Toxins and You 4: Support Those Kidneys!

Today I am wrapping up the detox series by writing about our wonderful and powerful kidneys and how we can protect them so they can protect us.

Our kidney’s primary job is to filter our blood and send out the collected waste items out of the body. All of our blood runs through our kidney every five minutes. I don’t know about you, << Test First Name >>, but that’s mindblowing to me.

So how can we take care of this hardworking and important detox organ?

Your bodies are made to handle toxins but we have to do our part to reduce the toxins we take in and make sure our detox pathways are nourished. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Join my FREE March sugar detox challenge!

sugar written several times with inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, aging hidden in the text

Sugar is a serious problem.

It…
💫ages us
is a neurotoxin
💫creates inflammation
causes insulin resistance
💫messes with our immune system
prevents us from absorbing nutrients
💫upsets the balance of our gut bacteria
causes heart disease and feeds cancers

the list can go on and on but I think you get the point.

Join me this March for a sugar detox.  We are going to kick sugar to the curb and get our energy back.

Check out the video from day one here and sign up for my newsletter to get tools and updates all month long.

 

Toxin and You 1: How to love your liver so it keeps on loving you!

I am diving into a new series on nourishing those detox pathways and reducing our exposure to toxins. Today I’m starting off strong by getting right into it and talking about the liver because it is the powerhouse of our detox pathways. Our liver daily deals with all those toxins we put into our body like sugar, pesticides, and alcohol and those toxins our bodies create, such as ammonia and estrogen.

This powerhouse takes care of this onslaught of toxins through this really cool two-step process.  First, it takes the toxins and makes them water soluble. At this point, when the toxins are water soluble, they are actually free radical which makes them really dangerous and why step 2 is so important.

The critical second step is when the liver takes all those new free radicals binds them up and sends them out via our kidneys or our gallbladder. Toxins leave the body!

Maybe I’m the only one that geeks out about this stuff but isn’t that so cool!

To do the awesome 2-step process, our liver relies on the vitamins and nutrients we take in through food or vitamins. This means out liver needs B vitamins which come primarily from animal products, i.e. eggs or salmon.  Next, it needs FOLATE  from leafy greens. (note: folic acid is a man-made form of folate and doesn’t work for all of us). The liver also needs glutathione and flavonoids found in a diverse range of plant food.

When our liver isn’t supported it can’t do that two-step process which puts us at risk for health problems like skin issues, fatigue, brain fog and other problems. More seriously, when our estrogen isn’t dealt with properly we are at risk of cancer.

Our liver health is so important which means we need to show it some massive daily love so it can do its massive daily job of keeping us toxin free. Here is how you do that.

  1. Eat a diet full of all sorts of vegetables, especially those of the leafy green variety.  Aim to have vegetables at each meal. Spinach and eggs make a perfect combo!
  2.  Eat good quality protein from happy animals that weren’t shot up with loads of antibiotics. The extra cost is worth it!
  3.  Reduce those things that gunk up your liver. Reduce sugar (it turns to fat in your liver).
  4. Reduce pesticide exposure by making the right choice at the grocery store. Check out the clean and dirty lists from the Environmental Working Group to find out which vegetables and fruits have the most and least amount of pesticides.
  5. Cut back on alcohol (no more than 7 drinks a week and no more than 3 at a time). Too much alcohol depletes us of B vitamins.
  6. Stop smoking and don’t be around those that smoke. Do I even need to say this? Smoking is the worst, says this ex-smoker! 🙂

So let’s get going and start loving up our livers!

Detox 6: Toxins and your skin

skin

We all want beautiful skin, but we spend loads of money making sure we won’t have it.  You see, your skin is a reflection of your liver. If your liver is gunked up and unable to get the toxins out of your body, then your skin will tell you about it through premature aging, acne, rosacea, etc.

But we don’t usually consider that our skin as something that is reflecting our insides. Rather, we see our skin problems and seek to fix it with external applications of soaps, creams, and all sorts of other products. These are supposed to keep us looking younger, feeling softer, and free from spots, but here’s the catch: Those youth/clear skin potions we use are often toxic, and not only do they harm our skin by way of overloading our liver, but they also put us at greater risk of cancer and other diseases.

In the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel report, the panel stated, “With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. ” That’s cancer people! Your quest to look better might be making you look worse and putting you at serious risk. It’s time to rethink what we put on our bodies!

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done a lot to help us understand what we are putting in our body. They have found that women are typically exposed to 168 unique ingredients daily from the products they use, 85 for men. In their evaluation of the common 60,000 products listed on the back of labels, the EWG found that 34% of products have chemicals associated with cancer, 45% have chemicals associated with reproductive or developmental toxins, 60% have estrogenic chemicals that will mess with your hormones and cause everything from aggressive puberty in little girls to breast cancer.

The good news is that consumers are getting better informed and asking Congress to update policies regulating these chemicals. In the meantime here are some things you can do to reduce the toxins you are pouring into your skin.

Tips

  1. First, check out those things that you put on your body like shampoo, soap, makeup, laundry detergent, and sunscreen.  Do they have any of these chemicals? Anything that goes on your body that has an added fragrance is highly suspect.
  2. Second, download the Environmental Working Group app  so you can make better choices when buying new products by scanning in the item or searching by the name.  I geeked out when I downloaded the app and ran around scanning all my products. It’s a good time!

As always, I hope this series has helped you feel empowered to reduce your toxic load so that you can feel and look your best!

Detox 5: Cleaning up the kitchen

teflon

I’m still walking that tightrope between informing you and scaring the bejeezus out of you, so I thought it would be fun to look inside your kitchen and see what we can find to eliminate in our quest to reduce your toxic load. And no, I’m not talking about the processed food, the sugar, or the BPA filled plastic. (Although we should get those things out of our lives.) Today, I’m focusing on the pots and pans you use to cook your food.

Non-stick pans and pots are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (i.e Teflon) which is a part of a family of chemicals called poly-fluorochemicals (PFCs), and they are highly toxic. And we have known that they are highly toxic for a very long time. As far back as the 1950s, DuPont (maker of Teflon) has been warning us to literally keep our canaries out of the kitchen when cooking with their product to avoid the bird’s untimely death. Talk about your canary in a coal mine. But of course, very few of you are canaries, so here you go. From the Environmental Working Group:

“PFCs have been found in nearly all Americans tested by federal public health officials. Chemicals from this family are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation and weakened immune defense against disease.”*

Cooking with non-stick pans not only expose you and your loved ones to toxins but it also damages one of your most vital detox pathways, the liver. That ain’t good!

You may say, thanks for scaring the poop out of me but I can’t afford to replace all of my kitchenware and now I’m terrified. Never fear, I have some tips for ya.

  1. Replace as you can. You don’t have to throw out all your pans and pots today but you can make a plan to replace things as you can. Start with your most used pan or pot and work your way through the rest when your budget allows by replacing them with one of the following:
    • Cast iron pans. Cast iron is your go-to solution when seeking to replace your non-stick pans. These pans last forever so you can often find them at estate sales, thrift stores, in a box of your great grandmother’s effects, etc., etc. I’ve had really great luck with these pre-seasoned Lodge skillets.  I plan to divide my cast iron set between my kiddos when I leave this earth.  There are many resources on how to resurrect or keep cast iron as smooth and “non-stick” as possible. I like this one.
    • Stainless steel pots. Stainless steel is what you want to replace your non-stick pots. I’ve never had a problem cooking anything in a stainless steel pot,  just make sure to add enough good fat (coconut oil and ghee are my go-to) to get the job done. Fun fact, if you aren’t sure if that metal pot you have is stainless steel or something else, see if a magnet sticks. If it sticks, it’s a witch…um…stainless steel.
  2. Practice good care. While you are waiting to replace your non-stick pots and pans be wise about how you use them. Don’t use metal spatulas on them, don’t use abrasive scrubbers, and don’t let them get too hot.** Basically, try to reduce your exposure to this toxic substance by keeping the non-stick component of the pans and pots as intact as possible.

I hope this has given you another way to reduce your toxic load. Stay tuned for more in this series!

 

*If you would like information on how else to avoid PFCs check out this handy dandy guide by the EWG.

**The higher the temperature, the more toxic the pan.

Detox 4: The lovely liver

 

liver

For this fourth part of the detox series, we are going to look back into the body to talk about the miracle that is the liver. First, let’s learn a little about this amazing organ. The liver breaks down nutrients, stores vitamins and minerals, produces red blood and Kupffer cells, and flushes out all the toxins we take in or create.

So how does it do its magic?  Toxins are mostly fat soluble which makes it really difficult for the body to excrete. So first, the liver must break down the toxins using a two-phase process to convert the toxins to a water soluble state so the toxins can be sent out through our bile or our kidneys. Goodbye, toxins! However, if we aren’t very nice to our liver, then it can’t do its job well and the toxins start to back up and accumulate in our bodies, harming our health. For example, when our bodies are done with the estrogen it has used, it sends it to the liver. In a healthy liver, the estrogen is converted and sent out of the body. In a gunked up liver, estrogen goes through the first stage of conversion but it can’t go to the next stage so the liver dumps the estrogen back into the blood supply to be recycled. This is not the kind of recycling we want because when this slightly changed estrogen goes back into our bodies we are more susceptible to reproductive cancers.  Cleaning up your liver is vital.

But how, you ask, does the liver get all gunked up? In her book The Immune System Recovery Plan, Dr. Susan Blum explains that the chronic exposure to toxins causes our liver to become clogged up and unable to send toxins out of the body. And as we’ve learned, that applies to most of us. The air we breathe, the foods we eat, the products we use, and even the amount of stress we feel creates this heavy load of toxins our liver is supposed to deal with.

Tips for supporting and ungunking your liver: 

    1. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Of course, I would say this. But really, if you want to give the liver what it needs to do its job, you are going to need to give it the nutrients it needs. Stick to non-starchy vegetables, included lots of green leafy plants, and make sure they are organic. Remember, eating a bunch of pesticide-laden vegetables is just going to give the liver another job to do.
    2. DO eat protein. According to Dr. Blum, the liver needs amino acids to complete phase two of the conversion process. This means that those juice fast aren’t great for your liver because the toxins are just getting stuck between phase one and phase two and that’s actually a really dangerous place for toxins to be. This is not to say don’t juice, just make sure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs and keep it organic!
    3. Reduce the sugar. Sugar (fructose) gets stored in our liver as fat. This is bad for our liver and our waistline.  Reduce the amount of sugar you consume, which often means taking a good look at where you are getting your sugar from. Hint! It’s not often where you expect. Check out your jars, cans, and boxes. Even your organic, whole grain cereal bars are packing a heavy punch of sugar. Health Coach tip: Divide the amount of grams of sugar by 4 and you get a rough estimate of how many teaspoons of sugar are in each serving.
    4. Reduce or eliminate your use of Tylenol/Acetaminophen. According to Drug Watch “It (Tylenol) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.” That is big and crazy and really, really needs to be screamed from the mountain tops. When Tylenol loads up in the liver, it gunks up the processes and the liver sends it out to the body as a toxin. For frequent users, this is a big, dangerous deal. There are several ways to reduce pain that doesn’t require popping pills, like bodywork, yoga, meditation, and essential oils. For those of you in the Austin Area, we are very lucky to have Jesse James Retherford at the Art of Fitness to help with pain.

I hope this helps you understand a little more about our amazing detoxification processes and how you can do your part to ensure they keep you healthy and happy. Next week, detoxing your kitchen!

Detox 3: Reduce the toxic load in your home

toxins 3

You are breathing in toxins as you read this. . . and so am I.

As I was preparing to write this post, I couldn’t help but think about the SNL sketch from several years ago in which a news team does a series of terrifying teasers for that night’s broadcast: “Common household item — something we all have in our homes and are probably using right now — is found to be full of lethal poison. We’ll tell you what it is at the end of the hour.”

While I have no intention of scaring you or making you paranoid, I do not think I could have a series on detoxing without addressing the places that we do most of our living; namely indoors. Between work, home, the car, and the store, the majority of our lives will be spent inside, which is where we are constantly exposed to toxins.

Any indoor dwelling is basically a big human sized box holding all manner of materials made with chemicals that can harm us. And because we are very concerned about outdoor air pollution (or maybe just our heating and cooling bills) our homes are sealed to make them more energy efficient. This means that all the toxins in the house are just hanging around making us sick. Toxins like…

Microbiological toxins. These are things like mold, animal dander, mildew, and mite poop. These suckers can live in those hard to reach places in your bathroom or under your kitchen sink or (most unsettlingly) in your pillows and comforters. As we breathing all that mite poop in, our respiratory system becomes inflamed, and that can exasperate conditions such asthma.

Gases. Volatile organic compounds or VOC are found in just about everything. Office equipment, furniture, even craft supplies. You know that “new car smell?” Well, that is just your new car releasing a bunch of VOC by off-gassing. Congratulations! VOC can cause immediate allergic reactions and might have long term ramifications like damage to our liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, and may cause cancer.

The list of toxins in our home can go on and on, such as toxins we put on our body or those that live in our cookware, and I will address some of those things in a later post. For now, I want to give you some practical and inexpensive ways to reduce the toxic load in your home by cleaning up the air we breathe.

Simple Steps to Detox Your Environment

  1. Clean cleanly. The best way to keep microbes at bay is to keep your fabrics clean, especially your pillows and comforters. And when you do clean, make sure to forgo strong smelling detergents (no matter how lovely mountain breeze might sound) and opt for some “you-friendly” cleaners like lemon juice to get out stains or hydrogen peroxide as a bleach alternative. Check here for some ways to clean cheaply and safely, and check in with the Environmental Working Groups to find out what cleaning supplies are healthiest for you and your family. The EWG has tested over 2,500 products so that you can have the power to make healthy choices.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230460/
From “Planting Healthier Indoor Air”
  1. Clean your air. The air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than the air outside. For example, all those pieces of equipment and furniture shed their chemicals and become dust; and dust, as you know, can enter our body easily through our airways. So make sure dusting is a regular part of your cleaning routine and then run a vacuum with a HEPA filter. But probably the cheapest, most passive, and coolest things you can do to improve the air quality of your home is to buy yourself some plants. A NASA scientist did experiments with houseplants to see if they couldn’t help clean up the toxins that would be released by all the equipment jammed in tight confined spaces, like a space station or our homes. He found that plants were really great at absorbing all those nasty things.  So go get some clipping of some house plants from a friend or run to your nearest nursery to start reducing the overall toxicity of your home.*

 

I hope you feel empowered to reduce the toxic load in your own space by making your air cleaner. Check out the other post in this series.

 

*”For maximum benefit, multiple species of houseplants would likely be needed on a site to remove the relevant toxicants in a particular space, given that houseplants vary in the types of chemicals they are able to remove from the environment and the efficiency …” from “Planting Healthier Indoor Air” by Luz Claudio

Detox 2: Love your lymphatic system

 

lymphatic

Our lymphatic system is amazing. I think of it as the vacuum of our body, just sucking up all the toxins so our bodies can keep on keeping on.  This system runs throughout our bodies and keeps things flowing by bathing our cells in nutrients, recovering fluid (waste created by our circulatory system), cleaning it up, and returning at a rate of about 3 liters of fluid per day. It also helps our digestive system by taking toxins and pathogens that weren’t Lymphatic_system_(vector).svgdestroyed by the process of digestion out of our gut and either flushing them out or organizing an immune defense against them.

The lymphatic system works with our skin, lungs, colon, liver, and kidneys to remove the toxins coming into our bodies and created by our bodies. This amazing system touches every cell, every organ, every tissue and is vital to life.  If the lymphatic system were to stop, we would become very toxic quickly and die. Unfortunately, the only time this system gets much love is when your doctor goes poking around your neck looking for a poor little lymph node that became inflamed fighting off an infection.

In order to help the lymphatic system do its job, we need to give it a little love. Here are some ways that you can start nourishing your lymphatic system today.

1. Move. Possibly the coolest thing about the lymphatic system is that there is no pump moving the lymph throughout our system so our movement is the pump.   So move, especially when you have been sitting for a long period of time. Even if it’s just a brisk walk or some chair stretching. Better yet, get a sweat going so you can really help your body get those toxins out.  You move = your lymph moves. You sweat = toxins move out of the body.

2. Dry Skin Brushing. Seventy percent of your lymphatic system is located right under your skin.  Before you take your shower or do yoga, get down to your birthday suit and  grab a dry brush like this one. Now brush all over your body, but remember to be considerate of those sensitive areas like nipples. I found this video by a lymphatic drainage therapist and fellow Lupus conquer to be very informative, and it completely changed the way I do my own skin brushing. Bonus: Skin brushing is a great way to improve how your skin looks.

3. Reduce your stress. According to Dr. John Douillard, stress hormones create a very acidic environment which gunks up our lymphatic system’s ability to do its job. I know that this recommendation sounds overwhelming; it did for me for several years. But stress management is paramount to health, and it can be done through little tweaks to our lives. Check out my stress management series here for some practical tips. There’s an added bonus to using deep breathing exercises to de-stress because the lungs are one of those pathways the lymphatic system relies on to get toxins out.

I hope these tips help you to start thinking about how you can support your body’s natural detox processes and provide you with concrete ways to actually do it. Of course, the lymphatic system can’t flush those toxins if the rest of the detox pathways are clogged, so stay tuned to learn more about ways to support those processes as well. For more in this series

 

Detox 1: Your body on toxins

toxins-pic 1

I’ve done just about every detox out there. I’ve taken huge pills several times a day for 14 days, I’ve had days on nothing but fresh pressed vegetable juice, and I’ve even jumped head-first into an intense candida diet.  Over time, I’ve come up with three realizations. One, I was very toxic and those toxins were making me sick. Secondly, detoxing can be harsh on the body and can cause damage if done in a drastic way. And finally, I would rather set my body up to handle toxins daily rather than randomly cleaning it out through a big dramatic effort.*

In this series, I want to help you understand what it means to detoxify and give you practical and gentle ways to reduce your body’s toxic load thereby reducing your vulnerability to disease. But first…

The bad news:  We come in contact with toxins every day. Sitting on our couches, breathing in that “new car smell,” even cooking up healthy veggies for our family in that non-stick pan exposes us to toxins. And this exposure starts at the beginning of our lives. In 2004 the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal had the umbilical cords of 10 newborn babies tested and found over 200 toxic chemicals; chemicals known to cause cancer, that are harmful to the brain and nervous system, or that cause birth defects.

These toxins creep into our body from the chemicals in the products we use, like furniture, wrinkle cream, or even spatulas; through the air we breathe that’s full of pollution; through the food we ingest that contain pesticides and heavy metals (even organic produce); and by the water we drink that has been contaminated by commercial agriculture run off and  pharmaceuticals. Basically, our systems are either dealing with or storing toxins in our body pretty much always.

Right about now, if you aren’t in the corner curled up in the fetal position, you might be thinking that this all sounds rather bleak. Honestly, it ain’t great.  We haven’t been good stewards of our earth, and in return our health is suffering. But there is good news…

The good news: We have amazing bodies that are designed to rid our bodies of toxins, and many non-toxic choices are available.

Our lymphatic system and our digestive system handle all toxins our bodies come in contact with. When these systems are hampered, meaning they aren’t able to move the toxins out of our body, toxins get stored in our fat. However, our fat has only so much storage capacity, so when our fat cells can’t hold the toxins anymore, the body send the toxins to our brain — our very fatty brain.

So our job is to do the best we can to make sure those systems are working really well and to give them a break by reducing our toxins.  Next up in the series, how we keep our lymphatic system chugging along. Stay tuned!

 

*Note: I’m not opposed to time-constrained or seasonal detox programs. However, the focus of this series is the work we need to do to keep our body’s daily detoxing mechanisms up and running.

I’m back and I got something to say… and a new series on the way!

Hello, Everyone! I’m back from my media fast with an epiphany. Are you ready? Here it is: We are super adaptable.

I know, you are probably thinking, “Duh! How else could we live on every corner of the planet and function when the heat index is an ungodly 108 if we weren’t adaptable? 108!!!!”

What I mean is that we adapt very quickly to new behaviors, for better or worse. For example, before going on my media fast, I was spending a lot of time scrolling through social media with jaw clenched and outrage turning my stomach in knots. But despite my daily (often hourly) habit, my first day of living media-free was incredibly easy.  I did have to remind myself not to just mindlessly “surf” while waiting in line at the store, but, other than that, I wasn’t missing anything. The days following were about the same, except that I felt much more relaxed. Even when my partner would give me updates on a disturbing news story, I just wasn’t getting as bothered.

The moral of the story is not that I learned so much or grew as a person, but rather that the Carrie with clenched jaw scrolling passed outrageous memes and the Carrie that was living her life outside of a screen is the same person. The only difference was the behavior. We slip into behaviors so easily, and, unfortunately, it’s often the ones that we don’t want to have. Staying up too late, drinking that extra glass of wine, having a daily “treat”, or just forgoing exercise comes so easily that, before you know it, it’s just how life is.

It’s as if we are on autopilot.  I try hard not to be on autopilot because I would rather be practicing intentional and purposeful living, but sometimes we just have to shake things up to keep from falling into bad patterns. That’s why I’m starting a new series on detoxing or, more specifically, supporting our body so it can do its job and get the toxins out. Stay tuned!