Every day we are exposed to a variety of toxins through our environment and the foods we eat: pesticide residues on vegetables, antibiotics in meat products, air pollutants and chemical cleaners, to name a few. Over time, these toxins can accumulate in the body and impede healthy organ function.
As a naturopathic doctor practicing in Toronto, a busy city with plenty of pollution and a fast paced lifestyle, many patients are affected by the accumulation of toxic byproducts. The main conditions related to toxic burden that I see clinically include:
- generalized fatigue
- unhealthy skin
- weakened immunity
- food sensitivities and
- leaky gut (a condition where the intestinal lining becomes disrupted, causing abnormal immune reactions in the intestine and blood).
Toxin exposures and buildup can also contribute to chronic conditions such as metabolic, endocrine, neurological diseases and even cancer. The benefits of routinely assessing your chemical exposures and improving your body’s ability to detoxify cannot be overstated.
Detoxification can be as simple as identifying and eliminating toxins that you are regularly exposed to. Here are a number of ways to assess chemicals in your home and ideas to help you eliminate toxins from your lifestyle.
Eliminating chemicals from your home.
- Pesticides in fruits and veggies.Are you eating clean? Many of us do not eat organic all of the time. Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s list to know which fruits and vegetables are most important to chose organic (the “Dirty dozen”) and which contain fewer pesticide residues and are safer choices for non-organic foods (the “Clean 15”).
- Heavy metals and Fish.Fish is a great source of protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and of course, great for your heart! Find out which fish or seafood products are safe choices here:
- Personal care products.EWG’s database, Skin Deep allows you to search thousands of personal care products including toothpaste, makeup, skin care and hair products and more to find out how your products measure up!
- Sunscreen.Protection from the sun should not mean exposure to other damaging chemicals! Learn more about which sunscreens are safe for you and your family.
- Plastics.Minimizing the use of plastics, especially in the kitchen, is critical to good health. Chemicals found in plastics are powerful inhibitors of endocrine and reproductive health and can have effects on adults and children alike.
Opt for a stainless steel or glass water bottle and eliminate the use of plastic wrap or plastic containers to store food. Instead, store food in glass containers. Glass baby bottles with protective covers to prevent breakage are also readily available. Most importantly, plastic food containers should never be used in the microwave (if microwaving a meal, transfer it onto a plate before it goes in the microwave).
Plastic water bottles shouldn’t go in the freezer; as the process of heating and cooling further increases the chemicals that leach from the plastic into your food or water. Plastics are found not only in the kitchen but are prevalent in children’s toys, shower curtains, waste baskets and furniture. When shopping for these items, chose natural materials such as cotton, linen or wood. In any case where plastics are unavoidable, make sure the label reads “BPA-free”.
- Household and cleaning products.Search EWG’s database to see how your cleaning products measure up.
- Non-stick cook ware.Non-stick pans which are “PFOA- free” should be used at lower cooking temperatures only, and discarded if they are scratched. Opt for cast iron pans or glass cookware whenever possible.
- Air quality.Investing in a high quality HEPA air filter, such as an IQAir system, is a great way to purify the air in your home. This is essential for anyone with allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions, or with young children or pets in the home. A high quality filtration system will trap tiny particles from the air including airborne diseases, mold, dust mites, pet dander, pollen and pollutants, such as tobacco smoke.
Make sure that your system will also catch ultrafine particles (UFPs), the smallest and most dangerous airborne pollutants of all, which are generated by car exhaust, laser printers, fax machines, cooking ranges, candles and craft materials. UFPs are so small that they can damage lung tissue and even enter the blood stream, where they may increase inflammation and predispose the body to cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.
- Detoxification Programs.Doing a medically-supervised naturopathic detoxification program is a great way to boost your energy, improve mental clarity, promote clear skin and improve organ function.