When you first get started, toxin free living can be overwhelming. It can seem like everything you know and love is bad for your health. In this guide, I hope to help remove that overwhelm, provide a realistic balance, while still increase awareness for how the chemicals get in our homes and our lives.
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Non toxic living starts with mindset
When it comes to non toxic living, most people start small and work their way into understanding all the ways harmful chemicals have crept into our environment.
If you try to take everything in at once it may feel like your brain (and wallet) is going to explode. Once you find out about one thing, it trickles into another and it’s super tempting to throw your hands up and say, “Screw it! I am just going to live toxic and be happy.”
Please don’t give up just yet!
The non-toxic lifestyle is so worth it. It’s an investment in your future.
Instead of giving up on the lifestyle, give up on the guilt.
If you find out your favorite hair product has some concerning ingredients, instead of anxiously chucking it, keep using it until you find a suitable alternative.
Removing toxins from your environment is a journey, not something that just happens. Most of us won’t wake up one day and replace our entire home with organic, chemical-free alternatives. You aren’t alone in this overwhelm!
It has taken us years but I can now say I have replaced most toxic things with cleaner alternatives. Doing this slowly helped me not drive myself or my family completely bonkers.
Whenever I find myself getting frustrated at how much more expensive non toxic products are, I think about the point in my life when my babies are grown, my fortune is emassed, and I am able to live my best life because I will hopefully have my health.
The best approach for this transition is to start with the right mindset about future purchases. You will become a researcher in your daily life seeking truth and uncovering new insights. Every new thing you bring into your home can be evaluated for safety and it may mean saving up for a bit longer to purchase the safer version.
Each time you replace something toxic with something safe, you are moving the needle in the right direction. Our bodies are resilient and designed to heal. You have time to get this all together!
So with that being said, let’s look at some areas to make non toxic changes in going forward.
Eat Organic Food
Food doesn’t just nourish our bodies, it nourishes our souls as the centerpiece to our family traditions, which is why making changes in this category hard to accept. But food can be a huge source of toxins in our life when it lacks nutrients, is burdened with chemical pesticides, or is more like “frankenfood” than food at all.
Luckily, we have access to some pretty convenient ways to get high quality, organic food on our plates. We can swap out a lot of snacky staples for healthier alternatives.
Before we talk about how to make consuming high quality food possible, let’s briefly talk about why you should…
The food we eat is all we have to sustain life once we leave our mother’s womb and breast. It literally fuels our cells’ activity so we want food to be both highly nutritious and exceptionally safe.
An analysis done by Newcastle University in the UK found that organically grown food has 60% more nutrients than conventionally grown food. This study also showed significantly lower levels of heavy metals in organic crops.
The most common way humans get exposed to pesticides is through food. Chronic low exposure to pesticides is associated with respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriage, birth defects, cancer, and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. (source)
The Environmental Working Group tested samples of commonly eaten foods such as dry pasta, wheat-based cereals, oats, and crackers and found them all to be contaminated with glycophosate (Roundup) which we now know increases the risk of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma by almost 40%. (1, 2) A Canadian study found that 90% of wheat-based foods are contaminated with glycophosate. (source)
Most processed foods are made with wheat, so avoiding processed foods can lower your exposure. But even if you commit to cooking more from scratch, organic food is expensive and can be a huge financial burden to families.
Here are some ways to make organic food more affordable
1. Grass-fed meat subscriptions
ButcherBox delivers grass-fed free-range meats for about 10 dollars a pound and free shipping. This company stands by a promise to sustainably ship high quality beef sourced from Australia so that cattle can graze year round and are never fed grain.
Pork from ButcherBox are heritage breed and Certified Humane. Their bacon isn’t preserved with nitrates and the only ingredients are water, sea salt, celery powder, and a non-dairy lactic acid starter culture.
Chicken from ButcherBox are Certified Humane, free-range, and fed non-gmo certified-organic feed.
ButcherBox also sources sustainably-fished wild-caught salmon.
If you sign up for your first box before Sunday November 17, you get a free 10-14 pound turkey for Thanksgiving!
2. Thrive Market for dry goods
We have been using Thrive Market for months now and it SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than buying non-perishables at the grocery store or even on Amazon.
Thrive not only stocks high quality health food but their shipping process is sustainable! I once ordered about $200 worth of dry goods to stock my pantry when we moved in our house and it shipped in only 2 boxes!
Thrive has a yearly membership fee to get access to their discounted food. They waive the fee for those with low income, veterans, teachers, and students with the Thrive Gives program.
Click here for 25% off your first order and a 30 day free trial!
3. Amazon Subscribe and Save
If you sign up for 5 monthly subscriptions with Amazon subscribe and save, you can get 15% off those items. I use this for things like Manuka honey and coconut oil which I use all the time but can be expensive to buy in stores. We usually set our delivery from Amazon to 3 times a year and stock up on bulk items we can’t find on Thrive.
4. Shop farmer’s markets
Local farmer’s markets are a great way to save money on seasonal foods. The best part about buying from nearby farms is how much more nutrient dense the food is. This is because food doesn’t have to travel as far so it’s allowed to ripen on the vine.
5. Grow a small garden
Not everyone has time to be a gardener but even having a small pot of fresh herbs will help make your meals more flavorful and healthy. You can make a small raised garden bed without any tools with premade kits. This even works for apartment dwellers and it will pay for itself in one season with all the amazing fresh veggies you will harvest.
Non-toxic food alternatives
I think the hardest part of changing your lifestyle is giving up the snacky foods you love. I can usually find an organic alternative to most of my favorite snacks like these BBQ plaintain chips that are fried in coconut oil, Yum!
One seasonal snack I had a hard time giving up was marshmallows.
If you look at the ingredients of most marshmallows they are basically high fructose corn syrup and chemicals. Until recently, I just kept eating those toxic balls of white fluff every fall around the campfire! I didn’t want to give up my smores just yet.
I’m so excited because I just found a really great brand for non toxic marshmallows called Smashmallow. They are made with only organic cane sugar, tapioca starch, and organic gelatin and they roast super well! Yay!
Whenever you are making choices about food, get in the habit of reading the label. If there are any strange words on the ingredients list, look them up, it could just be the chemical name for a natural substance.
Food labeling can be confusing but keep in mind, ingredients are listed from greatest quantity to least so the first 3 line items will make up the majority of the food. If the list is longer than a handful of ingredients, you can be sure that product isn’t good for you because it is highly processed.
Can’t afford organic food?
What if you simply can’t afford to buy organic food for your family? If this is the case then start with the dirty dozen. These are the 12 most contaminated foods according to the EWG and include:
- Sweet bell peppers
You can also simply wash your fruits and veggies with an organic veggie wash which will remove some of the chemicals on the surface of the food!
Use Safe Cleaning Products
Cleaning products is one of the first areas you might think of switching when converting to non toxic living.
I think it’s one of the more gratifying parts of the process because you immediately feel better not breathing in toxic fumes while you clean the toilet. It is also the most affordable!
The problem with most cleaning products is they contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can cause concerning health problems.
You may have heard that word circulating around the web often enough that it doesn’t trigger caution anymore. Hearing about something all the time can often dull down the severity of it in your mind so I wanted to take a second and fully explain what endocrine disruptors actually do!
“There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
We slowly switched some of our harsh cleaning products as they ran out to plant-based cleaning products that are multi-purpose.
Others we flat out threw away (check your city guidelines for how to do this safely) such as the Clorox Bleach Foamer we used to clean the bathtub. This cleaner contains Alkyl Dimethyl Benxyl Ammonium compounds and Benzalkonium Chlorides which cause developmental, reproductive, and endocrine effects! (source)
Check the EWG’s guide to see if the cleaning products you currently use are safe.
Here is my go-to list of cleaning products:
ECOS Earth Friendly Dishwasher Soap
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (Citrus)
ECOS Wave Dishwaser Gel Lavender
Aunt Fannie’s Probiotic Cleaner
Aunt Fannie’s Lavender Cleaning Vinegar
ECOS All Purpose Cleaner Orange Plus
Aunt Fannie’s Lavender Floor Cleaner
Aunt Fannie’s Glass and Window Vinegar Wash
Biokleen Free and Clear Laundry Powder
*** Update Biokleen was recently purchased by Weiman Products. They no longer offer some of the bulk sizes and the manufacturing is no longer with the orginial Vancouver based company. I am on the search for a new detergent brand and will update once my bulk laundry detergent runs out and find a replacement.***
Filter and Test Your Drinking Water
America’s tap water is simply NOT safe!
The Enviromental Working Group did us all a huge service and tested almost 50,000 sources of public drinking water nationwide. They found 267 contaminants in water that are linked to things like cancer, brain and nervous system disorders, developmental harm, fertility harm, and hormone disruption. (source)
Check out this chilling video they put together which explains the current state of most American families’ drinking water.
There are a lot of different ways to deal with the clean water problem but it is definitely not something to ignore for too long!
I recommend making a one time purchase of a reverse osmosis water filtration system which pushes water through a semipermeable membrane to trap contaminants and impurities. Reverse osmsois filtration offers the highest level of water filtration. This filter also replaces the minerals lost in the filtration process!
Sleep on an Organic Mattress
You will spend 1/3 of your life in bed or more if you love your bed as much as I do!
Many mattresses are made from gobs of sythetic materials like polyurethane foam that breakdown and release volitale organic compounds. Most mattresses are glued together with chemical adhesives that release formaldehyde and then sprayed with chemical flame retardants.
It’s hard to get a healing night sleep when you are laying on a pile of smog that is linked to asthma, allergies, throat cancer, and hormone disruption. (source)
There are plenty of options for safer mattresses backed by third-party certifications such as the Greenguard standard for low emissions. When purchasing a green mattress, make sure it has the GOTS organic cotton and GOLS organic latex seals.
We recently purchased an Avocado Green Mattress for our son’s childhood bed. You can read my full review of that mattress and watch the video in this post.
Green mattresses are not cheap and we had to save up for ours. In the meantime you can sleep on organic sheets, an organic mattress pad, and a natural latex rubber mattress topper to put some distance between yourself and those yucky chemicals!
Breathe Cleaner Air
According to the EPA, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors where the concentration of air pollutants are 2-5 times greater.
Some ways to improve your home’s air quality include:
- Avoid aerosol sprays and perfumes
- Open the windows to circulate new air through the house
- Change your HVAC filters monthly
- Dust and vacuum your home frequently
- Fill your house up with plants
- Use non toxic cleaning supplies
- Use only Beeswax or Soy candles
- Invest in a HEPA air purification system which not only reduces pollutants but also reduces viruses (Great for the winter when stuck inside and someone is sick)
Protect yourself from EMR/EMF
Electromagnetic radiation is emitted from electric wires, cellphone towers, and household electronics. If you live in the city it’s darn near impossible to completely avoid unhealthy electromagnetic fields.
The problem with EMR is it influences our cells in negative ways by changing their metabolism, stealing electrons, and interfering with their antioxidants’ effectiveness. (source)
Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to EMR.
There are numerous things we can do to help minimize exposure including:
- Limiting handheld electronic use (especially for kids)
- Keep phones at a safe distance from a human brain (at least 12 inches)
- Use speaker phone
- Do not keep your phone in your pocket (especially during pregnancy)
- Use EMF blocking blankets for babies
- Hard wire your internet instead of using Wifi
- Cover your home’s smart meter with a guard
- Invest in a personal EMF reduction card
- Put an EMF sticker on your phone
- Get a whole room EMF reduction card for your bedrooms and car
- Limit using the microwave to as minimal as possible
(Use the code naturallymademom10 for 10% off any Airestech EMF products)
Use Non Toxic Cosmetics
The cosmetic industry is very unregulated and labeling standards are pretty lax. Fragrances and trade secret ingredients are exempt from labeling requirements. This means you don’t really know what is inside the products you put on your skin.
The word fragrance is a term used by the cosmetic industry that is used to describe aromatic chemicals. This loop hole is ALLOWED by the FDA, so manufactures can include nearly ANY ingredient they can synthesize despite the unknown effect on human health by generically labeling it as “fragrance.” (source)
I haven’t used perfume in years so I am pretty sensitive to it now. It amazes me how sick I feel after being around a strong perfume for even a few minutes now that I have rid my body of those chemicals.
The great news is there are plenty of ways clean up your toiletries and it will most likely make your skin and hair healthier. You will likely save money after making these switches because you won’t need nearly as many products or makeups to look and feel beautiful again.
I have a lot of resources for natural beauty and natural hair on my blog so please check out those articles to learn more!
Plastic containers use phthalates to make the plastic softer so it won’t easily break.
Most people are somewhat aware about the problem with plastics for our planet but may be unaware of the health implications.
While phthalates do wonders for making plastic strong, it has some terrible effects especially for young boys. Phthalates increase testicular cell dealth, so they should be avoided as much as possible. (source)
The best thing to do is slowly switched over your tupperware to glass, use resuseable water bottles, and glass baby bottles.
*If you have a baby check out my organic baby product list!*
Avoid Non Stick Cookware
Have you ever wondered what makes pans nonstick? Well, it’s synthetic chemicals of course! With every easy way out humans engineer for themselves there are always tradeoffs that should be evaluated if the convenience is worth the potential health risk.
In the case of nonstick cookware, the man-made chemical is branded Teflon™ but is also know as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE is linked with decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other terrible things. (source)
A better alternative for everyday cooking is a seasoned cast iron skillet which will eventually be naturally less sticky as it soaks up the oils used in cooking. It also helps people with anemia get more iron in their diet!
We keep our cooking gear to a minimum so we can stick with high quality brands that offer safe cookware.
Avoid Pharmaceutical Drugs
Wrongly prescribed or side effects from pharmasceutical drugs is the third leading cause of death in developed countries. (1, 2)
As a nurse, I used to believe that pharmaceuticals were made to heal the human body. 10 years later I know without a doubt that they do NO such thing.
Even common drugs like Tylenol that are marketed to be safe for pregnant women and children deplete the body of important intracellular antioxidants and can cause serious harm. (source)
The scope of this article isn’t to provide medical advice. However, I felt it necessary to include this section to bring awareness to the other natural options we have available to manage human ailments including herbs, oils, homeopathy, baths, massage, and time spend outdoors.
Once you get further along in your journey of non toxic living you will realize that not being reliant on pharma is a pivotal part of healthy living.
Get Outside but Rethink Sun Protection and Bug Spray
If I could offer one single tip that will greatly improve your life and your health above all else it would be to exist outside. We have gotten so far from how we are designed to live which is in the sun, surrounded by nature.
We have been programed to fear the sun but the reality is, the sun is medicinal and although you still need to protect your skin from prolonged exposure, we need to bask in the sun to improve our health. (source)
We also need to be environmentally responsible in the way we protect our skin by using clothing more than sunscreen. When we do use sunscreen, it should be coral reef safe, which will ultimately be safer for your body as well.
Bug spray is another area where toxins creep into our bloodstream. After 6 hours, 9%–56% of the deet will get in our blood so it should be used conservatively, especially in children. (1, 2)
You can avoid mosquito bites by wearing pants and long sleeves in the early morning and around dusk when mosquitos are most active. You can also make your own DIY bug spray super easy!
We covered a lot of information in this post and I originally promised not to overwhelm you.
My best suggestion to tackle this process is to start with your food and cleaning supplies, then move on to cosmetics. Making these three changes will likely make a significant difference in your daily toxic exposure and won’t be so financially burdensome.
If you are able to make one big purchase then I would get your kids an organic mattress and then get yourself one!
Above all, you will make a huge difference in your life if you just spend more time outside.
Where are you on your non toxic journey? Leave me a comment below!
Wow! This article was SO. HELPFUL. I realized there are a lot areas I’ve overlooked in my attempt to use more natural products. One area that I was really concerned about was our carpet cleaner. When I realized most use harsh soaps and chemicals I knew I had to find a better solution since my kids and dog spend so much time on the carpet. Luckily, I found a carpet cleaner that uses natural and non-toxic cleaning solutions and methods! A small victory in the journey to use better, healthier products in our home but a victory nonetheless! Thank you so much for this post. Super informative and helpful!
This article was such an amazing read. Very informative!! I especially appreciate the examples and product tagged for reference.
Thank You So Much For This.
Thank you for this informative article. I really enjoyed it and just feel more inspired to live more conscious of what we put in our body!
I loved your article! Very informative for people who are just realizing the toxic things in their environment. I have come a long way in my toxin free journey the last couple of years but still a bit to go. Thank you for the ideas!
One of the things we do is cook from scratch more. It takes more time, but we hang out in the kitchen together and laugh during the process. We use lots of (and different variety of) herbs. The aromas are wonderful and we know every ingredient that goes into our meal…. it’s become part of our entertainment!