It wasn’t until I developed health issues in my mid-twenties - which included thyroid disease, hormone imbalances, and gut dysbiosis - did I start to pay attention to the products I was using in my every day life. Our bodies are subject to an enormous amount of chemicals on a daily basis, the majority of which are not from the outdoors but actually come from inside our home.
Our bodies are amazing and work hard every day to get these unwanted chemicals out of the body, but the toxic load can definitely take a toll, especially to those in higher risk categories such as children, the elderly, and people also struggling from other health conditions. Our bodies can only do so much to protect us. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 21 commonly used cleaning products like air fresheners and multipurpose cleaning sprays and found that they emitted more than 450 chemicals into the air, some of which have been linked to asthma, developmental and reproductive harm, or cancer.
Scary, right? Our bodies are exposed every day to chemicals in paint and rugs, mattresses and linens, candles we burn and fragrances we spray to make things smell “fresh”, cleaners we use, and last but certainly not least, the self-care products we put on our bodies. So much to talk about in all of those categories. It can seem a bit overwhelming to think about it all so I’ve taken the approach of tackling one piece at a time.
Today I’m going to focus on the laundry room. What we use to wash our clothes and linens is so important, because the clothes we wear and the sheets we sleep on touch our skin all the time. And the skin is our largest organ, which means that what we put on it ends up in our bodies. Not only is the soap important, but the dryer sheets we use as well. Below is a breakdown on things to be aware of in both.
There are two common ingredients in laundry detergents that are really damaging to the health of your gut. Coming from someone who has gut issues, this is not something you want to deal with. DSS (dextran sodium sulfate) and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) are two surfactants that are heavily irritating to the gut lining. A compromised gut lining can lead to leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability can result in undigested food particles, toxic waste products, and bacteria passing through the wall of the small intestine and into the body, where they don’t belong. They will provoke the immune system, which will try to fight off these unknown and unwanted invaders. Over time this can lead to the development of food sensitivities. DSS and SLS are also found in shampoos and body wash.
Dryer sheets are also a nightmare. They are irritating to the respiratory tract and contain chemicals that can increase the risk of asthma and allergies. They are also known endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is the hormonal system in our body and is responsible for healthy thyroid, adrenal, and reproductive function. One of my doctors once told me to think about the endocrine system as a three legged stool, with one leg being the thyroid gland, one being the adrenal glands, and one being our reproductive hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc.). If one of the legs is imbalanced, the one stool is going to be thrown off. I have definitely seen this in my own life and health. If you are struggling to get pregnant and use dryer sheets, thrown them away and get natural alternatives!
Speaking of natural alternatives…
Pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are a fantastic alternative for many of the household products on my list above. I use them to replace candles and perfumes, as natural cleaning alternatives, in my clean beauty regimen, and in my laundry room.
DoTERRA, the essential oil company I use, has a laundry detergent containing On Guard, their protective essential oil blend. It’s an ultraconcentrated detergent, so only a little bit goes a long way (up to 64 loads to be exact!). It is color safe, can be used at all temperatures, and is free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, and toxins.
Most of the organic cleaning companies out there have dryer sheets these days but I love Molly Suds wool dryer balls. They can be re-used for up to 1,000 loads, help reduce drying time, and naturally soften fabrics. Plus I add a few drops of lavender to each ball before a round in the dryer to help give my clothes a fresh smell!
For other natural alternatives, check out the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.