If you’ve started researching or reading about toxins in your home, you’ve likely heard of endocrine disrupting chemicals that wreak havoc on your body and your space. But have you heard of microbiome disrupting chemicals? Probably not as much, as this is a newer category of toxin. And while it is closely related to chemicals that disrupt our hormones — after all, our body’s systems all work together closely and support each other — this is actually a whole new class of toxins and chemicals.
And sometimes, it’s easiest to look at chemicals and toxins in categories. Not only so that you can see what exactly this type of toxin is doing to your body, but also because it makes it easier to get it out of your home and out of your space.
Once you start removing these microbiome disrupting chemicals, you can begin to heal your gut and get it back to a normal, healthy state where it protects your immune system and your endocrine system.
WHAT IS MICROBIOME DISRUPTION?
Microbes live both in and on your body and they play a big role in keeping us healthy. The difficulty is these microbes have a perfect balance for each of us, and this balance can become disturbed by a number of things, in turn putting your health at risk.
Our gut microbes play a powerful role in our bodies, and while they protect us and our systems, they’re actually quite susceptible to harm from external influences.
Microbiome disruption can actually lead to the development of chronic diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, obesity and chronic allergies.
When the gut becomes imbalanced, it can lead to immune system dysfunction and even mental health issues. Overall, the gut is the gateway to so many other systems, that it’s crucial we keep it in a state of low toxin exposure.
WHAT CHEMICALS DISRUPT THE MICROBIOME:
While the list is long, many of the microbiome disrupting chemicals are also chemicals that disrupt our hormones. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has documented hundreds of these chemicals, including:
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals include phthalates, bisphenols have been shown to reduce the diversity of protective bacteria in the gut, which in turn can lead to intestinal inflammation, metabolic disorders and even liver inflammation (STUDY). Another study showed that altered gut microbiota was associated with lowered response to any sort of vaccine. (STUDY)
Pesticides including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides have been linked to inflammation in general. But they’ve also been shown to stay in our bodies for long periods of time, causing gut abnormalities. (STUDY). Pesticides have also been shown to disrupt the immune system and overall gastrointestinal function through exposure. (STUDY)
Heavy Metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury have been found to reduce the beneficial bacteria in the gut that protects you from inflammation of the gut. Chronic exposure can lead to inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders. Another study showed that exposure to heavy metals resulted in overproduction of gut microbes, which in turn lead to more gut inflammation, respiratory conditions and urinary tract infections. (STUDY)
Persistent Organic Pollution such as dioxins, benzene, and PBDEs have been linked to gut inflammation through inhalation. (STUDY). And exposure to PBDEs specifically has led to reduced diversity of gut microbial species and altered protein metabolism. (STUDY)
MICROBIOME DISRUPTING CHEMICALS IN YOUR HOME
The four categories of microbiome disrupting chemicals are an easy way to categorize the toxins, which can also make it easier to start working towards reducing the toxins as a whole.
Cleaning Products: Cleaning products contain so many chemical ingredients, and even if it LOOKS like a healthy, green option, you can’t be sure it necessarily is. Use a third party app to cross reference your products to ensure that there are no synthetic fragrances or other things like phthalates in the product that can disrupt your gut microbiome.
Lead Paint: If your home is older than 1978, chances are there is lead paint SOMEWHERE on the inside. While lead is not a problem when paint is covered, if the paint begins to flake, you can be exposed to lead dust in the air. You should also consider having renovation work done by a professional who is licensed to remove lead from your home.
Ceramic Cookware: Some ceramic cookware, even new ceramic cookware has been found to contain lead and cadmium in the glaze. Make sure any ceramic cookware you get moving forward has been third party tested (such as Xtrema Cookware) or has been manufactured in the USA.
Flame Retardants: Flame retardants are being used less and less, but they’re still present in our upholstery and in our mattresses, which we are in contact with for long periods of time. It may not be feasible to replace your mattress or furniture right now, but there are things you can do to minimize exposure while you do have it in your home. This post will point you to a protective cover that you can put on your current mattress to reduce exposure to things like flame retardants.
Toxic House Dust: House dust is filled with chemicals, bacteria and pesticides. It can be spread throughout your home and move from room to room. Every home has dust from our textiles and fibers that end up throughout our space, affecting our health and wellbeing. And the gross truth is, we actually consume quite a bit of dust on a day to day basis, just from our daily living habits.
Plastic Food Storage: Plastic that touches our food can leach a variety of toxins, but specifically bisphenols directly into our food. This can be from saran wrap, plastic snack bags, plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers and plastic dishes and utensils. Anywhere there is a plastic component touching our food, we are being exposed to microbiome disrupting toxins and chemicals.
HEALTHY HABITS TO REDUCE CHEMICALS:
Before you go about making HUGE changes to your home, you can always make simple, small changes in your habits. Even these habits will help reduce the exposure to microbiome disputing chemicals on a day to day basis.
Filtered Water: Get a water filter — any water filter if you don’t have one. SOMETHING is better than nothing. A carbon block filter will reduce the MOST number of contaminants, but like I said if you don’t filter your water at all, get SOMETHING and quick. You can reduce your exposure to heavy metals and persistent pollution contaminants with just one filter. This post will help you decide on a water filter for your home.
Purified Air: A huge way you can start to improve your space is by also filtering your air with an air purifier. Air purifiers work to not only reduce particles from the air that often contain chemicals, but they can also reduce vapor that has toxins and chemicals in it. We breathe in any toxin that is in our air at home on a regular basis, and by filtering out the big contaminants and particles, we can reduce our exposure to microbiome disrupting chemicals.
No Shoe Policy: Another super simple change you can make in your home is to STOP wearing your shoes in the house. Not only do shoes bring in dirt and bacteria, but most shoes bring in pesticides and cleaning chemicals from public spaces. Once these things are inside your home, they begin to move from one space to another as our dust moves. Keep a matt at your door and leave your shoes there rather than bringing them through your space.
Shop Smarter: When you’re going to replace products in your home, whether it be your cleaning products, paper products or your personal care products, do it with a HEALTHIER option. A lot of times this means doing some research with a third party database to ensure that you’re not just getting a greenwashed product, but a product that is truly healthy for your body and your home. Phthalates are a huge contributor to microbiome disruption, which you can reduce or totally eliminate with healthier products.
Simplify Your Ingredients & Products: One of the BEST things I ever did when I started working towards a low toxin home was to reduce my products wherever I can. It was a bit like becoming a “sort of” minimalist. Essentially, the fewer items you bring in to your house, the less toxins you naturally bring in as well. Pair down the cleaners you need or the personal care products you need first. Then, start looking at the ingredients in your items. Often, the more simple the product, the fewer toxins it contains, naturally.
Remove Dust: Dusting on a regular basis, vacuuming more often than you think you need to and reducing dust by deep cleaning are ALL ways to reduce toxins in your space. Our textiles produce a lot of dust that ends up collecting around our home and in our duct work. And dust is a huge source of toxins and chemicals that can disrupt not only our gut, but other systems as well.
PLACES TO START SWAPPING OUT PRODUCTS & MATERIALS:
Once you have a handle on your habits, you can start planning out areas you can swap out toxic materials for healthier ones that won’t expose you to microbiome disrupting chemicals.
Reduce Plastic: Wherever you can in your home, start reducing plastic. It could be as simple as throwing away or recycling plastic food containers you’ve been saving. Or you could go further and start swapping out plastic décor items or plastic furniture. Not all plastic will have the same impact on the health of your space, and so it’s probably MOST important to start paying attention to plastic that touches any food or beverage. Simply get rid of what you don’t need and start replacing plastic items with a healthier material like metal, glass or wood.
Healthier Skin & Body Care: As you use up a product, make it a practice to replace it with a clean, low toxin product next time. The trick to this is having a product fully researched before what you have runs out or before you plan to replace it. By having the healthy option already picked out and decided on, you take the guesswork and stress right out of the decision.
Healthier Mattresses: While this is a HUGE change and likely one that will have to be budgeted for and planned out, it will be SO worth it in the end. Start by researching the mattress that you plan to buy and then start budgeting. Finally, watch for sales and coupons to help with the budgeting. This post about mattresses will help you figure out what to look for and plan ahead to get exactly what you need.
Kitchen Food Storage: This can seem like a really big project once you start thinking about it, but the truth is, it can be as simple as just buying one silicone storage bag with each shopping trip. Or, you can simply decide to get paper sandwich wrappers instead of plastic ziplock bags. Another swap is to use beeswax wrap instead of saran wrap. There are so many ways you can start using healthier options instead of plastic.
Better Cleaning Agents: Do your research and pair down wherever you can when it comes to cleaning products. In fact, the Healthy Home Blueprint has an entire lesson ALL about cleaning products and how to make sure that you’re not using toxic cleaners in your home. Cleaners are a HUGE source of toxins and chemicals because of how many ingredients they contain. It’s important to do your research before you buy and important to have a plan for which product you plan to buy BEFORE what you have runs out. Each time a product runs out that you’re not quite sure about, make sure you have a healthy swap all picked out.
Work Towards Replacing Upholstered Furniture: Furniture is not only expensive, but it’s often a time consuming purchase due to all the research you might have to do before bringing it into your home. It can be a long process determining the right style and the right price point, let alone if you can find something free from chemicals like flame retardants. But again, the key is planning, which is exactly what the entire furniture module in The Healthy Home Blueprint covers for you. With my worksheets and guides you’ll have your furniture replacements planned out in no time.
Our gut microbiome is SUCH an intricate part of our overall health and wellness, and it’s imperative that we reduce these microbiome disrupting chemicals wherever we can in our homes.