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Environment: How It Impacts Your Health and What to Do About It

Nothing lasts forever…

Except for the phthalates and PFAS in your toilet paper, that is! Those are for keeps, according to the latest health scandal to rock the wellness scene. 

Researchers brought the public’s attention to their porcelain thrones after discovering a disturbing number of PFAS — carcinogenic compounds that don’t break down — entering wastewater systems. 

The culprit, our beloved bleached toilet paper, seems decidedly innocuous, as is often the case with these forever chemicals. Nonstick pans, makeup, children’s toys, clothes — all our favorite things seem to be inundated with the compounds that are now also being referred to as everywhere chemicals

What’s a wellness seeker to do? Reject modern society in favor of a solitary life in the woods? Invest in a BPA-free bubble to live in?

We can’t control everything in the external world. But we can, under the guidance of Dr. Neal and his 20+ years of experience as a holistic health advocate, learn to work with our environment. 

Read on to learn how to make small lifestyle changes that support your quest for wellness and lessen the burden your body has to carry — without going into a phthalate-hunting paranoia spiral.

In This Article: 

How Does Your Environment Affect Your Health? 

The cool thing about how your environment impacts your health is that you don’t have to know about the microplastics in your bloodstream or the heavy metals in your food to be affected by them. 

Your body, as the now-oversaturated phrase goes, keeps the score. 

Our skin, sensory organs, and GI tract are constantly taking in information and material from our outer milieu because the only true separation of self and world is our idea of separation. Tallying points from both the larger external world around you and your personal environment — AKA your home — your flesh suit tracks a lot more than you think it does. 

1. The Larger Environment

It’s not always as terrifying as having endocrine system disruptors in your toothpaste though — the environment influences our health in some mundane ways, too. For example, people living in New York will have a totally different array of gut flora than those from a pastoral countryside. 

Both are normal and (potentially) healthy, they’re just different because the external environment is different. 

But what unites us all as humans from vastly disparate ecosystems and biomes is that we live, together, in a chemical soup. The latest number thrown around is 80,000 — we’re exposed to 80,000 chemicals every day

Some of those chemicals come in the form of hormone-mucking, neurotoxic cancer-creators, and some are totally harmless. If you ask us, the real danger lies in the fact that we’re constantly exposed to them when:

  1. Very few of these chemicals are properly studied.
  2. Even fewer are appropriately regulated.
  3. The general public is educated on almost none.

That’s why the estrogenic effects of plastic water bottles don’t make a dent in Aquafina’s sales and why Rinse-Aid still finds its way into every modern dishwasher despite causing gut lining damage

To sum it all up: Yes, the larger world around you plays a major role in your health, whether you’re aware of it or not. 

2. Your Personal Environment

Sarcasm aside — there really is something cool about expanding public education on the normalized toxins we bring into our homes. 

In the case of plastic water bottles and rinse aids, at least, you can choose to not be exposed to high levels of those harmful compounds. We can’t say the same for environmental pollutants that have already infiltrated our food, water, and air. 

So we focus on what we can control! Our personal environments, à la our bodies and homes. 

Your home has the potential to be a restorative place for your nervous system to relax and recharge. Or it can add to the toxic load already being carried by your body — that part is up to you. 

When it comes to lowering your intake of environmental stressors, it’s important to not get swallowed by overwhelm or apathy-induced overwhelm, either. Inflammatory compounds might be damaging, but constant stress over those inflammatory compounds is damaging, too

Stress, environmental factors, nutrient intake, exercise levels, and sleep can all impact our health in serious ways. And actually, if you ask Dr. Neal, we can witness the most profoundly positive changes in the diet and nutrition arena.

As with all things health-related, we try to walk the middle path around here — it looks something like this: 

  • Doing our best to reduce the number of harmful toxins that enter our home so as not to negate our diet, sleep, stress, and exercise improvements. 
  • Putting the bulk of our energy toward the things that we can control and the things that will have the greatest impact on our overall health and quality of life, like nutrition and sleep quality. 

How Do Environmental/Lifestyle Changes Factor into the Wellness Pyramid?

You know when we mention those 5 critical health domains — sleep, diet, stress management, exercise, and lifestyle changes — that we’re gearing up to talk about the Wellness Pyramid

Environmental factors and their impact on health live primarily in the lifestyle changes area of the Wellness Pyramid. Which makes sense when you understand that lifestyle changes are the changes you make to things outside of yourself

Like limiting your exposure to external toxins, sleeping with a hypoallergenic mattress cover, or taking the TV out of your bedroom.  

But lifestyle changes are just one piece of the puzzle

Sure, quitting smoking would probably make you feel (and smell) a whole lot better, but that might not be enough to make up for serious deficiencies due to a nutritionally bankrupt diet. 

The goal, then, is to focus on what you can and need to change, but not to spend so much time looking outside of yourself that you lose sight of what’s going on in your body. 

5 Lifestyle Changes to Launch Today 

So we’re not going to drive ourselves crazy trying to perfect our environments, which are inherently imperfect, right? 

Instead, we’re going to make incremental, sustainable changes that push us further toward optimal wellness. The lifestyle improvements or changes to your personal environment you make will be unique to you and your journey — but we all need a place to start!

We asked our resident Wellness Wizard, Dr. Neal, for 5 ultra-simple lifestyle changes that could work for any and all health seekers. Here’s your starting point, friends: 

1. Drink more water! 

Yeah, it really is that simple. The importance of staying hydrated is constantly overstated in the natural health sphere, and yet a functional understanding of hydration is criminally underrated. 

Our advice? Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces per day

2. Take the TV out of your bedroom.

Did you think we weren’t going to circle back to this one? We know, it hurts. But as the old, and remarkably apt, adage goes — your bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. 

Get your work activities, blue-light-blasting electronics, and entertainment devices out of your bedroom. Don’t let them back in. 

3.  Cut Back on the Cool Stuff. 

Smoking, drinking, drugs — some would argue those illustrious forms of escape are the best parts of being human. Unfortunately, your body disagrees. 

It seems obvious, but the effects of cutting back on these neurotoxins can be life-changing. And yes, wine counts. Taper down with the help of a licensed professional, if need be. 

4. Get More Sun on Your Skin. 

Regular exposure to sunlight — when done safely and with sunscreen, of course — is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to support your body’s overall health. 

Reset your circadian rhythm and give your mental health a boost just by sitting in the sunshine.

5. Clean Better, Not Smellier. 

You know those cleaning products, detergents, and perfumes that make you and the 2,000 square feet around you smell like a chemically manufactured, somehow oppressive, lilac grove? 

Ditch ‘em. Replace inflammatory, endocrine-disrupting products with nontoxic alternatives — the sooner the better. 

The World is Still a Pretty Cool Place

There might be a lot of stressors, toxins, and gross stuff associated with our modern world, but it’s not all doom and gloom. We, as contemporary humans, have more science, support, and resources for improving health now than ever before.

And plus, you have us to lean on! When the world of wellness gets overwhelming, give us a call. You can hop on a free Counterside Consult to talk all things health with Dr. Neal any time.


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