Even if you don't do a formal cleanse, you can still take steps to reduce the impact of environmental toxins. These ten tips will help minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals and improve your body's ability to remove them from your body.
#1 Avoid sweets and starches.
Keep blood sugar and insulin levels low by eliminating sweet and starchy foods and sweet drinks from your diet. Also make sure that every meal includes protein, fiber, and healthy forms of fat to slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
#2 Eat more green and cruciferous vegetables.
Green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and collard greens) contain compounds that help our livers change dangerous toxins into excretable compounds. Make them at least 50% of every meal.
When you can't eat organic, avoid the vegetables on the Dirty Dozen most contaminated list: collard greens, kale, spinach, lettuce, celery, and bell peppers.
Choose from the Clean Fifteen instead: cabbage, asparagus, avocado, and fresh peas
#3 Avoid toxic fish and seafood.
As our oceans and waterways become more polluted, so do our fish and seafood. Environmental toxins like pesticides, dioxins (including polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs), and heavy metals accumulate naturally in large predatory fish at the top of the food chain.
Choose instead small fish that live at the bottom of the food chain. Species low in contaminants and high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats include wild Alaskan salmon, herring, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and rainbow trout.
The Environmental Defense Fund and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch offer free printable pocket guides, mobile applications, and online databases that rate fish and seafood on their environmental impact, give details on health advisories regarding unsafe levels of toxins, and note which species are especially good sources of omega-3s.
#4 Consume only pasture-raised, grass-fed, or wild, meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Avoid all meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that were fed grain or exposed to pesticide, hormones, or antibiotics.
#5 Avoid foods and beverages packaged in cans, plastic containers, and foam materials.
This includes Styrofoam cups, take-out containers, and egg cartons. Replace plastic food storage containers with ceramic, stainless steel, or glass (Pyrex) containers. Do not drink water stored inside plastic bottles; instead use stainless steel or glass water bottles and travel mugs. Replace plastic wrap with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Eliminate your need for plastic bags by taking a reusable organic cotton bag with you to the farmer’s market and grocery store.
#6 Filter your water.
Activated carbon filters remove chlorine, lead, mercury, copper, pesticides, solvents, radon, parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, some volatile organic compounds, and bad tastes and odors.
Reverse osmosis filters remove 99.97% of contaminants 0.3 microns or larger. In addition to the above contaminants, they filter fluoride, cadmium, asbestos, bacteria, arsenic, barium, nitrates, nitrites, and perchlorate.
Ulta-HEPA (ULPA) filters reportedly remove 99.99% of contaminants 0.3 microns or larger.
NSF International is a respected nonprofit organization that independently certifies water filtration systems and validates manufacturer claims. For more information, read the Environmental Working Group’s Water Filter Buying Guide.
#7 Drink green tea.
Green tea contains powerful antioxidants and one in particular, a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate-3 or EGCG, has been shown to stimulate detoxification pathways in the liver and increase the elimination of environmental chemicals linked to high levels of blood sugar and insulin. EGCG has also been shown to protect the brain from heavy metals and reduce the risk of cancer.
#8 Exercise regularly.
Exercise helps to improve blood sugar control, reverse insulin resistance, and increase circulation to the liver (and to the rest of the body). It also boosts energy and improves mood, flexibility, balance, sleep, and mental performance. Get your doctor’s permission and aim for a combination of aerobic, strengthening, and stretching activities, enough to equal about two and a half hours each week.
#9 Take a weekly sauna.
A study of rescue workers from the 9/11 World Trade Center attack demonstrated that sauna therapy can effectively reduce levels of environmental toxins in the blood (including dioxins and PCBs) and reverse health problems associated with exposure to these chemicals.
#10 Manage stress effectively.
Stress increases the body’s production of stress hormones like cortisol, which increases levels of insulin. It’s a survival instinct that served our ancestors well when most stress was short-term (they either escaped physical threats or died trying). But in our modern world we suffer more long-term stress, which causes levels of insulin to remain elevated for prolonged periods of time.
Learn to manage stress effectively in any way that works well for you, whether it’s breathing exercises or more active exercise, meditation or laughter, saunas or massage, dancing or yoga, tai chi or qi gong.