Our bodies are well designed to sort everything we encounter into a beneficial input to be absorbed and utilized or a useless or toxic input to be repelled or eliminated. From the food we eat and the air we breathe to organisms we encounter, these systems are robustly built to protect us and allow us to thrive. In a perfect world, we would only be exposed to positive inputs, but when it comes to toxins, we live in a far from perfect world.
We are surrounded by small, frequent exposures that add up in our system over time and increase the risk of diseases such as GERD, irritable bowel disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The major threats to our health include heavy metals, plastics, molds and pesticides. Most of these exposures are deemed safe for humans as single doses; the amount of plastic that gets into our food from one heating in the microwave is low enough that there are no warnings on plastic food containers. However, repeated micro-doses of these exposures add up to damage and disease.
It’s similar to a trash can in your kitchen. A small amount of trash is inconsequential. However, if you keep adding more, the can will eventually overflow unless you empty it. Most of us don’t let the can get that full. But with our bodies, we are much less aware of the toxic load rising and overflowing – until we have a health crisis or some other alarm causes us to pause and take notice.
Our detoxification systems have sensors in our skin and digestive tract that raise an alarm if a harmful item is encountered. Messenger hormones transmit the alarm throughout the body which triggers an inflammatory response and an all-out effort to remove the toxin. Sometimes this is a simple episode of nausea and vomiting, but other times it takes our liver revving up the detoxification process to tag the trash and take it out.
This detox process can be enhanced by eating or supplying nutrients such as folate and glutathione which are champions of liver detoxification. In synchronized fashion, these two nutrients neutralize the toxin and move all the trash to the elimination systems of the body.
Even more important, is decreasing toxins in your daily life by implementing new micro-habits. For each of these toxic categories, make small steps to limit your exposure:
- Minimize plastics by switching to re-usable water and coffee cups made of non-plastic materials and invest in glassware for food storage.
- When grocery shopping, utilize the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen” lists to minimize your exposure to pesticides.
- Another great tool is the Good Seafood Guide from the Environmental Working Group to help minimize heavy metal toxins in your diet.
- As much as possible, drink filtered water.
- To decrease toxins in your home, start taking shoes off at the door so that you don’t track in sprays and bio-toxins such as mold or bacteria.
Although these are simple, small steps, together they are a great start to a cleaner you!
Jeralyn Brossfield, MD, is the founder and physician of XO Health in Rancho Mirage and medical director of Brain Health Restoration also in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 573.2761 or www.brainhealthrestoration.com.