Essentials of Healthy Living: Environmental Health

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A toxic substance is any compound that has an unhealthy effect on cellular structure or function. We encounter toxic chemicals on a daily basis, often without even knowing it. Exposure may come from the food we eat, the water we drink, the clothes we wear, or how we clean our homes and care for our yards. Toxins are everywhere. Even our own bodies produce toxic substances that need disposal. It is important to become aware of common toxins in your environment, take steps to limit exposure, and to increase your body’s natural defenses.

Here are 5 easy ways to reduce tour toxic load:

1. Buy and use a high-quality air purifier and water filter for your home and work.

2. Cut down on all plastic use; avoid non-stick cookware, microwaving using plastic wrap or in plastic containers, and switch to drinking only out of glass bottles.

3. Eat fresh, non-processed, whole, and organic foods whenever possible.

4. Use only safe, non-toxic household cleaners and yard care products.

5. Choose natural and non-toxic personal products, such as chemical-free shampoo and conditioner, cosmetics, and deodorants.

Examples of common toxins include mercury from silver fillings, chemicals used to make non-stick cookware, and pesticides used on fruits and vegetables. These toxic substances can contribute to various health problems by taking up residence in fat cells, bones, cell membranes, and organs.

Of course, some toxic substances are more dangerous than others. The length of toxin exposure, number of exposures, and the specific mixture of harmful substances that have accumulated, all determine the level of toxic burden placed on the body (also referred to as Total Toxic Load). Individual factors such as genetics, age, and overall health also play important roles in how your body is able to rid itself of harmful substances. The more exposure, the more difficult it becomes for your body to process and remove toxins.

Toxins can permanently damage the immune system, nervous system, and can interfere with important hormone communication. Symptoms of toxicity can range from mild (psoriasis, fatigue, anxiety, depression, an inability to concentrate), to severe (auto-immune disorders, convulsions, psychiatric symptoms, cancer, and even death). Some adult diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other mental disorders can be traced back to early childhood toxin exposure.

The liver is the body’s primary organ for detoxification. It takes toxic chemicals and breaks them down into less harmful substances that are then excreted from the body. The intestines, kidneys, lymphatic system, skin, and lungs are all key players in healthy elimination of toxins (even simple toxins like carbon dioxide). In particular, bowel movements on a daily basis are an important part of ridding the body of toxins, and part of why constipation makes you feel unwell.

Reducing your exposure to harmful substances and improving your body’s detoxification processes are both required to maintain good health. Using water filters on your drinking and showering water and using air purifiers in your home and work environment are simple yet effective ways to reduce toxin exposure. In addition, incorporating good nutrition, natural fabrics, sauna use, occasional fasting, and taking on healthy lifestyle practices are great ways to assist your body’s detoxification processes.

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March 2011
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