Kay Ali, Hormone and Mental Health Expert & Co Founder of You Need A Nutritional Therapist. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Our health is not just about what we eat. There, I said it. As a Nutritional Therapist you might be surprised to hear me say that. But it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, what we eat plays a big part in the trajectory of our health. As far as medicine goes, we’re in really exciting times. Now more than ever, conventional medics are waking up and realising what Nutritional Therapists have been saying for centuries; preventative and lifestyle medicine is the primary long-term solution for our health and wellbeing. Yet, while food plays a huge part, it’s only one of many health factors that functional medicine practitioners recognise.
Sleep, environment, nutrition, movement, community, mircoorganisms and trauma are the foundations of our health. Ultimately these factors, filtered through our own belief systems and emotions, trigger our genetic predispositions and determine symptoms of health or disease. That’s the bottom line. What’s exciting about this is that most of these factors are easily modifiable. Of course, we pay most of our attention to nutrition because it’s an area that we can change pretty quickly. But we can modify our environment just as easily too. That’s why I’m always recommending in my clinic, healthy home upgrades that can really support our wellbeing. A few weeks ago, I posted about the harmful effects of plastics in our home and offered some tips on how to reduce plastic use in our kitchens (you can read the post here). This has inspired a four-part series I’d like to share with you that I’m calling the 'Healthy Home Edit’. The first in the series? Something I call ‘Plant Therapy’. And we all should be doing it.
What is Plant Therapy?
Kay Ali at Waterfall Country in Wales. Kay Ali is a hormone and mental Health expert & Co Founder of You Need A Nutritional Therapist. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Plant Therapy is really simple. The approach is twofold; firstly, spend more time in nature. Secondly, bring nature into your home. Health couldn’t be any easier. Most of us know that plants and trees provide us with the oxygen we need to survive. In basic terms, our cells need the oxygen to transform sugar into energy. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is pretty epic in itself. But the role nature plays in supporting our vitality is even bigger than that. Viewing our surroundings through biochemical spectacles, the atoms and molecules that make up our environment are either positively or negatively charged. We call them positive or negative ions. The names are quite confusing because negative ions are in fact what’s good for us. And guess what? They’re abundant in nature. Mountains, forests, waterfalls, coast lines and anywhere after a storm are where you’ll find them by the bucket load. It’s no coincidence that most of us feel happier after spending some time in these places.
Why do we want to surround ourselves with negative ions? They neutralize positive ions, which are harmful for us. There’s a wealth of scientific evidence that proves that negative ions revitalise our cells, enhance immune function, support detoxification and blood purification, neutralise free radicals and even balance the autonomic nervous system promoting deeper sleep, calm and better digestion (if that doesn’t blow you mind, I don’t know what will). Yet, the sad truth is most of us live in concrete jungles polluted with unhealthy positive ions. Cigarette smoke, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, mold spores, dust and chemicals are some of the positively charged molecules that lurk around us. They predispose us to sluggish detoxification, disrupted hormones, infections and airbone allergies to name a few. If you can’t spend time in nature, it’s important to bring nature into your home and office to help increase the negative ions around you.
Kay Ali at Brighton beach. Kay Ali is a hormone and mental Health expert & Co Founder of You Need A Nutritional Therapist. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
NASA study on natural air purifiers
A couple of years ago NASA ran an incredible study on the air purifying effects of indoor plants. At least 18 different plants were shown to purify some (if not all) of five common chemicals we’re exposed to. The chemicals tested were xylene, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and ammonia. Our exposure to them can range from paper bags and facial wipes to printing inks and window cleaners. Not to mention they’ve been linked to symptoms like headaches, dizziness, liver and kidney damage and in some extreme cases coma. While their symptoms and sources vary, they all have one thing in common. They’re endocrine disruptors. In non-science talk, that means they disturb how the hormones we make communicate to our cells, ultimately leading to cellular dysfunction. A.k.a disease. While this sounds rather dramatic, NASA’s study showed that reducing our exposure to them can be helped by including certain house plants in our home. Here are my top four recommendations:
1. Boston Fern
Boston Fern. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Purifies: Formaldehyde and xylene
Where: Place your Boston Fern somewhere cool and in indirect sunlight. I recommend having them in your garage. Not only are they stunning, ferns help to purify xylene found in exhaust pipes, rubber, leather and tobacco smoke. Xylene has recently gained attention for its potential effects on asthma and reduced fetal growth. The research is strongest in proving its detrimental effects on our cardiovascular health and liver and kidney function.
2. Spider plant
Spider Plant. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Purifies: Formaldehyde and xylene
Where: Spider plants are similar to Boston ferns in that they purify formaldehyde and xylene too. I keep mine in the kitchen and bathroom because they’re bright spaces in my home, which spider plants love. What’s more is spider plants are brilliant at purifying formaldehyde found in materials commonly used in these areas such as paper bags, facial tissues, paper towels and napkins. Formaldehyde has been linked to nose, mouth, throat and lung irritations, as well as effecting male fertility and anxiety.
3. English Ivy
English Ivy. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Purifies: Trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene
Where: English Ivy features in various places in my home. From my bedroom to the dining room to the utility room, English Ivy is super low maintenance that anyone can take care of it. I highly recommend having these in your office because it helps purify trichloroethylene, which comes from printing inks, adhesives and varnishes. Associated symptoms of trichloroethylene toxication include nausea, dizziness, headaches and drowsiness. However, it’s also been linked to reducing the quality of female eggs undermining successful fertilization, neurological damage and even cancer.
4. Peace Lily
Peace Lily. Photograph by You Need A Nutritional Therapist Ltd © 2018.
Purifies: Ammonia, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene
Where: Everywhere, especially your utility room. Peace Lily , along with Florist’s Chrysanthemum were the only two plants that purified all five of the chemicals tested in NASA’s study. Of particular interest, it helped purify benzene which we're exposed to from everyday household items like detergents, glue, plastics, synthetic fibres, medications, tobacco smoke, pesticides, dyes and lubricants. It’s actually quite worrying when you start to break down where you might find some of these substances in your home – from our food, synthetic clothing and underwear to our washing up detergents we could be exposed to benzene in quite toxic amounts. Benzene intoxication has been linked to heart palpitations, confusion, dizziness and drowsiness. What’s more is benzene metabolites like phenol-hydroquinone has been shown to affect sperm motility and viability and nuclear DNA integrity.
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