Environment & Allergens

 

 



Environment, Allergens & Toxins.

There are many irritants, allergens & toxins in our environment which directly effect our health. From the food, air, water, products, the environment as well as what we mentally consume, it is important to minimise all toxins & balance the overactive response to harmless allergens. We must be conscious of what we put in our bodies, on our bodies & the influence of the environment we are in. It is only when the skin and gut barrier are chronically damaged that our bodies tend to overact to harmless substances. 

An allergen is a substance that causes an immune response. An irritant is a substance that causes pain, itching, or discomfort. A toxic substance is a substance that can be poisonous or cause health effects.

With a balanced immune system the body correctly reacts to irritants and allergens. A toxic substance is not beneficial for human health in general and the adverse effects often compound, especially if they accumulate in the body or are not easily excreted or metabolised. Here are some of the most common irritants, allergens and toxins. 


Dust

The majority of us are sensitive to dust. Refresh your bedding daily by shaking off any dust and dead skin outside. Allow it to sun dry occasionally. Wash bedding in hot water, using soap berries over 60°C every two weeks. At this heat, dust mites are killed. 

Vacuum regularly and use hard wood flooring instead of carpet. If you are going to be coming in contact with a dusty environment, wear long sleeve clothing to minimise exposure. Use pure cotton and natural fibres for your furniture, furnishings and clothing which usually contain less toxic chemicals and don't attract dust as easily. 

Use a quality HEPA or high-efficiency particulate absorbing filter. Filters meeting the HEPA standard must satisfy certain levels of efficiency. Common standards require that they must remove at least 99.95% of particles whose diameter is equal to 0.3 μm; with the filtration efficiency increasing for particle diameters both less than and greater than 0.3 μm. They can capture most pollen, dirt, dust, moisture, bacteria (0.2-2.0 μm), viruses (0.02-0.3 μm), and submicron liquid aerosols (0.02-0.5 μm).

Grass

Be careful when playing sports on grass fields and sitting on grass as many people with skin problems are sensitive to grass. Make sure to close the window when someone is mowing the lawn or to not have your laundry drying when this is happening. Grass sprayed with chemicals like glyphosate can also cause irritation. 

Animals

Be careful around animals in particular cats and dogs. Many people are also sensitive to insect bites.

Chemical Irritants

Common chemical irritants include washing powders, detergents, fragrances, air fresheners, hair sprays, soaps, hand washes, pesticides, nickel, cleaning products and chemicals in beauty & skincare products. Start understanding the labels on your products. 

Glyphosate
Glyphosate is a common herbicide used in crop & non-crop lands, including residential areas such as home lawns and gardens. Glyphosate was first registered in the United States in 1974 as the active ingredient in Roundup but is now available in many commercial herbicide products. Glyphosate in the body negatively effects our gut bacteria, increases allergy susceptibility, weakens the immune system & disrupts hormones. It is also suspected of causing genetic damage, cancer & organ failure. Glyphosate is acutely toxic to fish and birds & can kill beneficial insects & soil organisms that maintain ecological balance. 

Avoid using any of Monsanto's Roundup products for your lawn or gardening.  Make sure your food is GMO free especially if it is one of the most common GMO foods (soy, corn, canola, sugar beet, zucchini, cottonseed, alfafa, papaya, potatoes). 
Thoroughly soak, scrub & wash fresh produce. In the initial phases of our HAD Diet we recommend peeling the skin off all fruits & vegetables. Avoid animal products like meat or dairy where GMO foods were used to feed the animals.

Buy organic where possible especially for those in EWG's list of 'Dirty Dozen' foods which use the most pesticides. You can be more forgiving for those of the in the 'Clean Fifteen'. 

BPA, PFOA & Pthalates

Avoid products containing BPA, PFOA & phthalates as they disrupt normal hormone function, the immune system and neurological development. They are everywhere from plastic products, to cosmetics, fragrances, cookware, water bottles & the lining of cans. The main food sources are bottled water, packaged foods and canned items. They have been banned from European cosmetics but are still prevalent in U.S. products. 
PFOAS were used in non-stick Teflon pans up until 2015 & has been linked to many diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver tumours and reduced fertility. Before their manufacture started in the late 1940s, no PFAS were present in the environment. Now they contaminate every corner of the globe & have been found in the blood of people and wildlife worldwide. Use ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron cookware & glass/wood/bamboo/stainless steel cutlery & crockery. Minimise the use of plastic, including food stored in plastic and never heat plastic.

Nickel
If you are getting rashes on your neck, belt line, wrist or ears you may have a nickel sensitivity. Nickel can be found in belts, watches, necklaces and jewellery as well as in foods & can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Foods high in nickel include canned fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate, shellfish and ground meat. Stainless steel cookware and utensils can also release nickel when cooking with acidic foods like tomato, vinegar or lemon.

Fragrances
Synthetic fragrances cause more allergic contact dermatitis than any other ingredient. A fragrance can be made of hundreds of ingredients and there are over 5000 different fragrances used in personal care products, soaps, colognes, air fresheners etc. There is no way of knowing what the chemicals are, since it will simply show as "fragrance" on the label. Some problems caused include headaches, dizziness, rash and coughing.
If you need to use perfume don't spray it directly to your wrists or neck just on your clothing. Over time as your skin heals you should be able to use it sparingly on the skin but while your problem is severe it is best to avoid all deodorants, colognes and fragrances. Avoid skincare and personal care products containing fragrances. Eventually when you do want to enjoy scents and are healed, pure essential oils are a cleaner, non-toxic way to enjoy scents. 

Preservatives
Preservatives are the second most common contact irritant in personal care products. As they are designed to prevent microbial growth, many preservatives are irritating to the skin. However they are also essential to maintaining the safety of products containing water. Only completely water free, oil only products can be made without preservatives. Even if the company claims its product are preservative free, they still contains ingredients that function as a preservative but may not be technically classified as one.
The most irritating preservatives tend to be methylisothiazolinone, phenoxyethanol and diazolidinyl urea. Less irritating all natural preservatives include Leucidal & sodium levulinate/anisate. The irritation potential depends on the percentage used, the nature of the formula, your personal reaction & frequency of use.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) / Harsh Detergents
These are foaming agents found in about 90% of shampoos, body washes, gels, bubble baths and cleansers. Over-exposure to SLS has been linked to severe skin irritation. SLS could also damage the skin's immune system by causing layers to separate & inflame. Gentler alternatives include mild, non ionic surfactants like decyl & coco glucoside. 

Strong detergents in dishwashing liquids, bleaches, laundry powders, cleansers, shampoos, surface sprays, floor cleaners & other cleaning products can also be quite irritating. Surfactants can penetrate through the stratum corneum & interact with proteins and lipids in the epidermis, resulting in skin tightness, dryness, epidermal barrier damage, irritation & itching. Always use gloves when cleaning, rinse all detergent off your plates, use natural, gentle detergents & wipe off trace detergents with water after cleaning surfaces.

Alcohols
Alcohol is drying, irritating and strips your skin’s moisture barrier. It is most commonly found in shaving products, cleansers, toners & men’s skincare products. Avoid the following; SD alcohol, alcohol denat, benzyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol & ethyl alcohol. There are also ‘fatty’ alcohols derived from natural oils & fats which are beneficial. For example, cetearyl or cetyl alcohol.

Synthetic Colours

Synthetic ingredients are used to colour creams, cosmetics, hair dyes & should be strictly avoided. They are highly irritating and can be carcinogenic. They will be labelled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. For example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6.

Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) & MEA (Monoethanolamine)

These "amines" or ammonia compounds are used in cosmetics & creams as emulsifiers or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. They can also disrupt hormones & are toxic if absorbed for prolonged periods. In fact they are even restricted in Europe due to their known carcinogenic effects.

Ethoxylated Ingredients
Ethoxylates are a class of non-ionic surfactants which are commonly used in detergents, household and industrial cleaners, cosmetics, agriculture, textile, oil and other industries (19). Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals to make them less harsh.

The ethoxylation process can create small amounts of 1,4-dioxane and leave residual ethylene oxide in the product (20). These toxins are linked to breast cancer and other cancers making them potential carcinogens.

In cosmetics ethoxylated surfactants are used as foaming agents, emulsifiers and humectants. They are usually found in shampoo, liquid soaps, hair relaxers and creams. Look for PPG, PEG, polysorbate, polyethylene and ingredients that end in –eth such as laureth, steareth, ceteareth or -oxynol.

Food toxins 
Many of our foods have strayed very far from how nature intended in order to be commercialised, have certain properties, make them more shelf stable, cheaper to produce or more tasty. A lot of 'foods' look, taste and smell like food but they are far from natural or healthy. It is best to keep your diet as unprocessed as possible.
Some of the top food toxins to avoid include trans fats (margarine, shortening, many baked goods), artificial colours, phthalates, BPA, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, BHA & BHT (preservative often used in chewing gum, vegetable oil, cereals, chips), MSG/maltodextrin, sodium nitrate/nitrite (used as colourants/preservatives for processed meats like hot dogs, bacon & sausage), glyphosate pesticide, potassium bromate (bromated flour as an oxidising agent). 

Water Contaminants 
There are over 330 identified man-made chemicals detected in UK top water to date. Some common waterborne contaminants include: aluminum, ammonia, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chloramine, chromium, copper, fluoride, lead, nitrates/Nitrites, mercury, PFAS, perchlorate, radium, selenium, silver, uranium.

Filtering your tap water is highly recommended especially for drinking or cooking. Standards between countries vary greatly as do their water treatment. Most countries no longer add fluoride to the water but some do.

A reverse osmosis filter is one of the best ways to filter your water. Simpler systems such as Brita filters don't remove as wide an array of contaminants but can be more practical. If you are highly sensitive or live in an area like the UK with hard water, it would be useful to install a shower filter as well.  

Chronic health effects of drinking contaminated water can include cancer, liver or kidney problems, reproductive difficulties, brain function and skin rashes. Since at least 60% of the human body and 64% of your skin is made of water, quality water is absolutely essential for health.

Air Pollution
Toxic air pollutants pose serious health risks. The severity of the risk depends on the specific pollutant, concentration and period of exposure as well as how an individual reacts to a particle toxicant.

Sources of air pollutants include motor vehicle emissions, solid fuel combustion, emissions from coal-fired power plants, industrial emissions, and materials such as paints and adhesives in new buildings. The six major air pollutants include particle pollution (particulate matter), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and lead.

Indoor air also can also be polluted from tobacco smoke, building materials like asbestos, paint fumes and chemicals like solvents. Biological pollutants arise from sources such as microbiological contamination from moulds, the skin of animals and humans and the droppings from pests such as cockroaches. Biological pollutants can be airborne and can have a significant impact on indoor air quality.

Side effects include impaired lung function, coughing, damage to the cardiovascular, nervous system and brain, reduced fertility, birth defects, irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and skin and cancer.

Ideally live in a well ventilated home, that receives plenty of sunlight and air flow. Don’t live on a major road or in an industrial area to reduce pollution exposure. Live near a park or a body of water, outside of the centre of the city. Walk or cycle along smaller roads or along the river/park where there are less or no cars. Use natural, toxin free household and personal care products. Open the windows regularly and use a fan to increase air flow. Don’t live in places where there are clear mould issues.

Incorporate weekly trips in to nature whether that be a beach, forest or park.

Chemicals in clothing
Clothing is important for your skin health as it is in direct contact with your skin, effects your mood & helps regulate temperature. Wearing the wrong type can lead to heat rash or an allergic reaction. Common potentially toxic chemicals used in the production or finished product of clothing include lead (for dying fabrics), phthalates (used to make plastics more flexible), PFC's (used to create water repellent clothing) & formaldehyde (toughening & antibacterial). 

Wear light, breathable, quality 100% cotton, flax, hemp, bamboo or linen clothing. Organic when possible. Avoid irritating clothing made of scratchy, synthetic or dust prone materials such as wool, velvet or polyester. Avoid easy care, water repellent, flame-retardant, anti-static clothing which are treated with potentially irritating chemicals. Buy high quality clothing rather than fast fashion as it is more sustainable & holds its shape longer. Layer clothes to allow for heat control.

Mental Toxicity 
Toxicity in the environment is not limited to chemicals, irritants and allergens. We are energetic beings with powerful minds. What we pay attention to, think about, talk about & form habits around shapes who we are, our perspective & the trajectory of our life. 

Common forms of potential mental toxicity include mainstream media, social media, low frequency music, TV, movies, friends & workplaces. None of these are inherently bad, however sometimes negative tactics are employed to sustain our intention & mindless consumption. 
We need to be conscious of everything we are paying attention to & mentally consuming across our senses. What we hear, smell, listen to, follow, read, do & watch. The energy of our environment, friends & lifestyle. 

Developing the ability to see many perspectives, critical thinking & self understanding will help us to manage mental toxicity. We will face it, however ultimately it is up to us in both how we respond to toxicity as well as whether we choose to consume it. Pay attention to how you feel, it is a strong indication. Does it energise you or drain you? It is not illogical to 'trust your gut', it actually uses much more data than logical thought alone. It factors in every emotion, subconscious & conscious experience to date to help guide you. 

Have an Allergy Test
Everyone is allergic to different things. Make sure you work with a medical practitioner to see if it might benefit to get a skin prick test &/or blood test. That way you have a clearer understanding of what you are irritated by and allergic to. In a skin prick test they will prick your skin & place a different allergens on each spot then measure your irritation response.
In an immunoglobulin E (IgE) blood test measures the level of IgE, a type of antibody. Antibodies are made by the immune system to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, and allergens. IgE antibodies are normally found in small amounts in the blood, but higher amounts can be a sign that the body overreacts to allergens.
The test includes two types of test:
Testing for total IgE - the total level of IgE in the blood.
Testing for specific IgE - the level of specific IgE against a particular allergen.

If you have chronic skin condition and an overactive immune system you will likely be allergic to a broad range of usually harmless things. It is important to remember that as you heal your skin & gut barrier & balance your immune response your immune system can normalise with time.

However, it is especially important to be aware of any severe food allergens you have as an anaphylactic reaction can occur in severe cases. It is possible to balance the response but please work with a medical professional or immunologist.

Patch Test 
Before using any skincare or personal care products, perform a patch test. Some parts of the body like the face and crevices of the body are more sensitive as the skin is thinner there.

Select an area of healthy, unbroken skin and apply a small amount. Wait 5 to 10 minutes to see if any redness, tingling or irritation occurs. If not, apply a small amount on an affected or more sensitive patch of skin. If this does not cause irritation you can proceed to use it more widely. If it does, discontinue use and wash it off immediately.

Keep an excel spreadsheet with the date, location of application, dose of application & impacts. Do the same with your diet, lifestyle & instances of contact irritation or flaring. This allows you to observe any potential contact irritants or triggers that you might encounter over time.

Many products might be tolerable on initial uses but have a damaging or irritating effect after frequent uses which is why it is useful to track what you are using & coming in contact with. If irritation occurs on isolated parts of the body it is an indication of a contact irritant, likely a product you are using on that part of the body. 

Want to learn more? See our Problem Skin Bible.

The first skin health system for problem skin comprising of our Hypoallergenic Diet, allergen avoidance & lifestyle advice.