Cleanse. Detox. What do those words even mean? With people making fresh efforts to create healthy habits around the New Year, there’s a lot of chatter around these buzzwords. In most cases, people are using the words “Cleanse” or “Detox” to signify a “program” that they’re participating in to get healthy or lose weight. But from what are we really detoxifying—and why?
Here is the short of it: We are exposed daily to industrial chemicals that negatively impact our health. These chemicals disrupt our hormones, neurotransmitters, and immune system. Our fat tissue fills with these toxins, which then basically bog down our entire system. Fat tissue is not just that extra belly fat—it is a major component of your nervous system, brain, skin, and bone marrow. It provides protective padding for your organs and a place for the body to store energy. Of note, health professionals now recognize fat tissue in itself as a major endocrine (hormone producing) organ in the body.
Fat tissue plays a very important role in the body’s natural ability to function properly. Yet when this endocrine organ is burdened by an accumulation of toxins, it can become problematic. And when there’s an EXCESS amount of fat accumulating toxins, this condition is even more challenging for the body to manage. Toxic burden facilitates inflammation, which is a key catalyst in a whole host of health and wellness conditions. When working with my patients who are facing these health concerns, we focus on reducing the burden to reduce the inflammation.
Over time, the common symptoms and conditions that can develop include but are not limited to:
- Low energy, lethargy, fatigue (chronic)
- Weight gain
- Hot flashes
- Abnormal fetal development and child development
- ADD/ ADHD
- Mood: irritability, depression, anxiety
- Immune impairment
- Chronic diseases, for example, cancer, autoimmune, diabetes, etc.
To reduce these burdens, it helps to create some awareness around the toxins that are creating them. Here’s a short list of some examples, which will give you a sense for what most of us are inadvertently exposed to every day:
POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). Well-known POPs are DTT (insecticide) and PCBs, created from the industrial processes used in electronics, heat exchange, paint additives, carbonless paper copies, plastics and more. These are all known to cause reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine, and immunologic adverse health effects, including cancer and impaired brain development. The EPA created a “dirty dozen” list of these, and while many POPs have been banned in the United States for decades, they are still used in the global market. Their presence continues to persist in our wind, soil, water, and food chain.
Fire Retardants (PBDE, or “brominated tris,” and TDCIPP, or “chlorinated tris”). Think bedding, clothing, upholstery, car seats, and household appliances among a host of offenders. These are powerful endocrine disruptors affecting thyroid function and reproductive hormones and processes. They’ve been shown to contribute to learning impairments, delayed mental and physical development, and even cancer linked to directly affected, mutating DNA. The chemicals accumulate in fat and breast milk. Studies in 2003 conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showed that 97 percent of Americans had fire retardants in their blood stream, with teenagers being the highest population.
Plastics and Plasticizers (bisphenol A, phthalates). These are compounds used to create plastics and make them pliable. They are powerful endocrine disruptors, negatively impacting thyroid and reproductive hormones. They have been shown to play a role facilitating the onset of ADHD, asthma, allergies, and early puberty. They’re in plastic bottles, can linings, vinyl (e.g., shower curtains, raincoats, toys, etc.), nail polish, air freshener, receipt paper, paint, and many other common products.
Heavy Metals. A number of heavy metals, particularly mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium, have weighty effects on nervous system development and neurological disease. They are also contributors to anemia and cancer. These metals displace minerals that our body needs to carry out daily vital functions. Heavy metal contamination is vast: amalgams, pesticides, soil from farm/orchard land, vehicle exhaust, paint, gasoline, vaccines, roadway runoff, and industrial waste. All of this waste penetrates our water, air, and food supply.
As you can see, toxic exposure and accumulation is pretty hard to avoid in this day and age—hence the importance of a periodic “cleanse.”
While some cleanses can be a good jumpstart to reducing your toxic burden, adopting a healthy lifestyle that reduces your exposure and facilitates elimination EVERY day is required maintenance. After a cleanse, here’s your best bet for minimizing the negative effects of these harmful chemicals.
- Reduce Exposure. Be selective of what you are putting in and on your body, everything from food to drinks, body products, cleaners, and more. Read labels to get greater clarity around what you’re using, absorbing, and digesting.
- Support Elimination. Adopt habits around good nutrition and eating routines that can empower and sustain ongoing efforts to eliminate toxicity on a daily basis. Think in terms of healthy liver function, kidney function, digestion, and nutrition.
Any cleanse you choose to do must address both of these items. The ideal cleanse helps you to get an abundance of nutrition, support elimination and reduce exposure. Bottom line, a good cleanse will outline the perfect model for everyday living.
- Adiopose Tissue as an Endocrine Organ: http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2004-0395
- POPs diabetes: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/7/1638.short
- POPs: http://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/persistent-organic-pollutants-global-issue-global-response
- Flame retardants: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/flame-retardants-in-consumer-products-are-linked-to-health-and-cognitive-problems/2013/04/15/f5c7b2aa-8b34-11e2-9838-d62f083ba93f_story.html
- Lead/arsenic contamination, Washington state: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/gsp/Sitepage.aspx?csid=882
- Map of lead arsenic pesticides, Washington state: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/area_wide/AW/Toolbox_chap2_figures/Fig4.pdf
- Phthalates: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2008/05/cheatsheet-phthalates
- Bisphenol A: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2008/04/cheatsheet-bisphenol-bpa
- Diamanti-Kandarakis E et al. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocrine Reviews 30(4): 293-342.