Get a good glimpse of these everyday toxins around you…
We live in a world filled with everyday toxins. From the moment you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock in the morning, until the time you set that very same alarm clock again at night, you’re continuously exposed to everyday toxins. Let’s try and identify them. What is a toxin anyway?
The Broad Definition of a Toxin
Let’s put a practical definition to the word toxin. This will make it easier to identify whether the things around us are toxic or not.
Generally speaking, a toxin is any substance or chemical that can bring harm to your body. It can be found inside or outside your body (in the environment). In the field of alternative medicine, it’s recognised and accepted that harmful substances called toxins can accumulate within your body. In addition these toxins can have a negative impact on your health, either permanently or temporarily. This is the reason behind detoxification, which simply means to rid your body of these harmful substances. So what are some of the common toxins in and around your home?
1. Airborne toxins.
The majority of the toxic substances that accumulate in our bodies come from the outside environment (your home and workplace). We eat and inhale most of them. The air around you contains a lot of harmful substances. Air pollution is a big problem especially if you live in the city.
In the US alone, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is busy trying to reduce as many as 187 air pollutants being released into the environment. These air pollutants qualify as toxins because they can cause birth and reproductive defects, allergic reactions and other unpleasant conditions. Some can even cause cancer.
The next item on the list which contributes to our toxin load is the food we eat. No surprises there. A study reported that as much as 95% of malignancies (cancer) are caused by the food you eat, and exposure to toxic substances found in the air, soil and water (environment). It’s only after years (or even a decade) of exposure that the symptoms come out. What you may be eating on a daily basis could be the very reason you’re experiencing some seemingly unrelated health problems. Below are the most common food items which can contain toxins:
Fruits and vegetables.
Pesticides leave residues on harvested fruits and vegetables. Of course, this is true for conventionally grown crops. If you go organic, no pesticide residues are present. According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), the following conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are the ones most toxic: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/ collard greens and summer squash. These pesticide residues are toxic to your health. Some of them are even classified as possible carcinogens. To read more on the best foods to buy organically grown click here.
Fish and other seafoods.
Some fish and other seafoods contain high levels of mercury. Mercury is toxic to your body and can certainly wreak havoc on your health. It can mess up your nervous system. This is especially true when it comes to brain development in children. But mercury aside, fish as most of us know, are packed with B vitamins, omega-3’s and protein. This is the reason why it’s difficult to erase them from your list of nutritious foods. For starters, avoid eating large, deep water fish like shark, swordfish, orange roughy, marlin and king mackerel. Also check out the NZ and AUS specific guidelines on fish consumption.
Non-organic eggs, meat and dairy products.
Conventionally raised animals are given medications and hormones to speed up their growth and increase their milk and egg production. The precise effects of these medications and hormones on us as consumers, is still the subject of intense investigation. So choose organic dairy, meat and eggs whenever possible.
What cooking oil do you use?
Yes, the type of cooking oil you use has a tremendous effect on your health, not to mention the toxin content in your body.
Strike number 1, most vegetable oils have plenty of polyunsaturated fats, which oxidise easily (because they’re unstable). Oxidised oils are also known as rancid oils. Aside from ruining the flavour, this process can also cause damage to your good cholesterol by turning it into “bad” cholesterol. This can lead on directly to cardiovascular disease.
Strike number 2, here comes hydrogenation. Hydrogenation complicates the process because when oxidised oil meets hydrogenation to become more stable (e.g. to make margarine), trans fats are produced. These trans fats are real criminals! They make your arteries susceptible to further damage and increase your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease.
Strike number 3, genetically engineered crops (such as for corn or soybean oil) contain additional toxins like glyphosate. This chemical is an active ingredient in the potent herbicide, Roundup.
Polyunsaturated fats and trans fats, you’re out! Guess who’s in? Saturated fats. These criminal fats (polyunsaturated and trans fats) are toxins to your body. So we recommend minimising them or removing them from your diet. Instead use more stable oils like coconut oil, butter or olive oil for cooking. Click here to read more about which cooking oils and fats to use.
How’s the water you drink?
It might contain heavy metals such as lead. What’s worrisome with lead is that you can’t taste, see or even smell it. Lead comes from dinosaur age (just kidding, I mean old) piping systems. The only way to know if your water contains significant amounts of lead is to have it tested. Lead is a toxin which can accumulate in your body over time (bioaccumulation). Other common toxins which may be in your water supply are chlorine and fluoride. These two elements can be harmful to your thyroid with chronic exposure.
3. Baby bottles.
The most common type of baby bottle in the market is made from polycarbonate plastics. This type of plastic is manufactured with a chemical named bisphenol A or BPA for short. What’s striking about BPA is its chemical structure. It’s similar to the structure of the hormone estrogen. Because of this, it’s called as a hormone disruptor. It mimics the action of estrogen, making it dangerous to your health. This is bad news especially for babies exposed to it.
4. That mattress you sleep on.
That thing which gives you comfort every night could also be supplying you with enough toxins to shorten your lifespan. Most mattresses are chemically treated and contain formaldehyde, and the flame retardant PBDE. PBDE is short for polybrominated diphenyl ethers. This chemical brings a whole army of health problems like cancer, hormonal imbalances and brain dysfunction. While formaldehyde exposure is a recognised risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer.
5. The clothes you wear aren’t spared from the presence of toxins.
Formaldehyde is used by some textile manufacturers to make the fabrics free of creases and resistant to stains. Formaldehyde is an embalming fluid, classified as carcinogenic to humans according to the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Some people are also allergic to formaldehyde.
6. Air fresheners.
Air fresheners are full of phthalates, chemicals which function as a solvent for perfumes. It lengthens the amount of time the scent stays in the air.Most brands labeled as unscented and all-natural still contain this harmful chemical. Developmental, reproductive and endocrine problems, are the main health consequences of being exposed to phthalates. NEVER use them when you have babies in your home. Try other alternatives like creating your own potpourri or a essential oil burner.
7. Insect sprays.
Your insect repellant might contain an active ingredient called N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or DEET for short. DEET contains toluene, a powerful chemical which depresses your nervous system (puts your neurons in zombie mode). DEET can be inhaled (nose and mouth) or absorb (skin). There are much safer bug sprays available out there which contain natural insect repelling essential oils such as citronella, eucalyptus, cedarwood, lemon or camphor.
Most candles out there are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is actually a waste product of petroleum refining. Candles made from paraffin wax emit carcinogenic chemicals when they burn. Two chemicals known to be very toxic, benzene and toluene, remain in the residue after burning candles. Toluene affects the nervous system, while benzene is also carcinogenic. The good news is that safe 100% beeswax or soy candles are easy to find and lovely to use as alternatives.
It’s crystal clear. All of us live in a toxic environment. We can’t completely avoid all of them. Sometimes, we get sick when our bodies are unable to fight off or recuperate from the harmful effects of these toxins. It’s up to us to defend ourselves and find ways on how we can minimize exposure to these toxins. We do what we do best as humans, survive by adapting. Learn to balance your exposure, and at the same time detoxify to maintain a healthy body.
Can you identify the toxins enumerated before around you? Hey, your kids don’t count as toxins (even if on some days, they do act like toxins). What practices do you do to minimize your exposure to them (the toxins, not your kids)?