Of course we know it is not good to live next to a toxic waste dump. And many of us think twice about using chemical pesticides and herbicides around our home. But what about the hidden chemicals that can insidiously affect our lives? Our skin lotion? Our cleaning supplies? Drinking ‘healthy’ bottled water? These are just a few of the everyday items we use that expose us to chemical compounds that can be detrimental to our health.
Have you heard of triclosan? Probably not. Also known as Microban and Biofresh, triclosan is a chemical antimicrobial used in personal care products like toothpaste, shaving cream, cosmetics and hand soaps, as well as plastic toys, kitchenware, and even clothing. This pesticide bioaccumulates in our bodies and disrupts thyroid function which effects our caloric metabolism and hundreds of other processes in our bodies. It has also been linked to asthma, allergies, dermatitis, obesity and sex hormone disruption.
Triclosan is just one of millions of chemicals that have been introduced into our world over the past decade. Most of us don’t even know how severely the hidden, and not so hidden, sources of toxins are affecting us. Many of these toxins are not water-soluble and absorb into our fat cells and are stored. They are not readily excreted from the body and accumulate over a person's lifetime, multiplying the body burden (the amount of build-up) and increasing the malfunction of the body’s metabolic processes.
Many of the chemicals that we are exposed to are called “endocrine disruptors”. Endocrine disruptors bind to hormone receptors, which affect all the endocrine glands, as well as the nervous and immune systems. Even in very low doses over time, these compounds cause errors and insufficiency of our thyroid, pituitary, adrenals, pancreas, and ovaries/testes. Pregnant mothers and children are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by exposure, and the effect of exposures to endocrine disruptors may not become evident until later in life.
It’s not as easy to live a clean life as it once was. Nowadays, more than 287 chemicals are found in newborn babies blood. Avoidance is an important step to minimize the health effects of toxins but detoxification and depuration are crucial. Depuration is defined as “to free from impurities”. Liberating and excreting the toxins from fat cells and other tissues can be facilitated with different therapies and are used for different purposes.
There are ways to test your body burden and many options for depuration. Far Infrared Saunas are used to increase lipolysis (breakdown of fat molecules). Fat-soluble toxins are then released so they can be excreted. Yes! This will help weight loss as well. Colon Hydrotherapy creates a flush of bile, which holds toxins, from the gallbladder. These bile toxins are removed from the body, which improves liver health, and helps cleanse the blood. Constitutional hydrotherapy is contrasting hot and cold wet towels applied to the body with electrodes strategically placed to decrease sympathetic response and promote cellular waste removal. Nutrient IV’s flood the blood and tissues with much-needed vitamins and minerals, allowing metabolism of waste to be more efficient. Oral or IV Chelation uses a substance that has an affinity to bind to certain toxins and enable them to be excreted.
With a blend of the above-mentioned therapies and of course some diet and lifestyle changes, lowering your toxin load will improve your mental and physical health drastically.
Some sources of exposure:
Consuming contaminated fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, dairy, and fish.
Drinking contaminated water
Living near golf courses, factories, and hazardous waste sites.
Plastic containers, household cleaners, personal care products & cosmetics, household electronics, air fresheners, prepackaged foods, vinyl flooring and new carpet.
Inhaling chemical vapors or contaminated dust, soil, and house dust
Direct skin contact
Bioaccumulation from mother
Toxicity often lies at the root of many chronic illnesses
Chronic bacterial, fungal and viral infections
Chronic neurological illnesses
Endometriosis / Estrogen Dominance issues
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Immune system disorders
Increased risk of
Tremors & Restless leg
I imagine most people have heard of the taking probiotics for intestinal health. This is a good practice to balance the microbiome, the various beneficial bacteria, virus and yeast in the intestinal tract. However, it is high time to give it a lot more consideration and respect. Rebalancing your gastrointestinal microbiome may be the most important thing we ever do for our health. These organisms outnumber our cells by 10:1. Their DNA exceed our DNA by nearly 100:1. They perform over 6000 biochemical processes that we are physically unable to do and would die if absent, like make vitamins K and B12, turn up or down our immune system, control how much fat we store, and communicate with our brain. Some medical circles are now calling this community of organisms inside us as the Forgotten Organ. It may have more control over our health, physical and mental, than any other organ in our body. No wonder we feel a variety of symptoms if the balance and quantity is not optimal.
According to numerous well-designed, peer-reviewed studies on rodents and humans, an unhealthy microbiome appears to be a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, PCOS and hormone imbalances, liver cancer, alzheimers/dementia, psoriasis, and more. It very well may be that they have command over us, not the other way around. A good article in The New Yorker called The E.Coli Made Me Do It highlighted the effect these microbes have on our mental health.
Unfortunately, many of the lifestyle habits in industrialized countries are destroying the balance of species in our gut. Cesarean birth, taking antibiotics, eating foods with glyphosate/Round-Up, using antibacterial soaps and cleaning supplies, eating processed foods and genetically modified foods, chronic stress, poor sleep, drinking excessive alcohol, taking NSAIDS, and NOT eating enough good foods devastate this critical part of our bodies.
The more we feed them, the more they thrive. There are thousands of different strains of microbes living within us. Some are more beneficial to us and some are quite detrimental if given the chance to propagate into large numbers. Studies have found that the most beneficial strains eat very different things than the harmful ones. Bacteroidites, a group that does lots of valuable things for us, like lose weight, lower inflammation, and prevent cancer, like to eat fibers and polyphenols from fruits and vegetables and tubers. Another major group, Firmicutes, thrive more on sugars, grains, and things we find in processed foods. When the Firmicutes outnumber the Bacteroidites they cause sugar/carb cravings, weight gain, inflammation and moods swings. One study transplanted the gut bacteria from obese mice (high in firmicutes) to normal mice and it caused the normal mice to gain weight. We knew our epidemic of obesity and chronic disease is from the standard American diet and now we are starting to understand the intricacies of why.
Switching out Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes, starving the ‘bad’ can cause some symptoms if done rapidly and drastically. Remember, these guys outnumber us by 10:1! When we begin starving out a certain group, they will protest. If you have been feeding them sugars, starches and processed foods for years, the types that eat those foods have become the largest colony and will object and remonstrate their demise. It is also important to know that other areas in your body are basically addicted to sugars and starch and stopping may cause withdrawal. (Many grains and sugars actually do activate the opiate receptors, but that is a whole different article.) Symptoms may include sugar and junk food cravings, mood swings, headaches, strange aches and pains, etc. Don’t let this stop you! The health benefits are imperative! In time your taste buds and desires will change. Your cravings will go away. You will start to savor healthy vegetable dishes. You will lose unhealthy fat and build lean muscle. You will sleep better. You will be happier and appreciate life.
The bacteria have a very short lifespan. They are constantly reproducing voraciously but a single one truly only lives for about 20-30 minutes. This is why it is so important to keep replenishing good species and giving the right guys enough food to keep reproducing. We know that different cultures across the globe have very different combinations of microbes. The science on this is very new and we are learning more daily. The best strategy is to consume a wide variety of organisms in their most natural state possible like our ancestors did.
How to build a healthy microbiome:
o Eat some fermented foods daily. Just a couple bites or a few sips- ideally a couple different kinds -a few times per day. Get creative and make your own! It is easy and inexpensive! Fermented foods available in stores: Sauerkraut -true fermented, kim chi, kombucha, kefir- coconut or dairy, tempeh, fermented coconut water, fermented pickles – Bubbies brand, apple cider vinegar -with the ‘mother’ -Braggs brand, and RAW, organic, KOSHER cheeses – 5 Spokes brand. (If fermented foods seem to make you worse, it could be an histamine intolerance. This requires other measures be taken.)
o Eat large amounts of colorful vegetables and fruits.
o Eat jicama, chicory, sunchokes, and other foods with Inulin fiber in them to feed the beneficial bacteria. Other foods for the beneficial flora are asparagus, carrots, garlic, leeks, okra, onion, radishes, and tomatoes, turmeric and cinnamon. (If eating these makes you feel worse, ei: bloated, painful, increasing constipation or diarrhea- call me asap to get tested for SIBO)
o Avoid processed foods and eat very little or zero grains (limit breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, tortillas, crackers, rice, etc).
o Avoid alcohol. More than two drinks can cause intestinal cells to ‘open’ more than they are supposed to and this allows some parts of the detrimental bacteria to get through into the bloodstream. Having polyphenols from color-rich foods can help halt this. Alcohol in general tends to breakdown the lining of the gut so its best to avoid it or at least no consume on a regular basis.
o Avoid food additives like artificial flavors and colors, artificial sweeteners, carrageenen, trans fats, preservatives, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup.
o Avoid NSAIDS like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Also avoid chemicals in your environment. Perfumes, dryer sheets, phthalates, PBA, ... Visit www.EWG.org or www.skindeep.org to analyze your personal care and cleaning products.
o Take a probiotic with many strains/variety of bacteria. Look for ones that are at least 50% bifido species and ideally that have some bifidobacterium lactis HN019.
o Eat bitter foods more often – endive, dandelion greens, arugala, dill, sesame, etc.. Or take a supplement that has bitters in it – berberine, gentian, goldenseal, oregon grape, turmeric, etc.
o Go Organic and GMO-free!!!!! New research is now telling us that GMO foods can alter our DNA as well as our microbiome’s DNA.
o Get plenty of good sleep! Getting less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night deprives us of the parasympathetic/relaxation sleep cycle to fully repair high-energy gut tissue.
o Practice stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, or HeartMath. Stress can unbalance the microbiome by altering hormones and chemicals.
o Eat slowly, chew well, be calm and happy while eating. The entire digestion process starts in your mind and your mouth. RELAX, have gratitude for the wonderful things in your life. FOCUS ON THE GOOD THINGS!