The Chemical Quadrant is the second Quadrant of Wellbeing. It focuses on the health of what we put on our bodies, in our bodies, and around our bodies — or what we eat and drink, what soaps and products we put on our skin, and the chemicals in our environment.
Imagine a pond: it’s a beautiful, clean, clear pond with 100 healthy fish in it. Suddenly, they are exposed to a toxin for a minute, and half of the fish are affected by that exposure. The exposure to the toxin ends quickly, but 50 of the fish are now “dirty” because they are carrying around the effects of that exposure. The dirty fish might feel okay right now, so they go on to reproduce. Many of them reproduce with clean fish, so in our pond there are clean fish, dirty fish, and half clean/half dirty fish. And the traits of those fish exposed to the toxin are passed on and on through generations in the pond. What happened to those clean, healthy fish in that clean, clear pond?
This analogy can help us understand is how rapidly a toxin can spread and have an impact. Go back to the beautiful, clean, clear pond that our fish are in before any toxic exposure: if we drop food coloring in the water, it will swirl and spread through that clear water extremely fast. Even if we didn’t manage to change the color of the water, the fish aren’t in clean water anymore and they will be affected by the food coloring.
Bringing this back to our lives: we are not fish in a pond. However, we are affected by small amounts of toxins every single day, and we are passing that exposure on through our DNA. Part of our current experience is that we are not exposed only once for one minute, we are surrounded constantly by various things that can be impacting our health, both now and in the long term.
Four Areas of Focus in the Chemical Quadrant
It can be scary to think about everything we might be exposed to in a day or a month. But the Chemical Quadrant teaches us to take charge of our health and make decisions about the things that we can control.
We need food for the nutrients and nourishment that it provides. But our necessary regular consumption of food means that we need to make sure our food is clean and healthy.
We can make a few small changes to our food. First, remove the extra sugar. Sugar has been added in large quantities to most processed food. Even foods that are not cookies or cakes can have sugar added to them. For example, one serving of ketchup has 4 grams of sugar. But if you’re like most of us and eat two servings of ketchup, you’ve just eaten 8 grams of sugar, without even knowing it! Read the labels and eat whole foods to cut down on the sugar you are consuming.
The second small change is to buy organic produce. Organic produce is an extra expense, but you can start by focusing on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. If you are buying items on that list, like spinach or strawberries, buy organic. If you are buying non-organic produce, buy from the Clean Fifteen list.
What are you drinking? Does it have an ingredient list with unpronounceable items? Does it have sugar in any form?
We need to drink water to properly hydrate our bodies. To make sure you are getting enough water during the day, make sure you are drinking half of your body weight in ounces. This means that if you weigh 150 lbs, you need to drink 75 ounces of water during the day. To make it easier, divide that 75 ounces into thirds. Before you leave the house in the morning, drink the first 25 ounces. Drink the second 25 ounces before lunch, and the third before dinner.
On Your Body
Our skin is an amazing organ. It covers our whole body and protects us as the barrier between all our insides and the outside world. But skin is a permeable barrier. The things we put on our skin are absorbed and have an effect on our health and well-being.
Think through your morning routine: how many products do you put on your skin? Soap (maybe a scented body wash?), shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, hair products, makeup, shaving cream, aftershave, perfume, deodorant/antiperspirant, and more. Researchers estimate that women put an average of 168 chemicals on their body every day. We need to think about using good quality products that are free of dangerous chemicals. The EWG has also developed a cosmetics database that can help us review our beauty products.
Your environment may be an area where you feel little control, but there are small changes that you can make at home that will make the environment of your house cleaner. Get your family on board as you make these decisions, so that you can keep the momentum going.
The most important considerations at home are your exposure to cigarette smoke and other chemicals like VOCs from paint. Quit smoking! For the other chemicals, we have the opportunity now to choose low-VOC paint for our house and BPA-free plastics for our kitchenware. We can take control by being smart consumers.
Start by adding one small change at a time, and you’ll make a big shift in your exposure to chemicals.