Let’s talk toxic load. Did you know that the average North American has up to 600 chemicals circulating in their body and newborns have been found to have between 200-300? Did you know that approximately 8 – 15 lbs of chemicals are taken in to your body every year? More than 6,000 new chemicals are tested in the US every week and over 7,000,000 distinct chemical compounds have appeared in scientific literature since 1965. 2.5 billion pounds of pesticides are released in to the environment each year and farmers use 60% of these pesticides on our food. Over 4,000 varieties of drugs are fed to the animals that produce our eggs, milk and meat. 3,000 chemicals have been identified as INTENTIONALLY being added to our food and over 700 to our drinking water.
It is estimated that women can absorb five pounds of chemicals each year from our daily makeup routine alone. On average, women apply 126 different ingredients to their skin daily and 90 percent of them have never been evaluated for safety. Chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic can be found in many products—some of which you may be ingesting or applying to your body on a regular basis. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier is found in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color, toothpastes, body washes/cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts. The manufacturing process for SLS produces dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product.
A recent study out of the Mayo Clinic in the US found that many common chemicals on their own may be considered benign; but, in combination, these chemicals become highly carcinogenic. Take chlorine for example (found in tap and pool water); by itself it is certainly capable of disrupting health: it’s an endocrine disrupter capable of creating fertility issues and hormonal imbalances, it promotes the growth of candida by killing healthy gut bacteria and it competes with iodine for uptake in the thyroid often resulting in an underactive thyroid gland BUT, when you combine it with other substances it can create chemical by-products such as nitrosamines and chloroform, both considered carcinogenic. So, the toxic soup we have created within our body is not without serious and grave health risks.
We cannot get away from chemicals – we ingest them, we inhale them and we absorb them through our skin every single day. They wreak havoc in the body; they weaken our immune system, they damage our cells, they produce free radicals, they speed up aging, chemicals we inhale damage the delicate tissue in our airways leading to allergies and asthma, they stress our organs of detoxification, they reduce efficiency of all body systems………..the list goes on. Common sources of chemicals you come in to contact with every day include: tap water, nail polish, household cleaners, shampoo, make up, lotions, sunscreens, liquid soap, laundry detergents, stain removers, x-rays, aluminum cans and, of course packaged/processed/refined food, animal products including meat, eggs and milk and our produce. Some of the worst toxic chemicals added to our food are:
- Sulfites – used as a preservative; found in wine, beer, potato chips, French fries, dried fruits, deli meats and fruit snacks. The average daily intake of sulfites, when eating at home, is 2-3 mg of sulfites/day; the average restaurant meal contains up to 200 mg of sulfites.
- Food dyes – these are generally recognized as known carcinogens; one of the most ubiquitous food dyes is Tartrazine (yellow #5), it’s found in cheese, cake mixes, frosting, relish, vegetables, chewing gum, puddings, meat tenderizer, mac/cheese, some fruit beverages, jams/jellies, pickles, ketchup, margarine, popsicles, colored cereals, salad dressings, wine coolers, gold fish crackers, etc.
- BHA and BHT – these chemicals can affect the nervous system and potentially result in behavioral issues in children. It’s banned in the UK but in North America it’s still found in cereals, instant potato flakes, frozen dinners, margarine, fruit drinks, lard and baked goods.
- MSG – a flavor enhancer found in most packaged/processed/refined foods. It masquerades under the names hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, vegetable powder or natural flavors. It affects the nervous system and can also lead to behavioral issues in children.
- Aspartame – more lawsuits have been launched against aspartame than any other artificial sweetener on the market. What does that tell you? The recommended limit of aspartame is 7.9mg/day. A one litre diet pop contains approximately 56 mg.
How can we reduce and minimize the damaging effects of these chemicals? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Purchase organic food whenever possible; animal products and high fat products such as oils/nuts should ALWAYS be organic as chemicals/toxins tend to concentrate in fatty tissue.
- Purchase all your Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies organic (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php) and save money on the Clean Fifteen.
- Eat whole, natural, good quality foods that you have prepared instead of eating foods from a box, package or container.
- READ labels and avoid buying products with ingredients you can’t pronounce. A good rule of thumb is, if it has more than 8 listed ingredients you probably don’t want to eat it.
- ELIMINATE all chemical household cleaners, detergents, soaps, etc (these are readily absorbed through the skin and/or through your nasal passages) and replace with natural, green, eco friendly products.
- Switch to natural body care products - when purchasing personal care products, look for organic/natural options. If you can't pronounce the ingredients you probably don't want to put it on your body. Ask yourself, "Would I eat this?" One way to clean up your beauty regimen is to simplify your routine and make your own products. Coconut oil can replace a whole slew of products, from skin moisturizers to hair care. EWG’s Skin Deep database (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Look for products that are fragrance-free. This applies to personal care products and household cleaning products alike. If you want a scent, consider using a pure essential oil.
- Reduce exposure to aluminum and plastics – these are full of chemicals, toxins, heavy metals, etc. Opt for glass or stainless steel containers, utensils, cooking vessels, etc. Replace aluminum foil with parchment paper. And if you are still drinking beverages out of aluminum cans switch to glass bottles.
- Limit the amount of pop you drink; it is full of high fructose corn syrup which is damaging to the body and we already know that diet pop, sweetened with aspartame, should be eliminated.
- Avoid fluoride in your toothpaste and mouthwash; decline fluoride treatments at the dentist.
- Drink at least 2L of filtered water/day (away from meals) to help flush toxins out of the system.
- Avoid swimming in chlorine; opt for salt water pools when possible.
- Buy a filter for your shower to prevent over exposure to chlorine while bathing/showering.
- The lymphatic system supports our internal detoxification system - we can stimulate the lymph by exercising regularly and by vigorously brushing/massaging certain areas where the lymph is concentrated. Buy a natural bristle brush and, while in the shower, brush the chest which will stimulate the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and stomach. You can also brush inner thighs (small intestine) and outer thighs (large intestine).
- You may also want to consider taking a daily anti-oxidant to help combat the free radical damage caused by the chemicals in our bodies. Vitamins A, C & E along with selenium and zinc are all potent anti-oxidants that can help your body neutralize and minimize the negative impact of toxins in our system.
Reducing your toxic load will have a positive and lasting impact on your continued health and well being.