10 Ways to Reduce Toxins in Your Life

Detox is on my mind. I’m an expectant mama and have a toddler in the house. I also recently returned home from the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Detox Advance Practice Module. So I am all fired up.

I blogged last week about preconception detoxification. One of the most important times to think about toxic exposures is before you try to conceive.

However, this is a far reaching issue. We are all exposed to hundreds of environmental toxins every day, so this is applicable to everyone in the household.  You can read more about specific environmental pollutants referred to as Endocrine Disruptors (EDs) from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Toxic chemicals are implicated in many chronic medical conditions, including:

  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • autoimmune disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • cancers
  • fibromyalgia
  • multiple chemical sensitivities.

The bottom line: we live in a toxic world, but there’s a lot we can do to minimize exposure so they have less impact on our health.

Here are 10 ways to reduce your exposure to toxins: 

1. Eat clean food. Our greatest toxic load comes from food. If you can’t buy everything organic, at least avoid the dirty dozen. Buying organic will also help you avoid GMOs. Minimize animal fats, as they accumulate PCBs and dioxins. Careful with the grill, since smoke and char creates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Avoid intake of fish with moderate to high mercury levels. Avoid canned foods, which usually contain BPA (a good option is the Eden Organic brand, when you must). Avoid high fructose corn syrup and processed foods.

2. Drink clean, filtered tap water. In general, filtered tap water is better than bottled water. You can read more about that here from the National Resources Defense Council.

3. Clean up your kitchen. Trade in your plastic for glass. Ditch the Teflon and cook with cast iron, ceramic, stoneware, or stainless steel instead. I love cast iron because it is economical and durable. Replacing your kid’s plastic cups with small mason jars is another inexpensive change. Read more about 15 Ways to Reduce Endocrine Disruptors in Your Kitchen here.

4. Clean up your bedroom. We spend 1/3 of our life in bed! Consider investing in a green mattress and organic bedding. We’ve purchased ours through Urban Mattress and My Green Mattress.

5. Clean up your personal care products. That means no phthalates, parabens, bisphenol-A (BPA), or “fragrance,” among others. The skin is the largest organ of the body. The chemicals we put on our skin are absorbed and have systemic effects (why do you think we prescribe topical hormone creams for women?). You can make simple, inexpensive swaps. Why not replace your body lotion with coconut oil? Coconut oil also makes a great deodorant when mixed with baking soda and starch. Utilize EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to help you evaluate the safety of your products.

6. Clean up your air. Most people think about outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution might be an even bigger issue, depending on your home and workplace environment. Consider a whole house air filter, or at least smaller units in the bedrooms. Also, practice deep breathing techniques – they’re great for stress and mood, and also help clean out some of the “dead” air that gets trapped in the lungs.

7. Get your home tested. Don’t live and sleep in a toxic environment. Depending on where you live, there may be problems with mold, lead or radon. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides A Citizen’s Guide to Radon with the information you’ll need.

8. Avoid spraying your home and lawn with weed and/or pest killers. Although these poisons are easy to purchase and look almost innocuous, they are far from safe. The EPA provides a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. Did you know that you can order your own home test to measure levels of glyphosate (RoundUp) in urine, breast milk or tap water? Click here to learn more.

9. Vacuum regularly using a high powered vacuum with a HEPA filter.  Clean the bag and filter every time, so dust isn’t pushed back into the air. Household dust and dirt is thought to be one of the biggest sources of daily exposure to lead, fire retardants, pesticides, and other chemicals.

10. Use non-toxic cleaning products. I buy mine from The Honest Company. There are plenty of other green products on the market, and you can clean almost anything with baking soda or vinegar. Consult EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

The Honest Company Cleaning Products

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list – just a starting point. We all have unique risks and exposures which may also include tobacco, alcohol, dental amalgams, work related exposures and even pharmaceuticals.

If this is all too overwhelming for you, just take it one step at a time. Make one change every month. Those changes add up over time.

You can work with a functional medicine practitioner to test for certain chemicals and heavy metals, if indicated. Sometimes this helps patients to prioritize some of the more significant lifestyle changes.

Stay tuned next week for gentle ways to detoxify with foods.  There’s more to come next month on my favorite probiotics and prenantal vitamins. What else would you like to hear about?

If you’re interested in learning more about my practice, please visit my website. Sign up here to receive my latest blog posts and newsletters by email.

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I'm Dr. Christine Maren, a board-certified functional medicine physician and mother of three. I advocate for real food, healthy living, and clean beauty. I think physicians should be role models when it comes to nutrition and healthy living. This is where I share that passion. Thanks for joining me!

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