Toxins: Avoiding Them and Detoxing

What do Tuna Towers, plastic shower curtains, and wearing street shoes in the house have in common? They all can expose you to toxins.

One healthy habit that would serve you well is to be on the lookout for toxins in your environment, food, and the products you use, either to clean with or use on your body. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but we have a …

Toxin Problem

Toxic chemicals are everywhere and they adversely affect your health. They are in our furniture, paint, flooring, personal care products, food, water, clothing, store receipts, and household cleaning products.  We are assaulted by them at every turn. Because of the cost to our health, a little paranoia is necessary. According to Tracy Woodruff, Ph.D., MPH, the director of UC San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), there has been a dramatic increase in chemical use in the last 50 years, and there has also been a correlating sharp increase in chronic disease. She became an advocate for human reproduction and development, and a crusader for a cleaner environment because she saw a connection between toxic exposure, and health and developmental outcomes in children.

The Effects of Toxins on Our Health (or How Toxins Affect Us)

There is so much that can be said about the effects of toxins on our health. Here is just a smattering.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, there is strong evidence that exposure to chemical toxins can cause not only reproductive problems, but a myriad of others including cancer, endocrine disruption, metabolic and neurological problems, and early puberty. He goes on to state that, it is “thought that 1 in 5 cancers may be caused by exposure to environmental chemicals. Interestingly, Mercola sites a study in the journal Carcinogenesis that suggests that, while certain chemicals determined to be “safe” by themselves, they can be harmful when combined with one or more other chemicals. In fact, it appears that the increased number of chemicals that are combined, the more toxic the product or substance becomes. This adds to the difficulty in determining the safety of a chemical because most of them are only tested individually if they are tested at all.

A-Z Chemistry claims that exposure from chemical pesticides can cause a number of symptoms and conditions ranging from eye and throat irritation to allergic reactions, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression/anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, seizures and even death. This is just to name a few. A-Z Chemistry also gives examples in another article of naturally occurring chemicals such as arsenic and mercury, as well as more benign-sounding ones like hydrogen peroxide and oxycontin, and their potentially dastardly effects. Check out their articles for more information.

With autoimmune immune diseases, cancer, autism, diabetes and many other diseases on the rise, many health authorities are ascribing much of the blame on toxins.

Just know that it is good to have our toxin-wariness-radar up and to be habitually on alert.

Identifying Toxins

Fortunately, there are some tools to help you recognize where toxins can be found in the products you use. One site I have used for a long time is the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They give safety ratings for products, showing what toxic chemicals the products contain; it also has a healthy home guide and even a Healthy Living app with over 120,000 products and food items for you to check. So far, this one is my favorite.

One company, Beautycounter, has a “Never List” of over 1500 ingredients that they will never use. I am a consultant with this company because it is so reputable, and I invite you to check out their make-up and skin products here. Beautycounter products are not only healthy and safe, but they are also of high quality and really work.  Update 4/20/19: CBS News just featured Beautycounter in an interesting news segment about the lack of regulation in the personal care industry. This short clip from that segment is very informative and worth checking out.

There is also another cool app you can download, called Think Dirty, that I recently learned about.  It was interesting gathering various soaps and personal products to check how they were rated low or high toxin-wise. This app was easy to use, but also frustrating because, although it contained information on a lot of products, many of the ones I checked were not yet in their database. However, I think this app will keep getting better and better as more products are added to their database.

That said, I encourage you to develop a system to where you don’t have to keep checking the same item over and over. For instance, when you check a product, let’s just say your shampoo, write the EWG or Think Dirty number on it with a Sharpie. If the number is low you might want to buy it again. When you do, transfer that number on the new bottle. If it is number higher than you are comfortable with, plan to replace it with a less toxic product. Or maybe keep a 3 X 5 card file, like a separate card for shampoo, dish soap, etc. However, I think writing on the container is the fastest and easiest way.

Other ways to identify toxins is do research on items you are thinking of purchasing, like furniture, carpets, wall paint, and mattresses. Then buy the most affordable, least toxic item that meets your needs.

Chemicals can be good, toxic, or neutral.

Avoiding Toxins

In addition to avoiding the household and personal products that are higher in toxicity levels, I am also a big believer in buying organic foods whenever possible. I especially appreciate the “dirty dozen” list that EWG puts out. It lists the current most-chemically-contaminated fruits and vegetables, so I consciously avoid those food items whenever possible. Incidentally, there is also a “clean fifteen” list, which itemizes foods that are safer, containing fewer pesticides. For instance, it is not as important with asparagus, bananas, and avocados to buy organic produce.

Other foods containing toxins that you will want to avoid are processed vegetable oils, conventionally raised meat, and farmed fish. Avoid food additives as well like MSG, food dyes, and preservatives.

Limiting sugar, alcohol, and processed food intake is also necessary because all of these can be toxic to your liver as well as other organs.

I know, it’s mind-boggling.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention wheat products. In the last few years, the chemical Roundup (aka Glyphosate) is being sprayed on wheat crops several days before harvesting in order to dry it out and make it easier to harvest. You can learn more about this from Dr. Stephanie Seneff in this interview. Suffice it to say that she gives plenty of reasons why eating wheat has become more concerning.

Other things to avoid are pesticides, insecticides, air fresheners, scented candles, nonstick cookware like Teflon (especially if it is scratched), and plastic food containers (incidentally, never, ever microwave food in plastic containers).

Also, dust and vacuum your home frequently as toxins are trapped by the dust particles. In addition, replace air conditioning and heater filters every six months, get a water filter for drinking water, and take off your shoes when you enter the house so that you don’t drag in more toxins.

One pet peeve I have had for a long time is Christmas wrapping paper being thrown into the fire in the fireplace. What a chemical bomb to your home that is!

Furthermore, avoid prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications as much as possible. If you are currently taking them, work with someone knowledgable about gradually reducing them. Even be careful with supplements you take. They should be of high quality and a bonus-add to your health.

Are you dazed and confused yet? I do have good news for you…


The human body is amazing. It can do a pretty good job of detoxing itself if you step out of the way and stop stuffing it with more toxins. There are a few things you can do to aid the body, but one does not need to go out and buy the latest two-week or four-week kit, nor go on a fruit-only or juice-only diet, or a water-only fast.

God made our bodies to eliminate toxins (and this is not an exhaustive list) through :

  • the liver – This organ is considered by many to be the king of detoxification
  • the kidneys – It may be the queen of detoxification
  • the intestinal tract – Extremely important too, thus constipation is a huge problem with toxin removal.
  • the lungs
  • the blood
  • the lymphatic system
  • the skin

They all just naturally perform waste and toxin removal without you even thinking about it. Things you can do to help your body detox can seem pretty much like common sense, but it never fails to amaze me what I, and others, do to sabotage our health.

16 Things to Assist Your Body in Detoxing

  1. Eliminate/reduce exposure to and consumption of toxins (I put this one as #1 for a reason)
  2. Drink plenty of good water throughout the day
  3. Exercise
  4. Eat vegetables, perhaps a little fruit, good fats, nuts & seeds, and quality protein
  5. Reduce stress
  6. Sweat
  7. Practice deep breathing
  8. Cultivate the joy of living
  9. Drastically reduce or eliminate sugar and processed foods
  10. Epsom Salt Baths (dissolve about 2 cups in your bath water and soak for 20-40 minutes)
  11. Lose Weight
  12. Plenty of Sleep
  13. Keep your bowels moving, make sure you avoid constipation
  14. Minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption (sorry)
  15. Water with fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning
  16. Consider taking the supplement N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Learn more about it here, or bring it up with your doctor.

Really, a chapter could be written on each of the above, but I will let the brevity suffice for now. And, in addition, there are even some more advanced things you can do to detox such as more targeted supplements, IV chelation, coffee enemas, and infrared saunas. However, those are not within the scope of this article.

Nutritious food is a must!

Start Somewhere

It is impossible and too stressful to change everything all at once, even if we knew all of the right things to do.  And stress is toxic.  So, healthy living should be thought of more as a work in progress. I will just share a few ideas we do at our home.

One change I made a while back was to replace the plastic shower curtain in the hall bathroom with a non-toxic cloth one. Previously, it had never really occurred to me that this could be a problem, but then I learned that when the bathroom gets all hot and steamy the PCB’s are released. Not good. So I replaced it with a fabric version.

Another thing we changed was our tuna buying habits. In the past, we would buy a huge amount of cellophaned-together-cans-of-tuna from Costco, which my husband and I fondly refer to as Tuna Towers. However, it came to my attention that big fish are bad, like shark & swordfish (I know, they even sound bad), and so is tuna because most of the tuna we eat are large fish. The bigger fish are harmful toxin-wise because they are so high on the food chain, eating smaller fish that are chemical-ridden who ate even smaller fish that are chemical-ridden, and so forth.

Two better options are tongol tuna and skipjack tuna, both are smaller tuna’s, which are safer, but they are more expensive than Tuna Towers. At first, this was a hard sell to Husband, who thinks at times that health = empty pocket, but he is gradually getting used to paying more for healthier food.

And, lately, I have been adding a few more houseplants to our home. Boston ferns, spider plants, areca palms, and English ivy are very good for purifying the air, just to name a few. Check out this chart for more information on helpful, household detoxifying plants. And here is a great article that I came across, “Plants that Clean the Air” that has some valuable information about 17 houseplants to consider adding to your home.

We also take off our shoes when entering the house… most of the time, to avoid dragging in more chemicals.

And we have an air purifier in our bedroom since that is where we spend the most time, one-third of each day.

However, I would have to admit that we are still a work in progress and could do more. But there is wisdom in not being stressed and psycho about toxins too.

Bottom Line

Because we are constantly bombarded with chemicals and toxins, it is becoming more important to take steps to protect ourselves.  One step at a time…

What are you doing to detoxify?  What are you going to do? Choose one or two things. Do them. Then a couple more.

Wisdom says get into the habit of being aware of potential toxin exposure and doing what you can to minimize it.

To your health!

And I would like to mention here that I am also a consultant for Beautycounter if you would like to learn more about wonderfully crafted skincare products and make-up that are safer and high quality. Beautycounter’s tagline is, “Beauty should be good for you”, and they prohibit the use of over 1800 harmful or questionable ingredients commonly found in other products. The more I use their products, the more enthused I become because they perform so well. I invite you to check out Beautycounter here.

Article updated 3/9/20.

If you are interested in working with me, please contact me here. I offer a free consultation so we can determine whether or not we would be a great fit working together.

And sign up for my weekly email newsletter to get to know me better and learn more cool information on health and wellness.

You might be interested in some other articles I have written:

Beauty & the Beastly (Deals with toxins in cosmetics and skincare products)

Solutions to “Why Can’t I Fall Asleep” & Other Sleep Problems

Constipation: Easy Remedies

Hope for the Hopeless Smoker

Removing Stains With Coke

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