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Scented Candles + How They Can Impact Your Health

Scented Candles

The Low Down about Scented Candles from our Naturopathic Doctor, Céline. I get it, scented candles are a vibe. They are comforting and wonderful! Truthfully, I have always had a love affair with smells - perfume, candles, incense etc. Did you know, smell is processed by a part of the brain directly linked to memory and emotion? Smells and help us solidify and recall in vivid detail memories and feelings. Example, for me, Garnier cleanser will forever remind me of my 2010 trip to Florida. I often tell students to use oil diffusers while studying, to help consolidate memory.

Should We, Shouldn't We? My break up with artificial fragrance and scents has been hard, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t indulge in wearing perfume from time to time. However, the reality is, the sooner we reduce and eliminate fragrance from our lives the happier we will be. 

TLDR; The Coles Notes

Fragrance can trigger allergies, aggravates atopic conditions like asthma and eczema. It has been linked to asthma exacerbations, and in some instances the development of asthma in kids. 

The reason I have pick on candles is that often they are in petroleum based materials with wicks that do not burn clean. To top it off, artificial fragrances that they contain create harmful airborne chemicals. One in particular is DEP, a chemical that helps with the performance of the fragrance. This substance has been banned from children's toy's however its use in cosmetics is not yet regulated. 

Simple Solutions. My solution for indulging in scents, while feeling confident about the risks:

  1. Diffuse Essential Oils. Again, PURE essential oils, single scent blends. Avoid Natural Fragrance, or fragrance blends that do not list each and every oil in the blend. 
  2. CLEAN (charcoal and natural resin) burning essential oil scented incense. Always burn in a ventilated room.
  3. Soy Candles with Essential Oils only. Ingredients you can recognize are key to picking a good candle.
  4. Ventilation. This is the key to working with scents, ventilation is important to keep the levels of these airborne chemicals, natural or not in a safe level. 

Dr. Leduc's Favourites

As I continue building the retail section at the clinic, I wanted the inventory to reflect products I trust. It's taken years and time to find options I enjoy and feel meet my values and standards.

  1. Essential Oils. 
    • Woodland. An Essential Oil blend that smells like a walk through a forest
    • Calm. An amazing floral scent that helps reduce stress
    • Thieves. Warm, Christmas baking smell, all of the feels 
  2. Soy & beeswax based, wood wick, essential oil candles. Among the Flowers brand.
    • Domes. Sandalwood + orange
    • New Moon. Lavender + Rose
  3. Province Apothecary Natural Incense. Lavender, Sandalwood and Fir scents.

Research and Evidence: The Longer Story

Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are compounds with the potential to alter production, metabolism, and activity of our hormones.

Endocrine disrupting compounds are found in fragrance, which is found in many scented candles. Specifically, we are looking at

  • BP(A,S,F)
  • Dioxin
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates - these EDCs are most commonly found in fragrance!
    • Phthalates have been linked to obesity, and thyroid irregularities. They have been shown to affect the male reproductive system potentially causing birth defects in the reproductive organs, lowering sperm counts, and causing decreased sperm motility. They have also been shown to negatively impact the immune system.

There are many other chemicals out there that can impact hormones in household cleaners, cosmetic products, food storage containers + more. Learn more about these chemicals + their health impacts here!

EFFECTS. The compounds in scented candles ultimately can interfere with synthesis, secretion, transport, activity, and/or elimination of natural hormones. They can also block and mimic hormone action, causing a wide range of effects, such as:

  • Infertility
  • General hormone dysregulation
  • PMS symptoms: breast tenderness, cramping, bloating, painful menstrual cramps, fatigue, low mood + irritability, and more!
  • Affecting brain and central nervous system (CNS) function: our CNS is our brain and spinal cord, so needless to say we want these to develop and function optimally. EDCs are known to affect developmental milestones in children like memory and cognition.
  • Obesity
  • Affecting immune system modulation: fragrance/EDCs are implicated in atopic conditions such as dermatitis and asthma. Our bodies want to reduce inflammation, but cannot modulate the response due to interference by the EDCs. 

IMPACT. Timing is key when it comes to impact. Early exposure to these chemicals during key developmental years can affect overall immune function, like the ability to mount robust + effective immune response, later in life.

  • There isn't one single way these compounds affect our health, there are a variety of mechanisms of action (a fancy way of saying "how they affect our physiology") reported, with the overarching conclusions of studies being to limit exposure to these chemicals when possible.
  • We said they can mimic our natural hormones. They can also antagonize them, meaning they can make the effects of them greater on the body - causing symptoms of that hormone being dominant. In the case of estrogen, for example, this is where we would see the symptoms listed above!
  • EDCs affect the way the liver metabolizes substances, and our liver is our main detoxifying organ so we want to best enable it to do its job and rid our body of toxins that can be harmful to health! 
  • Hormone real talk. Another way that EDCs impact hormones is by interfering with steroidogenesis, the process of making steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and aldosterone!
  • Environment. Studies show widespread contamination of EDCs in food and water supplies. This looks like low-dose exposure over time, and the tendency for bioaccumulation in the human body - meaning that over time we are exposed to these chemicals and they are accumulating in our bodies as opposed to being excreted faster than they're being taken in. The concern is that we don't know exactly what the outcomes of this exposure and accumulation are!

GOOD NEWS. Scented candles are a very easily modified risk factor - this is good news! Swapping products that contain EDC's and fragrance can help reduce your exposure to these chemicals which will help reduce the load of toxins you're exposed to, support your liver's ability to do it's job, and support your overall health!

If you need help picking products, we have multiple stocked in our clinic for sale and are happy to chat about why making the switch is worth it!

In health, 

The EASTND Team 



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