Plastics, exhaust fumes, disposal of innumerable chemicals, spraying of pesticides/herbicides, destruction of forests: all of these things impact our health, as well as the health of our planet. Our bodies are a microcosm of the Earth, and many of of our day to day choices add up to have a negative impact on both.
There are a plethora of hot topic environmental concerns at the forefront in the media currently. I will not be going into all of those here. What I want to focus on are just 3 very simple lifestyle choices we can make that will directly improve our health, and make an impact on the health of our planet. We often think that our daily choices are insignificant. But they are not. Even our seemingly small daily choices add up over time and have real effects on our bodies and our planet.
Ditch the plastic water bottles
In a recent study, it was found that humans could be ingesting a credit card’s worth of plastic a week. How did we get here? Our day to day choices. And one daily choice you can make is to stop using plastic water bottles. Research shows that people who drink tap water ingest around 4000 plastic particles annually, while people who drink from plastic water bottles ingest 90,000 more plastic particles from drinking water annually. By ditching plastic water bottles (get a good water filter and use a reusable stainless steel bottle), you can reduce your own ingestion of plastic and also lower the overall load of plastic waste on the planet. While we are just now beginning to research the impact of ingested and inhaled microplastics on human health, there are a variety of ways that microplastics could be harmful to various physical and chemical pathways in humans.
Drive Less, Walk/Bike more
Movement is a foundation of health. Staying active benefits practically all health conditions. Often when I ask patients about movement, they assume I am talking about “working out” in a gym or exercise class setting. While these are both great, there are so many ways that we can add movement to our life for activities we need to do anyway. Classic example: Going from point A to point B. When the distance is not a limiting factor, leaving the car at home and instead biking or walking can be a great way to get movement in (benefit to you!) and reduce pollutants (benefit to the Earth, and your respiratory health!). Win-win!
Opt for Organic
There are many known benefits of eating organic for humans. For one, the body does not have the added burden of having to get deal with synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or synthetic hormones. There are so many ways in which these chemicals and medications can affect human health, but let’s talk about just a couple. The majority of antibiotics given to farm animals is for the purpose of fattening them up. These antibiotics, which we then eat, can disrupt our gut microbiome and research shows that disruptions in our gut microbiome are correlated with obesity. Also, a recent JAMA study showed that eating an organic diet is correlated with a lower risk of cancer. But what about the Earth? A 30 year research study comparing organic to conventional farming methods showed that while both systems produce the same yield, conventional farming results in 40% more greenhouse gas emissions, leaches toxic chemicals into our waterways, depletes organic matter in soil and uses more energy than organic farming systems.
Are you already making these choices? If so, maybe consider what else can you do for your health and the environment. Not ready to make all of these changes? How about just one? Every little thing helps, when it comes to our health and the health of our planet, so even small changes have the potential for big impact.