The fact that Americans face an increasing toxin burden should not. The United States has spent many decades accumulating toxic waste. In fact, the problem is so widespread that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a specific program to handle it—the Superfund.
There are more than 15,000 Superfund sites designated to receive funding for toxic waste cleanup, which affect nearly 11 million people, more than 3 million of them children. Of these 15,000 sites, 1,500 are considered high priority. However, I doubt the people living near the other 13,500 sites would consider them “low” priority.
Unfortunately, toxin exposure has become ubiquitous, whether they come from a Superfund site, auto exhaust, or the kitchen faucet. The Flint crisis has brought attention to the fact that this is happening right here, right now.
So what can we do, right here and now, to address the reality of our daily exposure? We need to assess our current exposures, and take steps to minimize them as well as make changes that will enhance our bodies’ ability to process and remove toxins to prevent accumulation.
Diet is one of the best ways to help the body detoxify. I recommend eating organic sources of lean proteins, whole grains along with lots of fruits and vegetables. Healthy organic sources of fats and oils, such as olive, walnut, and macadamia nut oil are essential to help cells form healthy membranes. Hydration is another key component for eliminating toxins. On the “don’t” side, avoid conventional red meat and dairy, farmed fish, processed foods, heated and partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
To support detoxification, focus on alkaline vegetables, such as avocados, cucumbers, and spinach. In addition, cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cabbage, kale—both promote detoxification and help balance hormone metabolism.
Incorporate lots of high fiber foods, including rice bran, flax, chia seeds, and psyllium. Research is expanding exponentially on the importance of the microbiome, the complex individualized mix of microorganisms that comprise a healthy gut. Consuming probiotic foods such as unsweetened kefir and yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi help promote a diverse and healthy microbe population, essential for detoxification, production of important vitamins, and the maintenance of a healthy gut lining and immune function Mushrooms are a medicinal food with important benefits in modulating immunity, as well as providing antioxidants and nutrients.
Meditation and Exercise
The metabolic boost we get from exercise can accelerate the natural systems that detoxify our bodies. Exercise promotes circulation, immunity, healthy glucose metabolism, and many other functions. A brisk 30-minute walk each day is an excellent habit, ultimately workable even with our busy schedules.
Exercise also reduces stress. We know that stress spurs our fight-or-flight mechanism, stimulating the production of a complex cocktail of cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones and signaling molecules that make us anxious and irritable, impairs immunity, and promotes inflammation. Meditation is a great way to lower stress and calm our runaway thoughts. Moving meditations like yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong have been proven to calm the mind, boost immunity, strengthen metabolism, and improve digestion.
Detox Supplements for Toxin Exposure
I recommend my Modified Citrus Pectin with Alginates formula. Many studies have shown that Modified Citrus Pectin, which comes from the pith of citrus fruits, binds to toxins in the blood stream—particularly lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other heavy metals—without depleting essential nutrients.
Alginates are another powerful detoxifier. Alginates remove dioxin compounds, heavy metals, and radioactive isotopes. Alginates are larger molecules and remain in the digestive system to bind to incoming toxins from food and water, as well as those secreted into the digestive system from bile.
If I were to choose a single organ to support, it would be the liver, the body’s primary filter, which takes toxins from the bloodstream and processes them via enzymatic pathways to make them more water soluble so they can be excreted. Because of its central role and the complexity of its responsibilities, the liver can benefit greatly from extra support. Supplements such as methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), and lipoic acid all provide support for detoxification pathways. B vitamins, especially methylated forms of folic acid and B12, as well as minerals selenium, zinc, and magnesium are also essential cofactors in detoxification. Milk thistle, fenugreek, dandelion, and burdock root are among the many herbs that aid liver function.
Then there’s the immune system. It would be hard to overstate how important immunity is to detoxification. For immune support, I recommend my medicinal mushroom formula with Reishi, Cordyceps, Coriolus, and Maitake. I also suggest astragalus root and curcumin, the bioactive compound in the spice turmeric.
Though most of us don’t live near a Superfund site, we are still exposed to small amounts of toxins on a daily basis. The cumulative effects of small exposures, as well as combined effects of exposures to multiple types of toxins are a great concern. For example, heavy metals such as mercury can act as hormonal mimics, as do many pesticides. What is the effect of combined exposures on our delicate hormone balance? Both men and women have been experiencing worrisome drops in fertility. Research is now making the connection, but still we have more questions than answers. Our best approach is to use the natural gifts from nature-targeted nutrients and botanicals that can actively support our body’s ability to reduce the toxic load. My current thinking is to do gentle daily detox for our daily exposures. It’s a great way to feel better and improve overall health.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc is a licensed acupuncturist, physician, and homeopath, has an MS in traditional Chinese medicine, and has done graduate studies in herbology. Dr. Eliaz has been a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980s, with a focus on cancer, immune health, detoxification and mind-body medicine.Visit him online at dreliaz.org.