Woman holding a box of fresh vegetables

4 Ways Earth Benefits From Better Health Choices That You Make

Our planet lives and breathes with us and through us. Health and climate change are intricately woven.

We look after her and she looks after us and together we are greater. And at a deeper level, when we look after ourselves, inadvertently it means we are looking after Earth too. Here are 4 ways our planet benefits from better health choices that we make.

1. Reduce your consumption of meat

In our grandparents’ day, meat was something you had once a week if you were lucky. Industrial farming has made meat a lot cheaper and far more abundant. This level of accessibility means that many families nowadays eat meat every single day.  The appetite for beef, in particular, is huge with over 300 million cows slaughtered each year across the world. Low quality red meat and processed meats are pro-inflammatory and high in saturated fat. Not only are they linked with joint pains and gout, too much can also raise your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol causing clogging of the arteries increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also proof that regular meat eaters have an increased risk of bowel cancer, stomach cancer and maybe even blood cancers.

Another health reasons to cut down on red meat consumption is the way cattle are farmed these days. Cows reared on grass are now the exception. Majority of shop bought meat is reared on corn. This makes the animals fat and as a result less lean to eat.

Industrial agriculture is a huge profit driven machine. The bigger they can get the animals, the more money they can generate. Hormones and steroids are used to achieve this. Antibiotics are also pumped into these animals. Residues of these chemicals in the meat can have adverse effects on our bodies and our microbiome when we eat them. 

But cattle farming is also having a disastrous effect on our planet. The greenhouse gas emission of hundreds of millions of cows being reared each year for human consumption, equates to the environmental damage produced by ALL the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world. Livestock emissions account for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and cattle farming to produce meat accounts for 80% of deforestation around the world.

Every individual’s decision to eat less red meat, in particular beef, could have a hugely positive impact on reducing climate change. And choosing organic products will help your body. 

Woman smoking

2. Stop smoking

We all know that smoking damages the human body. No amount of cigarette smoking is considered safe. There’s plenty of evidence to confirm that even having just one cigarette a day increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. And contrary to what many might think, smoking doesn’t just cause lung cancer, it can cause 15 other cancers including in the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, pancreas, kidney, ureter, bladder, cervix and ovary as well as being a risk factor for acute myeloid leukaemia. Life expectancy for smokers is 10 years shorter than for non-smokers. Quitting before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%. 

Smoking related lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema are far more common than the cancers caused by smoking and significantly affect the quality of life of millions of people causing shortness of breath, reduced exercise capacity, and increased risk of chest infections requiring hospitalisation. 

About 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are polluting the environment. The filters in these butts are mainly made of plastic and are in fact the most abundant plastic polluting our environment, taking up to ten years to completely biodegrade. Toxic chemicals from cigarette butts, like arsenic, can leach into soil or water lingering for years. Cigarette butts end up in our rivers and oceans and have been found inside dead sea birds, dolphins, turtles and fish.

Cutting down or stopping smoking won’t just clean up your body, it will make the world a cleaner place.

Plastic waste along a river

3. Improve your fertility

One in six couples are unable to conceive naturally and this continues to increase. The toxicity caused by plastic is a major concern for human fertility with environmental medicine experts fearing that by 2045 most couples will have to use assisted reproduction.

Many plastics contain synthetic hormone derivatives that mimic the body’s sex hormones. This disrupts the endocrine system by confusing the body that enough oestrogen or testosterone is being made when in fact that’s not the case. These mixed signals result in reduced production of these hormones adversely affecting fertility. Plastics can affect men by causing low testosterone levels, reduced sperm count, under developed genitals and erectile dysfunction. In women they can cause reduce libido, bring on puberty early and cause miscarriages and even early menopause. The two main plastic culprits are phthalates and bisphosphenol A (BPA).

Phthalates are used to make plastics flexible and are found in:

  • Vinyl
  • Shampoo and body wash
  • Hair spray
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfumes
  • Nail Polish
  • Household cleaners
  • Toys
  • Lubricating oils
  • Food packaging 
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Tubing

BPA is used to harden plastics and make them clear and is used in:

  • Food containers
  • Drink containers
  • Water bottles
  • Some types of paper e.g cash register receipts

Excessive exposure to harmful plastics in early pregnancy can even cause your baby to have future fertility problems. 

The problem plastics cause to the environment is that they are very difficult to dispose of.  A lot of plastic varieties can’t be recycled and burning them causes air toxicity. Landfills are overflowing with plastics littering the world and even overflowing into our water systems. Human plastic waste is detrimental to wildlife, responsible for 100,000 deaths of marine creatures each year and only rising. 

Plastics have become embedded in our way of living. Many products we use may contain plastics that we are unaware of. While we can never fully avoid plastics, try to take whatever steps you can to reduce your use of them. Use canvas shopping bags instead of plastic bags, use glass or steel water bottles instead of plastic ones. Look for BPA-free and phthalate-free alternatives for everyday products you use. Swap out your existing food storage containers for eco-friendly ones.

Woman running through the forest

4. Get more exercise

Personal cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gases which absorb infrared radiation making the atmosphere hotter, ultimately leading to global warming. Many of us live sedentary lives, using cars, buses and trains every single day. Making the choice to walk or cycle not only reduces your own personal carbon footprint, the simple exercise from walking or cycling does wonders for your body. Movement releases endorphins which lift our overall mood. It also improves our blood flow, making it harder for cholesterol deposits to clog up our arteries. Physical activity improves our muscle to fat ratio, making our bodies physically stronger and better defined.

Think about everyday journeys you make, and where it’s possible to avoid using a vehicle, choose to use your body instead. 

If you have anything you want to ask, or if there’s a topic you’d like me to write about just let me know. 

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