Even with our best efforts for living a clean, green life, it is virtually impossible to avoid all toxins. Plus, the question isn't just how much are we exposed to toxins but also what is our body's individual genetic tolerance to them?
There are some people who can handle many stressors in life, including toxins, while others of us can't. Someone might smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and live until they're 80 while the next person could die from secondhand smoke at 40. It doesn't mean smoking is healthy — but it does show that we all have different thresholds for toxins.
Many people, including myself, have methylation impairments such as the MTHFR gene mutation. Not only do these gene changes increase your chances of autoimmunity, but they also inhibit your body's ability to handle toxins.
Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system turns against the body that sustains it, are increasing rapidly. I have written in the past about how stress, poor diet, food intolerances, infections, and leaky gut syndrome could trigger the autoimmune genetic predisposition. Toxins are an additional piece of the autoimmune puzzle. Xenobiotics are chemical compounds (such as a drug, pesticide, or carcinogen) that are foreign to our bodies. Some may be implicated in the initiation, progression, and exacerbation of autoimmune diseases:
- Mercury: found in some seafood and amalgam teeth fillings
- BPA: found in many common plastic products
- Vinyl chloride: found in some tap water, vehicle upholstery, and plastic kitchenware
- Organic solvents: found in some paints, varnishes, lacquers, adhesives, glues, and cleaning agents, and in the production of dyes, plastics, textiles, printing inks, agricultural products, and pharmaceuticals
- Formaldehyde: found in many skin, shampoo, and cleaning products
- Heavy metals: found in some tap water as well as many skin, hair, and cleaning products
- Pesticides: found in nonorganic foods and water supply
There are a few steps you can take to lower your exposure to toxins and protect your health. Here's what I recommend:
1. Get a comprehensive health history done.
A functional medicine look at health starts with a detailed health history, including looking at your environment at home, work, and the toxins you might be exposed to on a daily basis. Common toxin-filled environments include:
- Autobody repair shops
- Nail and hair salons
- Dental offices
- Factories using chemicals
- Janitorial services/house cleaning
- Moldy buildings
- Lead paint
2. Find out if your body is creating antibodies to toxins.
I recommend running blood labs to see if your immune system is creating antibodies against some of these toxins, fueling inflammation throughout the body.
3. Calm inflammation and balance your immune system.
When managing autoimmune conditions, your primary goal should be to control inflammation levels and balance the immune system. To start, I recommend healing the microbiome, managing stress, and cleaning up your diet, among other tips.
4. Clean with green products.
Conventional dish soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and household cleaners contain harmful chemicals for your health. Look for products labeled nontoxic and ones with plant-based ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit group doing work on this topic, has a great guide to nontoxic cleaners.
5. Use essential oils instead of toxic scents.
Instead of using toxic air fresheners and candles, opt for essential oils. They're a great alternative and have healing benefits as well. While perfumes and colognes may smell nice, many also contain toxic ingredients. Using essential oils instead is a great, healthy way to smell your best.
6. Bring the outside inside.
One way to clean the air you breathe is by having fresh household plants inside your house and work space. Spider plant, dracaena, garden mum, and peace lily are all great indoor plants to purify your indoor spaces.
7. Use nontoxic products on your skin.
Remember, your skin is your biggest organ, and it absorbs all the toxins that are in conventional soaps, shampoos, and makeup products. Instead of store-bought lotions, try using almond, jojoba, or coconut oils instead. There are also great nontoxic beauty options out there.
8. Wear natural sunscreens.
EWG research suggests that 84 percent of sunscreen products are harmful to consumers. At the same time, many of us take avoiding sun exposure too far and are vitamin D deficient as a result, which can further trigger autoimmune problems. Opt for safe, nontoxic sunscreens instead — and aim for around 10 minutes of sun exposure every day.
9. Support methylation.
Methylation, a biochemical process, happens more than 1 billion times a second in your body to keep you alive and healthy. Many people with immune problems have genetic methylation impairments, such as MTHFR gene mutations, which makes it difficult to detox on your own.
Here are some great ways to support healthy methylation pathways with food:
Green leafy vegetables
Folate, which is found in greens like kale, collards, chard, and spinach, is needed for methylation. Make sure to fill up on lots of nutritious greens every day.
If you find you can’t handle the roughage of this many greens, cooking them first can help mitigate any gastrointestinal upset.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and asparagus also support methylation.
Organic organ meat
Grass-fed organ meat, like liver, is the most bioavailable-rich source of B vitamins on the planet, which are essential for optimal methylation. I'll be sharing my favorite detox recipes on my Facebook page.
10. Use superfoods to detox your body.
Make sure to bring detoxing foods into your day:
- plantain leaf
- red clover blossom
Whether you use them in smoothies, on salads, or with your meals, rotating these foods throughout your week is a great way to make meals your detoxing medicine.
11. Drink clean water.
Use a quality water filter in your house to remove at least the majority of common toxins that are found in the water supply.
12. Dump Teflon cookware.
The chemical compound used to make Teflon can be very difficult for the body to eliminate. Instead of using Teflon cookware, try cast iron or nontoxic ceramic.