It’s Week Four of the Six Week All Natural Challenge! Congratulations on all your hard work to get where you are today! I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of so many exciting changes going on in your lives. When I first made the connection between synthetic chemicals and my daughter’s behavior I remember how many times I wished for someone to ask for advice. I also remember thinking that once I had the hang of things I was going to make sure that all the information I learned and tested could be shared with every single parent, because surely I wasn’t the only one searching for answers for my child’s behavior issues. After the results I saw in Sophie from practically day one I said to John “Why isn’t anyone out there screaming this from the rooftops??” I guess now I’m out there screaming it, and I couldn’t be happier to know that others are hearing it, and most importantly, benefiting from it. I now receive daily emails recounting stories of families who have seen the same dramatic changes I saw with Sophie in their own children. Those emails make me so grateful that I’m able to do this. Thank you all for sharing your experiences, and I hope you will continue to do so.
In Weeks One, Two, and Three of the All Natural Challenge we focused on food. Those were some big changes for all of you, believe me I know. So this week we’re going to take it a little easier. You get a break from all the detective work in your pantry…but don’t stop reading those labels…you will need to be vigilant from here on out. But believe it or not you’re already armed with most of the information you need to make the right food choices. So this week we’re going to learn more about the chemicals in the other parts of your home. If you’re still seeing some undesirable behaviors going on, this week may help shed some new light on them.
In weeks past we’ve discussed how artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and artificial sweeteners affect behavior in negative ways. But there’s one more “artificial” that can be an enormous trigger for many children: artificial fragrance. It’s every bit as bad as all that other stuff in Sophie’s case. It took me a while to figure this one out. For some reason every Sunday afternoon she’d begin bouncing off the walls. It would start with hyperactivity and end with me beating my head against the wall because she was out of control. I assumed it had something to do with the fact that it was the close of the weekend and there was so much activity going on in the house to prepare for the new week. Then one day it hit me. We did a mountain of laundry every Sunday, and about the time she would lose control was the same time the dryer would start, which filled the house with that “springtime fresh” scent. I switched to a fragrance free fabric softener and the problem vanished. I also noticed a connection to behavior problems and disinfectant sprays (like Lysol and Oust, and a biggie for Sophie – Febreeze). In researching this issue I’ve read many stories of people with the same types of issues. Some of them are really interesting, like the story of one child who was typically very well behaved. except for one particular class at school. It was impossible for this child to stay out of trouble in that class, but that class only. Turns out he had a sensitivity to the teacher’s perfume. Artificial fragrances can make or break all the progress you’ve made if you are caught unaware.
Fortunately, artificial fragrances are pretty easy to eliminate. You can readily find unscented versions of just about any household product from dishwashing detergent (Seventh Generation makes a great one), to laundry detergent (anything labeled “Free and Clear” works just fine) to cleaning supplies. And this week I have some good news for you – you can actually save some money by switching from your store-bought, synthetic household cleaners to a very easy, very environmentally friendly cleaning routine. All you need is water, distilled white vinegar, and some baking soda and you can quickly clean just about anything. I’ve done this for long enough to know it really works. And even better news, if you have small children like Max who likes to explore in the cabinets you have absolutely nothing to fear if they grab hold of these. If you’d like more information on how to use very basic ingredients to make your own all natural cleaners you should definitely read this article on Kitchen Stewardship. I consider this the authoritative information on the subject, and you will too after reading it. Katie knows her stuff. But I won’t require you to make your own cleaning solutions (even though it’s super easy). There are plenty of products on the market that you should be able to satisfy the “No Artificial Fragrance” rule without needing that option. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to go with eliminating the chemicals that come along with them. Making this switch is an easy one, and the environment will thank you as well for using a few less chemicals and maybe even fewer products. So this week start taking a look at all those bottles of cleaning supplies in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom. If they are filled with artificial fragrance then try to find some environmentally friendly ways to get rid of them. And as you replace your cleaning products search for more natural solutions and products that you can be sure aren’t causing behavior reactions, or worse.
It goes without saying that scented candles and air fresheners are problematic as well, so you may want re-think your use of those. Also watch for fragrances, as well as artificial colors, in hand soaps. Those purple colored foamy soaps that smell like a berry explosion are not a good thing when it comes to changing behavior problems. Just stick with clear and unscented – they still wash off the same amount of dirt.
For me, I figure that if an artificial scent has the power to cause such an undesirable reaction in my otherwise sweet natured child then it’s probably not doing anyone any favors in the health department, so I cut them all out to the extent possible. But you don’t have to give up ever smelling a sweet scent again. There are ways to get a wonderful scent in completely natural ways. My favorite scent is lavender, so I bought a small jar of lavender essential oil. I put a drop or two onto a sock as it goes into the dryer and everything comes out smelling divine. I also put a drop on the bath towels, or on a towel in the kitchen and the whole room smells of lavender. And lavender just happens to be an excellent choice for children who have trouble sitting still or relaxing. A few deep breaths and Sophie is like a different person. I like to add a drop to Sophie and Max’s pillows at bed time – they settle right down. And whenever Sophie is anxious about something I put a drop of lavender oil on her favorite blankie. The calming effect is almost immediate. It’s magic stuff. If you chose to try lavender oil, or any other essential oil, just make sure that it’s high quality and contains nothing artificial that could un-do all your achievements so far. (I got mine at iHerb.com.)
So that’s your mission for this week – No Artificial Fragrances. It’s easy, right? But it’s probably something you never considered before. At this point all the really hard work is behind you and all we have left to cover are fairly simple changes. But the remaining two weeks are really important because they are usually the things to blame when someone says that they haven’t seen any improvement, or are suffering through a reaction and have no idea what happened. Next week we will talk about personal care products, like shampoos and lotions, and how some of those products and ingredients could be wreaking havoc on all the progress you’ve accomplished as well as your health.
As always, I’m here to answer questions or at least point you in the right direction. You can just comment below, or email me any time at contact.ourfamilyeats at gmail dot com. If you come across a wonderful product that fits into the all natural challenge please let us all know – especially this week. Who couldn’t use a few more recommendations for cleaning help? Don’t forget to check the All Natural Challenge tab at the top, along with the Resources tab for more articles and information to help you along the way. I frequently add information to both of those pages. Good luck this week! Take a deep breath – it’s smooth sailing from here!
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