The 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges Facing Women and Children (and 5 Tips to Overcome Them)

Many modern conveniences, luxuries, and lifestyle habits seem great. And many of them are great when it comes to saving 5 Big Environmental Challenges1time and convenience. But they are not necessarily healthy for us.

In fact, most of the common chronic illnesses and conditions that we see skyrocketing today are directly related to our modern lifestyle, or what experts call, “environmental factors.”

Chronic illnesses like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma, reproductive issues, Alzheimer’s, cancer, mood disorders, etc., are all triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Right now we are living in what I call, “The Age of Modern Chronic Illness” which is characterized by a general state of “un-wellness” and soaring rates of diseases that were fairly rare in the western world just 50 to 100 years ago but are frighteningly common today. Unfortunately, women and children are disproportionately paying the price and bearing the brunt of our modern lifestyle challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases and conditions are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.

Here are just a few statistics you should know:

• As of 2012, about 50% of all adults had at least one chronic health condition (CDC).
• 65.8% of US women are overweight or obese (source: NHANES, 2011-2012).
• 78% of people affected by autoimmune disorders are women (source: AARDA). As a group autoimmune disorders make up the 4th largest cause of disability in the US and they are increasing.
• The #1 cause of death for women (and men) is heart disease (source: CDC, 2013).
• The #2 cause of death for women (and men) in the US is cancer (source: CDC, 2013).

The good news is …

As I mentioned above, chronic illness is preventable. Research shows that only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in environment and lifestyle. In fact, lifestyle and environment account for 90-95% of MOST chronic illnesses, not our genes.¹ This is good news because we can’t change our genes but we can change our lifestyle and environment.

Here are the 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges:

#1 Threat:  Exposure to Toxic Substances

This is one of the biggest health challenges we face in the modern world. There are thousands of chemicals in use today and only a small portion of them have undergone toxicologic evaluation to determine whether or not they are safe.
In fact, research shows that many of them are not safe and have a significant impact on our health and the environment.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, environmental toxins may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, reproductive issues, cognitive impairment and many other chronic health conditions. Children are particularly susceptible to chemical exposures and exposures during child development may contribute to health problems that arise later in life.

In a recent report issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, it states that the widespread exposure we experience in daily life to toxic environmental chemicals, such as pesticides, plastics, and metals (like lead), can lead to fertility problems, stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer, and neurological problems.²

What can you do today? Begin reducing your exposure to toxic substances in your home. Choose paper, cloth, glass, wood, or stainless steel containers over plastic whenever you can. If you live in a home that was built before 1970, consider lead testing. One way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to buy organic foods as much as possible.

For more ways to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful pesticides download my FREE guide, “Pitch the Pesticides: 5 Strategies to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Pesticides.”

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#2 Threat: The Standard American Diet

The Standard American Diet, also known as SAD, is packed with processed foods containing unhealthy fats, salt, sugar, food additives and pesticides. We also eat too many refined carbohydrates and inflammatory grain-fed red meat. All of which contribute to chronic illness.

One way to overcome this challenge is to eat more real whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are as close to the way nature intended as possible, and typically only have one ingredient.

#3 Threat: Too many “Bad Bugs” and not enough “Good Bugs”

Our modern lifestyle has contributed to a decrease in beneficial microbes and an increase in harmful microbes. Everything from the food we eat, antibiotic substances we use or consume, to the way we clean, impacts the microbes that we are exposed to. We are missing many beneficial microbes that help our bodies and immune system to function properly and creating harmful superbugs in the process. Our microbiota has been linked to many health conditions like allergies, autoimmune disorders, weight, and even mood.

What can you do right now? In addition to eating a healthy diet, another lifestyle change to help you avoid this challenge is to limit your use of antibacterial products and have an open discussion with your doctor regarding the appropriate use of antibiotics.

#4 Threat: Our Sedentary Llifestyle

As a society, we just aren’t that physically active anymore. Most of us aren’t performing physically demanding activity on a daily basis. It just isn’t built into the fabric of our lives anymore. We don’t hunt and gather our own food like we used to. We don’t even grow our own food anymore. Some of us don’t even cook our own food anymore. Many of us spend most of our waking hours seated. Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for breast cancer and colon cancer. It also increases your risk for mood disorders, diabetes, and heart disease.

So what can you do today? This is a fairly simple task. Get up and move your body every 2 hours. Do jumping jacks or take a 5 minute walk. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you get moving.

#5 Threat: Too Much Stress

We live a fast-paced, harried lifestyle. We chock our plates full of commitments and then find it hard to meet them all. With work, kids, and a house to maintain, who has time to relax, right? Stress seems like one thing everyone seems to have these days. Unfortunately, stress contributes to chronic inflammation, and chronic inflammation leads to chronic illness. Yes, stress is a major contributor to chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, gastrointestinal diseases, depression, sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s, obesity and a range of other conditions.

What can you do now? If you’re stressed out, you are probably worrying about something that happened in the past or worrying about something you think will happen in the future. One way to manage this stress is to practice mindfulness by focusing on the present moment.

So there you have it. These are the 5 biggest threats to our health and the health and well-being of our children. It may seem overwhelming to try to tackle each of these but you can overcome them and protect your family’s health by taking it one step at a time.

    1. Anand, P et al., “Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes,” Pharmaceutical Research, 25, no. 9 (2008): 2097-2116. doi:10.1007/s11095-008-9661-9.
    2. Di Renzo, GC et al., “International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Opinion on Reproductive Health Impanct of Exposure to Toxic Environmental Chemicals,” (2015),  




Before you go, don’t forget to grab your downloadable copy of  the FREE guide, “Pitch the Pesticides: 5 Strategies to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Pesticides. ”

Click Here to Get the FREE Guide: Pitch the Pesticides

About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

Feedback & Comments:

  1. Barb Wills says

    Hi Tiffany,
    Great article about modern environmental health challenges! I am in the middle of a 30 day protocol developed by Dr. Amy Myers. In just 2 weeks time, I have had my arthritic thumb pain almost totally disappear, pain from an old broken patella go away, weight fall off, more energy – and I’m eating more than I ever did. Dr Myers believes many autoimmune diseases can be erased. Her book, “the Autoimmune Solution” is where I came up with this plan – and I’m loving it!

    Just wanted you to know about it.

    • Tiffany deSilva says

      Hi Barb! I’m glad to hear that your pain has improved and all the fabulous results you have achieved! I’ve had Dr Amy Myers book for a while but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Changing my diet and adopting a greener lifestyle was the best thing I have done to halt my autoimmune disorders/arthritis/high blood pressure, etc. and it has helped me maintain a healthy weight, as well. I love hearing positive success stories. Thank you for sharing Barb!

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