Dr. Kristen Mitteness
7 things you might not realize are compromising your health
Updated: Dec 23, 2018
You're trying to live a healthier life. You've changed your diet, you're exercising more, you're drinking lots of water, but you're just not getting the results you think you deserve. First off, remember that these things take time. Like, YEARS. But, you might have to delve just a bit deeper. The following are a few offenders that you might not realize could compromise your health.
Food sensitivities to "healthy" foods - If it has a label that says it's healthy, I hope you think twice. Just because it's gluten free does NOT mean it's healthy. You still need to read the label. There is also a category of food called nightshades that can be problematic if you have an autoimmune disorder. This includes eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. These are especially important to avoid if you have an autoimmune disorder and joint pain. If you have a sensitive stomach or suspect you have a leaky gut, you might be more sensitive to certain foods, but as you work to heal your gut, these can improve. Other foods to consider looking into when you haven't quite gotten the results you wanted from changing your diet:
Food preservatives/Nitrates/Sulfites (dried fruit)
Conventionally raised meat
Raw vegetables (especially onions, garlic and cabbage)
Heavy metals - Having heavy metals in your system (this can include lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic and more) may be preventing you from obtaining true health. You might feel fatigued, have brain fog or be more prone to autoimmune issues or mental health disorders. We can be exposed to heavy metals through our food and water, mercury fillings, vaccinations, cookware, beauty products and even your mom's exposure while you were in the womb. If you suspect you have heavy metals in your system, it's worth getting your blood or stool tested. Many naturopaths or alternative health doctors will check for this.
Over exercising - Moving your body is imperative for your overall health. However, exercising at high intensity too often and not taking enough time to recover can be a huge stressor on your body. Exercise is great for emotion and physical well being. But overdoing it can make it hard for your brain and body to recover and feel good during the rest of your day or week. For many of us, limiting high intensity workouts to 2-3 times per week is enough to keep us in shape without over doing it. Low impact exercises can be done daily as long as your heart rate stays below 160 bpm. This can often be monitored by your ability to talk while you are exercising. This includes walking, hiking, biking, swimming, gardening and casually moving throughout your day. If you exercise heavily and are finding you are often sore and tired and have difficulties performing the rest of your daily routine easily, you may need to re examine your workouts.
Environmental toxins - Very new and very old homes come with different issues. Old homes might have lead and mold in them where new homes often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That "new" smell often comes from toxic chemicals. Different plastics, especially when heated can release toxic compounds. These can be found in food containers, plastic bags and shower curtains. Obviously, cigarette smoke (first hand or second hand) is an environmental toxin. Many cleaning supplies we use in our homes are toxic. The good news is there are many safer alternatives. Make your own cleaning supplies or purchase safer alternatives. Reheat food in glass containers. Check the Environmental Working Group's website to determine the safety of your every day products.
Beauty products - This one can be a tough one for many. I know we think of our skin as a barrier to the outside world, but it absorbs a LOT. If you are slathering your skin with a toxic lotion (many of them are) you are absorbing many unwanted chemicals. Make up, lotions, soaps, creams, hair spray and deodorant can be very toxic and we expose ourselves to these things every day. My friend, Dr. Crystal, wrote an excellent article on an awesome brand called Beauty Counter, whose sole mission is to create safer alternatives to the every day beauty products we use. It's going to take a bit of research and trial and error, but finding safer alternatives is easier than ever. Check out your local co-op or health food store. They often have great options.
Chewing gum - You heard right! Have you ever checked the ingredient label on your chewing gum? Not only is it tough on your jaw (repetitive stress injury, anyone?), but it is often sweetened with artificial sugars. There are some alternatives that contain xylitol which is supposedly a safer option.
Snacking - We have only had unlimited access to food since grocery stores became a thing about 100 years ago. Before that, we ate our meals after preparing them and that was pretty much it. We are designed to go a few hours between eating. In fact, for many of us, this can be very beneficial! It allows our bodies to fully digest our food and use our own bodies as energy once we have used up our food's energy. If you are constantly eating, you are not giving your body a chance to use up its own energy stores (fat) and you may find it difficult to lose weight. If you're someone who snacks a lot, the transition may be difficult. Eat bigger meals with lots of quality fat, protein and 1-2 cups of vegetables. This will ensure you have enough energy and nutrients to get you to your next meal.
Have you found any "unusual" things that you found were compromising your otherwise healthy life? Dairy has been an issue for me. Especially when combined with sugar. Read: ice cream. I also find certain eye make ups make my eyes hurt so I have been transitioning all my make up to safer brands. I also prefer to use Dr. Bronner's soap and Beauty Counter's shampoo and conditioner. Finding safer hair care products has been a 7 year challenge for me!
In the end, all of these little changes can result in a healthier or unhealthier life. It's the little, daily things that really add up. Take it one day, one hour and one minute at a time. You deserve a quality, healthy life.