I’ve always been interested in how environmental toxins can influence health. My fascination started after learning that asthma and allergies I suffered with as a child were triggered by mold exposure from a flooded basement.
After the flood, my mother, brother, and I all developed asthma. Yet, at that time doctors didn’t know mold exposure could lead to poor health. We probably didn’t mention our basement flood, so how would they have known? As a result, we were all medicated for many years while the true culprit—mold—was never questioned or addressed.
It is now part of my life’s mission to make sure no one has to suffer as we did. So, in my practice, I always consider how the environment may be playing a role in a patient’s health.
Which Toxins Are Influencing Our Health?
Environmental medicine is an evolving field looking at the interaction between the environment and human health. There are many environmental toxins that we are all exposed to that can negatively impact our health. Some of the top ones include:
- Heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, etc.)
- Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides
- Mold and mycotoxins (toxic byproducts of fungus and mold)
- Phthalates and other plastic compounds
- Flame retardants
- BPA (Bisphenol A) and other BPA-like compounds
- PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
This list could go on, but these are the main ones you need to be concerned about.
Where Do We Get Exposed to These Toxins?
The reality is no matter where we live, we are all exposed to some or all of these toxins daily. Many of them are found in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, or even the products we bring into our homes. If you take a look under your sink, how many chemical-based cleaning products do you have? What about the perfume, colognes, and hygiene products you use daily? Do you recognize any of the ingredients on the labels and how do you know they’re safe?
Most toxins are invisible and that’s what makes environmental medicine such a tricky field of medicine. After all, if you cannot see, hear, taste, feel, or smell something, how do you know it’s problematic?
A study I frequently discuss that puts all of this into context is the one conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) back in 2005. The EWG collected umbilical cord blood from 10 babies and found the following:
- On average, each sample contained over 200 industrial chemicals.
- Some of these chemicals, like DDT or PCBs, had been banned 30 plus years before the study but were still found in the umbilical cord blood.
- Many of these chemicals are known endocrine disrupters and carcinogens, and others have been shown to cause birth defects and infertility.
- Very low doses (parts per billion) of these toxins can have detrimental effects on the body.
This information shows that even before we're born we are swimming in a sea of chemicals coming from mom and the environment. This is why detoxification is such an important concept and something we must do daily to keep our bodies healthy.
Natural Detoxification 101
Now that you understand the pervasiveness of these environmental toxins, I’m going to share some simple, effective ways to reduce exposure and remove them from your body. When it comes to detoxification, I want you to remember these two steps:
- Reduce exposure
- Facilitate removal from the body
Reducing exposure is quicker and easier than removing toxins from the body. If you follow these simple tips, you’ll radically reduce your daily toxin exposure:
- Eat organic foods as much as possible as this will reduce exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Buy a high-quality air purifier (Blueair, Austin Air, IQAir, etc.) to filter the air inside your home.
- Check for hidden water leaks, water damage, or a musty/moldy smell, as any of these could indicate or lead to mold growth. If you are suspicious of mold but cannot find any, hire a professional to test your home.
- Use glassware as much as possible, and reduce your use of plastic containers, or anything wrapped in plastic.
- If you drive a new car, leave the windows open as much as possible. That new car smell is a plethora of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other chemical cocktails.
- Use natural eco-friendly cleaning materials in your home, or better yet, make your own.
- Only use natural eco-friendly hygiene products (deodorant, perfume, makeup, toothpaste, etc.), or make your own.
- Drink filtered water and try not to drink bottled water.
- Avoid high mercury-containing fish like tuna, king mackerel, and swordfish. Instead, choose low mercury fish like wild salmon, sardines, cod, or herring.
Facilitate Removal from the Body
The best detoxifiers are very easy to accomplish. Here’s how to remove toxins from the body naturally:
- Enjoy some sauna therapy. Saunas are one of the best tools for eliminating toxins from the body via sweat. Saunas can be used 3 to 4 times a week with proper electrolyte and fluid replenishment.
- Exercise. Similar to saunas, exercise supports the cardiovascular system and helps to mobilize the release of toxins from your tissue via the bowels, urine, or skin.
- Eat whole foods and avoid processed and sugary foods. The dense nutrient content and fiber will support the microbiome and allow for more efficient elimination.
- Practice dry skin brushing. Use a natural vegetable bristle brush or loofah. Starting at your feet, use quick gentle strokes to brush your skin toward the direction of your heart. Skin brushing is excellent for supporting the skin and lymphatic system.
- Eat liver-supportive foods that detoxify pathways and improve liver function, including:
- Root vegetables (beets, carrots, etc.)
- Dandelion greens
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.)
- High sulfur-containing foods (garlic, onions, eggs, legumes, etc.)
- Take liver-supportive herbs and supplements, including:
- Milk thistle
- Burdock root
- Dandelion root
- Gentian (very bitter tasting)
- NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
- ALA (alpha lipoic acid)
Detoxification Is Essential
I strongly believe supporting natural detoxification daily is critical in our modern industrialized world. This starts with eating a clean diet, as the foods you eat (and avoid) can improve your gut health tremendously. Also, stay hydrated with filtered water and follow the other steps above. You have the power to improve your own health.