Detoxification is one of the four pillars of the cheap medicine program. Accumulation of toxins is inevitable, therefore detoxification in some form must be a regular part of our self-care. Strategies that gently detoxify the body should be performed daily with periods of deeper cleaning occurring as necessary and with the support of a holistic health practitioner.
Excluding things like toxic relationships and addictions, we can loosely divide environmental toxins into three broad categories: dietary, chemical, and toxic metals. Each kind of toxicity has its challenges and each requires a different method of cleansing to rid it from the body.
The form of environmental toxicity that is easiest to avoid with the proper awareness is dietary toxins. In the case of processed foods, the ingredient label might list all sorts of chemicals that one cannot pronounce, let alone should ingest. Preservatives, artificial additives, thickening agents, binding agents, flavor enhancers – they are largely unavoidable in processed foods. Therefore, the simple and cheap solution is to ditch the man-made excuse for real food and get the real thing – out of your garden, from your farmer’s market, and from the periphery of the supermarket.
Eating organic is also very important, as pesticide and herbicide residues can remain on produce. Washing produce helps but is not a perfect solution. Accessing or growing organic food is the solution.
The next form of toxicity is a little trickier to avoid. They are the chemical residues from a number of sources including body care products, building materials, and cleaning supplies. Body care products can be particularly insidious as low-levels of toxic ingredients can build up in your system over the course of decades. This level of intoxication is for the most part undetectable, though sometimes specific reactions can be observed. Over the years I have observed various chemical residues – in chewing gum, household cleaners, and even toothpaste – be the triggering factor causing headaches in different patients. Avoidance of the chemicals in each of these cases resulted in a complete remission of headaches. Skin Deep is a excellent online resource from the Environmental Working Group which rates toxicity in body care products. You can very quickly look-up the products you use in order to make an educated decision on whether there is an inherent risk associated with their use.
New homes, cars, furniture and bedding are also laden with tons of chemicals such as solvents, formaldehyde, and flame retardants. In many cases, you can choose to support companies who opt-out of using these chemicals and provide environmentally safe alternatives. A good example are mattresses. For our own bed and for the baby’s crib, we purchased mattresses from a retailer that uses an inner layer of organic wool instead of a chemical flame retardant, as well as organic cotton on the outer surface.
If the choice for a more natural alternative has passed, there is always the option to off-gas your new home, for instance, by closing all the doors and windows, cranking the heat as high as it will go, and letting it sit for a day. Next, enter (at your own risk) and open everything up to air-out for another three days. This has an effect similar to a sauna where chemicals are liberated into the air.
Finally, toxic metals are, unfortunately, way more commonplace than they should be. Although you won’t find hardware stores selling lead paint, it is still around in old homes. Aluminum can quickly become toxic with an overexposure, which is very easy to do with cookware and beverage cans. Copper toxicity can occur with leaching of plumbing pipes and from IUD’s. The worst of the bunch is mercury which can occur through industrial air pollution, silver amalgam fillings, and as an adjuvant in vaccines.
For those who think their exposure to environmental toxicity is minimal, brace yourself for a shocking wake-up call upon reviewing the salient research on the subject. The Environmental Working Group has been leading the charge in this field and have published several key findings. Perhaps the most prestigious is their BodyBurden research in collaboration with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. This study tested the blood and urine of nine adults for 210 different harmful chemicals. Of those they isolated 167 chemicals with an average of 91 compounds per person. What is perhaps most startling is the presence of certain chemicals, such as PCBs, which have been banned in the United States for decades.
This was followed by a landmark study testing the umbilical cord blood of ten babies. What they found is as astonishing as it is depressing; 287 distinct toxic chemicals were isolated from these ten samples. Of those, 180 were known carcinogens, 217 were neurotoxic, and 208 have been found in animal models to cause birth defects or growth abnormalities.
It is a testament to the strength of the human body that we can still live, and in many cases thrive, amidst this chemical soup. However, the increasing incidence of chronic diseases, particularly cancer, should give us plenty of motivation to seek means of reducing exposure to environmental toxins while incorporating modalities to gently detoxify our bodies.