When I first experienced symptoms of interstitial cystitis in my early 20s, I went through countless doctors and practitioners who could never give me a reason for my pain. One suggested that I remove dairy, which helped, but only so much. I took antibiotics, prescription drugs, and supplements, all of which alleviated suffering for short periods of time but never addressed the root. Finally, at age 32, I found a wonderful naturopath/kinesiologist who gave me a sensical, tangible root cause: chemical toxicity.
It was a “holy shit, of course!” moment. For as long as I could remember, I had been putting pharmaceuticals into my body, slathering lotion and makeup on my skin, living in polluted cities like LA and New York, eating processed food and drink, swimming in chlorinated pools, and on and on. My standard American lifestyle had finally caught up with me.
Worse, I discovered I had the MTHFR gene mutation (as does 30-40% of our population) and was not methylating. Methylation—which helps repair DNA, regulates hormones, produces energy, and more—is hugely important for many of our body’s processes, one being detoxification in the liver. So all this toxicity was accumulating in my body, wreaking havoc on my organ systems and causing inflammation. Wonderful. 🤦🏼♀️ Luckily, there were things I could do to remedy this besides taking pharmaceutical drugs.
A note on drugs…They are so helpful when short on time or in need of immediate relief, but ultimately, they will never prevent toxicity from entering the body, nor will they help toxicity exit the body. If anything, they can increase toxicity in the body. To manage and reduce your toxic load, you need to take responsibility for all aspects of your health.
What is toxicity and what does it do to our bodies?
When you hear people talk a lot about toxins, they are often referring to “toxicants.” Toxicants are man-made chemicals. Toxins are naturally produced substances, such as poison from a mushroom. In this article, I’ll be talking mostly about toxicants.
With over 80,000 man-made chemicals registered in the US (many of which have never been seriously studied), our exposure is inevitable. Toxicants are interfering with your health; no one gets a pass. Here’s a short list of some of their most harmful effects:
- They damage your hormones, DNA, and cell membranes
- They harm your body’s natural detoxification processes
- They impair your body’s ability to balance blood sugar and metabolize cholesterol
- They increase the risk of cancer
- And they make it so gosh darn difficult to lose weight!
Let’s talk about toxicants and weight gain for a second. When you are exposed to toxicants at high levels, you can’t safely excrete them through natural detoxification pathways. As a result, toxicants get stored in your fat cells until your liver and digestive system are capable of handling more toxicity. But if your liver and gut aren’t functioning properly, then the toxicants will never be released from your fat tissue. You can exercise all day long and eat like a baby bird, but you will never shed the weight. Your body just isn’t ready for it—not yet.
What can I do to effectively manage and reduce my toxic load?
1._Make sure you are fully nutrified and methylating.
When your cells don’t get the proper nutrition, your body doesn’t have the energy to perform its detoxification processes. Your body needs the right tools to do its job.
To detox well, you need enough vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and protective phytochemicals to keep your body functioning optimally. Eating a diverse whole-foods diet with lots of plants will do a lot for you; however, high-quality supplementation is also key, because no one gets enough nutrition from food anymore. Most food is grown in depleted soil, even organic food. Unless you are strictly controlling your own soil, then you very likely have nutritional deficiencies.
If you know or suspect that you’re not methylating (read signs and symptoms here), then I recommend seeking out an experienced practitioner to find you the right supplements. Functional medicine doctors and naturopaths are just some practitioners who may be knowledgeable. Those who don’t methylate well and then start taking a high-quality methylated B Complex describe it as “turning the lights on.” However, optimal detoxification is not as simple as proper methylation. Most of the time, people need to address other issues as well before making real headway in reversing their symptoms. Which leads me to #2…
2._Make your gut happy.
Day after day, studies are coming out revealing the importance of the gut microbiome as the key to good health. Gut microbes perform all kinds of functions, including regulating immunity, protecting us from pathogens, metabolizing nutrients, and detoxification. So, it’s important to show your gut some love.
I recommend crowding out inflammatory foods and adding in more whole, plant-based foods. Why? Because inflammation disables the gut microbiome so that it can’t effectively run your metabolism. Now, don’t completely eliminate inflammatory foods cold turkey if you’re not ready. I’m simply prodding you to be more mindful and reduce where you can. Finding a good balance looks different for everyone. The most common inflammatory foods include gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, eggs, alcohol, vegetable oils, and processed foods.
Also, be sure to get enough sleep! There is a relationship between your gut health and sleep; they are dependent on each other. Plus, the brain detoxifies as we sleep, cleaning out waste accumulated during the day.
Another easy win is using high-quality chlorella. Chlorella has strong chelation properties, meaning it binds to metals like lead, mercury, and aluminum, and then pulls them out through your stool. Chlorella also absorbs carcinogens and is the only thing that removes radiation from your body.
Though I’ve covered some solutions, there is so much you can do to improve your gut health, and your gut microbiome is way more complex than you could ever imagine. To get a better understanding of gut health and solutions, I recommend Happy Gut by Dr. Vincent Pedre.
3._Avoid unnecessary chemical exposure.
This is the most obvious thing you can do to lower your toxicity levels, yet many people don’t consider the extent of it. Maybe because chemical-based products are marketed to us all day long. If something is available for sale, then wouldn’t it be safe? Not necessarily. The US government doesn’t ban chemicals until they are proven harmful. And we don’t know if they’re harmful unless studies are done on them. And sadly, hardly any chemicals are studied sufficiently.
So that skin cream you saw on commercial may help your cheeks look supple in the short term, but it may also clog up your liver and lead to faster aging. It’s crazy, but the average woman puts 168 chemicals on her body every day. Chemicals take 26 seconds to go from the surface of your skin to your bloodstream. Ick. A good rule to follow: if you wouldn’t eat a makeup or skincare product, then don’t put it on your skin!
The list of potentially toxic day-to-day items is long: soaps, cleaners, body lotions, makeup, hair products, toothpaste, nail polish, tampons, pads, plastic toys, cooking items, perfumes, clothing, furniture, mattresses, tap water, paint, and more. Luckily, there are so many non-toxic product alternatives these days; you just have to actively seek them out. If you can’t afford to overhaul your entire house, then start small. Before you go out and buy everything new, I suggest waiting until you run out of an item before replacing it with a non-toxic version. You can also make your own. The internet is chock-full of DIY recipes.
To check if a beauty product makes the cut, try the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® cosmetic database. There are thousands of products in there, and the EWG gives each product a rating on a scale of 1 (best) to 10 (worst) based on how toxic it is and explains why. It’s been an incredibly educational tool for me.
Eating organic is one of the best things you can do to lower your toxic load and improve health outcomes for you and the planet. When something is certified organic, it means that there is no use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, or growth hormones.
You might think that you can wash chemicals off conventional food, but that’s not the case. According to the EWG, pesticides still remain even after a proper wash.
Also, if you’re thinking meat doesn’t get sprayed with pesticides, then remember that conventionally raised animals eat food covered in pesticides. In fact, meat usually has 3x the amount of chemicals that plants do, plus they are given antibiotics and growth hormones. 80% of antibiotics in the US go to animals. Scary.
If you are worried about the affordability of an organic diet, there are ways to eat mostly organic on a budget. I like to buy organic produce that’s local and in season. For example, it’s November right now, and organic squashes, tubers, leafy greens, and apples are all heavily discounted. You can also buy organic frozen foods, which are typically less expensive than fresh. Here’s a list of other workarounds. And remember, even conventional produce is better than no produce. You can create healthier lifestyle habits at any price range.
5._Find a doctor, health coach, or other practitioner to partner with.
Detoxification and reducing toxic exposure can be an overwhelming process. You might want to make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes, but you also might be stuck, asking questions like:
- Where do I start?
- How are these changes going to affect my family and friends?
- Where do I source high quality food/supplements/products?
- How long is this going to take before I notice results?
- How do I know what will work for me?
- What if something goes wrong?
If you have the desire to make a change but also struggle with change, then I highly recommend finding someone to partner with you. It’s hard to go it alone, so having an expert to check in with and keep you on track can be a real asset.
The best is having a team that includes a trusted practitioner(s) and a health coach. While doctors diagnose and treat diseases, they don’t tend to focus on behavior, lifestyle or diet changes. This is a health coach’s area of expertise. Health coaches are highly knowledgeable in diet and lifestyle medicine with tools to succeed and overcome barriers. They guide and assist their clients in becoming responsible for their own health outcomes.
If you’re a busy woman trying to live her purpose and in need of support, I’d love to talk and see if we’d make a good team. I’ve been through my own crazy health journey, and now that I’m on the other side, I can tell you that it’s 100% worth it. Through a lot of trial and error, I was able to reverse all my chronic diseases within a year and start living in alignment with my authentic desires. Now that I know what works, I want to help you achieve amazing health and well-being in an even shorter period of time!