10 Beginners’ Tips To Creating A Healthier & More Natural Family Home

Lauren Vaknine Organic Spoon
Photo credit: Gemma Bateman Photography

Are you one of the many people who would like to adopt a more natural lifestyle for your family, but the thought of it is so daunting that you don’t know where to start and shy away from it each time you think of it? If so this post is for you!

It took me many years to reach the point where I’m finally comfortable with my lifestyle, and my biggest piece of advice is to take your time, take baby steps and don’t try to implement everything at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and our constantly changing environment and all the emerging information about the toxicity in our modern lifestyles means that it will take a while to figure it all out, and that’s OK. Better to make small changes, one at a time, than none at all.

These tips are specifically for the home, but in another post I will focus on simple tips for a healthier you.

So here they are; 10 simple tips to detox your home and create a healthy, toxin-free space for you and your family

1. Cleaning Products

Remove toxic cleaning products. The most toxic of all would be oven cleaner, but most of the store-bought cleaning products we use are full of harmful chemicals that when breathed in, could cause a plethora of health problems. I make many of my own cleaning products and it really is easy – you can find them all here, but if you would prefer to buy them, I recommend Bio D for toxin-free, cruelty-free, natural cleaning products that actually work. You will also find that baking soda, white vinegar and essential oils fix most cleaning problems, and in this way, you are not only cleaning, but you are also not ridding your house of the essential home microbiome that it actually needs.

2. Overuse of Antibacterial Products

The last point leads the way nicely into this one: minimising the use of unnecessary antibacterial products. Too much exposure to antibacterial products can alter our skin and gut microbiome, and since this affects gene expression, this really is quite important! Again, make your own spray, like this one, or just some soap and warm water will do!

3. Water

It turns out there are up to 300 chemicals and pollutants in our water. Heavy metals such as mercury have been found in some water sources, as well as our most spoken about water pollutants: fluoride and chlorine. I won’t go into too much detail here, but to sum it up, these are highly toxic and have been linked to reduced brain function, deficiencies, thyroid and adrenal problems, and cancer. It could well be that fluoride helps strengthen teeth (though I don’t believe it does), but even world-renowned, leading dentists agree that it is toxic for the body (especially in developing children), therefore should most definitely not be in our drinking water, let alone in the toothpaste we use twice a day every day for our whole lives. There are much more gentle ways to keep teeth healthy. I recommend this book if you’d like to know more about keeping teeth healthy naturally.

If you are consuming this water every day, even in small amounts, it will build up over time and cause a toxin overload, which can lead to the trigger of any number of illnesses. Years ago, when I stopped drinking tap water and told my mum to do the same, she said “I’ve been drinking tap water my whole life and I’m fine.” Firstly, let’s not even go into the whole “I’m fine” business, because what constitutes “fine”? More importantly, my response to her was to explain that when she was growing up in the ‘50s, the water was not fluoridated or chlorinated, so the amount of time her generation have been exposed to this over their lifetime pales in comparison to our children who, if given tap water from an early age, will most definitely see the effects by the time they reach their thirties. My mum started drinking filtered water after that!

What can we do? Under-the-sink multi-stage systems are best, as they remove most contaminants, including fluoride and chlorine but they are quite expensive and require plumbing. Other options are water filter jugs, which can end up expensive due to having to change the filter often, and they don’t remove all the contaminants; reverse osmosis which removes most but wastes a lot of water, and is also quite expensive, and the Berkey which removes most contaminants and even filters river water, but takes up a lot of worktop space and has to be filled manually. These can be bought for £200-300 so it’s mid-range and does the job. I would not recommend bottled water because of the plastic usage. Not only is it awful for the environment but the BPA and other chemicals from the plastic seeps into the water, contaminating it with yet more toxins. Verdict? Any filter is better than none, but try to go for one of the more long-lasting options.

4. Candles and Air Fresheners

Do me a favour, go find a bag or a basket, and take a walk around your house now, throwing every single candle, air freshener and liquid diffuser with those silly little sticks into it, then chuck that bag out in the bin and never look back. That’s how toxic they are. Did you know that paraffin wax (which most candles are made from) contain benzene and toluene, the same toxins found in diesel fuel, and both known carcinogens. Once you get rid of them and go into someone else’s house and smell them, you’ll realise how toxic they feel when you breath. Use essential oils not only for a beautiful smelling house, but also for health benefits. I use doTERRA essential oils only, for their purity and ethical sourcing. If you’re interested in knowing more, get in touch. Either way, just remove those damn scented air fresheners!

5. Organic Food

This needs a whole article in itself, but if you’re going to aim for a more natural, toxin-free and healthy home, one of the most important changes to make is to switch to organic. Think of it like this: everything we eat that isn’t organically grown or reared has toxic chemicals in it from pesticides and insecticides in fruit and veg, to growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics in animals, not to mention mercury in fish etc (the list is endless!). That essentially means that with every single thing that goes into our mouths, we are ingesting harmful toxins. Imagine the build-up in our bodies over the space of a few years. Our poor children! Children born into this generation who don’t eat organic will have a build-up of toxins so heavy that by the time they are in their teens their livers just will not be able to cope. Those with genetic mutations or polymorphisms that lead them to naturally weaker immunities and the inability to detoxify properly (around 60% of children, and you can read more about it in my article here), will see a trigger in conditions that they are genetically predisposed to because their toxic loads are just too heavy for their bodies to detox. Scary stuff. So going organic is essential. I’ll post another article soon on the easiest ways to go organic, but if you can’t get your head around weekly organic boxes from Riverford or Abel & Cole, Ocado offers a wide range of organic brands.

6. Cookware

A tough one! Most of us have a collection of cookware in our kitchens that we’ve been building up over the years, and the collection probably works out to be quite expensive so the thought of changing them is quite unappealing. The problem is that most of us have become accustomed to using non-stick cookware for its convenience, and it turns out this can be highly toxic. Most non-stick cookware is aluminium coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE was developed by DuPont in 1938, then patented and trademarked in 1945 as Teflon. Teflon provides a non-stick surface because it is an extremely non-polar chemical, meaning that it repels other substances. Thus, it provides a frictionless surface and it also doesn’t react with other chemicals making it very stable. PTFE is a fluorotelomer, or a perflurorochemical (PFCs), and they received this name because they contain fluoride atoms. PFC’s have been shown to be carcinogenic, disrupt hormone balances and affect foetal development. Despite the various pros of PTFE in terms of convenience, it doesn’t seem worth it when it can have long-term adverse effects on health.

I have recently switched over to ceramic cookware, using Ceramcor Xtrema ceramic pans and so far, my collection contains simply what I need: one large skillet (pan / wok) and one small one (more for omelettes etc). My saucepans are stainless steel which I’m quite happy with for the time being as they aren’t hugely toxic, and other than my pans, my 12L stainless steel stockpot is my most used item. Try ditching just the non-stick stuff and replacing those, if you can.

7. Body Products

We’ve all been hearing about the toxins in our toiletries for a while now. There is no easy way to say this other than making it quite clear: we cannot prevent cancers if we are putting known carcinogens on our skin. For women, we cannot expect to be able to prevent breast cancer if we are using carcinogenic, highly toxic anti-perspirants right next to breast tissue. Interestingly, research published in 2014 found that using deodorant and/or antiperspirants can actually worsen your armpit odour. Here, they found that those who used antiperspirants had higher levels of Actinobacteria, yet another bacterium responsible for foul-smelling armpit odour. Other research showed that people living more natural lifestyles, where they weren’t consuming lots of medications and had fairly natural diets, tended to not have bad smelling body odour. Switching to toxin-free brands is essential. Begin with the most used items like deodorant and body creams, then switch shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, and then move onto make up.

Brands I recommend:

Deodorant – Ben and Anna or Earth Conscious

Shampoo and conditioner – Search on Live In The Light for truly natural brands to suit you

Body cream – make your own using Neal’s Yard base cream and your own chosen essential oils (I use geranium and wild orange), or alternatively try Live In The Light for other brands

Face Cream – Pure Anada at Live In The Light

Make up – Pure Anada and Anne Marie Gianni at Live in the Light, and Living Nature at LoveLula

8. Wifi

Wifi doesn’t cause direct, immediate illness, which is why it is easy to ignore. However, it does interfere with our bodily functions which can eventually progress into diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. It has not been possible yet to see long-term results on human studies (mainly because the regulators don’t want to put the money into it), but continuous exposure to Wifi and smart phones has shown a development of cancer in rodent studies. Because the data is as yet inconclusive on humans, it hasn’t yet been brought to our attention and therefore regulators are not calling it as unsafe. But wasn’t this the same with cigarettes? Do we need to wait for the powers-that-be to tell us something is unsafe when we already know it for ourselves? We do know that long-term exposure to radiation is unsafe, therefore we have to do all we can to limit our exposure where possible.

How can we do this?

  • Reduce use as much as you can
  • Turn off your home’s Wifi each night
  • Keep phones on airplane mode at night, and away from bedrooms
  • When speaking on your cell phone, use on speakerphone or use the landline
  • Try having a Wifi ‘curfew’. This will also help connect more as a family
  • Do not have your phone in pockets as the closer it is to your body, the more harmful the long-term effects
  • Minimise use around babies and young children to limit their exposure, and especially keep Wifi devices away from your belly if pregnant
  • I’m not going to tell you to not use Wifi or get rid of it, but try and hold off on upgrading your home to ‘smart’ systems. If everything in our homes is controlled by Wifi, we won’t ever want to switch it off
  • Himalayan salt lamps help mitigate the effects of Wifi, so keep one plugged in near where you work
  • If you really want to delve deeper, there are companies who come to your house to show you how to reduce the effects dramatically

9. Screens

Try to reduce screen-time in the home by having screen-time curfews. This will help you to connect more as a family, will help your children with their social skills and will of course reduce Wifi radiation.

10. Creating A Positive Environment

All in all, our aim here is to create a healthier family home. Stress of any kind raises cortisol levels, and high cortisol can affect health by triggering any number of illnesses as it affects the thyroid, pituitary gland and immune system. Therefore, practicing gentle / conscious parenting is not just something hippie parents do to show how calm they can be (because we all lose our sh*t in this parenting gig), but it truly is important to the emotional, mental and physical development of our children. You can instantly see the difference between a child who has been brought up in a stressed-out home where things are shouted instead of discussed and there is little understanding of the child’s emotional needs, and a child who has all his emotional needs met. Dr Shefali Tsabari has some incredibly insightful books on conscious parenting and I highly recommend reading them to help in your parenting journey and to help make your family home a healthier environment that everyone will benefit from.

I hope these tips help you begin your journey to a more natural lifestyle, in the most stress-free way possible.

Love & health,

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