Every single day, we are exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals and heavy metals through every day products like pharmaceuticals, pesticides, personal care items, household cleaners, packaged food items and of course environmental pollution. Over time, this exposure can increase our risk of chronic illness like cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease, cognitive decline and chemical sensitivities. Although we may not always have control over what we expose our bodies to, we can have some control over what we put into our bodies and on our bodies.
Toxins, by definition, are poisonous substances that are a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and are usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation. Today, more than ever, toxins are a great concern due to new and stronger chemicals, air pollution and water pollution. Additionally, we use more drugs and eat more sugar and refined foods than ever that are of concern to not only our overall health, but the way in which we detoxify. Understanding the ways in which you can limit your exposure is of utmost importance.
Toxic burden is the amount of toxins within the body. As previously mentioned, we are all exposed to environmental toxins and heavy metals daily. In fact, we are all even born with them in our system. However, we can be aware of where they come from and decrease the burden within our bodies by minimizing our exposure. Heavy metals and toxins can get into our systems in many different ways. We can breathe them in, eat them or absorb them.
Major sources of Toxins:
• Water—tap water may be high in heavy metals including lead and arsenic. Additionally, chlorine and other water treatments can disrupt endocrine function.
• Plastics and Packaging—BPA and also phthalates are used to make plastic. Found in hard plastic food containers, such as baby bottles and reusable cups as well as the lining of metal food and beverage cans. It can leach into the food and beverages that we consume, especially if heated. Never freeze plastic.
• Food—large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are added to our food yearly and can significantly affect the way in which we metabolize protein by disrupting how enzymes work to breakdown collagen protein. Glyphsophate is the worlds most widely produced herbicide and is the primary toxic chemical used in Roundup. Glyphosphate is commonly found in Genetically Modified (GMO) resistant crops that grow in the presence of this chemical in soil. More than 90% of corn and soy are GMO. Exposure to glyphosphate is associated with many chronic health problems including the disruption of the microbiome in the intestine which could lead to several diseases. Choose organic when possible and look for non GMO foods.
• Skincare—many chemicals put into our skincare products such as parabens and phthalates are considered hormone disrupter chemicals. Phthalates are the most widespread group of toxic chemicals found in our environment. Commonly found in lotions, aspirin, cosmetics, detergents, insecticides, nail polish, perfumes, plastics and skincare products. They have been implicated in reproductive damage and cancer.
• Solvents—cleaning supplies are a major contributor to toxic exposure. Be aware of what you are using and decrease your exposure to bleach
• Cookware—cooking with the wrong pans can contribute to exposure of heavy metals as over time these chemicals can leach into our food.
Symptoms of Toxic Burden
When chronically exposed to environmental toxins and heavy metals, we put ourselves at risk for serious health risks including cancer, gut dysbiosis, thyroid dysfunction, hormonal imbalances and infertility. Some signs and symptoms of potential heavy metal and toxic exposure are:
• Shortness of Breath
• Hair loss
• Brain Fog
• Neurological conditions such as tremors, headaches/migraines, dementia
• Food allergies and food sensitivities
• Sinus congestion
• Skin rashes
Supporting the detox process is not as simple as following a cleanse. There are specific protocols and detoxifying in the wrong way can be harmful. If you are concerned about your exposure and need help, work with a health professional. Testing to assess your exposure is helpful to determine your level of exposure and how your body is detoxifying. First and foremost, to support detox, we must reduce our exposure:
• Go green! Use chemical free products in your home (soaps, detergents, cleaning supplies, insect and weed killers). Try using Seventh Generation, Method, Norwex or Mrs. Meyers products for cleaning.
• Check your personal care items like cosmetics, toothpaste, deodorant and skincare. We love Beauty Counter and recommend this line as this company goes over and beyond ensuring that each and every one of their products are as safe as possible. In fact, they have The Never List™ in which there are over 1800 chemicals that will NEVER be used in their products that have been shown or potentially shown to cause disease. We also love Schmidt’s fluoride free toothpaste and deodorant. An added benefit is this brand is made with activated charcoal, which can help pull toxins out of the body.
• Reduce plastic. Replace with stainless steel or glass. Store food in non-plastic containers and bags whenever possible
• Buy locally grown food. Support local farmers and search for in-season foods and farms that use less pesticides and herbicides. Many options for delivered produce from CSAs or community supported agriculture, which is a way to buy into a farm without actually owning a farm. Other companies like imperfect foods provide cost-effective organic produce.
• Choose better cookware and replace often if scratched. Take care of cookware by handwashing vs putting in dish washer. Use stainless steel as often as possible or cast iron and ceramic.
Ways to support detox:
• Reduce exposure to toxins and chemicals as discussed above
• Eat clean and organic foods when possible. Become a label detective. Choose whole foods and avoid added chemicals, preservatives and dyes.
• Drink plenty of water to help flush the body and prevent dehydration
• Include a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables especially greens like spinach, beets, kale, broccoli and artichokes to support liver
• Include high fiber foods like beans, nuts, seeds and legumes to ensure proper elimination and to avoid constipation
• Exercise or just move more to help eliminate toxins through skin by sweating.
• Shower and bathe regularly to open pores and allow the elimination of toxins
• Infrared saunas are another way to help excrete toxins through the skin
• Get a massage!
• Sleep and reduce stress through deep breathing, gentle yoga or mediation. Avoid negative and toxic thinking and laugh more. Practice gratitude.
• **Supplement Support—can vary depending on condition and individual, but general support may include milk thistle, Glutathione and its precursor n-acetylcysteine, Vitamin C, Curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, Probiotics and l-carnitine.
**Always speak with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements
For more information and helpful hints on detox, click here.
Supporting the Liver
Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body and is necessary for removing waste and is a primary organ that helps with detoxification. In fact, everything we eat or drink must pass through the liver. One of the primary functions of the liver is to filter the blood. Additionally, the liver:
• Is a hub for emulsifying fat substances like bile which is important since most toxins are fat soluble and primary excretion is by excreting them in bile
• stores sugar in the form of glycogen to provide us with energy
• manufactures amino acids (build blocks of protein)
• Stores vitamins like B12, iron and fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K
• Assists with Methylation
• And of Course…DETOXIFICATION
Our livers are superstars and are meant to help us with detox. However, be mindful and cautious of your exposure for optimal health and prevention of chronic illness. Be kind to your liver.
Recipes that support Detox:
Spinach Blender Muffins
Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad
Peppermint Patty Smoothie
A Final Note
If you feel that you are affected by toxic burden, speak with a health professional to help you figure out how to test and the best way to support your health. There are several testing options available to determine your exposure to toxins.