Spring is typically the time of year we start thinking about “cleaning.” We may spring clean our houses or feel inspired to take a walk outside and breathe in the fresh springtime air. On a broad scale, we may start clearing things from our lives to make way for the new.
This natural inclination towards cleansing is part of engaging in the cycles of life. We have the opportunity to rebirth ourselves within our environment every year. And, perhaps this cleansing process we instinctually go through during springtime is even more of a necessity now that our toxin load has exponentially increased.
The message is the same no matter where you look: our planet and lifestyles are thick with chemicals, pollutants and waste. The average adult contains about 700 contaminants in their body, with infants harboring a couple hundred at birth. This toxicity is not just a scary concept in itself, but relates directly to escalating rates of chronic disease. For example, toxins of all types have been connected to behavioral disorders, autoimmune disease, asthma, allergies, cancer, dementia and infertility. Research shows that high body levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can result in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
However, you don’t have to fear toxins! Awareness and knowledge are powerful tools to help you on your journey of understanding your health. How do you begin to “come clean” in the dirty world we live in?
Food is an easy place to check first. Here’s where organically-grown food has an advantage compared to conventionally grown food. It may be more expensive, but you are getting less pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Hopefully, according to the definition of what it means to be organic, you are avoiding the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The chemicals you want to avoid tend to like fat; so if you eat many fatty animal products, you might be getting a larger load. If you are eating dairy products, you’ll want to be on the lookout for hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk. Eating fish is supposed to be healthy because it contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, but when the fish is chock full of methylmercury, you reduce much of its health benefit. Check the Natural Resources Defense Council to get information about fish choices lower in mercury.
We may forget about the impact of air quality, because we breathe without thinking about it. However, inhaling air pollution particles can have drastic effects. You may be surprised to know there are studies showing that air pollution is correlated with heart disease, preterm births, inflammation and asthma. A recent study showed that overweight/obese people can breathe 7-50 percent more air than a person who has a healthy weight, making them even more vulnerable to the effects of air pollutants. Deep breathing exercises to remove “dead” air in the lungs is a good first start to removing the pollutants in our lungs.
We are constantly taking in water – drinking it from the tap or from plastic bottles, cooking and bathing in it. Current estimates suggest that there are more than 2,000 toxins in tap water. There are several kinds of water filter units available that remove certain kinds of chemicals. It would be a good idea to have your water tested where you live to see what you might need to remove before you buy a filter.
Personal Care Products
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It is often overlooked when it comes to what toxins we are exposed to. Research suggests that women use about 12 different personal care products on a daily basis and “consume” about 126 chemicals from these products. For men, the number is somewhat lower at 8 products daily with 85 unique ingredients. It is essential to read your product labels like you would your food labels, making sure that you are not taking in endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and parabens.
You might not have been expecting this one, but toxins enter every area of our lives. People can be toxic. Holding emotions back may be toxic. And even jobs can present their own toxicity. We are surrounded in a mesh of social networks that may or may not be serving us. The power of these networks ripples through our ability to be happy, which can lead to other health and eating issues. It is important to choose your connections wisely to maintain good body-mind health! The tide of toxicity can feel like a tsunami, but the more we can become aware of physical and social toxins, the more we will be able to ride the wave of health rather than drowning out in the undertow of disease.