“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” -The Serenity Prayer
Understanding What Triggers Autoimmune Conditions
Did you know that it is estimated that genetic predisposition accounts for only 30% of autoimmune diseases? While the remaining 70% is a result of environmental factors: toxic chemicals, dietary components, gut dysbiosis, and infections (Vojdani, Pollard, & Campbell, 2014).
Ever since I first got sick, I have been driven to understand what causes illness. My goal in understanding etiology was not only to treat symptoms, but to completely eradicate my illnesses (which is very controversial, but I had already experienced this outcome as a child…read My Story). Understanding the cause of an illness is very complex, with many variables to consider of stress, environmental toxins, genetics, and infectious diseases (Yasko, 2014). Dr. Amy Yasko puts it like this, “If we can make even a small difference in each category of these risk factors (chemical free, toxin free, and microbe free), then we can reduce the likelihood of having chronic health conditions” (2014).
Over the years, I have learned a lot about how environmental toxins or pollutants are correlated with allergies, autoimmune conditions, reproductive health issues, and cancers. Environmental toxins can also affect gene expression, also known as the study of epigenetics. It is important to know that what we put on, or in our bodies affects how the body functions.
- If you are really interested in understanding what causes autoimmune illnesses, I suggest reading “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body” by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. It is basically a textbook, in-depth scientific explanation of the cause and treatment for autoimmune illnesses.
The reason that I searched so hard, was because I believed there was an answer. Many doctors appointments left me feeling dis-empowered with comments like “ you will be sick forever” or “there is nothing more I can do to help you.” This just simply is not true. By the grace of God, I am not sick anymore, I found people who could help me, and I educated myself. Right now, there are changes that anyone can make in his or her lives to prevent or treat chronic illness.
Changes That I Made
Living on a one person income (under 70k with ridiculous student loan debt), while making all of these changes wasn’t easy, but it was necessary and we did it. My husband and I cut out spending in other places, and prioritized my health. My husband has been very supportive, with a mutual hope that I would be well enough to work again.
Below I offer suggestions for a variety of budgets. I suggest checking out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website or downloading the EWG’s Healthy Living App to research food, personal care products, or household cleaning products. The organization rates products based on its ingredients, and if they are known to be liked to cancer, development and reproductive toxicity, and allergens or immunotoxic. This was eye opening! I was buying cleaners and products that were contributing to allergies, affecting autoimmune conditions, and hormone disrupting. I was contributing to my illnesses, without even knowing it!
Armed with knowledge and the ability to research different products, I began to make changes. These changes occurred over a period of two years. These changes were more than worth it to me, if it meant that I would get a shot at being healthy.
TIP: A good place to start is food, water, and personal care products (what you put in and on your body directly).
We began by referring to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website . There we found the “clean fifteen” and the “dirty dozen,” which is a list of produce that is safe to buy non-organic, and a list of the items that you should really buy organic. The “dirty dozen” were tested, and have shown to contain a lot of chemicals linked to diseases. To save money we would only buy organic produce on the “dirty dozen” list.
Aldi’s grocery store had some organic produce and was very affordable. They even have grass-fed ground beef and stew meat, and free-range chicken. We try to find meat that is grass-fed or free-range, with no hormones, no sulfates or nitrates, and no antibiotics. Walmart grocery is even starting to include more organic, and better meat options.
Another way to save money is to grow some of your own produce. We are hoping to start a small vegetable and herb garden in our yard.
Moderately priced options:
Last spring/summer we purchased a farm share from a local organic farm. This gave us more variety than what Aldi’s had in organic. It also saved us money compared to buying all of our groceries at Whole Foods or Wegmans. We also looked on Craigslist to try and find a local farm that had grass-fed meat and doesn’t use pesticides. This can either be affordable, moderately pricey, or costly. It depends on the amount purchased and whether you get a lot of meat at once. We also have reduced the amount of processed foods we eat. We buy our snacks, chickpea pasta, and almond flour baked goods at Whole Foods or Thrive Market.
What we are unable to get at Aldi’s or through our farm share, we buy at Whole Foods (which by the way delivers for free! A bonus on the days that I couldn’t walk). This includes fish, as most fish have heavy metals and pollution in them. We do get most of our meat from Whole Foods. You can buy most produce organic at Whole Foods too, as they typically have a larger selection.
We removed all non-stick pans and replaced them with ceramics or cast iron, due to “chemical polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which is a common non-stick coating in pots and pans. PTFE has shown to be carcinogenic, disrupt hormone balances and affect fetal development.” Please see the article “Detox Your Kitchen-Safe and Nontoxic Cookware to Rebalance Your Hormones” by Madalena Wszelaki
We also swapped out our plastic tupperware for glass pyrex containers to avoid plastic leaching into our foods.
We avoid buying anything that has a BPA lining. “BPA or bisphenol A is a chemical that is added to many commercial products, including food containers and hygiene products” (Healthline, 2019). BPA is found to disrupt hormone functioning.
Household Cleaning Products
The EWG has a database of cleaning supplies that are better for your health and the environment. Enter your products in HERE to find better options!
I make my own surface spray, glass cleaner, and anti-grease spray, using store bought reusable spray bottles.
Surface Cleaner Recipe: 1 part white vinegar, 1 part water, and juice of ½ lemon or 5 drops of doTERRA lemon essential oil.
-For extra tough disinfectant, first spray with hydrogen peroxide
Window Spray: ½ teaspoon castile soap, 3 tablespoons white vinegar, and 2 cups of water
Degreasing Spray: 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water, and 1 tablespoon of castile soap
Other fairly affordable options:
Whole Foods products or Thrive Market products: Bon Ami for an abrasive cleaner or bathtub scrub, or Seventh Generation dish soap, dishwasher soap, and laundry detergent. Instead of dryer sheets, we use dryer balls with drops of lavender, On Guard, or eucalyptus essential oil.
doTERRA FREE eBook Cleaning With Essential Oils
Personal Care Products
This includes anything you put on your body: skin care, makeup, deodorant, and shampoo and conditioners. While we are at a health food store or Whole Foods, I use the EWG’s skin deep website to research products. I compare prices in-store to online to see where the better deal is, to save a few bucks. If I find that I really like a product, I buy it in bulk when it goes on sale. I also look on Amazon.com to read any reviews. I typically will try products that have over 400 positive reviews.
Mouthwash– I like Jason mouthwashes. I use the sea fresh breath and strengthening.
Toothpaste– I like Tom’s antiplaque and whitening toothpaste. It doesn’t contain fluoride, which disrupts hormone functioning. However, it does have sodium lauryl sulfate, which a lot of people are trying to avoid due to skin irritation. I am still looking for a better alternative.
Body Wash– We use Dr. Bronner’s pure castile liquid soap in lavender. We buy the gallon bottle and refill the smaller bottle. It lasts us about 6 months between the two of us.
Body Lotion– I use Alba botanica very emollient body lotion unscented original. It really helps with my eczema.
Hand Soap– I make my own. I purchased refillable foam soap dispensers for the bathroom and kitchen. I fill ¼ with Dr. Bronner’s castile unscented soap, 10-12 drops of lavender or thieves essential oil, and the remainder with filtered water.
Moderately priced options:
Shaving Cream– I use Alba botanica very emollient shave cream: unscented and love it.
Did you know that the personal care product industry in the U.S. is virtually unregulated? That means that they have banned or restricted 30 harmful chemicals from use in products. Whereas, the European Union has banned or restricted 1,300.
I spend more on skin care and makeup, because I have found other brands to not perform as well. I trust Beautycounter as they have banned the use of over 1,500 harmful chemicals from all of their products, and use third party testing to verify their quality. Beautycounter’s mission is to spread awareness and educate about the lack of safety regulations. Their goal is to promote legislation that would require the FDA to increase regulations on the industry (see my article Safer Beauty).
Makeup– My favorites are Beautycounter Dew skin moisturizing coverage.
Deodorant– My husband and I really like the Schmidt’s Deodorant in Lavender and Sage (when you first switch, you may smell and sweat more for a few days, as your body is detoxing. After that, you should sweat less and smell better, at least we did). It is a bit more pricey, and maybe lasts us about 3 months.
We researched water filters to remove prescription medication by-products, fluoride, and chlorine from our water. The EWG has a water filtration buying guide HERE.
For awhile we had a Zero water counter top pitcher. Of all the filters I researched, this was the best and most affordable counter top pitcher. To see what Zero water removes click here.
Moderately priced options:
Before getting a whole-house water filter, you may choose to get an under the sink filter. The best is a reverse osmosis filter. Aquasana has an under the sink one. Berkey is also a very trusted brand for water filters. The downside to this filter, is that you have to add minerals back into your water.
However, I have read complaints that the water pours slowly from a Berkey. We have a very small kitchen, so I was not interested in a large filter sitting out. I would have wanted one that goes under the sink (Aquasana option).
We decided to get a whole-house water filtration system instead of an under the counter one, because I was taking magnesium baths daily due to fibromyalgia. The chlorine was making me sick and my hormone issues were terrible. We got the 600K Rhino. Often, it is on sale. Also, when we called and asked the sales rep about a promotion or if there were any better offers, he gave us an additional discount. My husband is able to do plumbing work and installed it in one day. You may have to hire someone to help you with this.
We purchased two HEPA air filtration units. I only did this because I have extreme allergies. It is also a great option for areas of the country with more air pollution. I do not use scented candles or perfumes, due to my severe chemical sensitivities to smell. I do use essential oil diffusers, ECOS stain and odor remover for furniture or carpets, and Air Scense for bathroom air freshener.
Clean House Green House: Make a quick and easy transition to green cleaning. (2010). Port Chester, NY: Full Circle Home, LLC.
Healthline. (2019). What is BPA and why is it bad for you?
Wszelaki, M. (2019). Detox your kitchen-safe and nontoxic cookware to rebalance
Yasko, A. (2014). Feel Good Nutrigenomics: Your Roadmap to Health.
Copyright @healingfaithfully 2019.