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Actor Jessica Alba: Going Green, Organic and Allergy-Free

The film and television star lives with allergies and sensitivities.

Multi-talented Jessica Alba plays many different roles. A wildly popular actor, the 31-year-old has starred in Dark Angel, Fantastic Four, Sin City and Machete. A wife and parent, she is married to producer Cash Warren and is mother to two little girls, Honor and Haven. An activist, she has raised money for AIDS research and does charity work for groups like Habitat for Humanity and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

An environmentalist, Alba is passionate about green products, throwing her super powers behind the Safe Chemicals Act and testifying in front of the U.S. Congress. She’s the spokesperson for the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition. Now Alba adds “entrepreneur” to her list of accomplishments. In January 2012, she launched The Honest Company, a company providing non-toxic products for the home, babies and children.

Allergies and asthma have plagued Alba ever since she was a little girl. Before she was ten years old, she suffered from a long list of medical issues and was hospitalized with problems ranging from a collapsed lung to pneumonia.

“I know my allergy triggers now,” she says. “I know what to eat and what not to eat.”

Recently, Alba talked with Living Without about her special dietary needs and the inspiration behind her new company.

Q: You’ve had asthma and severe allergies since early childhood. What triggered your attacks and do you keep those things away from you and your children now?

Jessica Alba: I was allergic to so many foods—almost everything. And anything with seeds. So I’m very careful what I introduce to my kids as far as new foods into their diet.

As I’ve grown older, I realize that a lot of what I’m allergic to is actually the chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, nitrates and sulfates in the foods themselves. Chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables and that’s what I react to. When I eliminate all that from my diet and when I eat organic, I’m fine. I also have to read labels on products that I bring into our home.

Q: What happens if you ingest this stuff?

Alba: If I eat conventionally grown produce from a regular grocery store, my throat swells and starts to close up.

Q: Does anyone in your immediate family have allergies or sensitivities?

Alba: My mom has bad allergies. She’s even allergic to the preservatives in certain epinephrine products and she can go into anaphylactic shock from that.

Q: Have you ever had such a severe reaction?

Alba: Only once recently. I was very tired after filming for 22 hours. We got on an airplane and I accidentally ate some Brazil nuts and I’m allergic to them. I didn’t notice they were in there because I was so tired. They also weren’t organic and were covered in some kind of preservative. I had a bad attack.

Q: How was it treated?

Alba: Thank God, my security guy had an inhaler with him. I ended up receiving some oxygen, too.

Q: Do you carry an EpiPen?

Alba: I don’t—but I should! My mom does. I haven’t had that bad of a reaction since that one on the plane but it happens often with my mom.

Q: What foods have you completely omitted from your diet due to allergies or any other health concerns?

Alba: Basically, I don’t eat anything that isn’t organic. I’ve stopped eating highly processed foods due to the preservatives and chemicals on them. I don’t eat from salad bars because of the potential for nitrates and sulfates. And I no longer eat anything that contains high-fructose corn syrup or white flour because I believe they’re just not good for my overall health.

Q: How do you stock your kitchen? What foods would we always find there?

Alba: We have a very comprehensive array of foods in our kitchen—a lot of fresh, organic items. I think most whole foods are very nutritious. We eat a lot of whole grains and legumes and all of our drinks are organic. Pretty much everything in my kitchen is organic.

Q: You’ve said you don’t like to exercise and that you have no special workout routine. Yet your figure is outstanding. How do you do it?

Alba: I don’t have any tricks. I do drink a lot of water—plain water. Our bodies are made of 70 percent water and there are so many bad health ramifications to being dehydrated. I believe the more hydrated we are, the better. I’ve always had a lot of water around.

Q: Motherhood can change your life. How have your children inspired you?

Alba: Ever since I was really young, I’ve always been interested in being socially aware and active. My main focus has always been making the world a better, safer place, especially for women and children. Having children is an intense responsibility that inspires all that even more and makes it that much more important.

Having kids inspired me to start this new company. It is a direct response to some of the serious health concerns—rising rates of allergies, asthma, autism—affecting modern parents.

I was shopping for eco-friendly baby products for Honor and I realized I was spending all this money on something that didn’t work. While washing diapers in supposedly baby-safe detergent, I had an allergic reaction and broke out in hives and started sneezing. I thought, ‘No way am I putting this on my newborn.’ I want the world to be a safer place. Being a mom inspires that.

Celebrity correspondent Bonnie Siegler lives in California. For more about The Honest Company, visit honest.com.