In recent years, the impact we are having on the environment has become one of the most significant concerns in the world today. We all know the effects that pollution is having on our planet, but is the quality of the air in our homes or our drinking water affecting our gut health too?
Over the last decade, research into the human gut microbiome has become far more in-depth and focused. This has allowed scientists to understand more about the system and how metabolic activities relate to our health. These studies have examined how the health of our gut can be influenced by our environment, particularly by the water we consume and the quality of the air we are breathing.
Toxins and our Gut Microbiome
Pollutants are all around us, and over the last few years, the quality of air in some of the world’s biggest cities has been steadily decreasing. This is a major concern, as not only do these pollutants impact the air that we breathe, but also the water that we drink.
Our gut microbiome is constantly changing. As we’ve previously discussed, this has a significant impact on our health, as our gut microbiota are responsible for keeping a huge array of complex systems in our body running smoothly. When these are altered by adverse external factors, such as pollutants in the air or drinking water, it can result in an increased risk of disease.
Though there are countless toxic compounds that do us harm, here is a short list of the most common:
- Heavy Metals
- Air Pollution
- BPA and it’s ‘BPA-Free’ alternatives
- Mycotoxins (or toxins from mold and other fungus)
- Forever Chemicals like PCBs
And many of these are found in our homes! Much of the stuff we live with emits these chemicals into the air, from the cars in our garages and the stoves in our kitchens to the sofas in our living rooms and the beds in our bedrooms. The materials our homes are built from are also covered in these chemicals, and even the smallest amount of water damage can lead to mold spores in the air.
Most of these chemicals have a deleterious effect on our gut microbiomes, as the gut bacteria best able to break down these compounds are also the ones more likely to cause inflammation. Furthermore, as these harmful microbes multiply, they crowd out the more generally beneficial ones! So now, not only are we being exposed to potentially carcinogenic substances, but we’re also becoming more prone to conditions such as obesity, diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and even neurological disorders.
How to improve the quality of our living environment
A healthy gut is essential in keeping our body and immune systems running efficiently. While we have previously examined the importance of the food we eat in maintaining our gut microbiomes, it is only one part of the puzzle. Making sure our environment, especially our air and water, is clean is a major contributor to good health.
Thankfully, there are many minor adjustments that we can make to minimize the pollutants in our air and the water that we drink, including:
1) Clean regularly
Dust is made up of tons of many different things, and can harbor those harmful pollutants. When it comes to improving the quality of air in our homes, a regular dusting and vacuuming can be incredibly beneficial. But make sure to steer clear of the average cleaning products, as many have been found to release volatile compounds which contribute to poor indoor air quality! Stick to non-toxic brands and affordable brands, like Branch Basics! We switched to using Branch Basics for most of our household cleaning more than a year ago and have saved money, noticed our home is cleaner without sticky residues and are reassured by the quality of their non-toxic product!
2) Open the windows
Given the lowering quality of air in major cities around the world, it may seem strange to recommend opening our windows, but hear me out! Opening the windows improves airflow through the house, helping to transport pollutants out from our homes. Unfortunately, in areas with chronically poor air quality, it may not be feasible to keep the windows open all the time, but we should at least crack the windows when we’re cooking in our kitchens.
3) Get a quality air purifier
The harmful substances in our air are microscopic, and rarely have a detectable odor, meaning that even with deep cleaning, many of them stay in our air. One of the best methods to improve the quality of air in our home is to invest in air purifiers, which have been shown to prevent disease among all age groups!
An air purifier is able to filter the air in our homes by drawing in as much of the air as possible, filtering it, and then releasing it back into the room devoid of harmful particulates. Not all filters are created equal though! Look for purifiers capable of filtering out the smallest particles possible. We use the AirDoctor in our home; it contains an ultra Hepa filter which filters out particles as small as 0.003 microns, meaning it catches even the smallest of viruses and other particles!
4) Reduce carpeting
Hard flooring and tile is often a better choice when we are looking to improve the quality of the air in our home. Carpets have a tendency to trap particles, chemicals, and dirt, which can be very hard to remove and lead to poorer air quality overall.
5) Add houseplants
Another very important step to improving the quality of the air in our homes is to add air cleaning houseplants. Not only are these plants a beautiful addition to any room, but they can also help to clean the air we are breathing. Plants have also been found to have an array of additional benefits on our mood, focus, and attention: plants like peace lily, golden pothos, bamboo palm and english ivy serve double duty, as they both clean our air and can help reduce stress.
6) Add a water filter
The water we drink is a major vector for pollutants to get into our bodies! In fact, despite strict water quality standards, there is heavy variance in the quality of drinking water throughout the US. When it comes to improving the water that we are drinking, a water filter is an essential addition, as they help to reduce all types of potentially harmful particles in the water, not just those that are widely regulated. There are many filters available on the market, but we always recommend AquaTru, as it filters the widest range of particles out there! Whichever option you choose, it is vital to regularly change the cartridges to ensure that they are always working as efficiently.
Looking to optimize one of your major detox organs?
Pollutants in the air that we breathe and the water that we drink could be significantly impacting our gut health- that is why we want to ensure we’re always exposing our bodies to the very best! If you are looking to find out more about how to improve your gut microbiome, or you are looking to optimize your gut health, get in touch with Dr. Méndez today, or download her Gut Health Guide to get started!