t stand the fragrance of the latest perfume and I couldn’t even think of applying a soothing lotion on my breastfeeding skin. I wanted to keep her pure and toxins free as much as I could, although I knew she had already been exposed to a variety of toxins while cooking up in my womb.
As a matter of fact, toxic chemicals like lead, certain air pollutants, pesticides, synthetic chemicals, and infectious agents can cross the placenta and interfere with a baby development in utero.
In 2016, researchers collected maternal blood samples from 77 pregnant women at Zuckerberg San Francisco General. Once they delivered their babies, researchers collected umbilical cord blood samples from 65 of these women. Of those samples tested for all 59 chemicals, the median number was 25 in maternal blood and 17 in umbilical cord blood. Eight of the 59 chemicals analyzed were detected in more than 90 percent of both the maternal and cord blood samples.
Toxins, over time, tend to accumulate in our body, and many toxins, being fat soluble, tend to hide inside our fatty tissues of the body and hang around for years. So, even if our daily exposure to them might seem negligibly low, the symptoms will hit us after long years of toxin buildup.
The organs affected include the brain, breasts and endocrine glands such as the thyroid and adrenals, and this accumulation can lead to foggy brain, impaired cognitive function, tiredness, PMS, infertility, and cancers. They also can be partially passed from a mother to a baby through the placenta and breast milk.
This is why it is fundamental to start following a preconception plan six months before getting pregnant, in order to give the mum and the baby the best chance to a healthy pregnancy and a healthier life.
We all know we need to avoid herbicides, pesticides, pollution caused by the traffic and so forth, but how else can we minimize our exposure to the environmental toxins?
How fishy is the fish?
Although fish is a healthy part of a balanced diet, as it’s rich in Omega 3 and lean protein, it’s becoming quite difficult to find a good reliable source of toxins free fish. Farmed fish is normally loaded with antibiotics and pesticides, and it tends to be caught from polluted waters. Always look for high-quality wild caught fish and don’t be afraid to ask where it’s coming from. Avoid also big cuts such as shark, swordfish, and tuna, as they naturally carry a heavier load of toxins in their system.
We cover our skin and we wash our hairs with different types of yummy smelling products since we were babies, and we tend to do the same to our babies, but what we put on our skin is automatically absorbed by our system. Moreover, the skin acts as a cleansing organ for us; skin extracts toxic wastes from the blood and excretes them through our sweat glands and dead skin.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop using all your shampoos and lotions (but you can), and you can choose products free from BPA, phthalates, parabens, benzophenone (sunscreen lotions), which means:
• Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients
• Minimize your exposure to nail polish and nail polish removers.
• Use naturally based fragrances, such as essential oils.
• Use chemical free soaps and toothpaste.
• Read the labels on condoms and diaphragm gels.
Have you ever paid attention to how much the smell changes from one aisle to the supermarket to another? Start walking up and down the “house cleaning” aisle and then move to the fridge section; can you tell the difference? Bleach and fragrance loaded products leach their smell (and pollutants) out in the air, which means you and your family are constantly bombarded by the chemical smells coming from underneath the kitchen and toilet sink. As soon as you finish your next product, make a change and:
• Use chemical free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products.
• Choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper products (i.e. tampons, menstrual pads, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee filters).
• Use a chlorine filter on shower heads and filter drinking water
Feed your hungry family with whole foods
I can write a whole chapter only on how a great diet can decrease the symptoms of a toxins loaded lifestyle. But to keep it short and simple:
• Choose organic, locally-grown and in-season foods (if you can’t afford everything organic, check the dirty dozen/clean fifteen list and shop accordingly)
• Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, especially when growing your lovely veggies and herbs
• Peel non-organic fruits and vegetables.
• Buy hormone-free meats and dairy products to avoid hormones and pesticides.
Foods, especially takeaways meals, are normally found wrapped in plastics or sitting inside a plastic container. They are also served with plastic straws, water cups, plastic cutleries and so forth, which sooner or later, will end up in the ocean and in the water we drink. Whenever you can, reduce the use of plastics.
On top of it:
• Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
• Avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving.
• Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
• Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
• If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away.
• Don’t refill plastic water bottles.
• Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.
And to get to the nitty gritty, how can we promote the elimination of toxins?
Also if we put all these changes in place, we will still absorb some toxins from the air we breathe, the couch we sit on, the house we live in and the traffic we deal with on a daily basis.
Still, there are some steps we easily can put in place to minimize our exposure to unwanted pollutants:
- Include Cruciferous vegetables to your diet–cabbage, broccoli, turnip and mustard,kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and collard — as they are a rich source of both I3C and DIM, which are known to be anti-cancerous. They also support the liver detoxification pathways and they can be easily be incorporated into our daily diet.
- Consume essential fatty acids, and high-quality protein to support the liver detoxification pathways.
- Apply oil to the skin instead of fragrance loaded lotions; I love mixing coconut oil with essential oils, as it feels like I’m giving the skin a treat.
- Include bitter tasting foods such as rocket, radicchio, dandelion root, and chicory to your diet to promote liver function.
- Breath 100 conscious breath every day to release toxins from the lungs; insufficient physical activity, stress, poor posture impede our lungs to work effectively, and we need to focus on how we breathe on a daily basis.
- Consume at least 1.5–2 L of filtered water every day. It is essential for healthy kidneys function and it promotes a healthy elimination via the bowels. If you are exercising a lot, live in a hot climate or are breastfeeding, you need to up your water intake by another liter.
- Include soluble fiber (oats, barley, fruits, vegetables), insoluble fiber (nuts, seeds, wholegrain) and resistant starch (legumes, starchy vegetables, rice) to your diet for promoting daily elimination of waste via the bowels.
- Consume plenty of antioxidants such as vitamins A, E and especially C that are essential to neutralize free radicals that cause cell mutation and damage. This is critical during the Phase 1 detoxification process in the liver where free radicals are released.
- Skin brush whenever you have a shower, as it removes the outer dead layers of the skin and keeps the pores open.
- Keep a poop diary. How often do you and your family do n. 2? Although for babies the number can vary a lot depending on their diet and how old they are, a healthy adult should poop every day. This is where our toxins, excess estrogen and cholesterol end up when the liver and digestive systems are working efficiently. Our stool can tell us a lot about what is going on in our gut, and we don’t have to be afraid to check it every day: does it float or sink to the bottom? Which color is it? Do you notice any undigested foods? Does it look like Maltesers or a sausage? Do you strain?When we don’t poop, our toxic wastes get partially reabsorbed and sent back into our system. Do you like the thought of that? Keep a poop diary and bring all this essential information to your nutritionist whenever in doubt.
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Morello-Frosch, R et al 2016, Environmental chemicals in an urban population of pregnant women and their newborns from San Francisco, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.6b03492