Today, with mounting research on how our environment influences our health throughout the lifecycle, how do we, as Nurse Coaches integrate this often missing link into our coaching and self care practice?
Nursing’s legacy, past and present, has always played a role in environmental health education and advocacy and for creating healthier communities, local to global.
In this time of local and global environmental concerns, individuals, families and communities are seeking guidance on identifying and reducing health risks associated with environmental exposure to potential hazards in the workplace, community, and home.
Assessing and addressing symptoms that may be triggered by environmental exposures are often challenging to identify. Many chronic issues we address today including obesity, immune and neurological conditions can be linked to environmental toxic exposures.
To protect ourselves from a wide variety of sources, the following information can guide you, your families, clients/patients, and colleagues in making healthier choices.
Our Integrative Nurse Coaching™ Assessment Tool™ provides an opportunity for both the client and the Integrative Nurse Coach™ to become aware of environmental influences on health.
The following provides an overview of common sources of daily exposures and guidelines to consider:
- Choose your food wisely– eat as clean (organic) as possible. Animal fats may contain higher levels of stored chemicals (endocrine disruptors)(http://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors) Choose seasonal and local foods whenever possible.
- Avoid Pesticides The Environmental Working Group data base (www.ewg.org) offers guidelines on the fruits and vegetables containing both the highest pesticide residues and the lowest. Produce containing the highest pesticide levels include: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach, and potatoes. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming, or peel them if they are not organically grown. If you can’t buy all organic food, try to pick and choose.
- Fish consumption– Avoid Large deep water “fatty” fish including tuna and swordfish and farm raised fish (especially Salmon and Tilapia) as they may contain high levels of synthetic chemicals and heavy metals, including mercury. Wild caught salmon and cod are better choices. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/fishmercury.htm
- Support your body’s natural ability to detoxify. Essential tools needed to function optimally include exercise on a regular basis; drink filtered water; increase fiber found in whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, seeds (flax) and nuts.
- Take Precautions with cell phones and electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) Use the speaker function or an earpiece to decrease your exposure. Don’t sleep with phone under your pillow or keep in your pocket or bra.
- If you are planning on getting pregnant and breastfeeding, be vigilant about chemicals and put your attention into what you can eliminate to become the healthiest you can be. Follow guidelines on fish for pregnant women.
- Know your water supply. Find out whether your local community’s water testing program checks for hormone-disrupting chemicals and heavy metals. Read your local water reports. If you drink purified water out of plastic bottles, do not leave the bottles in your car or the hot sun for any length of time; heat activates the molecules in the plastic, which increases the rate at which the polycarbons leach into the water. Filter your tap water—both for drinking and bathing/showering as your skin absorbs contaminants. Not all household filters work effectively on chemicals.
- Avoid using plastics. A good rule of thumb is that the softer the plastic, the more chemicals. Avoid microwaving food in a plastic bowl or covered in plastic wrap. Store foods in glass jars. Reuse hard plastic tubs. Assess the amount of plastic in your life and try to reduce it. For example: Bring a reusable mug to your local coffee stop. Buy a refillable glass or earthenware water jug. Invest in glass food storage containers that can be washed and reused for a lifetime. Use reusable cloth totes for groceries. Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.
- Evaluate kitchen ware. Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware. Avoid aluminum pots and pans.
- Avoid artificial fragrances. Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid synthetic fragrances in perfumes, air fresheners, scented candles.
- Evaluate your personal product use. Become aware of what you put on your skin. Women are using an average of 12 products daily with over 60 total ingredients. Men use 6 products with over 80 ingredients. Check out your products at www.safecosmetics.org
- Become an environmental detective– investigate the chemicals in your home, work, and community. Take action steps to create healthier environments.
- Become an environmental advocate-Support local and federal clean air and water initiatives. Support elected officials who make a clean environment their priority.
Ask for green products when you don’t see them in your neighborhood stores. If you have a talent for organizing and recruiting people, use it to develop community ordinances regarding the use of chemicals in public places. Encourage young people to learn more about environmental issues and to pursue research into redesigning the future.
Our Integrative Nurse Coach™ Certificate Program curriculum includes environmental health from a nurse coach model of care. Read about our programs here.