Boost Your Immune System by Avoiding These 6 Summer Toxins

*This is the 3rd installment of Go, Green Mamas’ new series,”How Your Family Can Thrive in a COVID-19 Summer.”. Stay tuned and follow this blog for access to the entire 12-day series!

The Immune System & Chemicals

We need our immune systems to perform at their optimum levels right now. This is our best defense against the currently prevalent Coronavirus that has been ripping through our nation in recent months.

The fact is that there are more than 80,000 different varieties of chemicals of existence in our world. We are all exposed to some of these on a daily basis, and the majority of them continue to go untested. The capabilities of our immune systems are weakened when we are exposed to chemicals in our environment. Summer season brings with it a ton of fun, but it also brings along its own toxin exposures. Let’s boost the immune system! Here are 6 summer toxins and how you and your family can avoid exposure.

Boost your immune system by avoiding toxins
Boost your immune system by avoiding toxins

Fake tans

We have an obsession with being tan, but it always seems like there is some sort of health risk involved. When I was a kid we would sunbathe, but then later on when the sun was deemed a carcinogen, we discovered “a tan in a bottle.”

You might end up streaky orange, but at least you weren’t pasty white. Eventually the tanning salons began to offer their own lower maintenance version where you simply stood naked and waited for the spray machines to do the job.

“Studies suggest that the active chemical used in spray-tanning products, DHA, can trigger genetic mutations which could potentially cause cancer in humans,” says Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, dean of the School of Public Health Services at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

In retrospect it all seems so backward since the sun’s rays provide us with Vitamin D, a natural cancer preventative. Why we ever thought absorbing and inhaling chemicals was a better solution is beyond me.

The safest option is, of course, to get comfortable in your own skin shade. However, if you must go darker, try a toxin-free sunscreen and short, gradually increasing sunbathing sessions to achieve your ideal color.

Alcohol

boost your immune system by avoiding toxins
boost your immune system by avoiding toxins

Wine

As with commercially-grown foods, conventional wines tend to be highly processed as well. We don’t often think about all the crap that goes into today’s wines when we’re out drinking with friends, but they’re there. Definitely not the kind of red wines that are said to be beneficial to our health.

Unhealthy additives contained in your typical bottle of wine include pesticides such as Roundup, artificial coloring, and chemical preservatives like sulfites and dimethyl dicarbonate, which is so toxic that it must be applied by specialists in hazmat suits.

So instead of grabbing any old bottle or glass of Cabernet this summer, I suggest you find a clean, sustainable wine to wind down with. Thrive Market has a great selection, including this one, which is my absolute fave

boost your immune system
Boost your immune system by avoiding toxins in beer

Beer

Nothing says kicking back at a summer barbecue like a cold, refreshing glass of beer. Think you’re in the clear with beer when it comes to toxins? Guess again! When you grab a case from your local grocer or liquor store, this is what you are likely to be drinking along with your hops:

  • GMO corn, rice, and sugars
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Calcium Disodium EDTA
  • Natural Flavors (not so natural)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Caramel Coloring, insect-based dyes, and artificial food dyes like: FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5
  • glyceryl monostearate and pepsin (used for foam control and head retention)
  • Carrageenan
  • Fish bladders & Gelatin (may be news to vegans)
  • BPA from the can lining

So the next time you need a cold one, I would suggest an organic version. Try visiting local craft breweries whenever possible as they are much more knowledgeable about what goes into their brew.

Hard liquors

Who doesn’t love a sex on the beach in the summertime? But were you aware that many of the hard liquors & mixers that makes up these drinks are toxic? That is primarily due to the gmos and pesticides from the corn and fruits used to make them.

Following are some healthier options to satisfy that mixed drink craving:

  • High-quality scotch & an organic soda
  • Paleo Margaritas – tequila is one of the cleanest liquors because it comes from agave, just make sure it is pure and without fillers!
  • Organic vodka & cranberry juice
  • a Clean Mojito made with organic rum

Sun Protection

Bug Protection

DEET is not the only way to go

The prime candidate for tackling the mosquito problem is typically an ingredient labeled DEET. While many experts have deemed this a safe chemical to apply to children’s skin, there are some precautions to take.

First off, it should only be used in concentrations of less than 30%. DEET products should also never be applied under the clothing, on the hands and face, or where there are open cuts. Parents should also be aware that the product has been found to be toxic to pets, and that it can be damaging to certain materials.

There have been some reports linking its usage to seizures, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and Gulf War Syndrome under certain circumstances. Use conservatively and do your research, or keep reading for some healthier options.

Non-toxic alternatives

Oil of lemon eucalyptus​ is a plant-based product that has been found to be quite effective against mosquitoes. However, it should be put through a skin patch test first, and it is not recommended for children under 3.

Citronella oil h​as a very low toxicity in combination with high efficiacy, but it has not experienced very effective results in the warmer climates.

Picaridin,​ a more synthetic compound resembling the natural piperine, carries with it no real cause for concern. It also tends to work well as an alternative for those who find themselves allergic to DEET. And an added bonus–it provides tick protection, too!

Soybean oil ​and ​Geranium oil​ are two other effective and safe natural ingredients that have had great success at helping defend the skin against pesky bug invaders.

Four excellent store-bought sprays that work well without the DEET are:

Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picardin REPEL Lemon Eucalyptus
Natrapel 8-hour
Badger Anti-bug repellent Spray

Barbecues

Boost your immune system
Boost your immune system by avoiding toxins from summer bbqs

Safe Grilling

What’s so toxic about the family bbq?

Who doesn’t love a chance to fire up the grill and enjoy some charred dogs and burgers with the family–especially on a nice sunny, breezy day? Yes, I know, it should be a completely carefree activity. Unfortunately, there are a few unhealthy aspects of this activity as well.

The number one threat of the barbecue experience is the chemical reaction that happens when fat from your meats drips down on either the grill or the flame and results in smoke. This creates carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, otherwise known as PAHs. Both eating the meat and inhaling the smoke are harmful to our bodies.

The other chemical reaction to be aware of is the one created from the typically high heats that occur during grilling. These high heats’ effect on the meat is a carcinogen called Heterocyclic Amines, or HCAs. HCAs have been linked to increased risks for colorectal, prostrate and pancreatic cancers.

The third reaction involved in grilling is created from the combination of protein or fat, sugar and high heat all working together. The end result is Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs. The AGEs contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which is linked to diseases like diabetes, Alzheimers, heart disease and cancer.

The non-toxic approach to grilling

But don’t despair! All of that said, there are several ways to make healthy modifications and still enjoy this summer tradition.

  1. Opt for a gas grill instead of charcoal. In one recent study, scientists discovered that grilling over charcoal produced four times as many carcinogens as grilling over gas. You are also in more control of the temperature with a gas grill.
  2. Always include either a marinade or a spice rub in your grilling preparations. Studies show that doing so combats the carcinogenic effects significantly. Some of the most effective options include rosemary, garlic, thyme, sage, beer and wine.
  3. Whenever possible, allow yourself enough time to grill your food below 325 degrees. You can also pre-cook the meat so they only need to be grilled at high temps briefly.
  4. Try grilling salmon, chicken or veggies instead; they produce less carcinogens in the cooking process.

Chlorine

Safety at the Pool

Chlorine Protection Chlorine is not 100% safe. No one wants to enter a pool full of stranger germs that is not being treated in any way. However, if you enter a pool area where the chlorine scent is so overwhelming that you feel like you may pass out, that can not be deemed 100% safe either.

Exposure to chlorine has been found to cause irritation to the airway, skin, eyes and throat in some children. It has even led to difficulty breathing in certain cases. Children suffering from asthma and/or allergies are at a higher risk.

Other issues that have been linked to overexposure to chlorine include hormone disruption and imbalance to the gut flora.

Precautions to take

Fortunately, there are certain steps moms can take to keep their kids safe at the pool.

  1. Teach your children to always shower prior to entering the pool. Chlorine, in combination with either sweat or urine, creates a toxic effect. Therefore, among other obvious reasons, it’s equally important to encourage pottying before a swim as well.
  2. Apply coconut oil to the skin–and even the hair–as a protective layer between themselves and the chlorine. Exposure to the chlorine will remove the natural film that our skin usually provides. The oil will act in its place.
  3. You can also easily create a vitamin C spray, by mixing 1 teaspoon powdered vitamin C into 2 cups of filtered water. The Vitamin has been shown to have neutralizing effects on chlorine. Simply spray after your swim and go!

And, of course, whenever possible try to find a chlorine-free pool where another safer disinfecting method–such as a UV sanitizing system–is substituted.

boost your immune system
Boost your immune system by avoiding chlorine exposure

How will you be protecting your family from toxins this summer?

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boost your immune system
boost your immune system
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