Your Lifestyle Change Does Not Have to be Overwhelming
When you’re trying to heal chronic illness, there are so many areas of your lifestyle that usually need to be overhauled and it can be overwhelming because you don’t know where to start and it feels like a huge mountain to climb.
However, it doesn’t have to be so daunting if your overhaul is taken one step at a time.
When I was Healing
Though I had to make several urgent changes in my lifestyle overnight so I wouldn’t die, the majority of them happened over the course of about a year. The kitchen was one area in my life that needed a major overhaul because it was ridden with plastics, fragrance, chemicals, and chronic illness causing hazards.
I took baby steps and tackled each area one at a time until, eventually, my entire lifestyle looked one hundred and eighty degrees different.
You Have to Start Somewhere
There are several areas you can choose to make your lifestyle healthier and help prevent disease. They are:
- Kitchen (That’s This one!)
- Pantry (coming soon)
- Cosmetics (coming soon)
- Cleaning (coming soon)
- Medication (coming soon)
In this article, I am going to help you overhaul your kitchen to heal your chronic illness.
Why You Need to Overhaul Your Kitchen
Your kitchen can harbor some very dangerous chemicals and toxins that exacerbate your chronic illness symptoms and often prevent healing. These chemicals can cause new autoimmune diseases, cancer and a poor quality of life. Honestly, the kitchen is one of the easiest areas to overhaul to help heal your chronic illness and, I promise, you can do it!
Just a Little Clarification
When I talk about overhauling your kitchen, I am not talking about food. Yes, what you eat (or don’t) is a crucial area of your lifestyle that will need to change but we’ll be overhauling that in my “Overhaul Your Pantry to Heal Chronic Illness” post, not in this one. This post, about overhauling the kitchen will focus on appliances, utensils, cookware, soaps, food storage and more.
Are you with me?
Some hazards that can lurk in your kitchen are:
- BPA/BPS (Bisphenol A/Bisphenol S)
- PFTE (Polytetrafluorothylene)
- PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid)
- and more!
If you want to heal, it’s important for you to remove the toxins from your kitchen so your skin, respiratory tract, nervous system and digestive system don’t have to deal with them each day.
Also, when healing chronic illness, your food choices will change and there are certain kitchen appliances that will make life a lot simpler for eating whole food prepared from scratch,
60 Days to Overhaul Your Kitchen to Help Heal Your Chronic Illness
You may have noticed that this series has “365 Days of Change” in the title. That word choice is very intentional. It’s my goal to guide you step-by-step through overhauling your entire lifestyle within 365 days to help heal your chronic illness.
When it comes to the kitchen, I want you to carve out 60 days to revamp your kitchen.
- First, you need to become aware of the dangers lurking in your kitchen (through this post).
- Second, you need to make an action plan on what you need to do to remove the toxins from your kitchen and create a space that is safe, decluttered and convenient for preparing whole food from scratch.
My Overhaul Your Kitchen in 60 Days to Heal Chronic Illness Checklist will help you achieve your goal.
5 Areas to Focus on to Overhaul Your Kitchen for Healing
1 | Kitchen Sink
Let’s start our kitchen overhaul with the kitchen sink. At the sink, you usually have:
- Liquid Dish Soap
- Powder Dish Soap
- Hand Soap
- Dish Towels
When I need to know if a product I purchase like dish soap is safe, my most trusted tool is EWG. I am able to search ingredients, actual products and even scan products in the stores before I buy them to see if they meet my standards. In our home we don’t allow anything rated 3-10 or C-F. The only storebought items we choose to spend our hard earned money on have to be rated an A (and a few B’s) or a 1-2 on EWG. That means that they won’t contain any harmful chemicals or toxins known to cause diseases like cancer and autoimmunity or skin issues like eczema or even headaches. I strongly recommend downloading EWG’s app on your phone. It comes with a scanner that you can use in the store to scan a product you’re interested in and see what it rates. It’s awesome!
First, I’ll share with you the harmful ingredients found in the kitchen sink items and then, I’ll share with you healthy alternatives to use that will help you heal your chronic illness by limiting your toxin exposure.
Most Liquid Soaps Have:
- Methylisothiazolinone which causes skin sensitivities, allergies and is highly toxic
- Fragrance which causes nervous system and respiratory damage – read more here
- Dyes which are neurotoxic and damage the brain and skin
- Sulfates which disrupt the endocrine system, nervous system, eyesight and cause asthma and cancer
- Phthalates which are one of the top five allergens in the world
- Ingredients that are terrible for the environment
Most Powder Dish Soaps Have:
- Chlorine Bleach which causes asthma, skin and other respiratory issues as well as developmental and fertility problems along with cancer
- Hydrozincite which causes organ toxicity
- Antifoam which induces respiratory problems
- Sodium Hypochlorite which causes kidney and liver toxicity and respiratory problems
- Phosphates which cause skin irritation and asthma
- Ingredients that are terrible for the environment
- and many more harmful ingredients that are too numerous to list.
The soap you use for washing hands has much the same ingredients as liquid dish soap does which is why you’ll need to be sure you are choosing a brand and type that rates an A on EWG. You can see in the box below what we use.
I wrote a very detailed post about cleaning up your water here. Instead of revisiting that in this post, head over there to read it and come back here. You’ll need to make a choice that fits within your budget as to how you’re going to clean up your water. It touches your skin, the things you eat, your dishes and the vapors get in the air so you need to be sure your water is a clean as possible.
You wouldn’t think a kitchen sponge could be harmful but some of them are. Often times, they are topped with chemical softeners and fragrance and usually made of plastic and have toxic glue on them. In ways you’ll read about in the food/drink storage section below, you’ll see why plastic can be harmful and by now, I am sure you understand the importance of getting rid of chemicals in your home.
They aren’t all that hazardous but sometimes they can contain chemicals like formaldehyde and bleach from when they were manufactured. Buying organic can help mitigate the chemicals that can be on your dish towels, ultimately getting on the dishes you are drying.
The Best, Healthy Alternatives to Use for Your Kitchen Sink
- To replace your chemical-filled liquid dish soap, I like Ecover Brand. This is the one I use. Alternatively, you can search EWG for dishwashing liquid and choose a product rated an A.
- A healthier choice to replace your powder dish soap is also Ecover Brand. This is the one I use.
- For your hand soap, you can search EWG for products or make your own as we do. I just purchased a foaming hand soap pump and then I use this recipe to make my own non-toxic foaming hand soap: 2 Tlbs. Castile Soap, 1 Tlbs, Fractionated Coconut Oil, 10 drops of doTERRA On Guard Essential Oil. You could also buy this foaming handwash if you don’t want to make your own.
- We installed a whole house water filter for our home which has been a game changer for us in reducing toxins. You should always be using filtered water and again, I suggest you read my detailed post so you can choose the best filtration system for your needs and budget.
- I always steer clear of the sponges that have a scent and disinfectant in them because the chemicals are never healthy. A better choice is a natural sponge like this one or this one. If you would rather use a cloth to wash your dishes, these organic ones are a good choice.
- Here are some great choices for organic dish towels that are free of toxic chemicals.
2 | Food/Drink Storage
Surprisingly, the types of containers you store your food and drinks in matters a lot for healing your chronic illness. Again, the problem is that the body is coming in contact with chemicals that it wasn’t created to process, which can ultimately cause chronic illness.
It’s likely that you have plastic containers, styrofoam and even disposable drink cups. Let’s talk about these for a moment. By the way, BPA free is not a healthier choice.
Often contains Phthalates, heavy metals and it creates dioxins when it burns (which is an environmental pollutant that is highly toxic to humans). Plastics that contain BPA disrupt the endocrine system and all other hormones. It actually mimics estrogen.
Different types of plastics contain a variety of additives (like chlorine which is a halogen and endocrine disruptor because it steals iodine from the thyroid) in which companies aren’t made to disclose and they can further damage your health.
Additionally, the chemicals in plastic containers, plates, cups, silverware, etc., leach into the food or drink that they are holding. Katie wrote an amazing article all about plastic if you want to dive deeper into why it’s problematic.
Lastly, BPS is not a safer alternative. (See below for truly healthy alternatives). BPS is just a substitute chemical for BPA. It is as hormonally active as BPA and it also interferes with the endocrine system. It also has a damaging effect on embryonic brain cells as well as puberty and fertility.
The bottom line is that plastic is chemical and the goal of overhauling your kitchen is getting rid of chemicals that damage your health.
Contains the chemical styrene (a petroleum byproduct) which is linked to impaired vision and hearing, memory loss, poor concentration, cancer, depression, chronic headaches, weakness, poor kidney and blood functioning.
Though aluminum is found naturally in our soil, and various foods at very low, tolerable levels, high levels have been directly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. More aluminum passes to your food from aluminum foil (or aluminum pots and pans) when high heat is used. Acidic foods also increase the leaching of aluminum into foods and ultimately into your body. It stores itself in brain tissue and alters neurological function. It’s best to just stop using aluminum in your kitchen and choose a healthier alternative.
Aluminum foil, plastic food containers, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, plastic wrap, styrofoam containers, disposable drink cups which are lined with PFOA – a chemical which disrupts the immune system, the plastic lids on plastic drink cups which contain BPA. Anything you find in your kitchen that is plastic or styrofoam, that you regularly come in contact with (or your food and drink come in contact with) you’ll need to replace with a healthy alternative in order to heal.
The Best, Healthy Alternatives to Use for Your Food and Drink Storage
- From just about day one of my healing journey we got rid of all our Tupperware (I know it’s cute and fun but it’s toxic my friends) and disposable plastic food storage containers and replaced them with this brand of glass food storage containers. We have had them for over five years now and they are just as good as new.
- I also use glass jars for storing broth as well as bulk pantry items.
- Alternatively, if you don’t want all glass or you prefer something other than glass you can use stainless steel food storage containers, though I find them more expensive for everyday food storage.
- I do like stainless for on the go lunches though. I own multiple of these lunch containers for cold lunches. These stainless lunch boxes are great for kids and these thermoses are wonderful to use for hot food. You just heat the food up first and then put the food in the container and it will stay hot for hours.
- When it comes to drink storage, our entire family has their own glass water bottle like these. We just have different sizes for different ages. The tops are plastic but you can get the non-straw version and just open the lid and drink your water from the glass. I have dropped mine several times and not broken it!
- The other option for drink storage is stainless steel of course. There is no shortage of these on the market of these now so be sure to pick yourself up one. Both the glass and stainless steel are great to travel with as well. That way you don’t have to rely on bottled water while traveling.
- When it comes to plastic sandwich bags for food storage, use these wax wraps instead. They’re reusable and washable and just as convenient to use. Additionally, keeping some of these hemp bags on hand are wonderful for sandwich storage and other small food storage.
- Instead of tin foil, switch to unbleached parchment paper to cook your food on.
- When it comes to buying your food at the grocery store and bringing it home, reusable bags are an excellent choice. You can get them for your produce and even to tote all your groceries home in.
3 | Dishes
What you place your food on when you’re eating and what you eat with can also affect your health adversely so let’s take a look at the dishes you use too.
The Health Dangers in Your Dishes
Similar to the food and drink storage, you’ll want to get rid of your plastic dishes. Again, I know they’re cute but there are really attractive healthier alternatives that will help you get well again.
Additionally, if you eat off paper plates, you’re going to need to stop buying any styrofoam versions or coated plates and cups because these are almost always petroleum based. Coated plates emit harmful VOC’s and when heat is applied to them, the toxin level increases.
Remember, your body was not designed to metabolize petroleum and man-made chemicals. They end up circulating in your body and altering organ function and mimicking hormones which can cause a myriad of symptoms. If you want to heal, you don’t want chemicals in your body playing tricks on it.
Two other areas of importance are your coffee maker and straws. Did you know it’s possible to use a coffee maker that doesn’t have plastic that touches your coffee? I’ll share our favorite type below. In regards to straws, there are some amazing alternatives to the plastic kind which is harmful to your health.
The Best, Healthy Alternative for Your Dishes
- First, if you can use ceramic dishes that are lead-free, it’s really the best choice. It cuts down on waste and you don’t have to worry about any chemical leaching into your food.
- If you absolutely need a disposable plate, then choose an unbleached, uncoated bamboo plate like this.
- Glass or ceramic drink pitchers are the best choices as opposed to plastic. **Please don’t put any acidic drink in a plastic container, because an increased level of chemicals from the plastic will leach into your drink!
- Again, glass mugs or ceramic mugs and cups are the best choices for your drinks. Plastics should be avoided.
- Our favorite 10-cup coffee maker that is made of glass and makes a delicious cup of coffee. We use unbleached paper filters for it.
- A more inconspicuous item in the kitchen that should be swapped out for a healthier version are straws. We use these stainless ones (I love the straw cleaner that comes with it). Glass straws are a great choice too – especially for adults.
- It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that using stainless steel forks, spoons and knives are the healthier choices.
4 | Cookware/Bakeware/Utensils
One of the biggest investments we made in our health was switching out all of our pots and pans to safer, healthier alternatives. When we got married we received a set of Calphalon pans which were amazing non-stick pans but after learning about how damaging the coating on the pans can be for our health, we knew we had to make the switch to something less toxic.
Furthermore, as I examined the rest of my kitchen and the utensils I used as well as the bakeware I enjoyed, I knew I had to make changes there and so, over time, I made the healthy changes necessary.
I’d like to share with you the dangers of the Teflon coating on your non-stick pans and give you some healthier alternatives for those as well as numerous other utensils and tools in your kitchen.
The Dangers in Certain Pans, Bakeware, Cooking Tools and Utensils
The biggest hazards in your kitchenware are Teflon or PFOA, any type of coated utensil or pan and plastic. Since we’ve discusses plastic at length, it safe to assume that you know you need to get rid of your plastic utensils. Things like spatulas, spoons, whisks, measuring cups, measuring spoons, strainers, cutting boards, mixing bowls, tongs, ladles, etc.; They all need to be replaced with healthy types.
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) otherwise known as Teflon
PFOA is a biochemical known to disrupt the immune system and according to Dr. Amy Myers, “it’s found in nonstick cookware, disposable coffee cups, grease resistant boxes like pizza boxes, in clothing, carpet guard, computer chips, phone cables, car parts and flooring.” PTFE is used in the processing of making Teflon. PFOA increases the chances of cancerous tumors and is a known carcinogen. It does not break down in the environment and bioaccumulates in the body for up to 2.3-5 years.
Needless to say, to further reduce the chemical load on your body, you’re going to need to choose kitchenware that is not coated.
The Best, Healthy Alternatives for Your Cookware/Bakeware and Utensils
- Choose Stainless Steel Pots and Pans. These are the ones we own and we bought them as a set and added a few additional pots and pans to the set like this and this.
- The other option that I love for a healthier pot and pan is cast iron. I have several types – a ceramic coated dutch oven, a cast iron wok, cast iron square grill pan, cast iron griddle, cast iron skillet and a cast iron quesadilla pan. They are excellent to help increase iron levels in your food (and body) and very easy to care for. Choose these over copper please as most Americans have high copper levels already.
- Big and Small Spatulas that are stainless steel
- Organic Wooden Utensils be sure you choose organic because non-organic can often be coated with industrial solvents and chemicals that will leach into your food.
- Stainless Steel Spoon
- Stainless Steel Whisk
- Stainless Steel Colander or Ceramic Colander
- Stainless Steel Measuring Cups
- Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons
- Stainless Steel Ladle
- Stainless Steel Spider
- Stainless Steel Tongs
- Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
- Uncoated Muffin Pans
- 9 x 13 Pan either stainless or ceramic
- Stainless Steel Roaster
- Organic Wooden Cutting Boards. Again be sure you buy organic and ensure that your board is not coated with industrial solvents and chemicals.
5 | Small Appliances for Quick, Simple and Convenient Whole Food Prep
I’ve confirmed this already, but this post is not about food per se. Instead, it’s about what your food and drinks touch and reducing the toxic load in your kitchen. However, when you are overhauling your diet and lifestyle, you’ll probably find that you will be spending a bit more time in the kitchen prepping healthy food and for that reason, I wanted to include this section on the small appliances that I own now and LOVE and didn’t own when I used to eat more processed foods and didn’t prep as much.
There are a few kitchen tools that are completely necessary for your kitchen overhaul and making your new whole-food diet easier to stick with. Here are my favorites!
- Instant Pot I own two – a 6 quart and an 8 quart one and it’s perfect for making bone broth. I love that I can saute my food, slow cook it and pressure cook it. I also LOVE that the interior pot is made of stainless steel. This appliance has replaced all my crock pots (since the stinkin’ crocks always broke).
- Food Processor Early on in my healing, before I owned one of these appliances, I spent a lot of time cutting veggies and cauliflower rice, let’s not even talk about making cauli-rice without a good food processor. Now I prep many of my veggies using this tool. One of my favorites is using it to cut sweet potato chips, then frying them in a little organic coconut oil for a snack. This gadget is worth its weight in gold in my book! I did purchase some extra blades, including this grating blade, to be able to cut certain veggies in different ways. The container is made of plastic but I use it since I am not cooking my food in it.
- Immersion Blender I literally use this tool 3-5 times a week. From making homemade mayo to blending soups and dips, it comes in handy all the time. It’s quick and easy to clean up too.
- High Powered Blender We have owned our high powered blender for over 23 years and I have never had any problems with it and I use it at least 3-5 times per week. It’s a rock star in the kitchen! I use it mainly for smoothies but sometimes soups and sauces and I have also made ice cream and nut butter in it. I can’t wait until they come out with a glass container rather than plastic but for now, because of its ability to blend things so smoothly, I compromise on using the plastic container. There are glass blenders available but they aren’t high powered and will leave your smoothies, dips and soups chunky depending on your ingredients.
- A Spiralizer I used a very popular plastic version of the spiralizer for a little over a year (many years ago). There were two problems with it. For one, it was plastic and for two, the handle broke after the first year rendering it useless. I graduated to an even better stainless spiralizer that also peels and cores when I need it too. I absolutely love it.
- Chest Freezer when we changed our diet and lifestyle we also started ordering our grass-fed, pastured meat in bulk and freezing a lot of broth and pre-made freezer meals and bones for broth as well as pastured fat. Our chest freezer comes in handy all the time. I strongly recommend getting one if you can afford it and have space for it.
Are You Ready to Take 60 Days to Overhaul Your Kitchen to Heal Your Chronic Illness?
There are two ways you might be feeling right now:
- Like a deer in the headlights or
- Ready to conquer your kitchen
Let me speak to both feelings. First, if you are feeling overwhelmed, please remember, these changes aren’t made overnight. They have to be taken in baby steps. I would encourage you to download my checklist by clicking the image below. It will make it A LOT less overwhelming and gives you a roadmap to follow and then help you put an action in your steps. Start by determining which area of your kitchen you’re going to tackle first, then second and so on. Give yourself a 60-day deadline and mark it on the calendar and work toward that goal.
The bottom line is that you’re trying to reduce the toxic burden on your body to reduce or eliminate your chronic illness symptoms. No one can be perfect in getting ALL the plastic out of their life or overhaul their kitchen perfectly, but you have to start somewhere and any changes you can make will be helpful!
For those of you ready to take on the challenge, be sure to grab your checklist and get started! You can also leave comments below to let me know your progress and encourage those that feel overwhelmed.
You can do this! Your health will thank you!