6 Simple Ways to Cancer-Proof Your Lifestyle
A couple months ago, I tossed 21.4 pounds of personal care products in the trash.
And that was just personal products like lotions, shampoos, makeup removers, hair gels, deodorants, etc. After that, I went ahead and threw out kitchen, bathroom, and household cleaning products too. Add those in, and I’m sure I was close to 50 pounds of commercial products going to the dump.
These products were full of them.
And with the rise in cancer and other serious health issues today, I’m not taking any chances.
I understand that cancer specifically is still very much a mystery to us, especially when it comes to pinpointing the root causes. We may never know the answers, but we have made extensive progress through research. We understand that cancer is likely not a “one-size-fits-all” disease, and there are factors we cannot control, such as family history. But there is no denying that cancer is tied to much more than that.
Breast cancer is a prime example:
1960s: 1 in 20 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
2016: 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.*
*Only 10% of these women carry the gene for the disease.
There is something else coming into play here…clearly, there are “outside influences,” and several of them, we can control: in our environment, in our nutrition, in our physical health, in our products, in our lifestyles.
Here are 6 simple ways to cancer-proof your lifestyle:
1) Shop at the farmer’s market or grow your own garden. Pesticides are the forgotten phantoms on our food. They’re sneaky: we can’t see them, we often forget all about them, but they’re there. It’s great that you’re actually shopping in the produce section of the grocery store–I’m proud of you–and your cart isn’t full of canned and boxed food–high-five–but have you ever wondered: where and who do all these fruits and veggies come from? And more importantly: can I trust them? Don’t be fooled: phantom pesticides are there…and everywhere.
This is why we choose the farmer’s market. We meal plan on Friday night or Saturday morning and go to our local farmer’s market almost every Saturday morning. We like that we can talk to the growers and the farmers. We can ask them, straight up, what they use to grow their corn or how they raise their chickens. There’s something very cool and comforting about knowing exactly where your food comes from and actually seeing and speaking with the person that worked his or her tail off to hand you that vibrant, juicy, perfectly plump tomato. And once again, the taste always seems superior. Last weekend, even though Stuart was gone golfing, you better believe Bennett and I still busted our butts to the Davidson Farmer’s Market with just enough cash to buy another crate of the best peaches I’ve ever had in my life. There was no way I was going a whole week without those perfect peaches, so we were there the opening minute–8 a.m. on the dot–and we were first in line.
Also, if you have a green thumb (or even if you don’t): totally grow your own garden. This is part of our future plans, as I’m currently clueless in the gardening department, but growing your own garden, even in a small spot in your yard, reaps major rewards. You’re the grower: you have all the control. And you don’t have to go far to grab as little or as much as you need. Lucky you.
But if you don’t have access to a market and aren’t ready to start gardening, it’s ok to shop at your regular grocery stores, but just do it right. At the very least, consult EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce and especially look at their 2016 “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists before purchasing your fruits and veggies from conventional grocery stores. Buy organic when appropriate and always, always, always properly clean your produce prior to eating.
- Find a farmer’s market near you and start going as a family; type in your zip code here to locate the market nearest to you.
- Start your own backyard garden.
- Consult the Dirty Dozen list and clean your produce from conventional grocery stores.
2) Assess your beauty regimen. The average number of beauty products a woman uses in one day is 12. And guess what: this amounts to roughly 100+ chemicals that women are allowing inside their bodies. And this can amount to as much as 5 POUNDS of chemicals (formaldehyde, heavy metals, etc.) in ONE YEAR. Believe it or not, putting not-so-safe makeup or products on your skin is actually much worse than consuming them. Your skin is your largest, most absorbent organ, and as soon as you introduce these toxins to your porous skin, they are absorbed and go right into the bloodstream. I can’t tell you how important it is to clean up your beauty routine, especially if you are a mother, or plan to be one, or you are currently pregnant. These hormone-altering chemicals we could be carrying around have actually been found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies…and by 9 months, it usually amounts to around 200 or more synthetic chemicals that are found. That’s terrifying. I can’t stress this one enough, and that’s not just because I’ve made this my job when I joined Beautycounter. I truly believe this plays a huge factor in the rise of fertility issues, hormone imbalances, and cancer because using personal care products and makeup is something we do every day. Over time, these small exposures add up in big ways.
I always keep this fact in mind: the United States hasn’t passed a federal law regulating the ingredients used in our personal care products since 1938. It’s been way too long since we’ve really looked at the safety data of what’s being used in our products, so you have to be aware and look out for yourself. Until this law is up-to-date, you simply cannot trust all the beauty brands out there.
- Evaluate the brands and ingredients in your beauty and personal care products, and trash the toxic stuff. Bias aside, I personally only trust Beautycounter because we have the strictest ingredient selection process in the industry, banning more than 1,500 ingredients from our products, and we are entirely transparent about our formulations. Plus, our products are the highest performing “clean” options I have ever used (and I’ve used A LOT).
- Download the “Healthy Living” app by EWG and use “Skin Deep” to look up the safety of your makeup and personal care items; I’d shoot for 1s and 2s on their scale. (Beautycounter products are almost all 1s and 2s…just sayin.’)
3) Eliminate (or at least minimize) canned food and plastic containers. Here’s a mental snapshot of the food in our pantry: bags of whole wheat flour, almond flour, some homemade trail mix, dried cranberries, a couple packages of pasta, rice, one box of nut thins, and 4 canned goods (organic black beans). That’s it. Also, if you look in our fridge, most containers are glass. Aluminum or tin holding your food for weeks or months on end can eventually leech into the food, and the same goes for plastic, especially when heated and toxins are released. Also, be careful for BPA (bisphenol A): it might be in the lining of your canned goods, and it’s linked to cancer. Oh and that “juice” your canned food is sitting in…it contains its own slew of icky preservatives or added sugars and salts.
- Ditch your plastic tupperware and replace with glass; shop on Amazon or head to Homegoods or Ikea for good deals on glass storage containers.
- Buy fresh or frozen food and forego canned goods. Fresh/frozen truly does taste so much better, and I don’t find that prep is extensive. Want a life-changing example? Garlic. Yes, we used to buy jarred minced garlic…I figured: it’s convenient, and hey, it comes in a glass jar: that’s good right? It seemed like a good idea…but that was until I found out my jarred garlic could have been bleached and the taste is absolutely, 100% inferior to fresh garlic. Oh. My. LORD. Fresh garlic on everything PLEASE. Taking the extra couple minutes to put fresh garlic in a garlic press is so worth it.
4) Evaluate the safety of your cleaning products. I was pretty naive in this department. I can’t tell you how many supposedly “safe” brands I bought that were full of carcinogens like triclosan and the mysterious “fragrance” or “parfum.” Fragrance, if you didn’t know already, is a single term that represents a whole lot of junk. According to EWG:
The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. – all of which have been linked repeatedly to cancer studies. There are many sites online that provide organic cleaning product recipes that work!
Fragrance is just one of many nasty chemicals in our cleaning products today. Luckily, you can make your own cleaning products or do what we do and buy Norwex, using just microfiber and water to clean (contact me if you’re interested in shopping their catalog). I took a long hard look at our cleaning products and was shocked to know what I was spreading around on our countertops and in our showers and spraying in the air (air fresheners are major no-nos)! I highly recommend Norwex microfiber cleaning. Also, essential oils are a great option for making your own cleaning products. This is not an area to take lightly. Believe it or not, researchers say women who use a majority of cleaners and/or air fresheners in their homes have a breast cancer risk of women who do not.
- Read the ingredient labels on your cleaning products and discard as necessary; I highly highly recommend consulting EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for verification and ingredient information. They grade cleaning products based on their research and give details as to why certain cleaners are safe or toxic.
- Make your own cleaning products or use just water and microfiber (Norwex). Wellness Mama has the best cleaning product recipes, and she also loves Norwex.
5) Part ways with your non-stick pans and “resistant” fabrics. This one is the hardest, I think. I have to admit: we haven’t fully switched our pots and pans out yet, but believe me, it’s happening. Non-stick pots and pans are coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as a fluorotelomer, or a perflurorochemical (PFCs), which have been shown to be carcinogenic, disrupt hormone balances, and affect fetal development. Toxic gasses are released into the air every time you use your non-stick or Teflon pans. “Resistant” fabrics (stain-, fire-, or water-resistant) also have these chemicals and are lacing the air you breathe with toxic fumes, and you don’t even know it. Research has shown that wearing these chemicals is especially harmful because of their rapid accumulation in the blood, which in turn can lead to diseases like cancer. I don’t know if you’ve ever intentionally smelled some of the clothes you buy in store or online, but I have…and it can be shocking. Sometimes, I don’t even have to put my nose to the clothes, and I can smell them a couple feet away. It’s happened with my own clothes and pajamas I purchased for my son, which just makes me wonder: what is really on or in these clothes? Well, Stuart and I went ahead and watched the documentary “Stink!” and that opened our eyes big time. In the movie, a single father sets out to find answers as to why his daughter’s pajamas from Justice clothing store have an off-putting, potent smell. I don’t want to spoil his findings, so let’s just say his quest was mind-boggling, infuriating, motivating, and shocking. Definitely put it on your “must watch” list; you’ll learn a lot.
- Replace any non-stick pans with metal- and teflon-free brands. Check out Wellness Mama’s suggestions–she did some in-depth research, and I wholeheartedly trust her recommendations.
- Look into and check the labels on your clothes, carpets, furniture fabrics, etc., and start weeding out resistant fabric from your home.
6) Please: wear sun protection, put on safe sunscreen, and apply it properly. I don’t care if you’re a fair-skinned redhead like me or not: sun protection is crucial any time of year. During their lifetimes, 40%-50% of Americans who live to 65 will be diagnosed with at least one of two skin cancer tumors. We live in a culture that is obsessed with tanning. We’re also very much driven by the media and convenience, so we trust that commercial spray-on sunscreens, mineral-only sunscreens, and high SPF sunscreens are perfectly safe ways to protect our skin. More often than not, the sunscreens we use and the ways we use them (or don’t use them) are actually doing the opposite and are harming us internally and externally. Not all sunscreens are created equal, trust me. Many use chemical sun blockers, such as oxybenzone, which soaks into the skin, can trigger a possible allergic skin reaction, and disrupts hormones. With that in mind, do I even need to get into how (unintentionally) inhaling spray sunscreens would be harmful? Oh and if you think lathering on that 50+ SPF sunscreen is going to do the trick for several hours, you’re very wrong. High SPF values are basically a misleading marketing tool. And when we do find a safe sunscreen–preferably one that uses non-nano zinc oxide–we often still fail to apply it properly. It’s all about how you apply it, when you apply it, and how often you apply it. Here’s a great guide that discusses this in more detail and breaks down the myths of sun exposure. It’s also extremely beneficial to wear a rash guard and still put on sunscreen with your brimmed hat for solid sun protection.
- Research, research, research your sunscreens and throw out the “bad” ones. Try to replace them with a sunscreen that uses safe ingredients and rates well on EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens. Bias aside, once again, I prefer Beautycounter’s Protect All Over Sunscreen over other clean and safe brands because it uses non-nano zinc oxide–an effective, natural, and safe mineral sun blocker; it blends in seamlessly; it doesn’t leave me looking pasty white; it isn’t greasy; it actually smells good (citrus-like, without the fragrance); and it’s safe for children and babies. If you want a tinted moisturizer with safe SPF protection, you’ll love our Dew Skin too.
- Do not forget to apply sunscreen well before you get into the sun; lather it on generously and rub it in well; wear sun protective clothing when you can; and reapply sunscreen after 40-80 minutes of wear, especially when in the water. Some people actually purchase a timer to remind themselves to reapply…yes, it’s that important.
After putting all these things into action, will my suggestions prevent you from getting cancer? I don’t know. No one knows. But at the very least, these simple changes will help in huge ways. In my eyes, there’s no denying the research that’s out there that points to toxic chemicals playing a major role in the prevalence of today’s health issues. So why not protect yourself? Why not breakup with your toxic makeup? Why not switch to safer cleaning products? Why not eat real food? Why not be religious about sun protection? You may not always be able to see it, but these small changes matter; they add up; they make a difference.
So why not?