Exposure to environmental toxins is probably the ugliest side of modern life. It is also seemingly unavoidable.
Toxins can hide everywhere around us. In the air we breathe. In the food we eat. In the paint, the carpets, and the bedding in our homes. In the beauty products we use. In our fitness equipment and the bottles we drink from. In the toys our kids play with. In our phones. The list goes on and on.
How can you tell whether your body has been overburdened and over-exposed though? Symptoms of toxins in the body include disruptions of breathing, digestion, reproductive health, mental focus, memory, sexual function, and so much more.
Environmental Toxins which Affect Your Health
Some toxins are extremely harmful to humans and the Earth, some are even called “forever chemicals” because they will not disappear from the planet for the foreseeable future.
The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, here in the United States, offers a list of common and less common substances that are harmful to human and animal health. You can find the complete list here.
Some of the most common toxins include:
- Heavy Metals (Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic)
- Polyutherane Toxins
- Per- and Polyfluoralkyl (PFAS)
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Non-Diozin-Like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (BCBs)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- and more
Despite their prevalence, some of these harmful chemicals can be avoided, or, at least, our exposure to them can be limited.
Example One: Polyutherane toxins.
Polyutherane is used in many varnishes and clear coats, commonly used for painting furniture and other DIY projects.
However, using polyurethane indoors can expose you to fumes with many potential side effects. They can irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs as well as cause allergic reactions for those with chemical sensitivities.
How to avoid it? Chose eco-friendly options instead of polyutherane-based paints and varnishes.
If that is not possible, make sure to only use polyutherane outdoors and leave the treated piece out for curing before bringing it back indoors.
In general, avoid exposure at all costs. VOCs in paints can be harmful especially to our brain (memory, alertness, mental focus).
In a recent study, participants spent six full work days in an environmentally-controlled office space at the TIEQ lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence.
In this space, VOC levels were reduced to approximately 50 micrograms per cubic meter and 40 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person.
They found that, on average, cognitive scores were 101% higher than in conventional workspaces.Ecos Paints
Example Two: Skin Toxins
Many toxins can be absorbed through the skin. Personal care products like shampoos, make-up, perfumes, and lotions often contain parabens, formaldehyde, and phenoxyethanol.
I wrote a separate post about the toxic overload in traditional nail polish. You can read it here and make a switch to healthier options right now.
Symptoms of Toxins Overburdening Your Body
While we are all exposed to some form of toxins (modern life for you!), sometimes we are over-exposed and it starts showing literally on our face and the way we feel.
Here are the most common symptoms of being overburdened by chemical exposure:
- Your skin becomes rough and dull, sometimes issues like eczema show up.
- Your pores are larger and skin gets oiler.
- Your eyes lose the luster, the whites might be yellowed or bloodshot.
- The undereye bags and circles become bigger and darker.
- You might experience more breakouts that are not easily explained (e.g. hormonal shifts or teenage acne).
- You might be sweating more as the body is trying hard to eliminate the toxins this way.
- You might experience shoulder pain (sign that your lymph nodes are overloaded or blocked)
- You feel tired and you sleep poorly.
- You are struggling to remember things or experience a “brain fog.”
- Your body feels heavy and bloated.
- You might experience severe headaches.
- Your digestion is sub-par and your elimination irregular.
- You might experience respiratory problems like sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion.
Sounds familiar? If so, then it’s time to start “detoxing.”
But First: Is “Detox” Even a Real Thing?
Because of this prevalence of environmental toxins and their harmful impact on humans, there is a lot of talk about detoxification these days.
“Detox” has become a catchword for many businesses: detox baths, detox diets, detox shampoos, and the list goes on and on.
Personally, I think most of this detox-fill-in-the-blank is pure BS and a ploy to sell questionable products.
There is no scientific evidence that any specific diet or gadget can release toxins from the body. Does anyone really believe that if you put a sticker on your feet, all the toxins will be eliminated from your body overnight? PLEASE!
Instead of falling for such misguided and ethically dubious ploys, opt for limiting exposure to toxins and finding natural ways to support your body in doing the job of elimination itself.
How to Remove Toxins From the Body?
Fortunately, Mother Nature has equipped our bodies with smart mechanisms that can eliminate toxins on their own and without overspending on the latest “detox diet.”
The organs that our body uses to eliminate environmental toxins are:
- the liver,
- the kidneys,
- the lymphatic system,
- the digestive system,
- the lungs,
- the skin.
In order to assist this natural process of toxin release, we have to ensure that these organs are in top shape.
Some things are obvious.
Do not smoke (lungs).
Do not eat processed foods (digestive system, liver, kidneys)
Move (needed for the lymphatic system to work properly and for the lungs to breathe deeper)
Before diving in any further, let’s see briefly how these various detoxifying body systems work.
How Does Natural Detoxification Work?
Every cell in our body is surrounded by a fluid called lymph. You’ve heard the saying that our bodies contain on average 60% of water. well, most of it is in the form of blood and lymph.
The lymphatic system is needed not only to lubricate the cells but also to move waste products through various lymph channels and nodes. One of the most important roles of this system is to is clear metabolic waste from the gaps between cells, the iso-called nterstitial space.
The lymphatic system is also crucial in fighting infections and warding off disease. The lymphatic system and the immune system work together to remove and destroy waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, toxins, and cancer cells.
The lymphatic system produces white blood cells, known as lymphocytes. There are two types of lymphocyte, T cells and B cells. They both travel through the lymphatic system…
The lymphatic system and the action of lymphocytes, of which the body has trillions, form part of what immunologists callTrusted Source the “adaptive immune response.” These are highly specific and long-lasting responses to particular pathogens.Medical New Today
Our colon removes that what the body cannot use. This elimination (aka pooping) removes lots of toxins and we have to support healthy elimination in whatever way we can.
I’m not advocating a colon cleanse. ON the contrary, I think the colon can clean itself pretty well if provided with enough fiber of both kinds, soluble and insoluble.
Another part of the digestive system is the liver which plays a big part in removing toxins from our bodies.
The liver filters the blood of those harmful substances that got into the bloodstream. These substances when caught by the liver, are then eliminated via bile which is exported to the colon (see how important pooping is!)
The kidneys, responding to water and electrolyte (sodium, potassium) concentrations, are also filtering whatever is not needed in the bloodstream, but this time the elimination happens through urine.
Since the kidneys flush water-soluble waste, loss of kidney function means that the body is not as capable of filtering toxins and waste.
Our lungs are a detoxifying machine. They exhale carbon dioxide, but also, the tiny fibers called cilia push contaminants such as allergens and air-borne articles out.
If we breathe in anything that shouldn’t be there, like the smog or VOCs, the harmful particles get trapped by mucus in the cilia, and we cough it up later or swallow it, and it gets secreted on the way out (colon again).
The skin is our largest organ and is also crucial to the effort of releasing toxins from the body. Not only can it help us get rid of excess heat from the body, it can also flush out harmful stuff through the pores via sweat and the excess sebum.
Even though some researchers dispute the fact that sweating can help remove toxins out of the body, there have been studies to prove otherwise.
It’s true that 99% of the sweat is water, with the remaining 1% consisting primarily of sodium, potassium, and some urea. Still, some additional toxins can be flushed out via sweat.
Case in point, phthalates.
Researchers in Canada examined blood, urine and sweat concentrations of various phthalates in 20 people.
They found that the concentration of these chemicals was twice as high in sweat as in urine and suggested that perspiration may help eliminate of some toxic compounds.MBG
The same study saw a higher concentration of BPA (linked to obesity, early puberty, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy loss) being excreted via sweat than via blood or urine.
How to Rid Body of Toxins the Natural Way
- Avoid repeated exposure to toxins, by restricting your intake of all processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, foods especially high in saturated and trans fats (i.e., animal protein, too many nuts), and nicotine.
- Instead eat primary organic plants, void of toxins such as glyphosate which is prevalent in pesticides used on conventional crops. When eating animal products, make sure they come from reputable sources and that the animal feed was not toxic itself (e.g. many grains and sometimes even grass pastures are sprayed with, you guessed it, glyphosate)
- Drink at least 2 quarts of water (or tea) per day to assist the kidneys in their work of detoxification. Add some kidney-supporting herbs such as parsley and cilantro to your meals.
- Exercise not only for weight loss but also for detox. We all know that exercise is healthy. It stimulates many systems in the body, and one of them is the lymphatic system. Cardio exercise helps move the lymph and in case there is a blockage, it can aid in unblocking it. And, as mentioned above, sweating while exercising will assist in detoxifying the body as well.
- Sweat more. I wrote already about the dangers of aluminium-based anti-prespirants. Ditch those (why would you put aluminium on your body where it can penetrate beneath the skin’s surface?), and switch to a natural deodorant. It won’t stop you from sweating completely but it will take the stink out. Sweating is good! Sweating is the body’s way to purge what’s not needed, including the toxins.
- Dry-brush before shower or bath. Just like a massage, dry brushing assists your body in eliminating toxins via the lymphatic system. Adding a drop or two of essential oil such as the astringent Cypress can add the benefit of tightening the skin.
- Detox your skincare. Use only clean skincare, avoid all unnecessary chemicals in beauty products such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, or heavy metals.
- Get a massage. It will help to get rid of toxins accumulated under the skin via lymph passages and the pores in the skin. This includes regular gua sha massaging on your face (always remember to use a face oil with it to ensure the proper “slip”)
- Exfoliate (gently) with salt or sugar scrubs. Gentle exfoliation helps to slough off upper layer of dead skin and to open up and clear the pores.
- Regularly use masks with clay and/or activated charcoal to help draw out the dirt, grime, and toxins from the skin’s surface.
- Be conscious of the air you breathe. Practice deep breathing and seek out places where air is clean and toxin free (I know it might be difficult) such as forests, green spaces, beaches. Meditate and breathe. Your lungs will help you get rid of accumulated toxins.
- Get a good spirulina supplement from a reputable source, especially if you suspect a heavy metal poisoning. The suprfood Spirulina has been thoroughly researched and studies point out its effectivemness in aiding the body in ridding iftself of cadmium, mercury, lead, and arsenic toxicity. To learn more about spirulina’s benefits, check out this post.
- Get a few indoor plants that clean the air and remove toxins. Personally, I’ve always loved the look of greenery in my home, but ever since I’ve learned that some plants can actually assist in purifying indoor air, I’m obsessed with them. And, there is real science behind it.
NASA’s Clean Air Study found that there are a number of air purifying plants that can detoxify your home from the airborne toxins, dusts and germs that can be found in a variety of household products, materials and furniture.20 Best Air Purifying Plants
Nowadays, when I look at my Snake Plants, my English Ivy, my humble Spider Plants and Hanging Pothos, my Peace Lily and my Aloe scattered all over the house, I see not only plants but also guardians and protectors.
Tip: get a few starter plants from a reputable nursery and learn how to propagate them at home. In no time, you’ll have not a few but a few dozen of plants and much cleaner indoor air.
Don’t fall for the “detox” myths. There really is no magic pill or cleanse that will rid your body off toxins. It all goes back to the common-sense healthy practices.
Eat well, drink a lot, move your body, sweat a bit, breathe, and relax. Your body will eliminate harmful toxins in no time, all by itself.