Turn your family home into a health haven with these simple swaps
We spend so much of our lives in our homes, yet how often do we really consider their role in supporting our health? We asked the experts for their advice in making your home environment healthy as can be.
In the kitchen
Swap plastic for glass
It’s really important to swap all plastics out of the kitchen,” says nutritional therapist Sandra Greenbank. “Use glass or stainless steel water bottles, glass food containers and steel lunchboxes. Teflon non-stick pans should be swapped for steel or something from Greenpan (greenpan.co.uk) which makes brilliant frying pans. Plastic water bottles may contain bisphenol A which, we all know can be an endocrine (hormone) disruptor,” says Sandra.
BPA has been proven to leach into food, enter our bodies and mimic the hormone oestrogen. Because of this some experts believe it may be fuelling the rise in hormone-driven cancers. It’s also implicated in obesity, neurological disorders as well as thyroid problems, male infertility and asthma. Currently, the charity Breast Cancer UK is campaigning for a ban on BPA use in food packaging – it’s already banned for use in baby products in all EU countries and a total ban for all food products in France. Avoid ingesting this toxic health hazard by using glass containers to store food, and never heating, microwaving or freezing any food contained in plastic – always spoon food out into glass or porcelain. Some companies have stopped using BPA in tin linings, but the majority still do. If in doubt, google a tinned product before you buy it. Keep clingfilm away from food too. Try sustainable food storage Bee’s Wrap instead (£15, notonthehighstreet.com) and never heat food wrapped in tin foil – aluminium leaches into the food and this heavy metal is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Swap regular for organic
And of course, what you put in your pans to cook is even more important: “Organic food is higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides which may be toxic,” Says Sandra. “If cost is an issue, concentrating on the dirty dozen and clean fifteen (the crops that have the most vs the least pesticide residue) is a very good start.
Swap white for brown
“White bread, pasta and flour should be swapped for wholegrain as the nutrients and beneficial fibre is contained in the husk which is removed during the refining process,” says Sandra.
In the garden
Swap out the weedkiller
If there’s one change you need to make it’s this: get rid of glyphosate. What’s that you ask? It’s the potent toxic ingredient in weed killers like Roundup and it’s implicated in all kinds of horrible diseases like Parkinson’s and cancer. Recent independent studies showed farm workers exposed to glyphosate or Roundup are at least twice as likely to develop lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). Roll up your sleeves and yank weeds out, or pour boiling water on them to kill them first.
In the bathroom
Swap antibacterial cleaner for natural
There’s a new warning about infertility, and your household cleaner is in the frame. Researchers at the University of California have found that exposure to common products damages human cells. Certain hand wipes, disinfectants and mouthwash contain things called quaternary ammonium compounds which kill germs by dissolving their cell membranes. But the latest findings suggest they do this by damaging the powerhouses of cells, known as the mitochondria, and they do the same to our cells too. This means the sex cells needed to start a family are at risk. Offending products named in the study include Tesco Fresh antiseptic disinfectant, Dettol surface cleaner and antibacterial wipes, Lemsip Max All In One Liquid, plus various Colgate mouth products. Also check all of your products for the ingredient triclosan – linked to cancer and used in Colgate Total, for example.
The solution? Go natural of course! There are hundreds of DIY cleaning product recipes online, or try Dr Bronner Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner (£8.95, dolphinfitness.co.uk), and all-purpose cleaner which you can use for laundry, cleaning surfaces, washing the dishes, mopping the floor, or to clean bathrooms and sinks.
In the living area
Swap man-made for natural
Embrace the principles of biophilic design, the idea of using natural materials to bestow wellbeing benefits upon inhabitants and improve the human connection to nature. It’s backed by science, with several studies proving that homes based on biophilic design has wide-ranging psychological and physical benefits, from improving sleep to reducing stress levels. “Using natural materials, like silk or wool, or even water-based finishes, can do a lot to reduce toxins in the home,” says Tony Pell of Wood Window Alliance (woodwindowalliance.com). “A simple but impactful way to bring nature into your home is to replace PVC windows with those made from solid wood, such as timber. This is not only more environmentally friendly, but the intrinsic beauty of timber is more aesthetically pleasing and will bestow more character upon your home.”
“Many artificial materials give off toxins throughout their lifespan, creating poor indoor air quality, and as a result negatively impact on the overall health and wellbeing of the occupants,” says Oliver Heath, expert in biophilic design. “There was an interesting study by Rethink Wood back in 2014 that showed how the hygroscopic nature of timber actually moderates humidity and improves air quality within a space. It states that the colour and texture of timber have been demonstrated to evoke feelings of warmth, comfort and relaxation. It can reduce heart rate and blood pressure levels, and so by reducing stress and anxiety, can improve your psychological state.”
Throughout the home
Use eastern wisdom
“A healthy home is one where the positive qi energy is flowing calmly and smoothly around each room, without obstruction,” says feng shui consultant and life-coach Alexandra Lees (wuweiwisdom.com). “Large pieces of furniture that block doorways or routes around the house should be repositioned or removed. Systematically declutter under the bed, stairs and in any junk rooms or cupboards. Even if you can’t see the mess, it will still be stagnating the energy flow!
“Boost natural light to stimulate the qi. Regularly clean windows and mirrors, and position mirrors to maximise the light in all rooms. Brighten darker rooms with lighter coloured paints, wallpaper and fabrics. Nature in your home will also uplift the energy,” adds Alexandra. “Use houseplants with soft, rounded leaves or fresh flowers. Avoid artificial ones and quickly remove any that are dying or dead. Natural, non-synthetic scents and oils will help stimulate or slow down a room’s energy. Carefully choose energising or calming fragrances to harmonise with the desired function of each space.”
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