Summer is coming. We have started to hit warmer temperatures for days at a time, and the evenings aren’t getting as cold as they used to. It’s all very exciting, especially when your body craves the sunshine, warmth and boost of Vitamin D, like mine does. Another thing that summer brings for my family is lots of swimming. I love swimming and my kiddos especially love swimming, but since we had our mold exposure, pool swimming brings a new set of worries with it that I never even knew to think about before.
The culprit for those worries: chlorine. Let’s face it; most pools contain chlorine these days. Just as chlorine is excellent at killing bacteria, viruses and microorganisms, it is terrible for those of us susceptible to fungal issues, because it poses a chemical threat to recovering from our mold exposure, and it promotes Candida or fungal growth inside the body. To better explain, l will first talk about chlorine and what kind of chemical threat it can pose to your body:
Chlorine is a naturally-occurring chemical element and is one of the most abundant on Earth. It is the ninth largest chemical produced in the U.S. by volume and is known as the “workhorse chemical.” In the U.S., it is used as a chemical disinfectant in municipal water supplies, to manufacture everything from computer chips to crop-protection chemicals, and as a household cleaning aid in countless products. Chlorine’s highly reactive nature makes it extremely useful, but also, potentially dangerous. In other words, it quite literally reacts with anything it touches, be that bacteria to kill it, or your skin and lungs to irritate and burn them.
Chlorine is classified as a hazardous chemical and a “choking agent” when in gas form. Thus, exposure to chlorine gas can be fatal, which is why it was first used as a chemical weapon during WW I. In addition, there are many health issues related to chlorine exposure in ALL forms. Research has even shown that long-term chlorine exposure produces free-radicals in the body. Free radicals are carcinogenic and cause extensive damage to our cells—even altering the mitochondria of DNA. According to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer instance for those who regularly drink chlorinated water is 93% higher, than for those who do not.
These days, chlorine exposure is probably greater than what you would expect. Just think, from chemical disinfecting products, to municipal water supplies, to fruits and veggies that were sprayed with it as a pesticide, to our public and private pools to keep bacteria and virus levels safe for swimming. It is a hidden chemical onslaught that most of us don’t always consider. But, when your health has been severely compromised for any reason, like mine has, you start to think about the risk that accumulates with every chemical exposure, and how to minimize further damage to your body.
Now, I’m going to switch gears and give my Cliff’s Notes version of Candida overgrowth and why that is a bad thing, and then why the addition of chlorine (whether in your drinking water or in the water you are showering or swimming in) can make it worse:
In our digestive tracts, we have thousands of different microbial residents. Most of those microbes are the “good” kind of bacteria. They help to breakdown the food we eat, defend our bodies against “bad” bacterial invaders, aid in immune function, help to regulate detoxification, and even control our moods—really that is just scratching the surface, but this is the Cliff’s Notes version. When those microbes are killed off by antibiotics (in pharmaceutical medications or in the foods we eat), an overly acid stomach or diet, or by chlorine absorbed through the skin or ingested, they can be taken over by Candida/yeast. You see, we all have Candida in our mouths and intestines, to aid our bodies in digestion and nutrient absorption. But, when their levels become too large for the body to keep in check, the Candida can penetrate the intestinal wall and create “leaky gut” symptoms by releasing the yeast’s toxic byproducts into the bloodstream. Yikes.
Candida can easily flourish when the immune system is weak from the body battling sickness, infection, or outside invaders, like mold or chemical toxins. Since inhaling mold also brings fungus into the body through the nose and mouth, exposure to it can make Candida even worse. Julia Koehler, a Harvard University fellow in infectious disease, actually found that Candida overgrowth is the predominant infection behind ALL human disease. According to Koehler, Candida is particularly dangerous because of its ability to change forms and to adapt. So, where does chlorine come into all of this?
When we ingest things like chlorine in our drinking water, or swim in a chlorinated pool, we are further disrupting our healthy body ecology that fends off the Candida. If all of our protective barriers, both internally and externally are killed off, Candida/yeast becomes the pervading organism. This is not good or healthy.
So, with summer practically here, you are probably wondering how in the world you are going to replace or avoid all chlorine, right? Good news! I have some easy tips and tools to help guide the way for you. I also want those who require or have family members who require a “mold free lifestyle” to know that I understand the unbelievable expense it can bring with it. Because of that, I have tried to offer solutions that are not overly daunting or financially draining. Don’t stop reading! I promise solutions are easier than you think.
Tips and Tools for Limiting Chlorine Exposure:
(Remember, I am NOT a doctor. All of the tips and opinions expressed below come from my research, experience and interaction with professionals in the medical and holistic medicine fields. These opinions and comments are not meant to diagnose or treat a disease, but are offered as insights and helpful information for my readers.)
- Install a whole-house water filtration system in your home. This type of system filters both the water you will cook with and consume and the water you bathe and wash your hands with. Not all filtration systems are created equal, so making sure the system you choose filters chlorine out is very important. Charcoal filters are particularly good at chlorine removal. Whole-house filtration can cost anywhere from $400-$4,000.If this is not financially feasible, install individual filters on your tub/showerhead, in your refrigerator and on your kitchen sink. If there is another sink where you frequently wash your hands, consider installing one there as well. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you are filtering your drinking water that you are safe. Showering with non-filtered water is actually one of the worst culprits for chlorine exposure. Why? The shower aerates the water in a closed space, so not only are you getting the chlorine exposure through your skin, but you are also inhaling the chlorine gases. There are so many filters out there, in every price point, so there are no excuses.
- Ask for bottled water at restaurants, or carry filtered water with you.
Also, make sure that you are not pouring your filtered water over ice, because this defeats the purpose, as the ice at most restaurants is usually not from a filtered source. Also, remember that if a restaurant is offering iced tea, or sodas from a machine, those drinks contain unfiltered water and should be avoided. Your best option is always something in a bottle over anything from the tap.
- While it does not neutralize chlorine in water, I think it is worth noting that grapefruit seed extract has been tested and proven effective at treating and killing microbes in municipal water supplies better than chlorine.
When I don’t have access to filtered water and cannot control my water supply, I carry CitriDrops Dietary Supplement in my purse. I add about 10 drops to a glass of water and swirl it around before drinking it. Not only will the CitriDrops work to eliminate bacteria and microbes, but it will also help to combat any Candida forming in your gut as a result of the chlorine exposure. This is especially pertinent to mold-allergic or sensitive people.
- Eat a diet rich in healthy fats. Of course, I’m not talking potato chips and ice cream here, but avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, wild-caught fish and organic meats. Fat that penetrates your cells protects the body from oxidative damage, and heightens antioxidant levels. These healthy fats also aid in weight management. So, even though it is swimsuit season, maintaining a balanced diet that includes fat is better for your cellular protection.
- Do not buy or use chlorinated bleach on your laundry. Also, read the labels of your laundry and cleaning supplies to make sure that they do not contain chlorine or other harmful chemicals. Anything that touches your skin can get into your bloodstream, so don’t think that just because you are not drinking or eating it that it cannot affect you.
- Avoid public pools and hot tubs as these contain particularly high amounts of chlorine. If you are at the beach or on vacation, consider swimming in freshwater or salt water instead. You can usually call hotels to find out what types of systems they have installed to clean the pools. Some hotels these days use Ozone or salt water systems instead of chlorine. Call ahead and find out. If you are mold sensitive, you REALLY need to think about this, because the toxicity of chlorine absorbed in lungs or skin can negatively affect you worse than the average person.
- If purchasing a home or installing an indoor or outdoor pool, choose outdoor, if possible. The off-gassing of chlorine in an indoor, enclosed setting has been proven to be 100%-200% worse, in terms of toxicology tests on its impact on the human body than outdoor pools.
- Install an alternative-to-chlorine system on your home pool, instead of using chlorine, whenever possible.
The systems I have researched and recommend are Grander Water Revitalization systems (with a Grander system, you keep the chlorine, but the water is revitalized through the unit and all of the negative effects of the chlorine disappear–hard to find in the U.S., though), Ozone (although, sometimes, small amounts of chlorine are still needed with ozone systems, but the amount is significantly reduced, and not as irritating to your skin or eyes), and copper/silver ionization. Our doctor who treated us for the mold exposure cautioned us with copper-silver ionization systems. His take is this:
“I would not use copper-silver, as they are heavy metals, and though you must have Cu to do biochemical reactions, it is toxic in larger amounts and prevents healing. If you get Cu in a wound it will not heal and silver is also toxic in larger amounts. The chlorine in salt pools is not detectable and is in different forms. The healing properties of salt and salt as a disinfectant are great. I love our salt water pool. You can open your eyes in our pool without burning, but not in a copper-silver pool. Just my 2 cents worth, having experienced both. Copper-silver systems are more difficult to regulate, sometime chlorine is still needed.”
Salt water pools seem to be his preference. We are in the process of converting our pool to salt water as I write this. (If you would like specific information, just send me a comment in the comments section.)
- Take Vitamin C and/or use a lotion with Vitamin C to create a protective antioxidant barrier between your skin and the chlorine. Vitamin C has been proven to effectively neutralize chlorine, both inside the body and out. As a matter of fact, in 2005, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service studied the effects of the two forms of vitamin C (ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate) on chlorine. Both worked well. Just a single gram of vitamin C neutralizes the chlorine from 100 gallons of water that has been chlorinated at a concentration of 1 P.P.M, which is the standard concentration for drinking water in the United States. For reference, the average bathtub has a capacity of 60 gallons at the point of overflowing. Since 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid is about 5 grams, less than a quarter of a teaspoon would be needed to neutralize the chlorine within the hypothetical bathtub. Thus, mixing a 1/3 teaspoon of powdered Vitamin C to your sunscreen, or adding a teaspoon of liquid or powdered Vitamin C to my oil-based lotion recipe that I just posted (include link), and then applying it to your body prior to swimming, would reduce the ill effects of the chlorine on your body tremendously. Taking a daily Vitamin C supplement will also aid your body in combating the harm done by any chlorine in your diet or absorbed through the skin. Since Vitamin C does not stay in the body all day, it is recommended to take it multiple times per day, especially on days when you swim. This is not to say that avoidance isn’t the best policy, but just gives you a healthier alternative. I may even come up with a specific DeChlorinating, Vitamin C Lotion, if there is enough interest. Let me know.
- Rinse off immediately after swimming in a chlorinated pool, using soap. The sooner you get the chlorine off of your skin, the better. Soap must be used to ensure that the chlorine is completely removed. Even better than normal soap, would be to use a Vitamin C-rich soap, like Trader Joe’s Vitamin C Cleansing Gel. I do caution you, though, as I mentioned before that chlorine is extremely active. It gets on something and immediately starts doing damage. Any washing or rinsing post-exposure, only removes the top, superficial layer from your skin. Monitoring your antioxidant levels and aiding the body with vitamin C should be done in conjunction with this.
- Be careful about sitting or sun bathing by chlorinated pools as well. Inhaling chlorine can be just as damaging and detrimental as ingesting or getting it on your skin, as I outlined above.
This is an important topic. I’m still learning a lot about it myself and would love to hear from you. Please write with any questions, stories, or insights.