Health coach, media personality and author Elle Halliwell faced an unbearable reality when she was diagnosed with cancer whilst pregnant. She is now an ambassador for Australian Organic, the leading industry body for organic products and here, talks about how her ongoing quest for wellbeing has resulted in a purely organic lifestyle and a total detox from chemicals.
For most people, detoxing from chemicals is a gradual process. However, in my case, it took less than a week to remove hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals from my life. You see, in 2016 I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, a rare form of blood cancer, and discovered I was pregnant with my first child all within the space of 48 hours.
I had to choose whether to terminate for a better chance of survival or have the baby and risk losing my life. It was an incredibly stressful time for me and my husband Nick which I wrote about in my book A Mother’s Choice. Against medical advice, I chose to go through with the pregnancy which meant I wouldn’t start chemo drug treatment until after the birth.
Given this, I wanted to become as healthy as possible during the pregnancy. I quickly decided I’d no longer consume or use anything containing chemicals, pesticides, preservatives or additives, to clean out and prepare my system. I became the Marie Kondo of health but instead of questioning whether something “sparked joy”, I’d ask, “does this bring me health, or is this potentially compromising my system more?”
Thankfully my son Tor arrived happily squawking two years ago and I started treatment immediately afterwards. I’ve now been in remission since Christmas 2018 and feel an organic lifestyle has contributed to my feeling of wellbeing and peace of mind. I want to inspire others to welcome organic products into their lives, so here’s how I went about it myself:
1. Start with your kitchen cupboards and fridge
I pretty much threw everything out of my kitchen and started again from scratch. I love my local farmer’s market and buy fresh fruit and vegetables there for the week. All my meat is now organic and as I like to make chicken dishes so I choose Hobbs Family Farms chicken from my supermarket. I’m not much of a drinker, but when I do, I chose an organic wine brand such as Kalleske.
I also like bulk food stores and co-ops which stock everything from natural laundry products to reusable household packaging. Unfortunately, there are “fake organic” products out there, so, [if you’re in Australia], it’s important to look for the Australian Organic certified Bud Logo on products to know you’re getting the real deal. I also read the ingredients label now of everything I buy.
Tor likes the range of kids snacks from Whole Kids and I’m a sucker for Murray River Organics dried fruit. Other than that my top picks are dehydrated apple and pears, sultanas, coconut date rolls, cashews and pine nuts.
2. Clean, but don’t clean too much
I grew up in a household where germs were the enemy. However, to build up our systems, antibacterial products are a no-no in our house and dirt play is highly encouraged! Vinegar, bicarb soda, soda ash, washing detergent and essential oils are my cleaning go-tos. I mix it into a spray bottle with water and use it for toilets, sinks, floors, counters and showers.
Oils have become a major player in my cleaning arsenal. A few drops of lemon and eucalyptus oil in my electric diffuser gives my home a beautiful scent. I’ll also add this to bicarb soda and sprinkle on my carpet before vacuuming. Oh, and when my son decides to vandalise the walls (which is most days) a Magic Eraser is an absolute godsend!
In the dishwasher in lieu of rinse aid will fill up a cup with vinegar and sit it in the rack during a wash. I swapped chemical glass cleaners for an E-Cloth which gives cleaner windows, however, my cat adores the scent of Springfields Essential Oils in Lavender, so I spritz a little on the floor for him to roll around in. He is a weirdo!
Drugstore makeup was amongst the first casualties in my anti-chemical warfare. Skin is extremely absorbent, so I swapped fragranced body moisturisers for plain nut and veggie oils, which I apply after washing. For an exfoliator, I combine a tablespoon of lemon juice, ¼ cup of castor sugar, ¼ cup of almond oil and a few drops of essential oils. I also use Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soap as a body cleanser and So Saba Organic’s roll-on deodorant and organic toothpaste which does the job!
I now find shopping on websites such as Nourished Life and Flora & Fauna a really easy way to find more natural alternatives. I love Ilia for its blush sticks, which I use on my lips. The Jojoba Company’s oil products as awesome too as they don’t leave you feeling sticky which is good for summer. In winter I’ll use denser oils like almond or coconut.
4. Go gentle with laundry
I love soap nuts—actual nuts from the soapberry tree which you add to your washing load. They’re natural, cheap and give a pretty good clean. I also add a few drops of an essential oil blend to a linen soap but bag which gives a beautiful fragrance. I also place 1/2 cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser when I’m washing towels which makes them soft.
5. Baby time must-haves
Tor’s bath-time and skincare products are very simple. I use TOM Organic nappies and Dr Bronner’s soap bars. If he gets a cut, I use So Saba Organic’s Calendula Cream. Zinc-based sunscreen Wotnot also works really well as a nappy rash cream. I’m still learning how to avoid unnecessary chemicals, but also understand we live in a world and pollutants are a part of our lives. I also believe stress can be just as toxic as physical toxins, so I try not to over think it and just do the best I can. For me, my organic journey so far has been a rewarding one.