According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “one in five Americans suffers from an allergy.” Are you one of them? This year has been particularly rough on those of us in Northern California, thanks in part to our mild winter and very early spring. I rarely suffer from allergies, but this spring I’ve dealt with the dreaded sore throat and sinus headache while working in the garden and on windy days. Thankfully, what I’ve felt is fairly mild, but allergies can really wreak havoc on people’s lives and in some instances cause death. If you’ve ever wondered how you can limit the amount of allergens you’re exposed to on a daily basis, or how you can finally get your health in order, this interview is for you. Board internist and environmental medicine specialist, Dr. Amy L, Dean, DO was kind enough to join me for an interview recently to discuss how we can all get our health in order this spring, how to shop effectively (and inexpensively) for “green” cleaning supplies, how we can get our homes in tip top shape once and for all, how to limit the toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and much more.
Candace Rose: How can we get our health in order this spring?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “The best way to approach health is setting the intention to be healthy. Start with small steps to achieve your goal. A big factor with health that is often overlooked is a person’s environment – both indoors and outdoors. Low levels of chemicals found in cleaning products as well as paints and varnishes we often store in the home can make us unhealthy. Getting your house in order and getting your health in order go hand in hand. Assess your house for signs of mold and check out what types of cleaning chemicals you use. Many products in the home contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to our health. VOCs are in air fresheners, varnishes, paints and even personal care products. Just realizing what you are exposed to on a day-to-day basis and taking simple steps to eliminate exposure can improve your health.”
Candace Rose: As someone with sensitive skin, I try my best to avoid harsh chemicals in every aspect of my daily life. What are some great cleaning alternatives that will get the job done, are good for the environment and aren’t harmful to our health?
Dr. Amy L. Dean: “There are a lot of great choices these days. I recommend patients use fragrance-free, plant-based cleaning products that can be found on the Internet, Costco or other stores. Brands include Seventh Generation, Ecos and Earth Friendly Products among others. Changing personal care products to fragrance-free, plant-based is also important as we absorb many chemicals through our skin.
Candace Rose: Is there anything we can do to limit the amount of toxins we’re exposed to in and around the home?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “Absolutely! That’s the best part about making changes in the home. You have the power to create a safe, non-toxic environment. Changing to plant-based cleaners and personal care products is a great first step. Also, many people use indoor pesticides. Eliminating their use can very much improve the health of people in the home, especially children.”
Candace Rose: Typically on the weekend we like to relax and take care of things around the house. Do you have any suggestions on how we can get the house in order?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “The American Osteopathic Association has a great “Spring Cleaning for Your Health” Weekend Checklist that makes it easy to get your house and health in order. The checklist helps you accomplish a little each day. It includes scheduling appointments with physicians and other health care professionals, disposing old medications, and purchasing safe cleaning supplies for your home. This checklist can be found at www.osteopathic.org/springcleaning
The AOA also has a great infographic on Steps to Safe Medicine Disposal, which can be found at www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/Documents/spring-cleaning-for-your-health-steps-to-safe-medicine-disposal.pdf.”
Candace Rose: “Green” or fragrance-free cleaning products/detergents can be so expensive. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who would like to avoid harsh chemicals but are on a budget?
Dr. Amy L. Dean: “There are great, inexpensive and safe household cleaners such as baking soda, Bon Ami and Borax.”
Candace Rose: Allergy season is terrible here in Northern California. Is there anything we can do to prevent allergy symptoms or treat them once we have symptoms?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “Prevention can be challenging. However, having a high-efficiency particulate air filter with charcoal air filter in the bedroom will help to eliminate pollen, molds and chemicals. Patients find this very helpful. Lowering the chemical load on the body by creating a non-toxic home environment also makes people less reactive to allergens. Many patients find eating less processed foods and eliminating sugar from their diet also helps minimize symptoms.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “I think it’s important for people not to get overwhelmed with changes. The important thing is that every small step you take to make a safer home will result in better health.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Dr. Amy L. Dean, DO: “To find more information and tips, and to download the online “Spring Cleaning for Your Health’ tools from the American Osteopathic Association, visit www.osteopathic.org/springcleaning.”