Spring is typically the time of year we start thinking about “cleaning.” We may find ourselves (spring) cleaning our house. We may feel inspired to take a walk outside and breathe in the fresh springtime air. On a broad scale, we may start clearing things from our lives to make way for the new. This natural inclination towards cleansing is part of engaging in the cycles of life. We have the opportunity to rebirth ourselves within our environment every year. And, perhaps this cleansing process we instinctually go through during springtime is even more of a necessity now that our toxin load has exponentially increased.
The message is the same no matter where you look: our planet and lifestyles are thick with chemicals, pollutants, and waste. I remember reading that the average adult contains about 700 contaminants in their body, with infants harboring a couple hundred at birth. This toxicity is not just a scary concept in itself, but relates directly to escalating rates of chronic disease. For example, toxins of all types have been connected to behavioral disorders, autoimmune disease, asthma, allergies, cancer, dementia, and infertility. Research shows that high body levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can result in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
However, you don’t have to fear toxins! Awareness and knowledge are powerful tools to help you on your journey of understanding what to do. How do you begin to “come clean” in the dirty world we live in?
Here are 5 categories of toxins together with easy tips to get started.
Being a nutritionist, food is an easy place to check first. Here’s where organically-grown food has an advantage compared to conventionally grown food – it may be more expensive, but you are getting less pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, both on and throughout the final food, and, hopefully, according to the definition of what it means to be organic, you are avoiding the presence of non-genetically modified organisms (I consider GMOs another form of a toxin!). The chemicals you want to avoid tend to like fat, so if you eat many fatty animal products, you might be getting a larger load. If you are eating dairy products, you’ll want to be on the lookout for bovine growth hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk. You’ve heard that eating fish is healthy because it contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, but when the fish is chock full of methylmercury, you reduce much of its health benefit. Check the Natural Resources Defense Council to get information about fish choices lower in mercury:http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/guide.asp.
We may forget about the impact of air quality, because we breathe without thinking about it. However, inhaling air pollution particles can have drastic effects. You may be surprised to know that there are studies showing that air pollution is correlated with heart disease, preterm births, inflammation, and asthma. A recent study showed that overweight/obese people can breathe 7-50% more air than person who has healthy weight, making them even more vulnerable to the effects of air pollutants. Deep breathing exercises to remove “dead” air in the lungs is a good first start to removing the pollutants in our lungs. You may also want to explore an air filtration system for your home considering that we are learning that inside air is toxic like outside air.
We are constantly taking in water – drinking it from the tap or from plastic, bisphenol-A bottles, cooking in it, or even bathing in it. Current estimates suggest that there is more than 2000 toxins in tap water. A water filter is an imperative no matter where you live. There are several kinds of units available that remove certain kinds of chemicals. It would be a good idea to have your water tested where you live to see what you might need to remove before you buy a filter.
Personal Care Products
The skin is the largest organ of the body and is often overlooked when it comes to what we are taking in. Research suggests that women use about 12 different personal care products on a daily basis, and “consume” about 126 chemicals from these products. For men, the number is somewhat lower at 8 products daily with 85 unique ingredients, yet still significant. It is essential to read your product labels like you would your food labels, making sure that you are not taking in endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and parabens.
You might not have been expecting this one, but toxins enter every area of our lives. People can be toxic, holding emotions back may be toxic, and jobs can present their own toxicity. We are surrounded in a mesh of social networks that may or may not be serving us. The power of these networks ripples through our ability to be happy, gain weight, and change our eating behaviors. It is important to choose your connections wisely to maintain good body-mind health!
The tide of toxicity can feel like a tsunami; however, the more we can become aware of physical and social toxins, the more we will be able to ride the wave of health rather than drowning out in the undertow of disease.
Dr. Deanna Minich is an internationally recognized, cutting-edge wellness and lifestyle medicine expert who has mastered the art of integrating ancient healing traditions with modern science. Her unique “whole self” approach to nutrition looks at physiology, psychology, eating, and living within what she calls the “7 Systems of Health.” A five-time book author, and founder of Food & Spirit (www.foodandspirit.com), she continues to do detox programs with individuals to help them achieve better health. Her new book is Whole Detox, published by HarperCollins in March 2016. For more information, go to drdeannaminich.com
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