Any pregnant women watching the news recently will have heard how bubble bath, moisturizer other everyday items could affect their unborn baby. The report from the Royal College of Obstetricians didn’t specify exactly what harm might come from using these common chemicals but suggested that pregnant women might want to limit their exposure to support the health of their baby. The affect common chemical exposure might have on an unborn child is difficult to measure leaving public health professionals unsure what advice to give.
As Nutritional Therapists we work with many people who are sensitive to everyday chemicals. Imagine the bubbles in our bath – they might seem harmless, but for some they can be problematic. Sensitive people may develop a rash or itchiness after using the product. Sometimes cause and effect is less obvious and symptoms might seem unrelated. The chemicals in these everyday products can be absorbed into our bloodstream through our skin and need to be processed efficiently by the liver.
An individual might be unable to tolerate the smell of a freshly painted room or of petrol, this often indicates chemical sensitivity. If someone is sensitive in this way it is possible that they are unable to process chemicals appropriately. This is probably due to limited detoxification capacity. These individuals will need to be most prudent about their exposure to chemicals during pregnancy.
Many people with compromised liver function and/or poor cellular function might struggle to detoxify these chemicals efficiently. This can be seen in individuals suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, autism and skin disorders. If an individual has poor detoxification pathways then both they and their unborn child could be affected by exposure to certain chemicals.
The affect is difficult to measure - various levels and types of exposure will affect people in different ways. Much will depend on their current state of health and other pressures on their detoxification pathways. Those people with altered intestinal permeability (otherwise known as ‘leaky gut’) will find their detoxification systems challenged on a daily basis.
Minimising exposure to daily chemicals is easier now than it has ever been. Many products can be found on the shelves of health stores which offer lower levels of chemicals. It is possible to replace personal care products with items you might find in your kitchen. You can use coconut oil as a moisturiser, body lotion, or even as toothpaste. Avocado and blueberries mashed together make a nutrient-rich face mask and baking soda can be used to wash hair!
Sarah Hanratty BSc N.Med CNHC Registered