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Katie Wells, author of The Wellness Mama Cookbook and founder of Wellness Mama, finally shares the secret of how she manages six kids, a company, and a career without sacrificing a healthy lifestyle with this step-by-step, comprehensive guide to clean, natural living.
By following her simple detox plan, you'll be able to implement a system for better living by reducing toxic exposure, transforming your diet, and regaining control over your health. Katie provides practical tips for slowly incorporating this rewarding lifestyle into an already busy schedule, giving you the option to choose what area of life you'd like to work on first. You can detox your body with whole foods and natural medicines; clean up your beauty regime with all-natural moisturizers, cleansers, hair products, and makeup; get rid of toxic household products that include bleach, ammonia, and acids; try a digital detox for you and your family; or learn how to de-stress by adopting healthier sleeping habits and finding time for yourself.
The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox is the natural answer to matters of home, nutrition, and motherhood with over 150 homemade versions of essential household and personal products like:
- Citrus Fresh All-Purpose Cleaner - Unscented Liquid Laundry Detergent - Lavender and Honey Face Wash - Mineral Foundation - Lemon Cinnamon Cough Syrup - Chamomile Calming Balm
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox
What We’re Up Against
I’ve always considered our bodies like a bathtub. You can put a lot of stuff into a bathtub. You can just add water, which is nonthreatening and easy to drain. You could add sand, or dirt, or fruit, or chemicals, or rocks, or any other substance really. No matter what you put in it, it has a maximum capacity.
Once that bathtub is filled to the top, it is going to overflow, no matter what you put into it. It is the same with our bodies. You can put a whole lot of different stuff into (and on) it and our bodies are pretty good at draining and cleaning out the junk. But if it’s full of toxins, then the body can no longer drain it out and disease will manifest.
Our bodies can handle only so much. In their day, our grandparents weren’t trying to put too much into the bathtub. Their bodies could relatively easily drain and stay below capacity, even if there was a large influx in a short amount of time.
Now we’re throwing junk into the bathtub all day long. We’re cramming them with plastics and chemicals and junk food and slowing down the drain with lack of sleep, too much stress, and lack of real human connection.
To fix it, we must reduce all the junk we’re throwing in and address the draining issues. But before I get into that, let’s delve into what we’re up against (what’s going into our bathtubs) so that you can understand how to combat it.
There are thousands of chemicals in our foods, and some experts estimate that consumers eat about four pounds of chemicals annually. Sure, some additives are harmless, but others haven’t been adequately tested and a bunch are downright dangerous. After looking into this issue, I’ve compiled a list of the ten most dangerous.
1. Artificial Sweeteners. Anything dubbed “sugar-free” probably contains artificial sweeteners, none of which have any redeeming value. I’m talking about aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, and others. These have been linked to cancer and a number of other serious health problems.
2. Cochineal Extract. Found in beverages, candy, ice cream, yogurt, this additive is a red coloring made from the dried and pulverized bodies of insects. It has been shown to cause rare allergic reactions that range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Found in almost all processed foods and beverages, this highly refined form of sugar is the chief source of calories in American diets. HFCS promotes obesity faster than many other sugars, builds up levels of low-density lipoprotein—LDL (“bad”) cholesterol—and promotes the development of type 2 diabetes and other illnesses.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). A flavor enhancer found in soups, salad dressings, snack foods, chips, frozen meals, and many restaurant dishes, MSG is an “excitotoxin,” meaning that it overstimulates brain cells to the point of damage or cell death. Studies show that regularly consuming MSG triggers depression, mental disorientation, fatigue, headaches, obesity, and other adverse side effects.
5. Partially Hydrogenated Oil. This is a type of vegetable oil hardened into a semisolid (such as shortening or margarine) by chemically adding hydrogen. This process creates trans fats, which can damage cell membranes. They also raise LDL cholesterol levels and lower high-density lipoprotein—HDL (“good”) cholesterol—levels. This additive is found in many food products, including baked foods, microwave popcorn, piecrust, shortening, and stick margarine.
6. Food Dyes. These artificial colorings are used in soda, fruit juices, salad dressings, and other foods and have been linked to behavioral problems in children. According to a study funded by the British government and published in 2003, coloring agents in foods can cause kids to become hyperactive and disruptive. The UK Asthma and Allergy Research Center looked into the impact of artificial colorings on 277 three-year-olds over a two-week period. Researchers monitored the kids’ behavior over the next two weeks, during which time the children were given placebos. Parents were asked to fill out assessment forms to track any significant differences in the children’s behavior. Guess what? Parents observed substantial improvements when their children were not ingesting artificial colors. The researchers concluded that “significant changes in children’s hyperactive behavior could be produced by removing colorings and additives from their diet.”
7. Sulfites. These are preservatives used to increase shelf life in processed foods. According to the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA), approximately one in one hundred people is sensitive to sulfites in food. Side effects include headaches, respiratory problems, and skin irritations. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death by shutting off the airway altogether, leading to cardiac arrest.
8. Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite. Used as preservatives as well as for coloring and flavor in bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, and other processed meats, these substances can turn cancer causing once they enter the digestive system.
9. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). Both preservatives are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils. They have been found to harm the neurological system of the brain, alter behavior, and increase the risk of cancer.
10. Potassium Bromate. This is a “dough conditioner” that plumps up volume in breads and rolls. It has been found to cause cancer in animals. Even small amounts can be harmful for humans.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: Reduce or completely cut out the processed foods you normally purchase. Switch to a nutrition plan that consists of natural, organic foods, and always read labels. The more chemical ingredients in a food product, the less healthful it is. I feel happy when I feed my family quality food that avoids unnecessary harmful food additives—and so will you. Want to learn more? Visit WellnessMama.com and click on Health to read more about food and health topics.
Pesticides and Herbicides
Each day, we encounter countless pesticides and herbicides, especially on food and even in our home environment. Of course, many are on our fruits and vegetables (unless you buy organic produce). There are too many to mention here, but there are two you should know about: 2,4-D and glyphosate.
The most commonly used weed killer for lawns and gardens, 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, neurological impairment, and reproductive problems. It is an “endocrine disruptor,” a substance that wreaks havoc on weight, metabolism, and even fertility. Incidentally, 2,4-D was also a poisonous constituent of Agent Orange, which was used by the United States in the Vietnam War to defoliate jungles to expose hidden enemy installations.
It turns up in those weed-and-feed products you’ve probably bought hundreds of times to treat your lawn. Also problematic: 2,4-D lingers in the environment. It can drift by wind from the fields where it is sprayed to other places or be tracked inside homes by pets or kids. An analysis by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 2,4-D in groundwater and surface water, as well as in drinking water.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: This chemical has not yet been banned; until that happens, I suggest contacting a lawn service company that uses natural methods to control weeds on your lawn. Other good moves:
Avoid gardening and lawn care products that contain it.
Ask your municipality whether 2,4-D is used in local parks or outdoor recreational areas. Check out the website of the National Pesticide Information Center, which has information on 2,4-D and most other pesticides. If you think anyone in your household has been exposed to 2,4-D or any other pesticide, contact a poison-control center.
Another scary chemical is glyphosate, the world’s best-selling weed killer. Developed and patented by Monsanto, it is the active ingredient in the company’s flagship herbicide Roundup. This product is a weed killer that consumers can use on their lawns. It is also sprayed on genetically modified crops, including soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets.
The authors of an MIT report have expressed concern that Roundup is contributing to a wide range of diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, infertility, cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. The report notes that it “may be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: Eating organically grown foods and non–genetically modified foods is one important way to avoid the cocktail of synthetic chemical pesticides and excessively large amounts of the glyphosate. Another is to grow your own veggies (see Chapter 5).
The twenty-first-century woman unknowingly applies hundreds of chemicals to her body every day. And the skin, as the body’s largest organ, absorbs about 70 percent of whatever it comes into contact with.
Cosmetics and beauty products are thus a major source of chemical exposure for most people. An average beauty product contains dozens of harmful chemicals, many which have not even been tested for safety in humans.
So, what should you avoid?
• Synthetic Fragrances. Although they may make products smell good, they often contain phthalates, harmful chemicals added to stabilize and preserve fragrance oils and make plastic more durable. Phthalates mimic hormones and may alter genital development, particularity in boys.
• Parabens. Found routinely in skin care products, parabens act as preservatives and extend a product’s shelf life. They also have hormone-altering side effects. Fortunately, many companies are eliminating them from their products.
• Dioxane. This is a chemical carcinogen used as a solvent in the production of many products. Exposure can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system. To avoid it, watch out for any product containing these additives: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
• Sulfates. These are usually labeled as sodium lauryl or sodium laureth. Both are harsh detergents put into products such as cleansers, soaps, and shampoos in order to create lather. Sulfates are derived from petroleum or vegetable oils that can be contaminated with pesticides. Sulfates can irritate eyes and cause skin rashes.
• Petrochemicals. They are derived from crude oil, the same stuff your gasoline comes from.
• Artificial Colors. You hear more about these as additives to food, but they’re also in beauty products and thus can be absorbed by the skin. Clinical studies have found that most of them can cause cancer in animals.
• Products Requiring Animal Testing. A long and sad history of cruelty to animals lies behind many cosmetics. Look at it this way: If it had to be tested on animals in the first place, it probably isn’t good for your skin.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: The very best alternative is to make your own beauty and self-care products. In Step 2, I share the basic principles of creating a natural beauty routine from head to toe. Check out my natural beauty recipes in Chapter 19. You can also check out my full guide of safe beauty products and snag the ingredients to make your own at WellnessMama.com/detox-book/.
Antibacterial soaps and lotions are popular, feeding into our obsession with being germ-free. But there are serious problems with these products. Researchers now suspect that they may be involved in creating antibiotic-resistant superbacteria that have the potential to harm the population on a larger scale, and one way is by causing a buildup of dangerous staph bacteria in the nose and other parts of the body. This increases the risk of infection, amputation, and even death (especially after surgery).
If you have thyroid problems or other types of hormone imbalances, like I had, it turns out that antibacterial chemicals could be one contributing factor. Several studies have revealed that triclosan (the active ingredient in these products) can disrupt the body’s ability to uptake thyroid hormone and can interfere with other hormone processes in the body. This hormone imbalance can lead to more advanced problems like infertility, obesity, and several cancers.
Widespread use of antibacterial chemicals, especially in hand soaps, has led to these chemicals getting washed down drains and into the water system. Studies show that these chemicals can remain, even after water treatment, and these chemicals (and many others, including plastic-based chemicals) are still found in streams and waterways around the world.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: The good news is that regular soap and thorough hand washing works just as well as antibacterial products to get rid of germs. I’ve found that the best and least expensive way to avoid antibacterial chemicals is to make my own soaps and hand-washing sprays from coconut oil (which is a natural antiviral) and olive oil. Overall, just avoid any product touted as antibacterial, antiseptic, or antimicrobial and check out the list of safe soaps at WellnessMama.com/detox-book/.
It’s sad to realize that indoor air can be more toxic than outdoor air—and often is! When analyzed, most household air tests positive for more contaminants than outdoor air. This is partially because of all of the chemicals in beauty products, household cleaners, air fresheners, and even furniture.
You may be shocked to learn that among the worst indoor polluters are the scented candles you’ve probably lit hundreds of times. They give off chemicals considered as dangerous as secondhand smoke (another terrible health-damaging polluter). One of the chief offending substances in candles is paraffin wax. When burned, it creates highly toxic benzene and toluene—two known carcinogens.
What’s more, many scented candles also have wicks that contain toxic metals such as lead. Even a few hours of burning them can release lead and other heavy metals into the air at levels that are much higher than acceptable limits.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: Thankfully, we candle lovers have a great alternative: beeswax candles, which are not only safe but have the added benefit of helping clean indoor air.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that form a gas or vapor (fumes) at room temperature; they are given off by certain types of paints, scented candles, laundry detergents, and air fresheners.
VOCs are particularly harmful for babies and toddlers and can cause nausea, asthma, and damage to the nervous system.
Wellness Mama Detox Solution: Avoiding products that emit VOCs is the best move you can make. At the least, use paints that expressly say they are low VOC. Use essential oils (see page 20) rather than air fresheners, and learn how to make your own laundry detergents. You can find recipes in Chapter 19.
Household Cleaning Products
Potential health threats lurk in the products we use around the house, most of which are laced with harmful, unapproved, and untested chemicals. In fact, the average household product contains more than sixty chemicals!
There is no federal regulation of household products, and manufacturers don’t even have to disclose all of the ingredients in these products or list which ones are harmful! They don’t have to provide safety data, nor do they have to perform any safety testing prior to marketing and selling these products.
Two of the worst cleaning products are chlorine and ammonia. You might have chlorine in your laundry room right now. But it’s in other places too: drugs, computer chips, dry-cleaning compounds, laundry bleach, swimming pools, and drinking water. Why is it bad? Some recent studies show that chlorine can either mimic or block the body’s natural hormones, especially the female hormone estrogen.
Katie Wells, the "Wellness Mama," is an award-winning blogger, author, podcaster, and real-food crusader. Her mission is to provide simple answers for creating healthier families through practical tips, real-food recipes, beauty and cleaning tutorials, natural remedies, and more. As a mom, Katie offers advice for living a wellness lifestyle with a family and on a budget.