The bad news: We are assaulted with toxins all day, every day.
The good news: We have more of a say than we realize.
The bulk of my health journey over the last ten years can be summed up in the two statements above. The more I learn, the more I realize that the toxins we’re regularly exposed to (via food, water, air, technology, personal care products, cleaning products, etc.) cause stress/inflammation in the body and post a very real risk to our health.
At the same time, uncovering and understanding these risks is empowering because we have a say in what we expose ourselves to and how resilient we are.
Unfortunately, most people (especially here in the U.S.) are in pretty sad shape health-wise. Diseases that were virtually nonexistent a century ago are killing humans at astounding rates. We as a society are civilized beyond common sense, and have largely accepted industrial “farming” as normal, dangerous chemicals in personal care products as harmless, and overmedicating vs. practicing root cause medicine as the status quo.
For most of my life, I was no exception. I grew up eating a standard American diet of Toaster Strudels for breakfast, Hot Pockets for lunch and fish sticks for dinner, sometimes with a side salad. In junior high, I developed several pesky health issues including unbearable seasonal allergies, acne and fatigue. I caught frequent colds and was always hit hard by them. I was told over and over that these things were “normal” and that the only solution was medicine. I went along with it, but that answer never fully sat well with me.
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I began to understand the impact of diet and lifestyle. Changing my diet from processed foods to real foods was huge for me. Eliminating toxins in my personal care products came next, which also made a big difference.
My skin, allergies and fatigue improved quite a bit, but I had this lingering sense that something was still not quite right. I’d still have the occasional breakout, got sick more often than I’d like, and although my allergies no longer lasted for an entire season, I still had miserable days/weeks of allergies here and there. And in the last few years especially, I noticed that my eyes were increasingly puffy in the morning, which can be a sign of toxic buildup.
I knew that I could do better, and decided to dig deeper into the problems and solutions.
Through testing, I discovered that I have high levels of mercury in my system. I was actually relieved to get this news, because now I had the information I needed to make a change!
Toxic Load Explained
I was trying so hard to live a squeaky clean lifestyle, but was still super sensitive to anything slightly offensive because my system was high in toxic buildup. One little misstep and it seemed as though everything would fall apart. I’d have one clean mixed drink during allergy season and I’d be sneezing for the next 24 hours. One clean sweet treat and a breakout would soon follow. It was frustrating.
I love how Dr. Mark Hyman explains toxic load with this analogy:
We all have some toxic buildup because of the world we live in. Our bodies can often handle occasional chemicals BUT when exposed consistently and daily, disease and health conditions are more likely to occur. Some of us are genetically better at detoxing than others, and some (like me) were not born with all of the mechanisms necessary to get rid of toxins efficiently.
Thankfully, there are many things that can be done to powerfully support detoxification in the body. I’ve outlined the ones that I’m focusing on in my detox journey below and hope they’ll be helpful or inspire you to do additional research to see if any of these interventions feel right for you.
5 Ways To Lessen Toxic Load
- Remove. The first and most important step in supporting detoxification is to stop the intake of additional toxins by removing them from your diet and environment.
Depending on where you’re at in your health journey, this could mean a complete diet/lifestyle overhaul or just getting rid of those few remaining toxic products in your home (our friends at Branch Basics have a #tossthetoxins challenge to help people identify and get rid of any lingering household toxins – check it out!)
And if you’re at a loss for where to start in regards to personal care products (this part can be so overwhelming!) I always recommend beginning with deodorant.
Conventional deodorant is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to toxic personal care products. Most of the ones you’ll find on drugstore shelves are filled with ingredients like fragrance, aluminum and parabens that have been linked to sickness + disease time and time again (especially when applied in such a sensitive + absorbtive part of the body next to our breast tissue and so many lymph nodes!). Making the swap to a clean deodorant can make a major difference in one’s health over the course of a lifetime.
- Sweat. Sweating has been so wrongfully vilified over the last few decades, and it really bums me out to still see commercials on TV for antiperspirants that boast about blocking sweat – because the truth is that sweating is good for you. It’s a healthy, natural + necessary function to rid the body of toxic buildup.
Going back to the deodorant conversation, the aluminum found in most conventional deodorants actually blocks pores and inhibits us from releasing toxins through sweat. It’s a lose-lose…putting toxins into the body and keeping them in there – another important reason to make the switch to natural deo!
Along with using natural deodorant, regular exercise is an amazing way to release toxins via sweat! Detox baths can be extremely effective as well. And if you’re really looking to up-level your sweat game, infared saunas are an extremely effective way to eliminate toxic buildup. (I recently ordered one from Heavenly Heat and cannot wait for it to arrive!)
- Breathe. The mind is the CEO of the body, and when you’re mentally holding onto stress or anxiety, it can be equally difficult for the body to let go and release toxins.
I’ve found breathing to be an incredibly effective tool in reducing stress while increasing focus and mental clarity. Wim Hof is my go-to source for all things breathing related. I poo-poo’d this part of living a healthy lifestyle for a long time, but you guys –
this practice has made such a difference in my life!(Plus, it’s free and takes less than 10 minutes a day.)
- Fast. I’ve recently began experimenting with intermittent and extended fasting in the last several months. It started with circadian fasting (eating during a 12 or so hour window from around when the sun rises to when it sets). I’ve always been someone who eats breakfast right when I wake up, snacks in-between meals and has one last bite to eat right before going to sleep, so even adopting circadian fasting was a challenge for me at first!
After about a month of circadian fasting, I began decreasing my eating window little by little until 6-8 hours of eating and 16-18 hours of fasting per day became the norm. I can’t overstate how big of a difference this has made for my health. I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life working to gain a better understanding of what to eat, but hadn’t given much thought to when to eat until recently.
Fasting (the ultimate elimination diet!) gives your body a break from digesting and breaking down food so that it can focus on detox and repair. When you fast, autophagy (the process of clearing out old, junky proteins and cellular parts) is activated and growth hormone is stimulated, producing newer + better cellular parts.
This analogy about how fasting works from Dr. Jason Fung really resonated with me:
Fasting is an extremely powerful health intervention for detox and longevity, one that deserves an entire blog post in itself! In addition to intermittent fasting, I’ve been working with my doctor on some extended fasting protocols and have experienced amazing results.
- Get help. If you’re confused about where to start or unsure about your own levels of toxic buildup, finding a natural-minded healthcare practitioner to work with can be highly beneficial. In addition to the steps above, my doctor has walked me through various tests and also has me on a 3 month supplement-based detox protocol.
Thanks for reading! Are you interested in detox? Have you implemented any of these practices or is there something else you’re focusing on? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!