Sources of toxins

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Sources of toxins

(This post is co-authored between Lori Rose Holistic and Ellen Wentz, holistic nutrition and herbal intern with Lori Rose Holistic.  This post contains affiliate links, but I only promote products and books that I love and use in my daily life, and the affiliate does not increase the price to you.  Purchasing does allow me to keep creating this free resource for you, and let’s you incorporate all the resources that have helped along my journey into your own.)

In my recent post on my interview with Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship, we discussed the chemicals found in sunscreen and how they affect our health. Many of us may not have realized that the chemicals in sunscreen were actually harmful to us (and our kids)! (Fear not: you can get my video on how to make your own toxin-free sunscreen AND 18-page e-book on sun health FREE HERE!).  The sad thing is that many things in our lives are chock-full of toxins that are detrimental to our health.

How do we get toxins?

You might (or might not) be surprised to learn that regulatory agencies like the FDA, USDA, and EPA treat toxins as a “safe until proven guilty” addition to products, including food additives, pesticides and herbicides, body care products, cleaning products, plastics, and pharmaceuticals (more on this last group in a future post).

This practice supports the industry and pharmaceutical market as opposed to protecting your health.  In fact, it can take decades for a toxin to be “proven” to have adverse effects and get removed from the market, perhaps explaining the shocking statistic that hundreds of thousands of deaths each year are caused by correctly prescribed and taken FDA-approved drugs.  Since the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical products have been added to the market at the annual rate of 8,000 products, with minimal research on safety and minimal enforcement of what little safety regulations exist.  Furthermore, toxins are researched as a one-chemical-exposure basis, with no investigation on how the synergistic effect (how multiple toxins interact within the body) of toxins really manifest in the body.

Symptoms of toxicity

This leaves us as a country at the mercy of the chemical market, exposed to hundreds of toxins daily no matter how “clean” we are striving to live.  Babies are born with detectable amounts toxins already in their body, and even mothers’ breastmilk contains toxins.  Each person has a different toxic body burden limit, but once your limit is met toxic overload can result in weight gain from obesogens, hormone disruption from estrogen mimics and common body care products or pharmaceuticals like the pill, and malnourishment.  All of these systemic changes can eventually manifest as symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, hormone imbalance, thyroid issues, cancer risk, risk of fatigue, weight issues, and more.

Can I decrease my levels of toxins?

You might be wondering why you should even try with such a grim picture of toxic exposure, but every toxin limited in your body prevents you from reaching that personal body burden limit.  Decreasing our exposure is crucial, but can get pretty overwhelming at times. This post will cover the potential sources of toxins, and most importantly, how to eliminate them from your home and lives to better improve not only your health, but the health of your family and the environment.

Where do we find toxins?

Cosmetics and body care products

In addition to sunscreen, other daily products that also contain harmful toxins are

  • deodorants
  • hair dyes
  • shaving cream
  • face masks
  • make-up
  • shampoo, conditioner, and other hair care products
  • nail polish remover and nail polish

just to name a few examples. How can you know if your products have toxins?  Just like food, you have to start reading labels (or use websites where the work has already been done for you).  Avoiding any products with the following ingredients:

  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • parabens
  • phthalates
  • triethanolamin
  • synthetic color
  • sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate
  • PCPs
  • antibacterial soaps and anything else with triclosan and triclocarban
  • formaldehyde and formalin
  • EGBE
  • DEGME
  • “poison”, “danger”, “harmful if swallowed”
  • toluene and DBP
  • TEA
  • “fragrance” and “parfum”
  • PEG
  • aluminum
  • DEET
  • all ingredients on the EWG list of endocrine disruptors

Processed food, cooking ware, and food packaging

Three common toxins in our cookware and food packaging are

BPA is used in metal can linings for things like canned fruits, veggies, sauces, meat, baby formula, and legumes, and is an endocrine disruptor linked to many health issues including cancer.

Teflon is one of many toxins in a group called Perfluoroalkyl or Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), that are not only found in

  • non-stick pots and pans, but also in
  • fast food wrappers,
  • paper plates,
  • paper boxes (like for pizza or frozen items),
  • and even popcorn bags.

Phthalate toxin transfers to food via vinyl food processing materials (like conveyor belts, gloves, and tubing) and plastic water bottles, and are highest in poultry, some dairy products, and fats (potentially due to phthalates leaching more readily into fatty foods).

Even food itself contains toxins. Read labels and avoid food additives and preservatives like

  • nitrates, nitrites,and sulfites,
  • MSG,
  • carrageenan,
  • allergens like gluten, corn, and soy products,
  • hydrogenated oils and trans-fats,
  • dyes,
  • sugars and corn syrup,
  • refined carbs and flour,
  • and just about anything in a box or package.

Indoor toxins

Many of us assume the things within our house and that we use for cleaning are safe for us, but most of the time they are not. The following products have recently been called out for being high in toxins:

Outdoor toxins

Most of the time we can’t control how many toxins are around us outside, but there are a couple things we can do. Air pollution is a big one, and could even fit into our indoor toxin category since our homes aren’t necessarily 100% air-tight. Air pollution is often derived from things being burned (ex: factory fumes and engine combustion/exhaust) or turned into a gas form to mingle with the air we breathe.  The water we drink, including tap and bottled water, can be a huge source of toxins as well.

Are you feeling depressed yet?  Hang in there, the hope is coming!

Sources of toxins

How to replace toxic household products

Now I know that was a LOT of information, but now we are ready for the good part… the part where you get to learn about all of the BETTER options for you, your family, and the environment!

Cosmetics and body care products

Thankfully there is a movement for cleaner products, and many brands of cosmetics (including shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, etc.) are participating in the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, agreeing not to include any ingredients that are connected with long-term health effects within three years.  You can find a link to the 300+ participating companies in this blog by Toxic-Free Future, or check this list out. Brands include Badger, California Baby, AnnMarie Skincare, or check out ewg/org/skindeep.

What would be even better is making your own cosmetics (like my recipe for sunscreen!), or eliminating how many products you use. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is great for bathing both children and adults, and on skin or hair. If you visit their website, they also provide you with some simple recipes that use their soap, along with information on their gentle and natural ingredients, and how it benefits us and the environment.  You can also sign up for my How to Make Natural Remedies for Families online course (first class is free!) for video tutorials on how to make homemade toxic-free remedies for you and your family.

Furthermore, instead of relying on make-up we can practice holistic ways of clearing the skin, like drinking enough water every day, eating more whole plant foods, and supporting digestive, immune, and liver health to bring a clean, healthy glow to our complexion!

Processed food, cooking ware, and food packaging

One easy step for going BPA-free is to find packaging that states such… but here’s the catch: what is replacing the BPA? Most likely there is another chemical like BPS or BPF that haven’t been tested for safety yet. So the very best thing to do is to stick with glass containers for both storage and buying food in. For baby bottles and water bottles, glass is also another great option, along with 18-21 stainless steel and lead-free ceramic.

You can shop at farmer’s markets and bulk stores to avoid using plastic food packaging, and use your own cloth produce and shopping bags (and glass storage jars for bulk items if possible). Buying whole foods, particularly veggies and fruit, generally produces less plastic and paper waste, not to mention is healthier for your diet and health!

As for cooking ware, non-pre-coated cast iron, lead-free ceramic, lead-free porcelain enamel, tempered glass and carbon 18-21 steel are some of the top recommended materials that don’t leech toxins or, when chipped/dinged, flake off toxic bits like non-stick pots and pans.

Eat whole foods as much as possible, and choose organic, pastured, raw (dairy) food as much as possible. If you can’t buy 100% organic, the annual EWG dirty dozen list can be used to decide a few things to purchase organic. Tip: shop around the outside and avoid the middle aisles. You can learn how to make unprocessed snacks and foods at home with the kids or on your own (this link contains an amazing book on how to take your favorite boxed food meals and turn them into homemade, toxin-free meals).

Indoor toxins

This is one of the easier areas to work with since there are a LOT of household cleaner DIY’s out there on the internet! You can make your own homemade cleaning products.  You find people using these much safer alternatives that are also cheap: Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (or other natural/organic soaps), water, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide + vinegar, and lemon juice (PS: don’t use the hydrogen peroxide + vinegar with the baking soda unless it’s science experiment day!). One of my favorite replacements is simply soap and water, or even baking soda for a bit of a scrub, for cleaning the toilet bowl; this is a BIG help for our water system… remember all those warnings on the back of that toilet bowl cleaner bottle (wear gloves, don’t get in your eyes, etc.)? No more toxic and acidic chemicals going into our water system or out to the environment, hurray! Another easy favorite of a friend of mine is filling a hand soap dispenser with Dr. Bronner’s soap for handwashing and washing the dishes. Just a squirt or two on a wash rag or eco-friendly sponge, and the dishes are clean! Sprinkling baking soda onto tougher spots usually does the trick (soaking first also helps).  You can also get organic mattresses, switch out carpet floors, use house plants, get a HEPA filter, and avoid pesticide and herbicide use.

Outdoor toxins

Many things can be used to clean your air from outdoor toxins, including plants (which are excellent at removing even the smallest air pollutants, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds- VOCs), air purifiers/HEPA filters, and ventilation products that help with cleaning outdoor air coming inside.  (There is an option to move to a better location, but perhaps you aren’t sure where a better location might be… NASA actually provides air quality readings to give you a better idea of the air quality around you or where you might wish to move.)  Investing in a water filtration system and adding minerals back in to filtered water is a great solution.  You can get expensive options, or even super cheap options and buy filtered water for a dispenser.

Tips for decreasing toxins_

Should I detox?

If you haven’t seen my post on how to support your body’s natural detox processes while you are starting to minimize your toxic exposure, check it out here, or learn some daily detox rituals like dry brushing and using detox-supportive herbs like yellow dock and dandelion.

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Where should I start if I want to remove toxins?

There are so many things you can do to reduce the toxins in your life, all these small changes lead to BIG benefits, for you and the environment! Educating yourself is the best way to make better choices for your health and well-being, and you’ve already taken your first step towards making your life healthier!  Don’t forget to take these steps slowly so they become second-nature habits, keep focused on your goal with a positive mindset, and remember that every step towards progress matters.  Internal toxins from stress are just as harmful as external toxins! Pick one or two each month, turn them into habits, and then pick one or two more.  Three changes that you keep forever are better than 100 changes that only last for a week. Progress, not perfection.

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Guest blogger:

Ellen Blog pic 1Hello everyone! I am Ellen Wentz, currently a Master’s student at the American College of Healthcare Science (ACHS) for my Master’s degree in CAM, and specialization in Herbal Medicine, Anatomy and Physiology, and Holistic Nutrition. I presently live on the East coast with my husband, but was born and raised in Wisconsin in the heart of the countryside where I grew my passion for nature, animals, and simple and clean living in harmony with the planet we live upon. My more scientific and medical-based passions stem from growing up with a mother that had worked as a medical assistant and often brought us to the clinic she worked at (where my brother and I would reside in the breakroom and chat with the nurses and doctors that would periodically pop in). I am actually one of the first in my immediate family to have been through an Associates degree, Bachelors degree, and now a Master’s degree! My father sometimes comments where I got my dedication for education, lol. And now that I have come as far as I have, I can say that I have found something that I’m passionate in learning about how to improve my health and life, along with how I can help others achieve the same (even in my spare time, lol). Once I finish my degree, I aim to work with a holistic wellness/nutrition company, blog (since I enjoy writing as well), and perhaps start my own holistic wellness business in the future. As you may have guessed, I spend my spare time looking up the latest information on healthcare and greener living, I am also an artist, just like my mother had been in her spare time (I have a Minor in Painting), I work as a bookseller at a locally-owned bookstore (what a charming place to be at while I do my schooling!), and a cat-mom to a large and beautiful Tuxedo cat named Harper.

AWP-11Lori Valentine Rose, PhD, CNP, BCHN, RH (AHG) is a college biology, nutrition, herbal, and wellness instructor, board certified nutrition professional and holistic nutrition consultant, registered herbalist, wife, mother, organic vegetable, fruit, and medicinal herb gardener, school garden planter, city class teacher, and passionate Zumba dancer!  She created, developed, and instructs the Hill College Holistic Wellness Pathway, the most thorough, affordable, degreed wellness program in the country.  She also has a video podcast here where she interviews people that have helped her truly embrace real mind-body-spirit holistic wellness.  She loves spreading love and light, and helping others feel awesome on the inside and out so they can live their dreams and make this world more awesome!  Lori Rose Holistic does not replace medical advice or working with your doctor, and she does not diagnose, treat, or cure disease.  Her goal is to educate, and any actions you take are voluntary and of your own free will.

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