In many of these posts, especially about Functional Medicine, I come back to the importance of three things that are arguably even more important than the genes you’re born with: environment, diet, and lifestyle. But what do I mean when I use these words? Let me take a little time in the next few posts to help you understand. Today, we’ll start by talking about environment.
You may be used to thinking of environment in terms of where animals live in the wild or what we need to preserve from pollution and the like. However, more than just the physical conditions around us (such as average temperature, humidity, climate, and the like) when we talk about environment we’re talking more about the various things we expose ourselves to on a regular basis. We live in a world of various chemicals, from what we use to brush our teeth to what we rinse them with; from hand lotion to cleaning products; from plastic microwave dinner containers to the packaging our fresh meat comes in. These things and many others are our environment in this context.
Think of it in terms of a meal. How many chemicals are present when we sit down to eat a microwaved dinner that comes from a plastic container, which was produced in a particular factory from animals and vegetables that were grown and preserved with various chemicals, hormones, treatments and so forth? Now consider an alternative: you cook a meal made only with food from an organic farmer’s market full of goodies that have been freshly grown under organic conditions, transported locally, and which you prepare reasonably quickly to preserve freshness.
We have a great deal of control over what we put on, in, and around our bodies. We obviously cannot control all environmental factors—you may not be able to change locations to get away from the smog of a major city because you need to keep your job—but the products we use are largely in our control. Changing this, however, can seem daunting—especially if you actually take the time to write down all the various products you use regularly during a week. How can we even begin to make improvements?
I’m going to do a separate post about ways to get started making improvements in these three areas, but let me just say right now that while our bodies can absorb through the skin, what we ingest is the single biggest category we can change. I’ll leave you for now with this thought: What would happen if you cut out the fast food, microwaved meals, and other foods with lots of preservatives and stuff on the labels you can’t pronounce for fresher foods you make yourself?