“Toxins are absolutely everywhere,” my friend said to me on Friday. “It’s awful.” We hadn’t seen each other in several years. Now this friend is in a wheelchair after a rare and horrible reaction to prednisone. The reaction has caused her bones to necrotize. Her condition, avascular necrosis, has afflicted every joint in her body and left her in constant pain.
These days, she told me, she feels lucky to be able to stand, a little, and to walk, a little. She’s had to make drastic changes to keep working. A doctor, she no longer delivers babies because she’s not physically capable of doing so.
Our paths crossed at a memorial service for another friend. My neighbor, Blaine Pickett, who tragically died of cancer less than ten months after being diagnosed. He was only 50.
Scientists have found toxins in polar bears, as well as in remote peoples living off the grid, far away from modern life. There’s so much we can’t control. If polar bears and people living off the grid in the Arctic are being poisoned by environmental toxins, it’s true that they are unavoidable.
But we can make simple, quick changes to avoid toxins. Limiting our exposure to toxins won’t guarantee anything. It won’t help us avoid getting a disease, cancer, or a chronic illness. But it will lessen our chances of suffering from the cumulative effects of poisons in our bodies. The truth is that when you start making lifestyle changes you also start to feel better, have more energy, and be more clear-headed.
Try it, and you’ll see.
So how do we avoid toxins?
Here are 20 ways to avoid toxins in 2020 (and beyond):
- Avoid plastic bottles. I know it feels impossible. Plastic bottles are ubiquitous. But toxins in plastic can build up in your system and cause endocrine disruption. You don’t want to drink water that’s been sitting for months or even years in plastic. Bring your own water bottle or mug with you. Say no thank you to plastic water. And if you are buying water or another drink, choose one bottled in glass.
- Avoid pesticides and herbicides. This is huge. You have to eat organic, or as organic as possible. Certified organic doesn’t matter as much as how the food was grown. Some small farms are practicing organic farming but don’t have the money to get certified. Find out. Befriend a farmer! Or two or three. Yes, organic food is more expensive. But if you stop eating out at restaurants, cut down on your alcohol consumption, and fill your family’s plates with locally grown organic fruits and veggies, you may actually save money eating clean.
- Stop eating sugar. Sugar is a toxin. Avoid it.
- Toss the Tylenol in the trash. Never take any medication with acetaminophen in it again. Tylenol compromises your body’s ability to detox, according to research from Harvard and Duke University scientists. Just say no.
- Eat low on the food chain. First a caveat: Everyone’s diet is different. In my book, how you feel after you eat matters more than strictly adhering to the latest fad diet or food rules. That said, eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits (even for breakfast!) will help your body get the nutrients you need, and also help you avoid toxins. As Marion Nestlé explains here, the smallest animals and fish eat mostly plants, but larger animals and fish eat other animals and fish, and toxins can accumulate in the fat in their bodies. So if you eat fish, choose bottom feeders that get their nutrients from algae and other plant matter. These include cod, halibut, sole, lobster, shrimp, sardines, anchovies, and mackerel.
- Exercise. Sweating is one of the body’s natural ways of ridding itself of toxins. Adding movement to your day (instead of feeling like you have to go to the gym or take a class) is an effective way to get into the habit of exercising.
- Sit in a sauna. Sweating is one of the body’s natural ways of ridding itself of toxins. Exercising and sauna sitting helps. Some functional doctors swear by the healing power of infrared saunas as well.
- Make love. Sweating … yep, you know that already. Consensual lovemaking is an excellent way to sweat, get skin-to-skin contact, feel good, and help your body rid itself of toxins.
- Stop using conventional toothpaste. It’s loaded with toxins, include food dyes and known carcinogens. Use baking soda, powdered toothpaste, or natural toothpaste instead.
- Stop using conventional shampoo. Turns out you don’t need to use ANY shampoo or conditioner. It will take your hair about two weeks to adjust. If you’re not ready to be that radical, use a shampoo bar or choose a bottled shampoo that has fewer than 7 ingredients.
- Stop using conventional lotions. Everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. So don’t put anything on your skin that you aren’t willing to eat. The Romans used olive oil as a skin softener. Try it!
- Eat jerusalem artichokes. They’re full of healthy nutrients and fiber, and functional medical doctors recommend them for detoxing.
- Add probiotics to your plate. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut contain bacteria that are good for your microbiome. While the jury is still out about how effectively they survive stomach acid, and which strains humans need, beneficial bacteria help us digest food more effectively and stay healthy. By eating probiotics (and considering using a supplement as well. Change brands and strains if you do this for more than a month at a time), we may be supporting our detoxification pathways.
- Get enough magnesium. Most Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diets because of soil depletion from over-farming. Magnesium helps you avoid toxins by getting them out of your body. A natural muscle relaxant, taking magnesium to bowel tolerance will help you with constipation and stress. Some find that magnesium supplementation also improves sleep. You can get it by eating foods rich in magnesium, bathing in epsom salt baths, and taking a high quality supplement. If you’re looking for a magnesium supplement, choose a capsule form and avoid tablets with lots of additives.
- Read food labels. If you’re considering eating it or feeding it to your kids and it contains any non-food substances like mold inhibitor or petroleum-based food dyes, put the item back on the self. Bananas come in their own packaging and don’t contain filler. Nuts make a wonderful healthy snack. Try to shift to eating real food, instead of packaged, processed junkola.
- Read vitamin and supplement labels. You might think you’re being healthy and avoiding toxins by taking supplements. Not to scare you but it’s sadly true that your supplements and vitamins may also contain toxins.
- Lose weight. The less belly and other fat you carry around the fewer toxins your body will hold. No, losing weight isn’t easy (ask me how I know.) Yes, you can do it.
- Drink lots of (filtered) water. Depending on where you live and the quality of the water, you probably need to filter it. Functional medical doctors recommend adding lemon juice to the water you drink throughout the day. According to Chris Chlebowski, N.D., of Ashland Natural Medicine, drinking lemon water is a “gentle way to detox.” The better hydrated you are, the more you urinate. And urinating (like defecating and sweating) is a way your body detoxes.
- Consider an enema or try colonics. Both are effective ways of avoiding toxic build-up in your body.
- Fast. Intermittent, 1-day, or even a 3-day fast can be hugely beneficial
And then there’s the elephant in the room: the aluminum and other metals, like mercury, that are in many of the pharmaceutical products we give to children. Aluminum can accumulate in the body and have toxic effects, especially on the brain. Any lifestyle improvements to avoid toxins must include a plan to avoid topical, ingested, and injectable aluminum.
Please note: This post is not a substitute for medical advice and is not to treat or diagnose any condition. Before making lifestyle changes that may affect your health, seek medical advice. For any medical questions, talk to your health care provider.