Spring Cleaning The Body
What Causes Our Bodies To Become Toxic?
Toxins are found pretty much every where. From foods that we may have a sensitivity or an allergy to, to environmental allergens, we're constantly being exposed. To name a few...
- Foods that we are allergic/sensitive to
- Environmental allergens, including pollen and air and water pollution
- Bacteria, fungus or yeast that are found naturally in the body but have been left to grow unchecked
- Mental/emotional toxins, loneliness, jealousy, anger, chronic stress
To put it into perspective for you, here's a few less-than-fun facts. An Environmental Working Group study found 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. That means before we even took our first breath of potentially polluted air, we were exposed to almost 300 toxins (that number is likely lower for older members of the population, and higher for the youngest among us). Twenty-five percent of New Yorkers (and I'd venture to say urban New Jerseyans too) have toxic levels of mercury from eating too much sushi. Tuna and large predatory fish are a problem because they eat smaller fish, compounding the toxins THEY are exposed to. Look for small, prey fish like sardines or anchovies, for a better option.
When it comes to food we are really bombarded with toxins. There are 3500 chemicals added to our food every day. So much so that the average American consumes a GALLON of herbicides and pesticides every year from conventional produce. And that's without us eating any where NEAR the appropriate number of servings. Yea, we've got a problem.
Why Should We Detox?
Ok, so we're exposed to all kinds of toxins every day - but our bodies can handle it! Right? Ideally, yes, they can. Our bodies are incredible machines capable of amazing feats. The problem is when we reach our peak, or our "total load", and then our bodies become overwhelmed. Consistently high levels of toxins over the years can cause diseases like Alzheimer's, depression, dementia, heart disease and cancer.
Earlier signs of toxins in the body include a long list of symptoms. Keep in mind these symptoms should be chronic. We all deal with them on occasion, but if they're part of your day to day life, you may want to detox.
- muscle & joint pain
- sinus congestion & infections
- head aches
- digestion issues (bloating, gas, constipation, heart burn)
- sleep problems
- difficulty concentrating or remembering, brain fog
- skin issues (acne, eczema, psoriarsis)
- dark under eye circles
- severe PMS and/or menstrual symptoms
What To Do?
OK, we've established that toxins are all around us, and that sometimes our bodies need a boost - so what do we DO!? Don't panic. And definitely don't starve! Detoxing does not involve only juice, or starving or a single capful of apple cider vinegar as your day's food (though a capful in your morning glass of water would help).
The first thing to do is make sure you're drinking plenty of clean water. Try an at-home water test to learn what elements are in your tap water. You can also ask your municipality for a copy of their test. My town does it every 2 years or so and actually mails the results out to all the residents. But you should be able to get a copy from your local municipality. From there, look for the best filter for your home, as related to what you want filtered out. You should also invest in a quality glass or BPA-free reusable water bottle. This is not only environmentally friendly, but there is a theory that plastic water bottles can add toxins to the water they contain. So it's a double-whammy of goodness, for the planet AND you!
Next up - yea we're going there - poop! I'll give your 8 year old self a minute there. Ready? You should be going to the bathroom 1-2 times daily. If you're not, you want to look into a few things. First is our position - you may want to get one of those toilet stools that help bring your knees up towards your chest. If you can't wrap your head around that one, just grab something in the bathroom that brings you closer to a squatting position to help ease the bowels. Drinking more water may also help get you going (see Step 1). And if you still have trouble, add in some natural fiber like flaxseed or chia. Chia is great because it also gels in the digestive track. That gel basically picks up all the junk and moves it on out! You can also get fiber from fruits and veggies!
Which leads us to our next detoxifying step! Add in those organic fruits and veggies! I say organic because obviously, those have fewer (and ideally, zero) chemicals on them. For a quick guide you can download the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen list here. You should also make sure meat is organic and humanely raised to reduce the number of added hormones and antibiotics.
When it comes to adding in specific foods, you want to focus on two colors - green and red! Look for greens like kale, artichokes, cabbage, brussel sprouts, watercress. Add in herbs like parsley, cilantro, and rosemary. For reds, grab beets, pomegranates, grapes and berries! You can also sip on things like dandelion, milk thistle, cinnamon or ginger tea. And, my favorite, plenty of onions and garlic! Not only will you keep the vampires away, but the potent smell from those foods is created by sulfur - which happens to be an expert element in detoxing.
Of course, there are things we want to avoid while detoxing, and these are the usual suspects. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and other non-prescription stimulants and sedatives. I'm looking at you soda and energy drinks. You also want to avoid white flour and white sugar. Notice I didn't say "gluten" or "carbs" - just try to make sure you're eating hearty, whole grains.
You also want to move your body! Nothing crazy, I'm not talking about flipping tractor tires here. Just something that gets your heart-rate up a bit. The idea here is to get your blood moving. It's the blood's job to clean the body after all! Think of your blood cells as garbage collectors AND delivery drivers all in one. They pick up the crap and drop off the good stuff that our body needs! So we want to help them move to all locations!
Next up, sweat! I know, I just told you to exercise. I'm not repeating myself. When I say sweat, in reference to detoxing, I mean using a sauna or a steam bath. When we sweat from exercise we're just eliminating the acid from our muscles. When we sweat just from being hot, we're clearing out additional toxins. If a sauna or steam bath isn't available to you, try a salt bath at home.
Finally, after you've sweated it out, chill! Not temperature wise. Your mind! Relaxing the mind and body is CRITICAL! Please do not think of this as a luxury, or something to "pamper yourself". Think of relaxing like brushing your teeth! You MUST do it daily! Try meditating, listening to relaxing music, prayer or reading - anything that mellows you out! Make sure whatever you pick doesn't involve looking at a screen. A digital detox is also a good way to clear the mind. Allowing your mind to relax tells the rest of your body that it can relax and allows the body's systems to do their jobs and function properly. Basically, relaxing lets your body do it's thang!
As always, check with your doctor before making any dramatic lifestyle changes. The suggestions in this article are pretty basic and should help the average person. If you'd like more information about how food can change your life, check out my coaching page and see if that's the right step for you!