by Dr. Will Cole
In the past 100 years, our world has undergone more dramatic change than ever before in its history. Some of those changes have made life a whole lot better, like amazing advancements in technology, sanitation, and life-saving surgical procedures. But advancement always comes at a price, and in many other ways, accelerated development of our society has given rise to an epidemic rise of chronic and autoimmune diseases, causing millions to suffer needlessly and bankrupting an already fragile and overspent world economy.
But why does progress have to mean health decline? One of the many factors at the root of this rise of chronic and autoimmune diseases are toxins, which have risen astronomically in our environment during this time period. Toxins in the form of pollution, manufacturing chemicals, and food preservatives and additives are pervasive in our environment and in our bodies, and we are only beginning to understand the extent to which they are influencing human health.
A previous article I wrote on this subject showed how these toxins are specifically causing harm to the thyroid and to hormonal balance (many toxins are endocrine disruptors), but in reality toxins are linked to just about every chronic and autoimmune disease we have identified so far. For example, diseases like diabetes and heart disease may be caused at least in part by toxins, or because of the way toxins weaken the immune system.
So what are we going to do about this? Apart from moving to another fresh planet, how do we stay healthy while living in a toxic world? Fortunately, change is possible. Here’s how to begin reducing the toxic load on your body:
1. Eat organic.
One easy but powerful way to minimize your toxic exposure is to eat food that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. Organic food is getting increasingly easy to find and affordable, making it an option for a much greater share of the population than it once was. Still, there are places it may not be available. If you can’t find or afford organic food, try buying food in season that is locally produced, as this requires much less chemical intervention. Check out local farm stands or farmer’s markets. When that’s not possible, at least thoroughly wash your conventional produce. A quick scrub with vinegar water and a soft vegetable brush can remove more residue than rinsing alone.
2. Clean green.
Most conventional cleaners contain health-impacting chemicals, including conventional dish soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, bathroom and kitchen cleaners, glass cleaners, furniture polish, carpet and floor cleaners, and disinfectants. Replace these products with those labeled nontoxic, especially those with plant-based ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of the most respected nonprofit groups doing work on this topic, has a great guide to nontoxic cleaners.
3. Breathe fresh air.
Essential oils are a great alternative to toxic chemical air fresheners and scented candles, plus they have healing benefits! Perfumes and cologne may smell nice, but many contain toxic ingredients too, but never fear – essential oils can stand in as rich, aromatic personal scents – healthy fragrance without the chemicals.
4. Capture nature.
One way to clean the air you breathe is by having fresh household plants inside your house and work-space. Keep them healthy and they will help to keep you healthy in return.
5. Beautify naturally.
What are you putting on your face, your arms, and your legs? Your skin is your biggest organ and although it looks impermeable, it lets waste products out and toxins in, especially if you slather them all over yourself. If you can’t eat what’s on your skin, don’t rub it in. Your skin is soaking up all the chemicals in those conventional soaps, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, and other hair, skin, and makeup products. Instead of conventional store-bought beauty products, try using almond, jojoba, or coconut oils. These natural oils make excellent cleansers and moisturizers….no chemical ingredient list required! There are also other great nontoxic beauty options out there like Primally Pure; here’s a fantastic guide from the EWG for nontoxic beauty products.
6. Protect with natural sunscreens.
Knowing that your skin is highly absorptive, can you imagine the absorption rate when you’re sweating in the hot sun and reapplying sunscreen over and over? The EWG found that 84% of sunscreen products are harmful to consumers. You read that right: More than four out of five sunscreen products you can buy in any local drug, discount, or grocery store actually harm the people who use them. Due to the scare tactics against even moderate sun exposure, many have gone to the other extreme, lathering up with these toxic chemicals that they would certainly never eat for dinner….all in the name of skin protection.
These sunscreens also block sun-skin interaction that produces vitamin D, and many people are deficient in this nutrient, making overzealous sunscreen use a contributing factor. Sure, nobody wants skin cancer or premature again, but many doctors agree that 15 to 20 minutes of direct exposure to the sun every day is beneficial for vitamin D production. More than that, and sunscreen is warranted, but go non-toxic. The EWG has a great list of safe, non-toxic sunscreens.
7. Drink clean water.
One study found more than 300 pollutants in U.S. tap water. Add a quality water filter in your house to remove at least the majority of common toxins that are found in the water supply.
8. Rethink your microwave use.
Microwaves can significantly reduce the nutritional content of food. One study found that broccoli cooked in the microwave lost up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost only 11% or less of its antioxidants. Another study demonstrated that garlic lost many of its beneficial qualities after being microwaved. The extra minute or two on the stove is worth the nutritional boost.
9. Dump toxic non-stick cookware.
The chemical compound used to make Teflon (and many other non-stick brands) can be very difficult for the body to eliminate. Instead of using Teflon cookware, try cast iron or nontoxic ceramic.
10. Cook with upgraded cooking oils.
Every oil has a specific heat tolerance called a smoking point. Using cooking oils (especially common vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy, or that mysterious “vegetable oil”) that oxidize and become toxic at relatively low temperatures isn’t a good idea for your health, as this process creates toxic compounds. These oils are also highly processed using industrial chemicals. Coconut oil and ghee (the oil from butter) are great options for cooking because they have a higher smoke point and are less likely to oxidize and turn toxic, plus they are much less processed.
11. Sweat more.
We all contain some toxins, so while you are working on taking in a lighter toxic load, you can also work on removing what’s already there. Sweating is a great way to start. Some efficient methods for sweating besides regular exercise are to use an infrared sauna, take a hot yoga class, or soak in a hot bath. I don’t know about you, but I feel cleaner already!
12. Work with a professional.
There are tons of supplements, teas, and other so-called detox products out there on the market, but it’s hard to know which will work, and frankly, many of them aren’t worth your time and money. However, a health care professional experienced in detoxification can help you explore your options with more knowledge. My goal is to clinically investigate root-cause toxicity issues and personalize a comprehensive program to address individual issues. All of my patients are different, with different problems and goals, so their customized detox program has to be tailored just for them. Consider this route if you want to get serious about detoxifying your body and your life.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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