“Detox” is the word.Posted: September 11, 2011 | Author: onhc | Filed under: Blog | Comments Off on “Detox” is the word.
“Detox” is the word!
And what a loaded word it is! There are thousands of detoxification products sold in health food stores and on the internet and hundreds of different detox protocols that claim to be the best. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t get asked about a “detox”. Any plan worth following however, is not going to be found in a box or a bottle. Any protocol that will significantly lower one’s toxic load will be a comprehensive, step by step endeavor that combines dietary restrictions, various home healthcare practices, nutritional supplements that aid in detoxification, and thoughtful avoidance of toxins. The latter is the topic of this blog and really is the linchpin of keeping our bodies as clean as possible.
Sadly enough, it is not at all possible to be toxin-free in the world we live in. In fact, in a study published in 2005, toxic chemicals were found in 10 out of 10 umbilical cord blood samples from neonates born in the United States. In this day and age, in an industrialized nation, we are born with a toxic load as these fat soluble chemicals cross the placental barrier from mother to fetus. As we grow we continue to accumulate toxins from the foods we eat, the air we breath, the water we drink, and the products we use in our daily living. Some exposure is unfortunately beyond our control; however a great deal of our exposure to toxins can be avoided. I’m going to focus on that which we can control, and, in this blog specifically, I will focus on avoiding exposure in the home.
While we can not control the air we breath outside of our homes, we can certainly and significantly decrease the toxic load of the air inside. We spend many of our waking hours in our homes and we sleep in our homes, so keeping the environment inside toxin-free is a great place to start. The most common sources of toxins inside the home are from cigarette smoke, air fresheners, dry-cleaning chemicals from clothing, cleaning products, and from materials that off-gas or evaporate toxic chemicals into the air (carpets, vinyl flooring, mattresses, furniture made from particle board or treated wood, and paints, varnishes, glues, etc.). Combustible materials (oil, gas, kerosene, wood), pesticides, and biological contaminants such as molds and mildew contribute to indoor pollution as well.
There are many ways to avoid these household toxins. Some steps are easy–you can start with them today–and some are more comprehensive. The following list can help guide you toward a short-term plan and a long-term plan to lower the toxic load in your home. Every step you take will pay off in terms of your health.
1. Do not allow smoking inside your home. At least 69 chemicals found in cigarette smoke are known to cause cancer. Even brief exposure to second hand smoke can jeopardize your health and the health of your children and pets. This is an easy one–zero tolerance.
2. Educate yourself about the dangers of household cleaning products. Most commercial cleaning products contain solvents, surfactants, and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that can cause or contribute to asthma, allergies, headaches, and rashes. Some of the chemicals found in cleaning products have been linked to heart disease and cancer. Buy non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners or make your own using vinegar, water, boric acid, and baking soda. Check the links below for recipes.
3. Commercial air-fresheners have been linked to an increased risk of infant diarrhea, headaches, and, surprisingly, an increased risk of depression. Long-term health hazards are suspected but are not well elucidated. Instead of using commercial air-fresheners, try one of the following non-toxic alternatives:
* Place dried lavender, cloves, orange peels, or cinnamon sticks in a shallow bowl in any room.
* Use your favorite essential oil in a diffuser.
* Dissolve some baking soda in hot water, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of vanilla extract and use in a spray bottle. The baking soda will neutralize most any odor.
* Light a fragrant candle made of beeswax or soy.
4. Dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene or PERC. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences states that, “short-term exposure to PERC can cause adverse health effects on the nervous system that include headaches, incoordination, dizziness, and fatigue. Long-term exposure can cause liver and kidney damage.” PERC is also a probable carcinogen. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a “green” dry cleaner please use their services. Check to see if your cleaner offers PERC-free services. If you need to continue to use regular dry-cleaning services, it is best to leave your freshly cleaned clothes to off-gas in the garage or on a patio or porch for a day or two before bringing them inside and certainly before wearing them.
5. If you are in the market for new furniture or are considering a remodel job for your home, it is prudent to be aware of the health hazards linked to building materials, cabinetry, and furniture. PVC, benzene, acrylates, isocyanates, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol ethers, toluene–the list goes on. These are just a few of the myriad toxic chemicals found in adhesives, particle board, paints, upholstery, carpet, etc. Many of the chemicals used in these building materials are known to be extreme health hazards and are known carcinogens. Tips on avoiding toxins in building products could be an entire blog, but there are some fabulous books and websites available on “greening” your home and using toxin-free building supplies. Refer to the links and resources at the end of the blog.
6. When using paints, varnishes, stripping agents, or glues inside the home, make sure you ventilate the area well. All of these products contain toxic chemicals with known health risks. Look for paints and other finishes with low-VOC or zero VOC on the label. Never store opened paints and varnishes inside the home.
7. Pesticides used in the home are another significant source of toxic exposure. Pick up a can of ant killer or wasp spray and read the ingredients. These chemicals are not only poisonous for the pests, but they wreak havok on human health as well. There are a number of non-toxic ways to keep insects and other pests out of your home and garden using ingredients such as boric acid, soap and water, diatomaceous earth, essential oils, etc. Some of the best information I’ve seen can be found at Eartheasy.com.
8. Most household plastics (plastic wrap, baggies, plastic storage containers, water, soda, and juice bottles, etc.) are a special concern. These plastics contain phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) both of which disrupt the endocrine system in humans. BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, male infertility, and developemental problems in infants and children. Phthalates block testosterone, increasing the risk of reproductive health in men and women. The most significant risk is seen in pregnant women and nursing infants as these hormone disrupting chemicals cross the placental barrier and are found in breast milk. Avoid using plastic when possible, and opt, instead, for glass storage containers, recycled glass bottles or BPA-free metal bottles for water (these can be found at most sports stores and health food stores), and wax paper instead of plastic wrap.
The EPA has stated that indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air and is among the top five risks to public health. Some researchers estimate that indoor air is as much as 5 times more polluted than the air outside. Every step we take to minimize toxins in our home is important to our health and the health of those we love. Hopefully this blog has shed some light on the subject, offered some useful pointers, and motivated you to learn more. Below are some web sites and books loaded with well researched information and ways to “green” the inside of your home. Knowledge is power. Be proactive!
Eight Weeks to Women’s Wellness by Marianne Marchese
Yours in health,
Wyler Hecht, N.D., L.Ac.