Lyme Disease and Laundry Detergent
Lyme disease has been gaining some notable mentions lately, thanks to celebrities and news anchors addressing the topic. While some approach it with an air of amused disbelief, more and more individuals recognize it for what it is — a disabling disease that is growing more rapidly than any other infectious disease, and with more new cases each year than breast cancer.
Lyme disease (or chronic Lyme disease) is a complex bacterial illness primarily transmitted by tick bites. It has a seemingly endless list of debilitating symptoms.
These can include hair loss, migraines, paralysis, dental problems, seizures, severe joint pain, sciatica, chronic congestion, severely impaired immune function, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to smells, sensitivity to chemicals, tinnitus, digestive problems, IBS, irritable bladder, stomach pain, food sensitivities, bone pain, arthritis, hormonal imbalance, reproductive disorders, heightened chance of miscarriage during pregnancy — and that’s just a handful of the many symptoms which can manifest with Lyme disease.
The Lyme Detox Problem
At Molly’s Suds, we see that one of the biggest concerns for individuals afflicted with Lyme disease — and the common co-infections — is their impaired ability to detoxify their bodies. In a world that’s overflowing with toxins and chemicals, this has become an enormous issue. And those with Lyme disease have more to detox than your average American, as their body’s organs and immune systems are overloaded with toxic pathogens, prescription antibiotics, and pain medications.
The Lyme detox problem, while affecting all channels of detox, has an especially big impact on a few organs — the liver, the lungs, the digestive system, and the skin.
The liver of someone with Lyme disease has a hard job. Its responsibility is to process toxins in the body to make them easier to eliminate. When the liver is unable to keep up with the toxins coming in, those toxins will recirculate back into the blood. As this continues, the partially processed toxins build up in the body, causing nutrient stores to become depleted. Worse still, partially processed toxins are even more dangerous to the body than ever, as they are now extremely harmful, non-flushable toxins.
The liver becomes blocked with inflammation, heavy metals, chemicals, parasites, drugs, Candida, fungus, flukes, and cysts. The liver becomes less able to remove these toxins as it becomes more and more damaged, and so the cycle goes on and on. For someone with Lyme who has the greatly increased chance of impaired liver function, the need to limit the toxins entering their bodies is even more vital.
Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ? One of the primary ways your body can detoxify is through sweating. This is why sweat baths, saunas, clay baths and other skin-focused detoxing methods are a common feature in the healing plan of those with chronic diseases.
When your skin comes into contact with chemicals in your clothing, it’s absorbing just as many, if not more, toxins than it’s releasing. Up to 60% of what comes into contact with your skin will be absorbed into the body. In some areas, such as the armpits and genitalia, you can absorb up to 100%. When your skin is wet and warm (such as with sweat, whether from working out, hot flashes, night sweats, or a warm day) you’ll absorb even more chemicals from your clothing.
The chemicals in most laundry detergents are drawn right into your skin, where they contribute to the toxic overload of your body. And, thanks to an impaired immune system, they make you more susceptible to chemical sensitivities and allergic reactions.
Unfortunately, because so many people who suffer from Lyme often have skin rashes, inexplicable skin irritation, and eczema, many of those who experience these skin reactions will write them off as yet another Lyme symptom, when in reality they may be reacting to the chemicals in laundry care products.
Breathing is another way our bodies detox. Deep breathing, as when we’re sleeping, meditating, or exercising, helps to expel toxins from our lungs. Blood flows through the pulmonary arteries to draw in oxygen from our lungs, while releasing toxic waste gas (carbon dioxide). Airborne toxins, chemicals, viruses, and bacteria enter the lungs, where they are then taken into the bloodstream.
We get a huge dose of toxins when we inhale that ‘fresh’ scent of drying clothes. A study by the University of Washington showed that, on average, common laundry detergent products emit dozens of different chemicals, and up to 17 of these toxins will not even be listed on the label. University of Washington researchers confirmed that laundry products emit at least one chemical that has been identified by federal law as toxic or hazardous. Considering how lax regulatory processes are for chemical additives, this almost certainly means that there are many, many more.
The Digestive System
No one needs to tell a Lymie about the struggles of their digestive system. But we do want to address the detox difficulty that often comes along with those problems. Stools and urine release toxins that are collected in the gastrointestinal tract. Mostly, these come from the things we eat. Unfortunately, many of those with Lyme disease struggle with a host of digestive trouble, including constipation, leaky gut syndrome, diarrhea, acid reflux, and more.
This host of inflammatory and obstructive problems means that your ability to detox through your digestive and urinary system is often impaired. You’re unable to expel the toxins in the gut as quickly as you should, which means those toxins circulate back into your body. Damage to the intestinal wall (as with leaky gut syndrome) has the same result.
The Chemicals in Laundry
In a world overwhelmed with exposure to toxins, those with chronic Lyme disease face a huge challenge. One of the first steps that a Lyme specialist will recommend to a patient is to begin cutting out ‘toxic’ foods, switch to an alkaline and primarily organic diet, and start taking steps to detox the body. Few, however, address the toxin exposure that patients gather in other areas of their lives.
Our team specializes in creating toxin-free, all natural laundry care products. We’ve spent countless hours researching the innumerable dangerous chemicals in conventional detergents. So, naturally, when we see someone with health concerns using these chemical-laden laundry products, we immediately begin thinking about the chemicals they’re exposing themselves to in the air and in their clothing — every single day.
While there is a myriad of positively identified health hazards and highly questionable chemicals that are commonly in laundry detergents, we won’t address them all individually. Instead, let’s take a look at a few of the worst offenders.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
These two chemicals are found in thousands of cleaners and cosmetic products. Thousands of studies have confirmed SLS and SLES as moderate hazards with a long list of side effects including:
- Irritation of the skin and eyes
- Organ toxicity
- Developmental/reproductive toxicity
- Endocrine disruption
- Biochemical or cellular changes
A commonly unlabelled ingredient is the well-known carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane. It is readily absorbed through the lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. A few of the documented side effects include:
- Immune malfunction
- Hormone disruption
- Respiratory failure
- Brain toxicity
- Impairment of the nervous system
- Liver and kidney disease
For many of us, bleach has been the go-to solution for brightening whites for years. The problem is that bleach is a dangerous chlorine-based, corrosive substance. The odor is particulate, which means if you can smell it, you’re breathing it. It is especially harmful to those who are immunocompromised, kids and infants, the elderly, and pets. Even diluted bleach can cause:
- Irritation to the sinuses
- Irritation to the eyes
- Skin irritation, rashes, and burns
- Respiratory problems
- Damage to the nervous system
- Asthma flares
- Headaches and migraines
- Dizziness and vertigo
Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE)
Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) is a well-documented endocrine disruptor that causes hormonal problems, kidney and liver disease, disrupted metabolism, and cancer. Disturbingly, even the most extreme water filtration systems have so far been unable to remove NPEs.
Phosphates are the most common cleaning ingredient because they break down dirt particles, soften the water, and help suds to form. Phosphates leave residue on the items they ‘clean’ however, ensuring contact with our skin. This residue can result in nausea, diarrhea, and skin irritations.
Artificial fragrances can cause a host of reactions, including irritated, watering eyes, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, migraines and headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and nausea. Ava Anderson says in her Huffington Post article,
“More than 95 percent of the chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals. These chemicals include: benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and a slew of other known toxins that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, nervous-system disorders, and allergies—some of which are cited on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.”
What’s worse is that in most ingredient lists these chemical cocktails are listed under the ambiguous and entirely unhelpful word ‘fragrance’.
Lyme and Laundry – We’re Here to Help
The last thing someone with chronic Lyme disease needs is another thing to worry about, another potential health hazard, or another thing to research.
So, we’ve already done the research, the worrying, and found solutions for you.
And, thankfully, this is one of the easiest possible problems you’ll solve in your journey toward health. Rather than cobbling together some complicated laundry compound yourself, or spending an arm and a leg buying an alternative, we’ve created some excellent toxin-free laundry care products that are safe, effective, and, most importantly, not going to contribute to your toxic overload.
You can read our story of why we are so passionate about toxin-free laundry detergents. Our goal was to create a solution that had excellent cleaning power, but with 100% safety. No reproductive dangers, no hormonal imbalances, no toxins to contribute to your already overburdened body. Nothing but clean clothes, and a cleaner body.
We’re rooting for you, Lyme-Warriors.
Added Tips to Cut Down on Laundry Chemical Exposure
- Wear your clothes longer between washings. You’ll save on time and money, as well as energy.
- Choose non-toxic, biodegradable laundry products.
- Say no to dryer sheets. These waxy little nothings are loaded with chemicals and artificial fragrances. Rather than tossing them in your dryer, toss them in the trash. Wool dryer balls (like these) can have the same fabric softening / static removing power, without any of the chemicals. Added bonus? They will last you for hundreds of dryer cycles before they’ll need to be replaced, saving you money to boot.
- Opt for fragrance-free or only naturally scented products. (We also have an Unscented Laundry Powder for those with the most sensitive skin.).
- Use less detergent per load. Many people just fill to the line, no matter how full their washer is. Cut down on the amount of detergent used proportional to the amount of clothes and how dirty they are. A little quality detergent can go a long way.
- Skip the fabric softeners. One of the easiest tricks to keep fabric soft and odors out of your washing machine is to add a hefty splash of white vinegar to the washing machine.