Last week I attended the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Houston. One session I attended was on “Environmental Toxins- How Nutrition Can Help.” I wanted to bring some of the information back to our lovely readers! I feel this is one area that is astronomical when it comes to our health and the issue is important. I am personally blown away by the number of toxins we are faced with daily!

Toxins and Our Health

We are exposed to toxins every single day whether we know it or not. The reality is that we cannot escape them. We can only learn to minimize them. Low doses of environmental toxins (chemicals and pollutants) cause harmful effects on health over a long period of time and disease susceptibility. We are exposed to these toxins in several ways: 1) polluted water  2) food chain, 3) air, 4) occupational exposure, and 5) dermal exposure. According to Real Time World Statistics:

“Did you know that each and every second 310KG of toxic chemicals are released into our air, land, and water by industrial facilities around the world. This amounts to 10 million tons released into the environment each year. Of these, over 2 million per year are recognized carcinogens.”

Not only that but our food and water is the number one vehicle for toxic exposure in humans. It’s that whole “you are what you eat” thing again. These toxins have been shown to interact with nutrients and hormones as they seem to share metabolic pathways. There are associations between toxic exposure and thyroid disorders, diabetes, fertility, metabolic disorders, pediatric development, cancer, cardiovascular disease, organ failure, and developmental problems.

Further note is that endocrine disruptors put prenatal and early postnatal development at greatest risk because systems are still forming. According to the Scientific American the average number of toxic chemicals found in the umbilical cord of a newborn is 200 chemicals!

Common Environmental Toxins

These can include naturally occurring compounds and human-made chemicals. Here are some common ones:

  • Lead- generally found in old paint and old pipes
  • Mercury- heavy metal that is usually a byproduct of pollution, most common source if seafood
  • Formaldehyde- widely used by industry to manufacture building materials and household products
  • Benzene- natural part of oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke and used to make other chemicals
  • BPA- industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins (found in a lot of packaging)- 8 billion pounds a year
  • Phthalates- chemicals used to soften plastics (found in lots of beauty, self-care products, and medical plastics from IV bags, tubes, etc.)
  • Pesticides- substances that kill, repel, or control pests

Integrative/Functional Approaches

To get a handle on this it is important for us to assess our own level of exposure to these toxins. Areas to examine include: 1) community, 2) home, 3) hobbies, 4) occupation, 5) diet, and 6) medications. From there we can begin to reduce exposure of certain plastics, building materials, household products, beauty products, and most importantly reducing dietary intake exposure. Practical changes we can make include:

  • Avoid plastic containers with the recycle code 3 or 7 on the bottom as it may be made with BPA.
  • Switch to BPA free baby bottles or use glass bottles.
  • Choose glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers for food and liquids.
  • Reduce use of canned foods.
  • Switch to natural cleaning supplies.
  • Purchase phthalate-free toys and beauty products.
  • Do not smoke and avoid second hand smoke.
  • Keep plants in the home.
  • Avoid using artificial air fresheners and other synthetic fragrances.
  • Minimize drugs such as stimulants and sedatives including caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Move your body.
  • Embrace sweating through not only exercise but with sauna, steam, or detoxing baths.

Nutritional Approaches

Remember diet is the #1 vehicle for toxins. This is the area we can really try to control to help minimize our exposure to toxins and enhance our detoxification process (how our bodies get rid of waste). Here are some nutritional ways to eliminate toxins and help your body in its detoxification processes:

  • Eat a Whole Foods Diet. Eliminate processed foods.
  • Eliminate offending food allergens and intolerances. For many gluten and dairy.
  • Filter your water and drink plenty of clean water each day.
  • Avoid the dirty dozen when shopping for produce.
  • Heal your gut.
  • Eat organic produce and animal products to reduce toxins, hormones, and antibiotics. If you purchase conventional meat trim the fat.
  • Avoid eating farmed fish. Choose wild fish.
  • Lose weight as this will reduce the toxins in your body because toxins are stored long term in adipose tissue.
  • Increase your colorful fruits and vegetables each day to increase antioxidants, fiber, and chlorophyll.
  • Avoid sugar like the plague.
  • Eliminate GMO’s, preservatives, artificial ingredients, additives, and low nutrient dense foods. Aim for nutrient density.
  • Avoid damaged oils.

Alright. There you have it! What are some other ways to help with detoxification? Would love to hear your input!

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