It used to be that when I thought about being “healthy” I thought about eating right and exercising. These are two really important components of health, but I have learned they’re not the only ones.
While food and exercise are at the foundation of our health, reducing our toxic load is an important factor as well. Over time our bodies can get burdened by this world, and they cease to function properly. If we are mindful of our toxic load, we are more likely to be healthy, from the inside out!
Our “toxic load” refers to the accumulation of various toxins, or substances that cause harm to our bodies, and the burden that those toxins place on the body. Toxins typically come in three forms.
- Pathogens. Pathogens are things like bacteria, viruses, and fungi that invade the body and attempt to cause illness, infection, or disease.
- Chemicals. Chemicals are natural or synthetic compounds that cause harm to the body. They can be in the form of pesticides on our food, additives in our food, environmental pollutants, cleaning products, and more.
- Radiation. Radiation is more than fallout from a nuclear bomb. Radiation is really just high energy particles that can damage our cells and DNA. Sunlight is the most common form of radiation.
You can see that it would be awfully difficult to live a toxin-free life. We are exposed to harmful substances every day, and our bodies are designed to capture and eliminate those toxins. Before we talk about getting them out, let’s find out how they get in.
Toxins enter our bodies through these 3 exposure pathways.
Our exposure pathways are where we are most vulnerable. Thankfully our bodies have also come up with defense mechanisms to limit their vulnerability.
- Lungs. Toxins can enter our bodies through the air we breathe. Bacteria and viruses can be airborne, as well as smoke, smog, and other airborne particles, especially from cleaning products and air “fresheners”. To protect the delicate tissue of our lungs, the nose, mouth, and throat are coated in a mucous to collect foreign particles in hopes to keep them out of our lungs.
- GI Tract. Our GI system is exposed to toxins when we eat or drink something containing toxins. There are pesticides and antifungal chemicals on our food, preservatives and flavor enhancers in our food, chemicals in our water, and more. Our GI system is protected by the mucous membranes in our throat, as well as the acidic environment inside. Many living toxins are killed in the acidic stomach before causing problems.
- Skin. Our skin is considered our largest organ and is in place to keep invaders out, but our skin is permeable. Toxins can be absorbed transdermally, which makes choosing personal care products like lotion, deodorant, and shampoo very important. Like our stomach, our skin protects itself by maintaining an acidic environment that doesn’t favor microbial growth. We also have living microbes on our skin that help to keep invaders in balance.
Now that we know how toxins enter our bodies, let’s look at some specific ways we can avoid these things and reduce our toxic load.
Reduce Our Toxic Load
Some kind of toxic exposure is inevitable, but if we are mindful there are steps we can take to reduce both our exposure to them, and minimize their effect. Here are three ways to reduce our toxic load.
Avoid Toxic Exposure
The most proactive thing we can do in reducing our toxic load is avoiding exposure. Three major sources of toxins in our lives are personal care products like shampoo, deodorant and lotion, cleaning products, and food additives.
Many personal care products can be made yourself. I have made my own deodorant for a couple years, and it truly takes only a couple minutes (or you can use lemon juice!). If you’re not a DIY-er, find a great line of non-toxic personal care products like shampoo, facial care systems, soap, and tooth paste. (Use the form below if you need help finding a brand you like.)
The Toronto Indoor Air Commission determined that women who work at home are 54% more likely to develop cancer than those who work out of the home. They believe this risk is largely due to the cleaning products women working at home are exposed to. When I wrote the post “What’s REALLY In That? Hidden Ingredients in Consumer Products” I learned that even many “green” cleaners contain undisclosed ingredients that can cause sensitivity. Me? I clean my house with baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and water. Mostly water.
Food additives are increasingly difficult to avoid. Sometimes they come in the form of preservatives, flavor enhancers, fillers, or pesticides. Cooking from scratch, growing your own food, and buying organic are the most sure ways of avoiding these things, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Soaking your produce in water with lemon essential oil is one way help clean it and reduce your toxic exposure!
If you’re interested in learning more about product labeling, and how the food and cosmetic industries avoid disclosing ingredients on their labels, check out “How to Smell Better” and “What’s REALLY in That?“, two posts I wrote earlier this year.
Support Defensive Functions
The second thing we can do in reducing our toxic load is to support our body’s natural defensive functions. Many of the toxins we are exposed to these days are fat soluble. When our bodies detect a high level of a toxin in our blood stream, it will send lipids out to surround the toxin and store it in a fat cell.
The liver in particular plays a significant role in processing and eliminating fat soluble toxins. One way to support the liver is to drink water with fresh lemon juice or a drop of lemon essential oil right away in the morning.
Additionally, reducing free radicals and inflammation in our bodies by choosing food and supplements that reduce inflammation and contain antioxidants will help to prevent the premature breakdown and damage of cells.
Support Elimination Functions
Just as we are inevitably going to be exposed to toxins, our bodies are designed to eliminate them. The problem is that we are exposed to toxins in every area of our lives, which can lead to toxic overwhelm. Our bodies’ elimination “chimneys” can get backed up and toxins can continue to accumulate in our bodies.
This means supporting our organs that work on elimination is crucial to effective toxic elimination. Our liver, kidneys, and colon are the organs primarily responsible for processing these toxins.
Our primary elimination chimneys are our intestines and waste and our urinary system. Sometimes these primary chimneys are neglected or are not functioning properly. One really simple way to support both our GI and urinary systems is to stay hydrated.
When our primary chimneys overloaded or not working right, our secondary chimneys begin to take on the overload. Our secondary chimneys are our respiratory system and our skin. The skin is sometimes referred to as a “third kidney” and will move waste that was intended to be eliminated elsewhere. Skin eruptions can be a symptom of improper use of elimination pathways.
With this is mind, it is important to be sure we have proper flow of both the intestinal and urinary tracts, and to lift any unnecessary burdens from other chimneys of the body to avoid other eruptions.
Using Essential Oils
There are many ways to reduce your toxic load. In our home we use essential oils.
Cleaning with essential oils is a great way to reduce the amount of toxins we are exposed to. I like making a multipurpose spray for cleaning multiple surfaces to make it easy. Lemon essential oil is great for cleaning wood surfaces, or removing crayon and marker.
Once toxins are in your body, it’s important to get them out and essential oils can be helpful for that as well. Citrus oils like lemon, orange, and grapefruit can be helpful with supporting our cleansing organs. Cilantro can also be helpful for cleansing the body of heavy metals.