What you never knew about plastic (and your health)
Since the 1950’s when large-scale production of plastic began, it is estimated that more than 9 billion tonnes of plastic have been manufactured – all of which still exist in some shape or form today; that’s the equivalent of 1.3 million empty double-decker buses worth of plastic.
The purpose of this article is to share with you the effects that plastic has on our health and what simple things you can implement right away to make your 2019 kinder on both your body and our planet. I’ve also created a Christmas gift list for you with some environmentally conscious ‘must haves’ in case you don’t know what to ask Santa for this year!
The same properties that make plastic so popular – durability and chemical stability – can also make plastic a major pollutant to our environment.
When plastic isn’t disposed of or recycled correctly, it can end up in our waterways, degrading so slowly that there are now massive “plastic islands” floating in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Bit by bit, grocery bags, kids toys, boxes and trinkets break into micro-fragments that marine life and seabirds mistake for food.
The plastics or plastic by-products accumulate in the tissues of these animals, and as a result, animals further up the food chain, including us humans, are then consuming these animals and taking on concentrated doses of these toxic compounds which can have an endocrine (hormone) disrupting effect in our bodies.
Imagine a world where seafood is off the menu because it has become too toxic for human consumption; this is where we are heading.
HOW DOES PLASTIC AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
The chemicals in plastic products can disrupt our cellular function in a number of ways. They can bind to the steroid receptors of our cell membranes which are otherwise occupied by hormones, thus disrupting the action of that hormone, or they can be structurally so similar to a hormone that the body can mistake the two, which scrambles our body’s intra-cellular communication somewhat.
When chemicals in our environment mimic natural hormones and have a biological effect on our bodies, this is known as “environmental signalling”. This mechanism is increasingly being explored as it explains the link between increased exposure to environmental toxins and ill-health. These chemicals, also known as ‘endocrine disruptors’ can alter the body’s hormonal system and consequently produce adverse immunological, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects including metabolism interference, weight loss/gain difficulties, thyroid dysfunction, early puberty and allergies.
In a nutshell – chemicals send messages to us, but when our cells receive information, they are confused and, as a result, cellular function is distorted.
One additive that is added to PVC to increase its pliability is phthalic acid. Phthalates have numerous adverse health effect including metabolism interference, thyroid dysfunction, early puberty and allergies.
Developing fetuses and infants, whose neural and reproductive systems are still being formed, run the greatest risk of damage from endocrine disruptors. In laboratory studies, adverse consequences such as low fertility, premature sexual development and cancer, have been linked to early exposure to these hormonal mimics.
Plastic is lipophilic i.e. it migrates to fat cells to be stored. With this in mind, if your goal is ‘fat loss’ and to shift some wanted pounds, I’d encourage you to really support your detoxification processes in the body at the same time so that includes your liver, your bowels and your skin so that your body is able to maintain the turnover of these deadly molecules in the cells and aid them out of your body safely as you embark or re-focus on your weight loss journey.
If your body doesn’t have the tools to safely evacuate the toxic build up in your fat cells then it’s going to put the brakes on your fat loss results in an attempt to keep your body safe which is it’s number one goal. Until your body is able to safely rid itself of toxins, you’ll likely not see the results you want to see with your health and consequently shape or weight loss goals.
A reminder – you will have been exposed to plastics across your entire lifetime and the more body weight you’re holding onto the more fat storage potential you have so make sure you approach weight loss from a health perspective – you need to be healthy to lose weight and not the other way around.
Supporting the liver, healthy elimination through the bowels and regular sweating through exercise and sauna sessions use are all shown to help rid the body of plastics such as BPA.
Sidenote – I get all my weight loss clients on a key liver supplement and gut support so their bodies are supported through this fat loss journey as their body could temporarily become more toxic as their body cleanses itself of stored toxicity.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
While the biggest positive changes will be made from the top down with more environmentally minded policies being introduced at a government level, we as individuals can still take action.
So much of life’s apathy is down to the lack of collective effort to prevent or induce change. Collectively, we can make a difference.
5 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN IMPLEMENT NOW
- Food wrap. Abandon clingfilm and tinfoil and switch to glass tupperware or a beeswax flexible cover. If you do use clingfilm, ensure it’s LDPE-based plastic and not polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and regardless of what type it is, never use it in the microwave.Heat causes toxic additives such as the plasticizers, stabilizers, flame retardants and lubricants that are added to the clingy plastic to become loose, which causes them to then migrate into our foods, particularly fatty foods such as cheese, which we then ingest causing harm to the body.It seems obvious but not buying so many foods wrapped in plastic is a good place to start. If your food does come in plastic, unwrap your food products wrapped in plastic when you get home from the grocery store and if possible, trim away any meat or cheese that was touching the cling film or plastic wrap, and then store it in a glass container that seals with a lid.
- Plastic bottles. Switch your plastic bottle for a reusable BPA free bottle which keeps liquids cold. If you do drink from a plastic bottle, don’t drink liquids from a plastic bottle that has been sat in a warm car. The same logic as above applies, the warmth from the sunshine will mobilise toxins in the plastic and allow them to migrate into your water.
- Reusable bags. Purchase reusable grocery bags made of natural materials such as cotton and use them as often as you can.
- Beach cleans. Get involved in a local beach clean or do one yourself. Check out the Menorca Preservation Fund for the next organised beach clean or take an extra bag with you on your hikes and beach walks so you can pick up a few bits of plastic yourself every time you go on a walk.We integrated a beach clean with our latest Menorcan Retreat and our Retreaters LOVED it! We kept picking up litter for the rest of the Retreat wherever we went on our hikes as everyone became so aware of it. Once you see it you can’t unsee it.
I *love* this below photo and all the faces in it. Great people who all made a difference to a stretch of Menorca’s coast.
- Single-use plastics. As consumers, every time we buy a product we are voting for the kind of world we want to live in. It is paramount that we start moving away from one-time, throwaway plastics that contribute towards the degradation of the planet, negative impact on wildlife as well as human health, in exchange for long-lasting or natural alternatives.
The 5 biggest polluters to avoid when you’re on the go are:
- Plastic straws
- Plastic bags
- Plastic bottles
- Plastic coffee cups and lids
- Plastic cutlery
Swap these with more environmentally friendly and durable materials such as glass and stainless steel, or natural resources bamboo and hemp, and you will drastically reduce your personal plastic footprint whilst saving money in the long run.
Avoid the bag charge at the checkout, fill up your own water bottle for free, and get money back on hot drinks in most of the big café brands with your own takeaway cup.
A win for you, and a win for the planet.
[This is mum and I before our beach clean this Summer. It makes me smile just looking at it as I’d never seen my mum in a cap before. I thought she looked like a rebel school girl and we couldn’t stop laughing – as you can see 🙂 ]
8 CHRISTMAS GIFTS TO DO GOOD FOR THE PLANET (AND MAKE YOU A HEALTHIER HUMAN)
Tom Dyer, if you’re looking for Christmas gift inspiration for your wife, consider the list below 😉
- Insulated bottle – ‘Chili’ or ‘Klean Kanteen’ are my favourite brands. They are leak-proof bottle that keeps hot liquids hot and cold fluids cold (ideal for hikes and cuppas/coffee on the go).
- A ‘KeepCup’ Travel Mug – go into any cafe and ask for your takeaway tea or coffee to be filled in this mug instead of the non-recyclable cup and lid they would ordinarily give you.
- A set of stainless steel or reusable BPA free straws.
- Bamboo or reusable cutlery for picnics.
- Beeswax food wraps – made of beeswax, organic jojoba oil, natural pine resin and 100% cotton, these wraps are a great alternative to using cling film and tin foil. They also don’t leach any harmful chemicals into your food.
- Natural sunscreen – ‘GreenPeople’ is a great brand.
- Reusable mesh produce bags – drawstring bags made from cotton that you can use to pick and pack loose fruit and vegetables with instead of using thin plastic bags.
- Menstrual cup – For all the menstruating ladies this is a great gift to yourself; try ditching tampons and sanitary towels and replace them for a menstrual cup instead. This took me 10 years to go from thinking about doing it do actually doing it but now I’ve done it I won’t ever go back. It’s an economical, practical and environmentally kind change. ‘Mooncup’, ‘Athena’ and ‘OrganiCup’ are all great brands.
Wishing you a brilliant end to your 2018 and I hope the above article has given you a whole load of actionable inspiration and wisdom for you to introduce into your 2019.