Environmental toxins may be a serious threat to our health, as they have the ability to suppress immune function, disrupt hormone and metabolic processes, and may even lead to cognitive decline. Anything that the body tags as an antigen, or foreign invader, has the capacity to add stress to our bodies and disrupt essential metabolic pathways. Environmental toxins are often found in schools, buildings, golf courses, and even on certain food items. Toxic chemicals in pesticides, household products, and other sources that were once deemed safe may actually cause inflammation and dis-ease.
It is no wonder that about 1 in 3 Americans suffer from autoimmunity, as our immune systems can become overburdened from excess toxin exposure. This leads to an overacitve immune system that may cause our own immune cells to mistake our own tissue/cells as an antigen.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to limit our exposure to these harmful substances. Some simple changes in our diet and lifestyle can go a long way toward promoting a healthy body and protecting us from the negative effects of environmental toxins. For example, limiting our consumption of processed foods that contain high levels of chemicals can help to avoid unnecessary exposure.. Additionally, making an effort to avoid pesticide-treated produce and opting for organic options where possible can help reduce exposure to harmful pesticides. In order to save money and limit exposure, we recommend using the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen List provided by the EWG (Environmental working Group). When buying organic, search for the USDA Organic food label. We highly recommend avoiding antibiotics, mercury, and hormones in foods by opting for high quality protein and dairy only. Some examples include, pasture raised eggs, wild caught fish, organic chicken, and grassfed beef.
Our skin is our largest organ that will absorb chemicals that we come in contact with. Therefore, we recommend using the EWG and Think Dirty app as a tool to search for safe personal hygiene items such as shampoo, lotion, and even clean makeup brands. Look for items that are free of fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Many people have allergic responses to these chemicals, but many are not aware how drastically these can disrupt our hormones. For women, opt for non-chlorinated organic cotton pads and other personal care items that are free of fragrances.
An often overlooked but necessary aspect of our health is our dental health. We have seen the health of our patients improve tremendously after having metal fillings safely removed by holistic/biological dentists. It is more common than not to have hidden infections from root canal procedures that harbor very toxic infections as well as periodontal disease. When the bacteria release toxins, they have direct access to our circulatory system, leading to inflammation, and in some cases even cardiovascular issues. Luckily, holistic and biological dentists have the technology to test for infections and heavy metals in fillings. It is also important to protect the microbiome (collection of healthy bacteria and microbes) of our mouth by opting for fluoride-free and chemical-free toothpaste and mouthwashes. Fluoride, when in contact with chlorine in our water when we rinse also becomes toxic to our thyroid. Fortunately, there are a few toothpaste brands out there now that contain no fluoride!
Another step we can take is swapping out our toxic cleaning supplies with non-toxic brands. Such brands are found on EWG and the Think Dirty App, which you can download these apps to scan the bar codes of cleaners and review the rating system. Other options, such as white vinegar and baking soda can make a great natural solution for scrubbing showers and more! When cleaning and dusting, wear gloves and a mask as well.
Replacing non-stick cookware with safe brands will protect you from PTFE's, Teflon, and more toxic chemicals that may leach into the food. Ceramic, stainless steel, and cast iron are great options. Never heat up or store foods in plastic containers that are not BPA-free. Instead use glass, ceramic, and stainless steel containers. Consider using a NSF-certified water filter to filter out benzene, metals, and more.
It may be worth investing in a HEPA air purifier as well, to eliminate dust, mold spores, and other environmental toxins. Though we cannot always change our work conditions, it is useful to be aware of our greatest environmental toxin exposures in order to protect ourselves. Those working around chemicals and VOC's (volatile organic compounds) for example, should wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, lab coats, face shields, masks with filters, safety glasses, etc.
Possibly the best way we can protect our bodies from environmental toxins is by optimizing our ability to detox properly. We do so by eating a healthy diet with lots of colorful plants and fiber, exercising regularly, sleeping at least 7 hours per night, managing stress, and staying hydrated. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key, in order to strengthen our resources and better manage toxin exposure.
Although it is impossible to avoid all environmental toxins, it is best to be aware of the common sources of these chemicals in order to limit our exposure as much as possible. By opting for organic foods, and non-toxic personal care items, cooking with safer cookware materials, and taking precautions to eliminate mold/dust in our homes and workspaces, we can protect ourselves from many of the negative effects that environmental toxins have on our health. With a little extra effort, we can promote a healthy metabolism, immune system, and hormone balance in order to live happier and healthier lives!
Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
U.S. Green Building Counsil’s Green Home Guide: http://greenhomeguide.com/
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology: http://iaomt.org/safe-removal-amalgam-fillings/