Health coach, media personality and author Elle Halliwell faced every expectant mum’s nightmare when she was diagnosed with cancer whilst pregnant. Determined to give herself a fighting chance, she decided to detox her whole life from chemicals for the sake of her well-being. If you’re inspired, she explains here how to go about it.
For most people, detoxing from chemicals is a gradual process. However, in my case, it took less than a week to remove hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals from my life.
You see, in 2016 I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of blood cancer, and discovered I was pregnant with my first child all within the space of 48 hours.
A Mother’s Choice
I had to choose whether to terminate for a better chance of survival or have the baby and risk losing my life. It was an incredibly stressful time for me and my husband Nick which I wrote about in my book A Mother’s Choice. Against medical advice, I chose to go through with the pregnancy which meant I wouldn’t start chemo drug treatment until after the birth.
Marie Kondo of Health
Given this, I wanted to become as healthy as possible during the pregnancy. I quickly decided I’d no longer consume or use anything containing chemicals, pesticides, preservatives or additives, to clean out and prepare my system. I became the Marie Kondo of health but instead of questioning whether something “sparked joy”, I’d ask, “does this bring me health, or is this potentially compromising my system more?”
Thankfully my son Tor arrived happily squawking two years ago and I started treatment immediately afterwards. I’ve now been in remission since Christmas 2018 and feel an organic lifestyle has contributed to my feeling of well-being and peace of mind.
I’m also now an ambassador for Australian Organic, the industry’s leading industry body as I want to inspire others to welcome organic products into their lives as well.
If you’re wanting to detox, here’s how I went about it:
Clear out your fridge and pantry
I started by pretty much throwing everything out of my kitchen. I love my local farmer’s market and buy fresh organic fruit and vegetables there for the week. All my meat is now organic and as I like to make chicken dishes so choose Hobbs Family Farms chicken from my supermarket. I’m not much of a drinker, but when I do, I chose an organic wine brand such as Kalleske.
I also like bulk food stores and co-ops which stock everything from natural laundry products to reusable household packaging. Unfortunately, there are “fake organic” products out there, so it’s important to look for the Australian Organic certified Bud Logo on products to know you’re getting the real deal. I also read the ingredients label now of everything I buy.
Tor likes the range of kids snacks from Whole Kids and I’m a sucker for Murray River Organics dried fruit. Other than that my top picks are dehydrated apple and pears, sultanas, coconut date rolls, cashews and pine nuts.
Ditch dodgy plastic containers and tins
Whilst pregnant I was extremely conscious of certain plastics containing bisphenol A (BPA) as some animal studies suggest a link between low levels of BPA and altered brain and hormonal development in offspring of mothers exposed to the chemical.
That meant takeaway food was a no-go as the thought of eating a hot laksa from a flimsy plastic container made me break into a sweat. Would you like a side of BPA with your soup? Yeah, nah. The potential presence of BPA in some tins also prompted me to avoid tinned food. You can still find BPA-free tinned food, but if I can, I use fresh.
I switched all plastic containers for glass alternatives. I also swapped all Teflon cookware for high quality stainless steel. The question of whether Teflon cookware is carcinogenic is a contentious one. A number of studies have noted that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – the chemical used to make Teflon – is likely carcinogenic – but only if it’s been emitted into the environment. Since it’s not present in the final product, there’s no real issue, but I’d rather not ingest little bits of it in any case!
Detox your makeup
Drugstore makeup was amongst the first casualties in my anti-chemical warfare. Skin is extremely absorbent, so I swapped fragranced body moisturisers for plain nut and veggie oils, which I apply after washing. For an exfoliator I combine a tablespoon of lemon juice, ¼ cup of castor sugar, ¼ cup of almond oil and a few drops of essential oils. I also use Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soap as a body cleanser and So Saba Organic’s Roll on Deodorant and Organic Toothpaste which does the job!
I now find shopping on websites such as Nourished Life and Flora & Fauna a really easy way to find more natural alternatives. I love Ilia for its blush sticks, which I use on my lips. The Jojoba Company’s oil products as awesome too as they don’t leave you feeling sticky which is good for summer. In winter I’ll use denser oils like almond or coconut.
Clean with a light touch
I grew up in a household where germs were the enemy. However, to build up our systems, antibacterial products are a no-no in our house and dirt play is highly encouraged! Vinegar, bicarb soda, soda ash, washing detergent and essential oils are my cleaning go-tos. I mix it into a spray bottle with water and use it for toilets, sinks, floors, counters and showers
Oils have become a major player in my cleaning arsenal. A few drops of lemon and eucalyptus oil in my electric diffuser gives my home a beautiful scent. I’ll also add this to bicarb soda and sprinkle on my carpet before vacuuming. Oh, and when my son decides to vandalise the walls (which is most days) a Magic Eraser is an absolute godsend!
In the dishwasher in lieu of rinse aid will fill up a cup with vinegar and sit it in the rack during a wash. I swapped chemical glass cleaners for an E-Cloth which gives cleaner windows, however my cat adores the scent of Springfields Essential Oils in Lavender, so I spritz a little on the floor for him to roll around in. He is a weirdo!
Go nuts for laundry
I love soap nuts – actual nuts from the soap berry tree which you add to your washing load. They’re natural, cheap and give a pretty good clean. I also add a few drops of an essential oil blend to a linen soap but bag which gives a beautiful fragrance. I also place 1/2 cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser when I’m washing towels which makes them soft.
Kind baby products
Tor’s bath-time and skincare products are very simple. I use TOM Organic nappies and Dr Bronner’s soap bars. If he gets a cut, I use So Saba Organic’s Calendula Cream. Zinc-based sunscreen Wotnot also works really well as a nappy rash cream.
I’m still learning how to avoid unnecessary chemicals, but also understand we live in a world and pollutants are a part of our lives. I also believe stress can be just as toxic as physical toxins, so I try not to over think it and just do the best I can. For me, my organic journey so far has been a rewarding one.
What chemicals have you ditched in your life? Tell us in the comments below.