Our immune systems plays a vital role in our health by protecting our bodies from harmful invaders and cell damage which can cause illness and disease. Our immune system’s job is to fight off bacteria and viruses which enter the body. A healthy immune system can detect the difference between the body’s own cells and harmful foreign invaders. When our immune system is out of balance our bodies can start to treat its own cells as foreign objects and forge an attack on them (autoimmune disease), or create an unnecessary immune response to dust, mould and pollen (allergies) *.
The link between immune systems and atopic disease
One of the most telling signs that a population’s immune systems are out of balance is the rise in atopic diseases that many countries are now seeing. Atopic diseases include conditions like asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis and food allergies, and they go hand in hand with immune in-balances. In their book Growing Healthy Babies, Michelle and Victor Henning, Ph.D highlight that “atopic diseases have one thing in common: a hypersensitive immune system that is constantly on high alert, fighting supposed threats by triggering inflammation”. **
Atopic diseases can be triggered by genetics and also by environmental factors, including diet, exposure to toxins and lifestyle – all things which can have a significant impact on our immune system and how it functions. In fact, it’s thought that environmental exposures are responsible for around 70% of chronic diseases.* In addition, many studies have now been done which show that exposure to environmental toxins can also harm the immune systems of offspring and that this is passed along to subsequent generations, as far as great-grandchildren. This multigenerational weakening of the immune system can be explained by epigenetics: when lifestyle changes to our genes are passed on to our unborn children. In this article, we’re going to focus on how exposure to certain toxins can harm our immune systems, and some simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your family’s toxic load.
Which chemicals affect our immune systems?
Chemicals which are known endocrine disruptors also impact our immune systems, as immune cells have hormone receptors. Endocrine disruptors mimic our hormones and throw our delicate hormonal balance out of sync. Babies and young children are at greater risk from these chemicals, with exposure during pregnancy and early childhood a huge and growing health concern.
BPA, phthalates (and other plasticisers), flame retardant chemicals and formaldehyde are some of the main culprits to look out for and have all been associated with suppressed immune systems. Studies have found that immune systems are highly sensitive to BPA exposure, particularly in the immature immune systems of small children. There is also increasing amounts of science which shows that children with high levels of phthalates in their bodies tend to have lower IQ scores and a higher risk of asthma and allergy***. This is because phthalates are a known endocrine disruptor and they have been shown to disrupt healthy brain development in foetuses and small children. Chemical flame retardants are another group of chemicals which are known to disrupt hormones and should be avoided wherever possible. Formaldehyde is also strongly linked to immune system in-balance.
These environmental toxins also alter our genes, and, as explained above, these alterations are passed onto our offspring. Michelle and Victor Henning draw comparisons from the past “if you had walked into a random kindergarten or classroom anywhere in the world just forty years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a single child with any of these health issues. Walk into that same kindergarten or classroom today, and up to half of the children in it will be affected by some form of atopic disease or allergy.” This point is echoed by Rebecca Fett in her book Brain Health From Birth “In our grandparents’ generation, baby care looked very different. Cloth diapers, breastfeeding, and glass baby bottles were the norm, and there was little to no plastic involved. In that time, the modern plagues of autism, ADHD, asthma, and allergies were also extremely rare.”
How to reduce our exposure to immune damaging chemicals
In today’s world it’s almost impossible to remove all these toxins from your life, but it’s actually surprisingly easy to significantly reduce your family’s exposure to the main culprits. In general, keep things as simple as possible and choose as many natural and organic materials as possible to reduce the chemical load in your house. Buying used or second hand furniture is a great option, because furniture releases most of the toxic chemicals within the first few years after manufacturing. Washing clothing well before use and adding some vinegar to the wash can help remove harmful chemicals. With personal care products, look for products which say phthalate and paraben free, and choose things which are as natural and organic as possible, with the fewest listed ingredients to minimise your exposure to other potentially harmful chemicals.
And there’s lots you can do to help clear your body of chemicals which do make their way in. Below are some of our favourite tips from the amazing Lucinda Miller**** of NatureDoc Kids:
- Do a poo every day
- Sweat it out through exercise
- Spend a lot of time in nature
- Have an epsom salt bath regularly
- Eat the rainbow everyday
- Drink organic super green juices and smoothies
- Eat plenty of lemons, limes, apples and oranges
- Take a good, clean fish oil
- Ensure good levels of zinc and selenium
- Take zeolite spray from time to time
Pure Earth Collection’s mission to reduce the toxic load on children
Pure Earth Collection are passionate about helping our customers to reduce their exposure to environmental toxins. That’s why we created our award winning range of eco children’s products which are made using organic, natural and safe materials with non-toxic dyes and inks. We have a range of organic bedding for children, the perfect sustainable baby gifts, eco gifts for children, organic kids clothing and even some luxury bathrobes for adults too. Find out more about us and shop our products below.
* Million Marker: Can toxic chemicals harm. your immune system?
** Growing Health Babies, Michelle and Victor Henning, Ph.D
*** Brain Health From Birth, Rebecca Fett
**** Lucinda Miller on the @naturedockids Instagram page
Science Daily: Environmenal toxins impair immune system over multiple generations
Sex-assosicated protective effect of early bisphenol-A exposure during enteric infection with Trichinella spiralis in mice. Karen Elizabeth Nava-Castro, Helena Solleiro-Villavicencio, Víctor Hugo del Río-Araiza,Mariana Segovia-Mendoza,Armando Pérez-Torres,Jorge Morales-Montor