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4 Ways to Improve Your Home’s Hygiene

Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.

That’s me, Katie Morra;

As always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.

On to the post...

What is home hygiene?

If you’ve found yourself exploring more into holistic wellness and functional medicine, you’ve likely considered taking steps to prioritize your personal hygiene products like cosmetics, deodorant and even perfume as a supportive measure for optimizing your health. These actions serve as excellent precautions to reduce your exposure to toxins since we put them on our skin almost daily; but have you considered taking it a step further? We encourage you to also consider the ways you can apply the same intention to reduce the toxins of your home since after all, you do spend a significant amount of time there!

Our microbiome (both skin and mouth) is influenced by our surroundings, with our homes being the most controllable environment of all. The variety of microorganisms present in your home can be influenced by factors such as the number of occupants, cleaning frequency, ventilation, climate, location, and exposure to chemicals, among others. Without causing too much stress and disruption, you can start to explore ways to do healthful swaps in the home or small changes you should consider. Here are a few action items to get you started:

Get Dirty..But Leave It Outside!

One of the most effective ways to nurture your microbial diversity is by spending time outdoors and engaging in activities that involve contact with soil. This concept ties into what's known as the hygiene hypothesis, suggesting that our excessive focus on sanitation and avoidance of germs has led to a decrease in the variety of microbes we’re exposed to. We're an interconnected part of a larger super-organism that includes microbes both inside and around us, the food we consume, and natural elements like the sun, soil, water, air, and plants. These elements are in constant interaction with our bodies, including our gut, immune system, and brain, whether they're present or absent.

What makes this interaction significant is how the outdoor microbes influence our immune system. The immune system is a highly complex and intelligent system that adapts to the environments it encounters. Spending time outdoors can support immune function and help it become less reactive to harmless substances. Activities like gardening and hiking are excellent for promoting a healthy microbiome. However, it's essential to be mindful not to bring too much dirt indoors. As it turns out, your grandma was right all along, and excessive dirt inside your home can have consequences. So, don't hesitate to get your hands dirty outside but do your best to leave it there.

Pro Tip: Implement a no shoes in the house policy.

Filters Galore

As environmental pollution and contaminants in our water sources continue to rise, it's evident that taking extra precautions is essential. Adding in air and water filters to enhance the safety of your home environment is a great option. Top-notch air purifiers effectively eliminate potential airborne toxins, reducing your vulnerability to exposure and inhalation. The same applies to water filters since water is a vital resource for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. Which filter is right for you and your home is dependent on the location of your residence as the exposures vary accordingly.

Pro Tip: Some good options on the market for your air purifying needs are the Air Doctor and Austin Air. As for water, you can start by learning a bit more about what is in YOUR specific water supply here. Some good options on the market for your water purifying needs are Berkey Filters, Clearly Filtered and pH Prescription.

Reduce Pollutants

There are some common indoor air pollutants most of us are regularly exposed to via building materials, fabric, carpeting, teflon bans, air fresheners, dust, etc:

  • Mycotoxins

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)

  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCss)

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  • Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

  • Trihalomethanes

  • Phthalates

The level of outdoor air pollutants found indoors depends on the type of ventilation system as well as the outdoor concentration of pollutants. The indoor presence of outdoor air pollutants varies based on the ventilation system and the outdoor pollutant levels. This means that the extent of contamination will differ for each individual depending on their location and household items. What we're not recommending is that you dispose of all your belongings and live in isolation. On the contrary, we suggest that you carefully consider what you introduce into your environment and make efforts to minimize the impact of certain materials.

The main substances to be aware of as it pertains to organic compounds are paint, plastics, pesticides, cleaning products, candles and furniture.

What can you do? Here are some simple interventions:

  • Eliminate or decrease off-gassing products if possible. Off-gassing is when a product releases chemicals into the air as vapor, which you can smell. This often occurs when a product is new. For example, the strong smell of fresh paint or new memory foam is a result of off-gassing. Importantly, some products keep giving off these chemicals even after the initial strong smell has faded, but the odors become less noticeable over time. Things like furniture, paint, mattresses, carpets, area rugs, etc. fall under this category.

  • Invest in and replace HVAC ducts

  • Consider a high-quality HEPA or charcoal air purifying unit

  • Invest in indoor plants that clear VOCs

Get a House Plant

House plants are a fantastic and fun way to support your indoor environment. On their own, plants and soil come with bacteria and viruses that are (for the most part) benign to humans. Exposure to these microbes can support your immune system.

Plants play a vital role in maintaining clean and healthy air through the process of photosynthesis. While humans inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide as part of our respiratory process, plants carry out the reverse. They take in carbon dioxide, along with water and sunlight, and use these elements to create sugar through photosynthesis. A noteworthy byproduct of this chemical process is the release of oxygen into the atmosphere. In essence, plants act as natural air purifiers, continuously replenishing the oxygen levels in our environment.

Even though modern air filtration systems in homes and offices are highly advanced, they lack the capability to generate oxygen. Oxygen is an essential component of the air we breathe, and its presence is crucial for maintaining our well-being. This is where indoor plants come into play. They are a practical solution to enhance oxygen levels and promote cleaner and healthier indoor air.

Some plants to consider:

  • Spider plant

  • Ficus/weeping fig

  • English Ivy

  • Chinese evergreen

  • Aloe vera

  • Bamboo Palm

  • Rubber plant

  • Snake plant

  • Boston Fern

Pro Tip: if you have pets or small children, ensure you check the safety for the above plants before placing them on the floor around your house- consider raising them or picking a more pet friendly option.

Remember that there is no shortage of fear-mongering happening on the internet. Our job is not to scare you into feeling like you can’t do anything or be anywhere. Instead, we hope you find this to be supportive and empowering as there are always things YOU can do to control YOUR environment.

How Do I Find a Practitioner?

You can actually test an individuals total toxic burden relative to environmental exposures and mycotoxins. At Gut Honest Truth, we primarily use a urine provocation test to give us deeper insights as to what YOU specifically are carrying in excess in the body and often this gives us hints and clues to what is truly problematic in your home and personal hygiene. Then we can work to not only do the day to day necessary lifestyle shifts like we discussed above but we can support the body in ridding the excess toxic burden so our patients can not only heal, but thrive.

If you need more support identifying your toxic burden and improving your lifestyle to support daily detox, schedule a consultation today with our Institute for Functional Medicine trained and certified health care practitioners.

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