At some point (if not currently) you've been left wondering WHAT IS MESSING with your body. Has it been indigestion? Nausea? It could be itchy skin, a rash, it goes on and on... At the end of the day we just want to know what's causing it and how to make it stop.
And that's always super duper easy, right?
Wrong. We probably already know that.
As I navigated my new allergies and subsequent eczema, I ended up stumbling across a whole bunch of REALLY SNEAKY ways that my allergens and other chemicals were making their way into my life. I also found out how lax our laws are when it comes to being honest about the content in our products... even on our produce! Not cool, powers that be... not cool.
I figured I'd take those things I've learned and give them to you in one single shot. That way, you won't have to discover these all on your own.
It's one thing to know that, hey, I'm allergic to propylene glycol and need to avoid it. It's another thing to later find out that propylene glycol has multiple names AND that hidden ingredients are a thing and quite legal here in the United States.
I mean, that's a triple whammy... and not very black and white. Hidden ingredients open the door for an endless amount of substances to hide in our products, whether it's our food or shampoo. How is that ok?
So, how do we pinpoint what's disrupting our health? Most of us do so by journaling everything we eat and what we do throughout the day, which is an excellent method, if I do say so myself.
Before we can pinpoint what's causing the problem, we need to understand some of the ways our allergens and other substances can weasel their way into our lives.
1. Hidden ingredients
Things like modified food starch can really pack a wallop. Why? Because they contain… ingredients that aren’t listed on the label. Crazy, right? Why are hidden ingredients even legal? They shouldn’t be. Modified food starch can be modified with a list of various chemicals. Each chemical is allowed a certain percentage. Propylene Glycol is allowed higher levels than all other chemicals. You can read more about that here.
2. Alternative names
When I was diagnosed and given my list of allergens, I didn’t realize that many chemicals often have alternate names! Make sure to do your research on each allergen of yours and the aliases it may have.
3. Items without content labels
Some of these just make me nuts. Anything we ingest or put on our skin (because it gets absorbed into our blood) should have an ingredient label. Whether you’re allergic to nickel or propylene glycol, you’ve got to watch out for your health. It’s helpful to have a content label, ya know? For example, these things usually don’t have content labels:
- metals (for example, stainless steel often isn’t just “stainless steel”, it’s actually an alloy, meaning at least 2 metals are used. The most common metal allergy is nickel. I use this testing kit to find out if something contains nickel.
4. Unwashed produce
Produce is often sprayed with various chemicals after they’re harvested. If, like myself, you’ve noticed how the cucumbers in your store feel slippery and waxy… you’re not imagining things! As long as whatever the substance that’s being sprayed passes the FDA’s regulations for food additives… it’s allowed! Why? Because these substances help the food stay on the shelves longer by prolonging the ripening process, retaining water and preventing mold. Personally, I’d rather just have to buy produce more often, thank you very much.
5. Items with unregulated content labels
Being allergic to polyester and nickel, I also have to watch what items I put on my skin. There are no existing laws about clothing needing to be labeled correctly. I’ve had clothing labels very obviously leave off certain fabrics such as polyester. There are some sterling silver earrings that bother me too, but it seems to only be on earrings with a cheaper soldering job… which makes me believe that there’s nickel in the soldering material. Like I mentioned before, I believe that any product meant to be ingested or put on our skin should be labelled - including all of the typically hidden ingredients!
6. Other items processed with chemicals
Most products usually go through some sort of processing. When you buy, for example, a package of pens… it doesn’t tell you that they may be made with polyester… or any of the other chemicals involved. For those with allergies, this is really problematic.
Some items that fall under this category are:
- nitrile gloves
- laminate counter tops
- furniture (the type of/ingredients of the paint,
stain or lacquer is usually not listed)
7. Allergen transference & contamination
You can stop yourself from touching things like nickel, polyester or wheat all day long… but if other people have touched it and, for example, touch a doorknob… and then YOU touch it, depending on how sensitive you are you may have a negative reaction. Before I developed my allergies and eczema, I thought this sort of thing was only possible with liquids, but my doctor told me that it happens with solids as well. I was so surprised to learn that if somebody touched nickel and then touched another item, said item would have nickel residue. This can make things like working in an office pretty difficult. I actually use a cotton bandana to touch doorknobs and handles at work. My skin always thanks me!
8. Sensitive skin triggers
Simply working out and working up a sweat can disrupt your health as well. People with sensitive skin, eczema and other skin issues can easily have their skin irritated by hot temperatures, sweat and areas that rubs together. Products with harsh chemicals are also something to look out for.
9. The coming & going of allergies
Allergies come and allergies go, annoyingly enough. I didn’t start having all these allergy and eczema issues until I was in my twenties, so I know all about that. I’ve read that women can stop having allergies (and start) as a result of pregnancy. Pretty interesting! It took the doctors a little while to figure out that my issues were mostly allergy based and, in fact, we found out that they’d been prescribing me things I was allergic to. This explained why many of their prescriptions would help for a day or so and then I’d slide back downhill and get even worse.